Beth McCubbin says that she is just passing through Almonte, but her connection here is relatively deep. Her sister, the painter Jill McCubbin, is an Almonte resident and her parents also live here. Fresh from Peterborough, a city where she lived and was active in the arts for 20 years, Beth is now perched high up in the Old Almonte post office in her one-room studio. Beth is a visual artist, but also a conservationist. She happened on the profession almost by accident and took courses over the years. She likes to help people preserve their precious things, many attached to family memories, and she can do this more economically than can a large institution.
Beth took art classes even as a child and when she moved to Peterborough took courses in art conservation at Sir Sandford Fleming Community College, then interned at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2005. After her internship Beth worked on contracts for the ROM , then in 2006 established her own business. She is still hired by the ROM to do ceramics and ethnography about once a year. Beth has also taught mixed media to children and ceramics in elementary school.
Looking for fresh experience, Beth left Peterborough this year and moved to Almonte. She found it difficult to leave Peterborough but felt that she had done everything in art and theatre that she could do there. Beth is actually en route to Hull (now Gatineau) which is beginning to attract a significant artist’s colony. Raised in Montreal and Toronto, she longs to return to Quebec. She also feel that there is an advantage to moving closer to a large city like Ottawa with its stock of museums.
Beth finds it interesting being in Almonte and hopes that people her have possessions that they treasure and want repaired. History is important to Beth and she likes the idea of repairing instead of replacing items. There is no reason, in her view, to get rid of things. She repairs ceramics such as teapots, serving trays and candlesticks as well as glass, porcelain and old frames. She is meticulous about making everything match the original, considering it unethical not to do so. She also repairs tears to maps, letters, and repairs prints attached to old mats. When cleaning paintings, she does not use chemicals. Beth imparted the surprising information that human saliva is the best solvent for grease and grime. She puts spit on a Qtip and goes at it. This takes days and a great deal of patience. She must also drink a lot of water.
As a visual artist, Beth makes semi-functional pieces incorporating recycled metal and broken ceramics. She also does a lot of straight-up sculpture and has exhibited in Peterborough. She hopes to mount shows here in Mississippi Mills. She says it is surprising how much a region affects people’s perception of art.
Beth is intrigued by Almonte, and we by her.