November 28, 2023

‘If people had it in their hearts and knew what it meant to me, I would be willing to pay whatever they paid for it and buy it back,’ said passionate local artist

An Orillia artist who has spent decades perfecting her craft is looking to enlist the public’s help in retrieving some of her lost artwork.

Peggy Little, 83, began her lifelong decoupage hobby nearly 50 years ago, fashioning realistic birds, plants, and natural scenery out of little more than paper, and transforming desks, dinner plates, and more into impressive works of art with influences from around the globe.

For the uninitiated, the art of decoupage involves using paper cutouts, paint, and even gold leaf to transform ordinary objects into artwork – all of which Little has incorporated into her work.

Over the years, Little has created countless pieces, often with great sentimental value. Her living room, for example, is currently adorned with a piece she created out of a relative’s antique desk, and a heron crafted from a photo taken near her home.

Several years ago, however, Little lost a number of pieces that she loved.

When she and her husband were looking to downsize from their Washago home to their current condo in Orillia, Little fell ill and had to be hospitalized.

Although she had planned on downsizing her decoupage collection, as well, Little said auctioneers sold off a large portion of her work during that time without consulting her.

“These are personal things that I’ve worked on for years, and they should have been boxed and brought to me,” she said. 

Beyond her artwork, Little also lost the Langman family bible that had been in her family for generations.

“It had been in the family for years and years – generations – and it’s gone. Now why would somebody want to buy somebody’s Bible? It should have been returned to me,” she said.

Her hope is that if anyone has a piece of her art that’s missing (most of her artwork is dated and signed, she said), she would be willing to buy it back at the price they paid for it.

“If people had it in their hearts and knew what it meant to me, I would be willing to pay whatever they paid for it and buy it back,” she said. “It’s not like a piece of furniture. When people bought these things, they knew what they were buying.” 

Little described decoupaging as a “passion” of hers, and said many of her pieces involve extensive work – the birds she crafts can take several weeks to complete, and other pieces have dozens of layers of varnish, which is then finely sanded, to produce the effect she desires.

“Your heart goes into it. It’s like somebody that does woodworking and finishes things off, and they take great pride in doing that sort of thing,” she said. “The birds and the frames … that takes probably a couple of weeks to do the feathering.”

She has travelled to the United States numerous times to learn new techniques from members of her decoupage guild, and taught numerous classes in Scarborough, Markham, and Maple over the years to anyone looking to learn the craft.

Even today, Little has numerous decoupage projects planned for the summer, and although she has retired from formal teaching, she said she is still open to sharing information about the craft with others.

Some of what Little lost during her hospital stay is as follows:

  • A varnished cat, 10 inches high, with pure gold leaf;
  • Two music boxes, one with a black background and “oriental” design, and another with a green background and floral design;
  • A glass plate designed with flowers in a hexagon frame;
  • A fire screen with three panels, with a green background and an oriental design on the front;
  • A glass lamp with small red flowers and black paint transitioning to green at the top;
  • A tilt top black tea table with a gold top;
  • Numerous Fabrege Ostrich and Rhea eggs;
  • The Langman family bible; and more

Should anyone have one of Little’s pieces of art, and would like to return it or resell it, OrilliaMatters can put them in contact with Little.


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