by Grady Mitchell | All things artisanal are in high demand these days, but few craftspeople can say they’ve been at it as long as Ken Diamond. Since 2002 he’s been bent over hunks of leather in his workshop, meticulously cutting, sewing and glueing them into beautifully handcrafted pieces that are each one of a kind.
Ken took a nine month course in upholstery when he first arrived in Vancouver. After plying that trade, he moved into building sets and props for theatre and film, and it was there that he first handled leather. His upholstery background gave him a basic grasp of the work, and the rest he taught himself. And he’s still learning every day at his workbench. Although he enjoyed set design, he was less fond of the film industry. He’d always dreamt of launching his own business, and not long after he started working with leather he founded Ken Diamond.
Perhaps best known for their line of moccasins, the company also offers items that will hold your cards, cash, and secure your pants. Every piece that leaves the workshop is hand-made by the man himself, his wife Marla, and his apprentice Lukas. What machines they do use are of the old-school, press-and-punch variety. And they plan to keep it that way.
Although their popularity would handle speedy growth, Ken plans to keep things small, to continue building by hand, and to grow slowly rather than burn out. That care and patience is what makes his work so excellent. You can see it firsthand if you visit their open storefront at 756 E Powell, where you can check out the goods personally, and watch them being made just a few feet away in the back room. To learn more about Ken Diamond, visit his website.
by Grady Mitchell | A short story collection is a tough enough test for a new writer, but author Michael Christie added to the challenge by centering much of his first book, The Beggar’s Garden, around the Downtown Eastside, where he had worked at an emergency shelter for six years. ”It was a place where you paid with a bad story,” Christie says. Nobody who came up to the counter was ever having a peachy day. The stories he encountered there inspired the book.
The dichotomies at play in this city make for rich storytelling. “What’s the difference between Vancouver and Victorian England?” the author asks. “Not much. We’ve got the highest echelons of society bumping right up to the lowest. It’s such a dramatic situation, and I realized I wanted to write about it.” Spinning nine different (but interrelated) stories with as many protagonists – from a Riverview patient with delusions of royalty to a computer programmer struggling in the dating world – allowed him to explore the shared traits among all facets of society, no matter how dissimilar.
“Literature can level the playing field and humanize everyone. I wanted to portray people on all levels of society struggling, being lost and trying to find connection with one another. That’s what I love about literature: it can encompass larger ideas than a simple view of poverty, or a simple view of class.”
Christie’s empathetic approach is key. He never finger-wags at his characters, nor does he romanticize their plight. While a disgruntled banker and a struggling addict face very different day-to-day challenges, they still grapple with the same issues of connection. The author tackles the intricacies of the neighbourhood with eloquence, tact, and enough skill to get the book long-listed for the 2011 Giller Prize, alongside writers like Michael Ondaatje.
Before he was a writer, Christie was a professional skateboarder. Although they seem worlds apart, he sees writing and skateboarding as similar activities. “Skateboarding is totally self-directed; there’s no coach. It’s just you, your skateboard, and the city,” he says. “Writing’s the same thing. No one tells me what I should do next.”
Although at first he faced skepticism as a skater-turned-writer, he won a spot at UBC’s MFA program, where he wrote The Beggar’s Garden as his thesis. “Now I’m a working writer,” he says. “I know it’s a luxury, and I try to remind myself everyday.”
His followup book, a novel titled If I Fall, I Die, is now done and awaiting release in January. It centers on the lives of an agoraphobic woman and her ten-year-old son, following the boy as he leaves home for the first time ever and gets enmeshed in the long-cold mystery of another missing child. To learn more, visit Mike’s website.
We recently came across Eureka Tea, a new line of locally produced tea. It’s just one of Miranda Hudson’s many creative projects. With a background in graphic design and brand management, a line of all-natural ecologically conscious candles (Feest), and a clear commitment to all things handmade and delicious, putting together a collection of hand-blended, loose leaf teas wasn’t too much of a stretch for her.
Why tea? Because of my deep and abiding love of it. I’ve been a tea drinker ever since I was a little girl. It was something my father would share with me, heavily laden with milk, of course. I’m sure that I drink about 12 cups of tea a day, and that’s enough tea-preparing time to start thinking.
