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North Bedeque, P.E.I. potter launches latest venture in historic schoolhouse

Crystal Stevens has opened The Den shop and workspace in North Bedeque.
Crystal Stevens has opened The Den shop and workspace in North Bedeque. - Alison Jenkins
NORTH BEDEQUE, P.E.I. —

Potter and artist Crystal Stevens is most comfortable at her home pottery studio, but this fall, she hung out the shingle for her new venture – The Den. 

“It’s out of my comfort zone,” said Stevens.

She purchased the old North Bedeque schoolhouse and hall earlier this year. Since then, she has turned the former meeting house into a bright gallery-esque shop highlighting local artisans.

“I love being at my wheel, that’s my happiness,” said Stevens. “But … I wanted more connection to community.”

The shop is stocked with soaps, candles, baskets, paintings, photography, woodworking, tea, quilts and, of course, pottery.

The response has been incredible so far, she said.

Neighbours up the road insisted on coming over with an air sprayer to complete the coat of red paint on the old school.

One visitor, aged 94, delivered a North Bedeque school class photo from the 1930s. The schoolhouse was also known as the village craft house, women in the community would gather to work together on quilts or other items.

Don Quarles hangs a new arrival - a photo by Bev Blanchard, An
Don Quarles hangs a new arrival - a photo by Bev Blanchard, An


Stevens' partner, Don Quarles, has been keeping track of the historical anecdotes that come in, as well as being a major encourager of Stevens' endeavour.

Stevens said she wanted to wait until next summer before opening shop, but Quarles was the one to say, “Just hang out the flag. It’ll be fine.” 

Just then, Sandy Carson-McGuire stopped in to pick up a gift for her son’s girlfriend. 

“What do I get for that special gift?” she asked herself before settling on some pottery.

The shop has been open Fridays and weekends and Stevens has hosted a few workshops in the spacious hall led by artists.

“I think it’s a lot to bite off for someone like me, in small business,” said Stevens.

“It’s one of the biggest things in my life that I’ve done - other than my children.”

So far, she’s managed to set up shop with little more than elbow grease and excellent taste.

But the site has no running water and the old school is still untouched inside. Stevens hopes to expose the original wood tongue-and-groove ceilings and install a washroom. Eventually she’d love to host a quilting bee like the old days.

The Den is open for the holiday season. Stevens will close up for a few months in the new year before a grand opening in early spring 2020.
 

Crystal Stevens stands outside the old North Bedeque schoolhouse, now part of The Den shop and workspace. Behind her is a tree remembered by many former students.
Crystal Stevens stands outside the old North Bedeque schoolhouse, now part of The Den shop and workspace. Behind her is a tree remembered by many former students.

Crystal Stevens, owner of The Den, explains these candles are made by a local musician who uses vintage glass.
Crystal Stevens, owner of The Den, explains these candles are made by a local musician who uses vintage glass.

Quilter Noreen Meade, left, chats with Crystal Stevens, owner of The Den next to some of Meade's work, she calls them "cheater quilts".
Quilter Noreen Meade, left, chats with Crystal Stevens, owner of The Den next to some of Meade's work, she calls them "cheater quilts".
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