The Ottawa queer community waited with bated breath when After Stonewall was put up for sale last year. Thankfully, Michael Deyell, an Ottawa native who had been running a gallery in Prince Edward County, was there to answer the call. Deyell bought the LGBT bookstore from previous owner David Rimmer, reopening it in January with a new and decidedly different feel. He kept the name and the books but also added his own spin on things, bringing in the beautiful and functional work of many local artists. “I just rebranded it a bit because literature is a form of art, so it ties into everything,” he says.
The store now features a gallery with locally made jewellery, pottery and dishes, wine and visual art. The bookstore occupies the back portion of the store; Deyell has reduced the number of copies on display and added a coffee table for customers, to create a cozier, more library-inspired feel. The trick has been maintaining After Stonewall’s appeal with its established clientele while also drawing in new customers. “Being in a downtown community, you really have to appeal to everyone but keep the main focus of the GLBT literature alive,” he says.
Deyell works with about 28 artists from Ontario and Quebec who create beautiful and functional works of art for the home. “Everything is handmade,” he says. “I think a lot of people have an appreciation for functional work, especially if it’s Canadian-made . . . I think what appeals to people is that it is handmade, so when you’re actually using it, it’s made by an artist; it’s not made by production or a company.”
Deyell carries a line of wooden bowls by Stinson Studios, a father-and-sons operation based out of Tamworth, Ontario. Their work features natural wood that has been hollowed out and sanded into a variety of sizes. The effect is stunning — the bowls feel almost alive, and it’s easy to see why someone would want to fill them with salad greens for the ultimate earthy experience. Deyell has found that these are especially popular in the summer for outdoor dining and entertaining.
After Stonewall also carries the work of a number of local potters and ceramic artists, including Melissa Farquhar, of Rockwood, and Ottawa artists Kristin Anderson, Colette Beardall and Sarah Dobbin. Each piece of pottery is unique, featuring intricate textures and glazing techniques. Deyell stresses the importance of the tactile experience when choosing and using ceramics for your home. It’s important, he explains, not only to love the look of the piece but also the feel of it in your hands as you use it.
“I’m a firm believer that you have to touch and feel it,” he says. And, of course, it must be practical. “A lot of the pottery that I buy and promote is dishwasher-safe, it’s microwave-safe, some of it is oven-safe.” The store also carries glassware featuring intricate fused and dichroic glass. Even these pieces can be put in the dishwasher without flaking or damaging them. “I’m a guy, so I put everything in the dishwasher,” Deyell says, chuckling. “Everything you see is functional. It can be used in your home. Basically, it’s art for everyday living.”