What’s the concept behind your brand? In general, I think tea brands tend to appeal to a female demographic and can be a little overly feminine in their branding, or they veer quite seriously into the Health Brand concept. I wanted to see Eureka embrace a sense of humour about tea and allow people to have fun with it. It’s not stuffy, it’s not necessarily for your grandmother (unless she’s got a wicked sense of humour). I decided to include some lighthearted phrases on the packaging that are completely obvious but only make sense if you take time to decode them, essentially interacting with the package to reveal the whole story. Tea itself is a ritual that requires you to take a moment and your first interaction with the package encourages you to do that.
What was the most fun you’ve had in developing this line? The learning process that goes into it – there’s so much beautiful complexity to tea! And definitely hearing feedback from people during the development phase. People who love tea are generally passionate about it. Tea provides all kinds of connections to comfort and memory and place – in asking people to test the blends I also got to share in many stories about what tea means to other people.
Do you have a tea ritual? I drink tea non-stop throughout the day. I turn on the kettle before I shower in the morning and get a cup going right away. I’m working on a breakfast blend right now, something bold and rich but I don’t mind a good old fashioned Red Rose to speed things along. Throughout the day I sip my absolute favourite, lavender earl grey while I’m working. I love it with a medium steep, about 3 minutes, served with just plain milk. The process of scooping loose leaf into an infuser, pouring in the water, waiting – it’s such a nice pause in a busy day. I switch to rooibos in the late afternoon to stay hydrated (it’s caffeine free). I drink more tea than water, that’s for sure.
Pair a cup of Lavender Earl Grey with: pain au chocolat from Beaucoup Bakery.
Pair a cup of Vanilla Rooibos with: Yoga! Perfect post-hot yoga beverage, enjoyed in the park with a Culver City Salad.
Pair a cup of Hibiscus White Peppermint with: I love this brewed extra strong and iced, taken in a mason jar on picnics with tacos from the Tacofino food truck (and possibly a little post-dinner growler of 33 Acres California Common).
You can pick up a tin of Eureka Tea ($14) at Hunter & Hare, West Pender, Barefoot Contessa, or online at www.eurekateas.com.
by Grady Mitchell | Back in the northern Ontario town where artist Andrew Pommier grew up, whenever he wasn’t drawing, he was probably skateboarding. And when it eventually became apparent that a professional skating career wasn’t going to happen, he aspired instead to create board graphics. That dream did come true, and quickly.
Andrew has created board graphics for Toy Machine, RVCA, Girl, and even a signature shoe with Adidas. In addition, he’s penned or painted a breadth of editorial work (he was one of the earliest contributors to Skateboard Canada magazine, appearing in their first issue) as well as exhibiting numerous shows worldwide.
And it’s clear that those many early mornings had a profound effect on his work. His sketchbooks and the walls of his studio are full of lonesome, darkly funny characters in costumes and masks; smoking, drinking and cavorting across the canvas. As a kid, Andrew says, cartoons and comics provided “a way to think about different stories, different ideas.”
Piles of black sketchbooks teeter around Andrew’s Chinatown studio. Each one acts as a collecting bin for ideas, and it’s here that most of his larger works begin. He spends much of his downtime sketching in those books with no particular plan or direction. Pages are haphazardly dotted with characters: bleary-eyed bunny men puffing on cigarettes or brandishing broken bottles, personified hot dogs with cartoon arms. Later he’ll parse through them and select his favourite ideas to develop into finished pieces.
He shies from looking too deeply into his work. Despite repeating motifs like masks and costumes, he strives not to over-conceptualize, preferring to work intuitively rather than stick to a blueprint. “My hand has a better understanding of what I want to do,” he says. Recently, his work has grown more abstract. Often in his newer paintings subjects avoid the viewer; they angle away, random objects or creatures obscure their faces, or they appear only as shadowy silhouettes with staring eyes. Don’t expect Andrew to tell you what it means. Just take a look and enjoy.
