by Morri Mostow

 The European artistry of illusion comes to Knowlton

Master trompe-l’oeil artist Maddia Esquerre didn’t open in time to get on this year’s Tour des Arts, but her extraordinary talents are on display at her newly opened studio-boutique in downtown Knowlton.

Esquerre, who hails from the Basque region of France, is a trained interior architect, a European designation that combines interior design with construction techniques. A silver medallist from the Van der Kelen Institute in Brussels, which specializes in trompe-l’oeil and other traditional arts, she learned to recreate, in paint, classical friezes, rare marbles, grained wood, ornamental mouldings and even the intricate patterns of marquetry. “I like illusion,” says Esquerre, who, in her earlier days, worked as an assistant set designer at the Brussels Opera.

Esquerre discovered Knowlton through her brother Jean-Yves, former artistic director at the Ballet Monte Carlo, who now teaches ballet at Les Ballets Jazz in Montreal. Last year, she and drama teacher Brigitte De Souza gave up their teaching positions at the French-American School of Boston to settle in Knowlton, where they recently bought a house.

Following an exhibition of Esquerre’s work at Le Néroli restaurant in Knowlton last winter, property-owner Richard Leblanc offered her the use of a vacant storefront. “Maddia’s European decorative techniques and obvious talent offer the area something unique and different,” says Leblanc, who was impressed with her portfolio showcasing her restaurant and residential projects in California and Boston.

Esquerre is also an accomplished photographer. A selection of her postcard photos of the Knowlton area, signed and mounted on fine watercolour paper, are for sale in her studio-boutique, along with her hand-knitted leg warmers and homemade jams.

Boz’Art, at 321 Knowlton Road in Knowlton. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Telephone (450) 242-1301.


Every tried a homemade dog biscuit? At pet-supply and accessories store Pur Animal, every customer, whether canine or human, gets a complimentary dog biscuit confectioned by owner Pierre Dusseault, using only the finest organic ingredients. “They’re delicious and healthy,” says his partner “Marco” (Marc) Belliveau, who admits to chowing down on them when feeling peckish in the afternoon.

Recent Knowlton residents Belliveau (originally from Moncton) and Dusseault (a former Quebec City native) have just completed major renovations that have transformed their 1,200-sq.-ft. shop into an old-style country store, complete with a wood-and-metal awning outside, white-washed wooden shelving inside.

It has been a work in progress since the pair first opened on a small scale in 1998, after falling in love with the location, a former Nissan garage, in a small strip mall on the road to Cowansville. With its interesting variety of pet products and friendly service, the store soon became a commercial success, even a destination where people drop by just to visit with the owners and Tucker, Belliveau’s Silky terrier. Customers enjoy the relaxing atmosphere created with classical music, warm, subdued lighting and the cricket-like chirping of seven African finches (a gift to the partners and not for sale).

“We specialize in natural pet-food products and herbs for curing different maladies,” says Belliveau. The shop also carries a wide selection of pet toys, leashes, food bowls, bird feeders, bird houses and bird food. While they do not sell animals in their store, the pair act as an informal liaison between people seeking pets and pet owners or breeders wanting to place their animals.

Pur Animal, at 1108 Knowlton Road in West Brome. Open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Telephone (450) 263-3030.


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© Morri Mostow & Associates, 2001.