Fishermen's Huts & Artists Studios: Fogo Island
When I would tell people I was off to Fogo Island with my Mum no one had heard of it or at least very few people had. I hadn’t either when Mum had first suggested it. It’s a small island off the coast of New Foundland, Canada. You would go there for the stunning wild nature, the hardened quirky characters that live there and more recently art and architecture.
Our introduction to the people of Fogo Island was when we had to take the ferry across and ended up spending over double the time on it due to an emergency on a neighbouring island (I’m sure the teenager hurt himself due to the weight of the gold pendant around his neck).
Joining us on this extended trip was a groomsmen party who had been on the main land to get fitted for their tuxedos. I spent most of the journey trying to understand what these guys were saying. I knew they were speaking English, but the combination of their Canadian, Irish and mumble really was unintelligible when they were speaking to each other. Luckily, they toned down their accent when speaking to us.
To be fair they probably struggled with our Kiwi accents too. When we could all understand each other, we found that the people of Fogo Island are warm, friendly and very proud of their island and its heritage. Fishing is their main industry on the island and has always been. The tilting fisherman huts on edge of the harbours are cute and ramshackle. They have white dots painted on the doors so that in the past with no strong lights or torches the fishermen would be able to find the doors in the dark.
These tilting fisherman huts are inspiration for the design of the Fogo Island Inn. The inn was created by a local who went to the big smoke made her money and came back to the island with a vision of rejuvenating the island.
The architect was a New Foundland born local who has gone on to become a world renowned architect, Saunders Architecture. Most of the furniture and small nick knacks around the inn have been made by locals and either designed by them or with the help of international designers. The inn is beautiful and has views to die for of the surrounding ocean.
The staff are also fabulous. They even tried their best to make a Flat White when I explained what it was. When it came to food they did not need any assistance. Having a lobster stew for breakfast was one of the most decedent and delicious breakfasts I’ve ever had (this is really saying something as my family are really good at breakfasts).
One of the great things about the inn is that they have giant SUVs they give you to drive around the island and explore. One of the main reasons we went to Fogo Island is that we have known some of the past and present artists that have done the coveted residencies there. So, once I figured out how to drive a giant SUV on the wrong side of the road, Mum and I were off to go find all the artist studios, which have also been beautifully designed by the same architects as the inn.
Squish studio, which is on the outskirts of the fishing village of Tilting. Its situated on the edge of a rocky sea shore. One Kiwi artist Zac had not long finished his residency there and Oscar had arrived the same day as us to start his 5 week residency at squish studio. Previous artists have asked to have blinds put into the window facing the sea, as its too distracting both by its beauty and also the waves crashing onto the window when stormy.
Tower studio which our friend and artist Kate had worked out of for 6 months, is in a calmer, but no less beautiful, area. I imagine having to walk along the wooden boardwalks in the middle of winter, when the island is covered in snow and ice must be absolutely terrifying.
All the studios have somewhat tricky walkways to the actual studios. I think the hard winters here would make everything tricky.
Bridge studio is an inland facing studio that takes about half an hour to walk into up a bit of a hill. It feels more like a bird watching sanctuary than an artist studio. We noticed that there was even an area that the artist could sleep there if needed. Trying to walk back on that track in the dark would just be silly.
Long Studio, as was said is for “the really good artists”. It’s the largest of all the studios and is the closest to the inn. I even managed a morning run around the harbour to it. During sunrise it makes a striking sculpture against the rocks.
Other than exploring the island and discovering the studios my favourite part of our Fogo Island adventure was our boat ride out to Little Fogo Island and seeing the Puffins!!! They are way smaller than I had thought, and they really have to flap like anything to get out of the water, which makes them look slightly ridiculous. When we got there most of the colony had headed off to warmer climes but a few where still in the water. There is something so special about those wee birds and they were a real highlight of the trip.
I’m just going to add a disclaimer to this blog. This is my first ever attempt to write a blog, so I am very happy for anyone to email me with tips to improve my blogs. Any suggestions are welcome.