To see more of Andrew Pommier’s works, visit his website.
by Grady Mitchell | Grant Lawrence gets things done. He’s a musician, author, longtime CBC Radio 3 host, and human archive of Canadian music. That’s a mouthful, so when people ask what he does he typically says, “I’m a broadcaster.” Since his interests and talents are indeed broad, the title fits well…with a little interpretation. But whatever it is he’s doing at a given moment, it probably involves music. Take, for example, his upcoming gig as host at the CBC Music Festival this Saturday at Deer Lake Park with headliners Tegan & Sara and Spoon.
Grant’s musical obsession started in high school. “The easiest route to art when we were teenagers was to form a band,” he says. His was called The Smugglers, and over the next 15 years they released eight albums and toured worldwide. Meanwhile, teenaged Grant worked as a concert promoter, booking acts like Fugazi and Nirvana (who crashed at his parents’ place). Next, he worked A&R at Mint Records before joining the crew at the CBC, where he remains today.
Just about the only things Grant’s done that don’t directly incorporate music are his two books, Adventures in Solitude, about the misunderstood culture of Desolation Sound, and The Lonely End of the Rink, a memoir about Grant’s lifelong, sometimes good but often rocky relationship with hockey. There’s an explanation for that, Grant says. “If you work at Burger King full-time, Monday to Friday, chances are Saturday night the last thing you want to do is eat a Whopper.” The books, which both hit national bestseller lists and won the BC Book Prize for Book of the Year, were a chance for Grant to tackle a topic outside music.
Despite forays into other mediums, it’s in the studio at CBC that Grant feels most comfortable, and he doesn’t plan to abandon it anytime soon. Although critics have predicted the death of radio since the invention of television, Grant remains unfazed. While terrestrial radio (the ones with knobs and buttons) will likely phase out, the medium will simply move into more digital channels, as it already has with satellite radio and podcasts (of which CBC was one of the earliest adopters). Radio works because of the curatorial aspect; it’s word of mouth, amplified. “We sift through the hundreds and thousands of songs,” Grant says, “so you can hear the dozens of really great ones.” He’s always got his eye on Vancouver talent, and these days he’s excited about bands like The Courtneys, The Ruffled Feathers, Needles//Pins, and Blanket Barricade.
To learn more about Grant, visit his site, and check him out this Saturday at the CBC Music Festival in Deer Lake Park.
by Grady Mitchell | The East Van studio of painter Noah Bowman is stacked high with canvases of all sizes – some as small as a paperback book, a couple as large as a queen mattress. He’s arranged them into a sort of art fort, and it’s in here, surrounded by his previous work, that he creates new pieces.
Although his initial interest in art was sparked by the pencil portraits he sketched as a child, he’s since solidified his style as an abstract and conceptual artist with a vivid palette. His work floats in the space between the familiar and abstract, blending segments of reality with conceptual elements to find deeper meaning in the everyday.
Noah’s recent series Reverso explores corner spaces. While artwork is generally presented in the center of a room’s most prominent wall, Noah is creating paintings specifically for neglected corner spaces, angular two-panel pieces that either envelop protruding corners or slip into recessive ones. He strives to link or balance each half with the other, presenting a traditional pattern on one juxtaposed with an abstract image on the other.
Along with Reverso and the other series’ that Noah is working on, he also promotes the accessibility of abstract art through integrating it into everyday items such as clocks, purses and pillows. You can see more of Noah’s work on his website and on display at the Stewart Stephenson Gallery at 1300 Robson Street.
by Grady Mitchell | You may not have realized it at the time, but you’ve probably seen an Ola Volo piece before. A stroll through any Vancouver neighbourhood is liable to uncover one of the dozens of walls and buildings, both large and small, that bear the local illustrator’s work. Aside from public spaces, she’s created commissions for Hootsuite, Lululemon, Save On Meats, The Fox Cabaret and numerous companies and publications in Vancouver and beyond. Take a quick look through her portfolio and it’s obvious why.
Ola combines a whimsical fascination with childhood fantasy with the distinct artistic style of her Eastern European heritage, using intricate patterns to tell folky day-dream stories. In addition to her commissions, she is forever scribbling away at personal projects. We pulled her away from the paper and pen to ask a few questions.
