Out for a drive south of Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 6, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist! Arrive December 8th.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A visit with a famous Canadian!

Yesterday was moving day. Our couchsurfing hosts Wanda and Irwin were changing rental accommodation here in order to house their family members who are visiting after Christmas. So yesterday morning we packed up and moved to a beautiful huge place closer to the central area.

Our bedroom for last night was twice the size of Sherman!

Huge bedroom!

Our place here is just around the corner from the main park near central San Miguel. On the opposite end of the park, only about a five minute walk away is the Toller Cranston art gallery.

Toller Cranston is a household name in Canada, especially for anybody over the age of 35. Originally an artist, he became well known as Canadian Men's Figure Skating Champion between 1971 and 1976. Also the bronze medal winner at the 1976 Olympics.

He moved to San Miguel de Allende about twenty years ago where, now at 63 years old, he has continued his art career. His number is in the telephone book here, so Ruth picked up the phone and gave him a call. Sure enough, who answered the phone? Toller Cranston!

Ruth mentioned that we are from the Ottawa area, and Mr. Cranston's parents had lived in that area as well so the connection was a good introduction. Ruth asked if there was a convenient time when we could visit him and his gallery, an he said "come on over"! So Ruth and I and Irwin walked on over.

Here it is!

In Mexico, many properties are designed with exterior perimeter walls that make it impossible to know what is behind the entrance door. The door was partially open, so although we had rung the bell and waited, we opened the door and called out. Soon, a woman came down and we asked for Mr. Cranston. We were led through a fabulous garden to a kitchen area where we were offered a seat. The room was filled with various pieces of art. I mean filled. Walls and floors covered. 

Mr. Cranston came in and we introduced each other and sat and had a chat for 15 minutes. Then he took us on a tour of the property and his gallery and studio.

Ruth and Toller Cranston in his gallery.

Cranston is a painter, a sculptor, and a collector. There are literally thousands of pieces of art on the property. 

Toller Cranston in one of the living rooms.

One wall of the kitchen.

Irwin, Mr. Cranston, and Ruth in one of the guest bedrooms.

The property itself is amazing. Originally some kind of 17th century leather tannery, the two and a half acre property had four derelict houses on it when he bought it over twenty years ago. He says that he's not a wealthy man and that it takes all of his income to run the property, which has eight full time staff! He sounds fairly humble about that, and mentions that he doesn't take it for granted at all. He truly loves the place and you can tell that he feels very fortunate to live there!

The swimming pool is only maintained during the summer. The top part is a fountain!

We really enjoyed the hour we spent with him and thought that it was very generous of him to take that time out of his day for us. The gallery is open for visitors and every item is for sale!

Today, we're headed back "home" to Hacienda Contreras!

26 comments:

  1. Totally cool about Mr. Cranston. See you this afternoon. Drive careful.

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  2. Great post today!

    rocmoc n AZ/Mexico

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  3. What? You didn't buy a $20K sketch? Norma sat beside him at a hairdressing place in SMA and was invited to bring me over later. After he left the hairdresser told Norma that another of his customers had just bought $125K (dollars, not pesos) worth of art from him. We had no more room on our walls at home and did not go.

    At that time he was thinking of moving to Queretero.

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    1. Actually, most pieces seem to sell at between $1,500 and $4,000 although I'm sure there are some more, and some less.

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  4. Now that place holds a lot of stuff!!

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  5. I just love San Miguel de Allende. Only been there once but it is quite the place! I know you are having a great time! And visiting the famous Canada sounds like just an SMdeA thing to be doing! I love the art culture there. Well, I've missed keeping up with you guys. I do hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Take care then...

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  6. What a great day - very interesting and fun - thanks for sharing!

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  7. Lots and lots of beautiful pieces and artwork. Sure am glad you guys were able to visit and share with us.

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  8. I guess people love the familiar....leave home and go deep into a foreign country and live among all the people that were at the place you left. Seems kinda funny. Human nature I suppose. SMA is a classic example.

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  9. Such a fun day to visit with Toller and enjoy some of his artwork.

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  10. wow who knew he was also such an artist I sure didn't..gorgeous place....and kudos to you for getting yourselves in there

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  11. sandragarrett123@btinternet.comJanuary 1, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Could you give me Toller's phone number

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    1. If you are in San Miguel, it is in the phonebook but here it is anyway.

      The Toller Cranston Gallery is located at Sollano 84. To make an appointment, call (415) 152-0347.

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  12. How wonderful to have met this legend. I'm so sorry to hear of his passing.

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    1. Thanks Irene! It was certainly a pleasure to have met him and to see his house and all his incredible artwork. I will be curious to find out what they will do with it all. I think they should turn the whole place into a museum/gallery.

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  13. I had heard of Toller Cranston's passing and remembered him well as a both a fantastic skater and artist. We were lucky to see him skate here in Calgary many years ago. What a treat to visit his gallery and have him show his art to you in person.

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    1. Many people who visited San Miguel de Allende were totally unaware that he lived there and welcomed people to visit his home and was happy to take them around on a tour. I am glad that we had heard this and made that phone call.

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  14. Thanks for the introduction to Toller Cranston and the tour through his amazing home and art gallery. What a happy and fulfilling life he had and how lucky you were to meet him!

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  15. Toller Cranston's sudden death shocked us all. Your post is a lovely tribute. How fortunate you were to have the opportunity to visit with him. The pictures are super, and he sounds as charming as he was reputed to be. I do hope the property will be maintained by someone who enjoys it as much as he did.

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    1. We do feel so fortunate to have met him and he was so accommodating to our request to visit and apparently that was just the way he was. He said that he had people just ring the bell and ask to visit and if he didn't have anything on the go, he would welcome them in.

      I really do hope that the property is looked after as well as he did and I also hope that a museum can be set up for all his art.

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  16. What an amazing collection. And how lucky you were to be able to chat with the artist himself.

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    1. We think of ourselves as lucky too! He was a very interesting man and wasn't afraid to just be himself, he never put on airs. His artwork was amazing, a little out there but very colourful and he not only painted but sculpted and did some fantastic glass work too.

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  17. It is always so interesting to see how people live and I am always intrigued by protective courtyards, which are often exciting to see in themselves. Thanks for taking us along into this artist's personal space.

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    1. It was funny but he said that he had eole just walk riht in and if he wasn't busy he would welcome them in. Must people would at least ring the bell! His whole house was totally amazing!

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