FEATURE STORY IN CAFE HANDMADE
We are two creative friends who reside on beautiful Vancouver Island, BC, Canada; Cheryl in Nanaimo, I in Coombs. Our adventure began with me designing a beach-themed, glass ball ornament for our local art gallery’s Christmas table in 2008. They sold like hotcakes so Cheryl and I got to thinking that we ought to make and sell more. So what began with a little ornament, soon ballooned into whatever our creative brains could think up; from ‘Nautical Notepads’, to ‘Mermaid Catchers’, Seaside ‘Treasure Boxes’ to our ‘Beach Under Glass Candleholders’, beach-themed jewelry to ‘Message in Bottles’, ‘Seaview Décor Mirrors’ and more. We hadn’t taken any crafting classes… we just went with our creative instincts and before we knew it, we had shelves and shelves full of seaside treasures!
At the beginning of our venture, Cheryl and I worked at my kitchen table. This was far from ideal as my kitchen was soon taken over by seashells, driftwood, raffia, sea glass, moss, sand you name it. What a mess! It was clear that we needed to figure out a better solution. So my rarely-used guest room became our craft room. We had planned to put up shelving but when we priced out the materials, it was not an option. So our Plan B was to buy several tall, inexpensive bookshelves and a long, fold-up work table… one that we could also bring to local craft fairs.
Cheryl and I have a sort of ritual, you could say. She comes here in the morning and I put on the coffee (only good coffee, I might add… very important to the process!) and we bring out the Bailey’s and we munch on my yummy, homemade granola bars. Music is also a very fundamental part of our creative process. We usually listen to the 70’s channel on cable and sing along (badly) to all the words that we remember (which aren’t many and usually the same). As far as setting a specific time to work, this is always a challenge because we both have very unpredictable schedules. I have a singing telegram business (http://www.tickleberrytelegrams.com/) and Cheryl works part-time in a thrift store and as a house/pet sitter (‘U-Petcha’). So we aim for once a week to come together, while working on our own in between, whenever possible. Summer…well that’s another story. Our work has been pretty much on hiatus due to vacations, family and friends. But we do have a craft fair coming up, so we have been making a few things for that as well as our online store.
We take pride in the fact that we use primarily local, organic, recycled, upcycled & eco-friendly materials that we collect with our own little hands. We work with beach-combed items such as seashells, sea glass and driftwood. Even seaweed! It is not unusual to see my kitchen sink full of soaking seashells and my oven full of drying seaweed. Interesting smells come out of my kitchen! Cheryl and I are in love with the ocean so it only stands to reason that we would enjoy working with natural materials the ocean provides. It is a pleasure to go walking on the seashore while discovering what new treasures we can find and utilize!
Cheryl and I sell our products online in our Etsy store at http://www.etsy.com/shop/A2SeaCreations. I am also a photographer so I opened another Etsy online store which can be found at http://www.thesingingphotographer.com/ We also sell our seaside treasures at local craft fairs and a store in Coombs, here on the island. I also sell my photography in the Nanaimo Arts Council Gallery.
Humans need two things; connection and a sense of self-worth. Buying and selling handmade provides both; the artist receives the validation that comes with selling something they have designed and a relationship is formed as the buyer communicates directly with the artist in the customizing of their desired item. The buyer becomes more than just a customer; they are a supporter of the artist’s work and vision. Handmade products come with a personal history and unique story and buying handmade creates a sense of community with people from all around the world. These dynamics are lost in the world of large scale manufacturing.
It would be great to expand, but not so much that we lose the joy of creating for fun. Cheryl and I will likely keep creating for as long as we are able. We have not looked that far into the future as we both tend to live in the moment as much as we can, enjoying the process and our friendship. As a photographer, I am continually learning new techniques and trying out new processes so that I might keep growing in my art.