I know your heritage has significantly influenced your work. Can you tell me about that style of art, and how it’s affected your work? Multiculturalism has been a very inspirational concept for my work. I come from a diverse Eastern European and Asian background that was complicated by historic transitions during my childhood. My origin, my move to BC, and my subsequent immersion in its own variety of cultures, has undeniably become the main focus of my art. My illustrations merge aspects of history, people, animals and traditions through patterns. I use specific patterns to form specific narratives. Learning about patterns and the ways they are used to embellish and define a culture has been very interesting to me. Thus the mixing of the right kind of pattern is integral to my art, and the intentionality of patterns gives me a lot to play with.
A lot of your work calls back to childhood fantasy. What about that phase of life intrigues you? Great question. When I was growing up, Kazakhstan’s landscape and culture were completely different than they are now. That time of my life seems like a vague dream, as childhood seems for most adults but even more so because of the unrecognizability of the sites of my childhood now. Tapping into those childhood memories, and further exploring stories and characters that shaped my childhood world is a nostalgic act, perhaps. It may sound a bit saddening but its always a fun day at the studio!
Storytelling is another major part of your images. Why is that important to you? How do you incorporate stories into a piece? I believe that a visual narrative is a great way to connect with people especially in multi-lingual cities. I attempt to communicate through anthropomorphism. Through animal characters I’m able to mimic different types of personalities and emotions without excluding too many people, and tell stories that hopefully can be interpreted in different ways.
Any upcoming projects you want people to know about? Lot’s of interesting projects lined up for this year, you can follow me on Instagram and keep up to date with my future projects!
Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to pick the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. Today, we hear from bassist Daniel Knowlton of local band The Gay Nineties. The group is getting reading to go on a lengthy tour, so head down to The Electric Owl this Thursday night to hear them play before they go on the road.
Neil Young – Harvest Moon | LISTEN | “This album plays so beautifully from start to finish. The title track is what pushed me to learn to play harp as a street musician in my early 20′s. Harvest Moon is a perfect musical translation of the Canadian landscape. Could it be any more Canadian? No. It could be none, none more Canadian.”
Joel Plaskett & The Emergency – Truthfully, Truthfully | LISTEN | “Truthfully, Truthfully is a heavy rock and roll album with some really great tender moments and a great pop sensibility. This is the first contemporary album that didn’t leave my CD player for months at a time. As a musician, I am greatly influenced by his vocal performance in these songs.”
The Beatles – Rubber Soul | LISTEN | “The Beatles went from singing about ‘I’m so happy to be in love’ or ‘I’m so sad because I’m not in love anymore’ to ‘Stop war everyone, while I get really high in bed all the time’. Rubber soul was the start of this transition. McCartney’s bass playing on this album is boss.”
Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to pick the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. Today, we hear from Reid Stewart, one of the founders of local liftestyle/clothing brand Lifetime Collective.
Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps | LISTEN | “Driving through Montana with my Dad at the age of 6.”
Fugazi – Repeater | LISTEN | “Having been a huge fan of Minor Threat, listening to Fugazi was new. It was different from Minor Threat and really made me start listening to all aspects of this new band’s music. Change is good.”
Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation | LISTEN | “Absolute creative force and one of my all time favourite bands. Always inspiring to me. I like how they push boundaries and move their music forward.”
Diane Espiritu is one of many new vendors who will be showing and selling their creations at the revamped Chinatown Night Market. She studied Industrial Design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design before launching Espiritu Design Studio, a ceramics-focused studio in Chinatown. Diane attributes her creativity to growing up with a resourceful father who could not resist the challenge of finding a dual purpose for everything he came across. When the utilitarian nature of his engineered objects lacked elegance, Diane finessed a polished finish. Today, she combines the spirit of that mindful innovation with a modern design aesthetic.
What type of artist are you? What style of work do you produce? I’m an industrial designer at Espiritu Design Studio, a company we started in 2011. Initially, it was an effort to find studio space to make and market my own in house designs [but] soon I was working with a variety of clients to bring their visions to life, too. I specialize in two mediums: functional and architectural ceramics and soft product design.
