VANCOUVERITES: With Erin Boniferro Of The Fraserhood’s Phenomenal “Collage Collage”

March 13, 2012.

by Jenny Bachynski | I took a stroll down to Collage Collage at 621 Kingsway last week (at 15th + Fraser St.). When I first heard about the concept, I was really intrigued, and once I visited the website, I was instantly hooked. The inspiration behind the space was to develop a place for children and adults to design, imagine, craft, and create art.  The totally unique and inspired studio space/art store was created by Erin Boniferro. Her shelves were filled with fun art supplies and wonderfully illustrated books. I was taken aback by how beautiful and inviting it was.  It was clear that she had made a very special spot. As the children were staring excitedly at their blank canvases and Erin whipped up some artistic examples, I was left with the desire to sit down and make something myself…

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Tell us a bit about yourself and how Collage Collage came to be? I’ve been carrying the idea of the store around for a very, very long time. I grew up in Ontario where my summers were spent running the arts+crafts cabin at camp, moved to Alberta as a teen, and came to BC to attend Emily Carr. While at art school, I kept ending up working for arts-based learning kinds of environments, often being hired as an artist to develop arts programs for children and families. I really enjoyed this, and set out to create something of my own that let me be inspired, maintain an art practice, and curate a collection of books and art works. All this, and I get to teach kids and adults about contemporary works. It lets my interest and education in art exist alongside my ability to teach, and I get to collect amazing books for adults and kids alike. It took me a long time to execute, but looking back, I don’t think I could have done it any other way.

Working with children in a creative environment must be pretty rewarding. What are some of your favorite aspects of the job? Kids are amazing. They’re demanding, and require a whole LOT of energy, but it’s because they’ve got it in them to share. I feel pretty lucky that I’m sharing something I love to do with them, so it’s a pretty happy environment around here. That’s the best thing ever, and I’m grateful that I can do what I like to do, and share it. Buying books and searching for interesting titles for kids and adults is another favourite aspect, because it’s always a source of inspiration that I can share with all my customers, big and small.

You carry so many beautiful and hard to find items in the store. What is your process of handpicking these items like? After teaching at different art organizations over the years, and really from way back at the arts+crafts cabin, I’ve been collecting titles and following artists, and that just has kept going to get me to the collection you see at the store. I’m always looking for something new, and going back to artists and illustrators I love to see what else they’re doing. I also draw from Vancouver’s rather amazing community of artists and designers who leave me no shortage in new works and items for the store.

How has being in Vancouver influenced the way you run your business? Leaving Vancouver and coming back to it always gives me two equal but opposing thoughts. “Why isn’t this happening in Vancouver?” and “Let’s make this happen in Vancouver”. After living in Toronto for most of life and spending some time in my teens in Calgary, I can say that I really did choose this place for it’s size. It’s a good size for trying to make a go of something unique, and you can really be a part of a community if you’d like. I also have an incredible group of peers who are also running their own businesses, and without those folks, I don’t think I could have pulled this off. Having people around you who want you to succeed is amazing, and makes you accountable for your actions. That and I like my snowfalls up on mountains, viewed from a distance.

What are some “must have” items in your store? Any print from Banquet, a neon BAGGU backpack, A Thistletown Toys plush monkey named Biggs, “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, both Blexbolex books in stock, the Heavy Metal Colouring Book, and everyone loves the party dog stickers.

When you opened Collage Collage what was the feel and atmosphere you wanted to create for your customers? I wanted everyone, adults and kids, to come in and feel inspired to make something. I wanted there to be lots of light, and a collection of books and materials that were contemporary, clever, and like nothing else in town.

In your opinion, what is the most important quality to have when working with children? Patience, a sense of humour, and a really, really strong immune system.

What are your favourite and least favourite things about running your own business? I love how great it feels to share what I’ve found with my customers, and I love minding the shop; it’s such a fun, neighborly thing to do to just be in the store engaging with people. I don’t love that I can’t just mind the shop – there’s just a whole lot to do to keep the system working – but at the end of the day the pros totally outweigh the cons.

What inspires you to create and continue to evolve your beautiful store? My family, my husband, my most incredible creative friends – and all the little folks that come in and mess up the place weekly. I haven’t even read all the books I want to in my own store, and with illustrators and designers like these, I’ve got many, many lesson plans ahead of me.

If you had to choose one word to describe how you usually feel at the end of a work day, what would it be? Grateful.

Thanks Erin! To learn more visit www.collagecollage.ca.

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Jenny Bachynski was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. In her teenage years she packed up her bags and headed to Vancouver to pursue further education in fashion design. In 2009 she started her own small business Jenny Andrews Recycled Leather Goods, as well as her blog Jenny Loves. After starting her blog, Jenny discovered that one of her greatest joys was stumbling upon beautiful and interesting things, and sharing them with anyone who would listen.

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