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Shelburne couple’s artistic, retail sensibilities intersect in new gallery

Diana Butler and Dennis Teakle stand with their dog, Thor, inside the Shelburne Artery, the art gallery they opened on June 22. Teakle’s paintings are hung in the background, with one of Butler’s hooked rugs displayed in the lower right corner.
Diana Butler and Dennis Teakle stand with their dog, Thor, inside the Shelburne Artery, the art gallery they opened on June 22. Teakle’s paintings are hung in the background, with one of Butler’s hooked rugs displayed in the lower right corner. - Sue Deschene

Finding home along the South Shore

Most of the time they’ve been together, Diana Butler and Dennis Teakle operated separate businesses.

But after moving to Shelburne, the couple joined forces professionally as well. First, they opened an antique shop, which had long been Teakle’s bread and butter. Now they have opened the Shelburne Artery, a gallery featuring Teakle’s paintings and Butler’s hooked rugs, as well as artwork by other local artists.

Originally from Muskoka, Ont., Teakle has been painting since he was eight years old, when his mother handed him a paintbrush and paint kit.

Teakle is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, where he trained primarily as an illustrator and designer. After graduation, he went into advertising, taught high school art, and served as the first art director for Toronto Life magazine.

The long hours and hectic pace of publishing deadlines took its toll on Teakle’s personal life. To save his marriage and his sanity, he left publishing in 1967 and moved his family to southeastern Ontario, where he taught art at South Grenville District High School.

No longer painting commercially, Teakle took on painting as an artistic pursuit in 1971, and has continued ever since. Teakle paints mostly in oils, but also uses other mediums like acrylics and watercolours.

Teakle had travelled throughout Nova Scotia for his antique business, so he got to know the people and the province well. It reminded him of the way Muskoka was, before it became a tourist destination.

Ultimately, he decided to move east.

“Muskoka got too ‘Torontized’,” he says. “Nova Scotia is like home, where I grew up.”

However, Teakle’s first wife chose not to move with him, thus bringing his marriage to an end.

Intersecting stories

Thats where Teakle’s and Butler’s “how we met” story begins. Like Teakle, Butler’s life took a circuitous route to the South Shore.

Born in England, Butler and her parents emigrated to Saskatoon, Sask., when she was 10 years old. Butler admits that she never truly settled in Saskatoon.

“I’d been transplanted there, but it never felt like home to me.”

She left Saskatoon after high school.

“I lived and travelled all over North America. I ended up back there in the early ‘80s, and I opened my first store, selling flowers and giftware. It grew into a very successful business, she said.

A 10-day business trip to Pugwash gave Butler her first exposure to the Maritimes.

“Before then, I’d never been farther east than Montreal, she said. I just fell in love with it. It was the history that I grew up with in England, the old homes, the small towns through the valley, things like that.”

Butler’s Saskatoon shop was popular. But after 13 years of handling flower contracts for major government occasions, she decided it was time for a change. She sold her business and moved to Annapolis Royal, “where I had not intended to open another store,” she admits, laughing.

But open a shop, she did. That’s how she and Teakle met.

“We’ve been together for 22 years,” Butler says. “We both had shops in Annapolis Royal, and that’s where we met.”

Move to South Shore

Five years later, the couple bought and renovated an old Georgian house in Middlefield, a remote rural community in Queens County.

Thats when Butler took on a new artistic pursuit: rug hooking. Initially, she began hooking rugs to help get through the long winters. But, soon, she began displaying her rugs at the Lunenburg Folk Art Festival.

Butler and Teakle began searching for a small community offering services that appeal to them. They decided on Shelburne, and moved there in 2013.

Butler had not displayed her hooked rugs to any great extent since moving to Shelburne. The Shelburne Artery gives her an opportunity to show her rugs once again.

Teakle’s “nature from the heart” paintings are featured in collections throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan, as well as closer to home in Liverpool’s ADJA Gallery, and Shelburne’s Humphrey House, where their antique business is located.

Now Teakle’s paintings have found yet another home, in the Shelburne art gallery he shares with Butler.

Creating an art network

Diana Butler and Dennis Teakle, the owners of the newly-opened Shelburne Artery, are joining forces with other Shelburne County artists to link and promote local artists.

Butler and Teakle were originally part of the Art Coop, another new gallery in Shelburne that’s run as an artists’ cooperative. Ultimately, they decided to go their own way, but they are still working with area artists to create an informal network.

One networking partner is Rosemary Cheetham, whose Roundbird ceramics studio opens seasonally in the Cox Warehouse on Ann Street, down by Shelburne’s waterfront. The two businesses will display some of each others work and will use signage to help promote each other.

“We’re trying to get something going in Shelburne as a whole, to attract people here,” Butler says. “There’s a lot of artistic people in the area, and we all have different venues. It’s a small town, and people can walk around from place to place to see everything. We’re trying to be open and refer people.”

Butler and Teakle have restored the 1784 house in which their gallery is located.

“As it’s turned out, this (location) worked out better for us,” Butler explains. “Dennis is a very prolific painter, and we have more space available here.”

They also own Shelburne’s historic Humphrey House (also built in 1784), located only a few blocks away on the corner of Water and George Streets. That houses their antique shop.

The Shelburne Artery features art, hooked rugs and pottery by six artists, as well as Butler’s line of natural products and floral cutting gardens.

“I’ve been a retailer most of my life, Butler says. “I’ve owned my own shops, and I know what draws people in and the dollars they will spend. Whereas an art gallery is totally different, in a sense, because it’s more expensive. But I can’t get away from that retail concept that you’ve got to have something for everybody, in every price range.”

Located at 134 Mowatt St. in Shelburne, the Shelburne Artery’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, or by chance or appointment.

For more information, call 902-875-3598, e-mail diden@bellaliant.net or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Shelburne1784.

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