Three things about Coal Harbour that make you want to live there? The seawall as it winds its way into our beloved Stanley Park, the proximity to beaches, and green spaces.
What inspires you? I draw inspiration from a number of sources. I’m very aware of my surroundings. Whether it’s the built or natural environment I like to connect with the objects living within these spaces. I’m fond of new experiences and encountering surprising elements. I look for emotional experiences. I admire thoughtful makers that make you smile when you interact with their creations. I appreciate the craftsmanship, mindfulness and sensibilities required to achieve a form that is as elegant and simple as it is intuitively functional.
You are one of the first local designers to jump on board and grab a table at the revamped Chinatown Night Market planned for this summer. What is it about the Night Market this year that has you most excited? I want to embrace the idea of being a part of something new as it emerges [...] I would love to take this opportunity to collaborate with like-minded designers on a few small scale projects.
Tell us about your studio space in Chinatown? Espiritu Design Studio is located in the Chinatown Mall. The main level contains the equipment and tools we need to execute soft product design projects. I share this space with my dear friend and design colleague Angel Dawn, who works with fibre, leather and other materials. If there is any evidence of organization in the studio it is because her skills are impeccable. The second level is where all the ceramic magic happens. The studio is my home away from home so I try to make it cozy. I place reminders of the people who have supported and inspired me along my journey over the years pinned to the studio walls.
What is your favourite creation right now? I’m really digging the potential of the pieces that I’m creating for the Chinatown Night Market. These are pulling inspiration from the distinctive elements of our neighbourhood and the idea of collaborating with other local designers and members of the Vancouver Design Bureau.
What is your favourite Chinatown indulgence? When a fruit comes into season and it’s readily available at the markets, I will consume copious amounts of it daily. My favourites are mangos and the sweet yet tart mandarins.
Where can Vancouverites find your work? Recently, I had the great opportunity to create ceramic taps for artisan sake in collaboration with designers Tlell Davidson and Craig Stanghetta for Pidgin. You can also find the ceramic coffee pour-over cones that I designed for Panoramic Coffee Roasters at The Pie Shoppe. While I begin to court local shops to carry my work, you are welcome to visit my studio in the Chinatown mall by appointment to check out what’s hot off the kiln shelf!
If you want to be a vendor at this summer’s Chinatown Night Market, click here to learn how.
by Michelle Sproule | Meet Michael Thomas Host and Tanja Hinder of mth woodworks. They’ll be in their Parker Street studio during this weekend’s highly anticipated Eastside Culture Crawl (November 16, 17, 18), so be sure to drop in and check out their super-cool stuff…
What do you do? We design and build original furniture using locally salvaged trees and organic resin. Every piece is one-of-a-kind and a guaranteed conversation starter. The bloom collection is our revolutionary way to showcase the beautiful local rain forests. We are complete rain forest junkies and our designs have become an outlet for us to bring the forest into our living room.
How many years have you participated in the Eastside Culture Crawl? This is our third year. We absolutely love it.
If you were to describe the ECC to someone who had never attended, what would you say? It’s your opportunity to saunter around and check hundreds of talented and local artists. Everybody opens up their doors and welcomes you to check out their work. You’d be surprised what a pile of talent can be found under one roof.
What are you most excited to be working on right now? Our new collection piece (Style no. 13). The photo doesn’t do it justice. The inlays are Yellow Cedar which are over 400-years old. It’s just unbelievably unique wood and we really enjoy working with it. PS: It will be showcased at the Crawl.
Why is the East Van a good place for art? The east side, especially our building (1000 Parker Street), has a strong community vibe and efficient infrastructure, but it’s not a manicured place. A little dirt can sometimes be very inspiring. Perfection is boring.
How do you get ready for the Crawl to begin? We CLEAN the shop from top to bottom, install the displays, dim the lights, and put on some tunes. Now all we need is for you to come by and check us out.
What’s the first thing that you do when the Crawl is over? Go home, put our feet up, order pizza, and chat about all the great people we met and amazing feedback we had.
by Michelle Sproule | So what if she never learned to ride a skateboard. Danielle Krysa has a BFA in Visual Arts, a post-grad diploma in design, has worked as a designer and Creative Director, has created a seriously popular blog called The Jealous Curator, writes for other seriously popular blogs, curates shows, runs art workshops all over North America, and is a mother, a wife and a dog owner.
In February of 2009, after years of looking at beautiful contemporary art and thinking “Damn, I wish I thought of that”, she finally decided to say it out loud, and The Jealous Curator was born. She writes a daily post about emerging and established contemporary artists that make her jealous (in a good way, of course!).
Three things about Steveston that make you want to live there: I love a) being on the water, b) that there are a ridiculous amount of ice cream shops and fish n’chips places to choose from, and c) my favourite coffee shop (Rocanini) where I sit and write every single day. Seriously…every day. I think they might give me my own desk in the back.
Name the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? CHIPS! Old Dutch Au Gratin chips. Always and forever.
Default drink/cocktail of choice? A one shot soy latte, and if you want to add a bit of Bailey’s, that would be ok with me.
Best Vancouver place or event to be inspired by emerging artistic talent: Easy. The Cheaper Show. So much fun, and so much amazing art!
Last art show that really blew you away: In Vancouver: Monument(al) at East Van Studios featuring Sarah Gee/Jessica Bell/Aaron Moran. Elsewhere: Matthew Craven at Gallery Hijinks in San Francisco.
What trend have you followed that you now regret? When I was 14 I so badly wanted to be a skater chick. I wore ‘OP’ shorts (remember ‘Ocean Pacific’?!) that were way too big for me, shaved my hair on one side and left the other side long, and carried a skateboard with me wherever I went. Yes, I said carry. I had no idea how to ride it.
The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair? See the previous answer. Oh, and Sun-In, circa 1986.
What are the three things you’d like to change about Vancouver? Well, I’d like it to be warm in May, June and July. Is that too much to ask?
If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you? Paris. No, New York…oh, or Bali. Hmm, maybe I’ll need an around the world ticket.
Your go to, no-frills place for dinner? Gudrun in Steveston. Simple, very cool setting, and amazing food! Nothin’ like cheese fondue and a cold beer on a Friday night.
The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years? Well, “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret” was pretty impactful when I was 10. The book that literally changed my life was ‘The Artist’s Way’. I only read it a few years ago. I was at a major crossroads with my own art work and with life in general, I guess. I cried so many times during the 12 weeks that I read the book/did the weekly tasks, but I came out on the other side a different person. So many people have that book on their shelf but haven’t read it. They should just pick it up and do it…tears and all.
What is the best way to get to know a neighborhood? I love sitting at cafes and people-watching. I do that when I travel too. I like to blend in and not look like a tourist. My husband and I have a long standing tradition of playing a game we invented called “director-not-a-director” – basically we stare at passers by and decide if they look like they have what it takes to be a movie director, or not.
Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure? I just got back from Portland (which I absolutely loved!), and I am literally on a plane right now on my way to Minneapolis to do one of my Girl Crush art workshops. Up next, Philly in October. I guess you could put these trips under work and pleasure, but more pleasure!
What is your biggest phobia? Snakes. Oh my word…snakes. Read more
by Daniel Colussi | One of the most interesting groups to emerge from Vancouver’s dense cultural foliage is the V.Vecker Ensemble, a nine-odd man/woman army of bassists, drummers, guitarists, and one player of the Indian santur. They’re brought together by local artist, writer and musician Keith Wecker, the Ensemble’s composer and conductor. I first saw them play at the Anza Club two years ago and it was a sight to behold: Wecker guiding the group through the sturm und drang of free jazz frenzy and krauty grooves conjuring the atmosphere of an East Village loft party circa ’81 (not that I would know, really). They were too many to all fit on stage so they played on the floor like a punk band, and it was great. Interestingly, the group’s been invited to play in this year’s Jazz Fest, so they’ll be representing the more out there fringe of the fest. In anticipation of that date, Wecker has provided Scout with a music video playlist that ranges from the austere (Art Ensemble Of Chicago) to the crass (Odd Future), with an Obama mash-up added in for good measure. From the desk of Keith Wecker, here we go… Read more
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…
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.
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.