We are writing this article to ask you to please consider supporting these wonderful B.C. Artists and other local businesses before you spend all of your Christmas shopping budget at big box stores.
We believe that one way you can help is to consider buying locally produced goods and services. Below is a short list of reasons to support local, handmade goods.
1. Locally crafted work is unique! Unlike items made in a far off factory; local crafts people make work that is individual and one-of-a-kind. This does not just apply to a magnificent vase or a glass bowl. Even with a humble coffee mug, every piece has a very slight difference. When just one person or a husband & wife team makes an item the numbers are by the nature of the process – small. It’s great to have or give as a gift something that is genuinely unique and locally made.
2. Local artists produce work of excellent quality. They always take personal pride in their handmade work. I have yet to meet an artist who was not passionate about their work! From potters to glass artists to textile makers – this is their life and they are justly proud of their work. If treated well, much of this work can last a lifetime. How many things can you say that about in our society today? How many of those ‘bargain’ mass produced items last more than a few years?
3. Save money! Contrary to what some people believe, buying directly from the artist at a craft fair, market, or their local studio can often cost less than buying a mass produced item from a department store. Reduced transportation costs, no middle men, and modest advertising budgets help to keep costs down.
4. Local artists do really care about customer service! The artists are available to repair, alter, clean or replace your purchase if you should ever need this service. They are genuinely interested to help if there is ever a problem. You never, ever need to speak with a remote customer service person.
5. Personal service is very important to local artists. Many artists will custom make work to your specification. If you need a gift for a special occasion then very often the artist will be happy to make it to your requirements.
6. You can start your own personal art collection with a small budget. We recently had a nice young couple visit our Studio to purchase some Robert Held glass heart paperweights (which start at $45). They were glass heart collectors – and were excited to see some new styles that they could add to their collection! If you are on a budget you can collect individual pieces over time. Many of our customers collect pottery, jewellery, glass art & more!
7. Shopping locally helps your local economy. By supporting local artists it keeps money in the community and ensures that hard learned skills are alive for future generations.
8. Go green and help your local environment! Local arts & crafts produce a minimal carbon footprint – little transportation is involved. Conservation is important to all of us. Much of what local artists use is recycled – including what little packaging is ever used!
9. Fun and Learning. It really can be a fun shopping experience – you get to meet or learn about the artist, find out about their skills, and how they make their work. It’s impressive how much time and effort goes into a single piece. So take some time to visit your local artist’s studio or gallery, or local craft show. It can be great fun! You can check Meetup.com for local art appreciation groups in your area. If you are in Victoria there is an arts & crafts meetup group: http://www.meetup.com/Meetup-art-group-of-Victoria-BC/ The Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria is a great resource as well: http://www.cacgv.ca/
10. Supporting your local community. A locally handmade gift reflects the community and region in which it was made. It has greater relevance for the person who purchased it, and to the person to whom the gift is given. Thank you for taking the time to read our top ten reasons to shop local this Christmas. We would love to hear from you! What will you do to support local this holiday season? Finally, if you would like some suggestions or gift ideas please see our blog here; Gift Suggestions.
If you are short on time, then you can 'Buy on Line' and 'Pick up in Store'.
Please share with us in the comments below. From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Sue & Nigel Hayes
Side Street Studio Oak Bay Village, Victoria, B.C.
A 9 Point Guide to Essential Wood Care
1. Oil your wooden bowl or utensil on a regular basis. We recommend doing it on a monthly basis.
2. Ideally, we recommend mineral oil. Food grade mineral oil is tasteless and odourless. It does not get sticky and does not become rancid with time. This is available from most local supermarkets & hardware stores. However, many of our artists recommend using Walnut oil or Olive oil as an alternative – both of these are excellent.
3. Rub on generous amounts of the oil (warmed just to room temperature) and allow to soak in. Repeat the process about 6-8 hours later, and repeatedly if necessary, until the oil is no longer being absorbed. Then wipe off any excess that remains on the surface.
4. Wash your wooden utensils without worry after oiling. But...
5. Do not let wood utensils soak, and never wash them in a dishwasher!
6. Dry wooden boards and utensils thoroughly after washing. Wood dries faster than plastic and is less likely to harbour bacteria on its surface.
7. Bowls that you regularly use for salads can just be wiped clean with a paper towel or J cloth. It will soak up any excess oils and be ready for your next salad.
8. Cutting boards should never be used interchangeably with meat (including poultry and fish) and other foods (like bread, salads, etc.), to avoid possible cross contamination from bacteria in uncooked meat products.
9. The USDA recommends that you wash wooden utensils (especially cutting boards and utensils used with uncooked meat products (including fish and poultry) with hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry. If you follow their instructions, first make sure the wood is well oiled before using it, and that the utensils have been at room temperature, not out in the cold. Follow with a generous oiling, since soap will remove much of the surface oil.
You can see many superb wooden bowls, platters & vases – all hand crafted in British Columbia at Side Street Studio’s web site https://www.sidestreetstudio.com/collections/wood
A Guide for Men: Top 10 Gift Ideas for Women
Most men if they are honest will tell you that they hate going shopping. With the approach of the holiday season, the very idea of heading to the mall with their wife or partner fills so many men with dread! It is a syndrome often called 'Death by shopping'; just look at these poor men.......
The very idea of trying on clothes, or wandering around aimlessly (women call it browsing), is simply ‘unnatural’ to men. Shopping malls are not designed for us – it can well be the worst torment that a man could experience. Men generally like to plan their purchase and then get in and out of the store as quickly as possible; 10 – 15 minutes and we’re done. This is illustrated in this popular ‘Men vs. Women’ shopping graphic:
It is often suggested, possibly correctly, that men’s and women’s minds are wired differently – something to do with the male ‘hunter’ instinct, and the female ‘gather’ dynamic so to speak. To women, shopping is a social experience to be enjoyed, but for men, it is a task to be accomplished – the faster, the better. So that’s it – as a male, I can tell you it is a dreadful experience that we wish to avoid at all costs... A little like listening to the Pogues, or Justin Bieber, or watching “The View”.
So when you need gift ideas for the women in your life… What should you do? In this internet age, there is a solution! At Side Street Studio we literally have hundreds of gift items that will appeal to most females – including girlfriends, wives and most importantly Mums (I will avoid daughters as they are simply too difficult). To help you make that purchase easier, you can order Jewellery online and we will GIFT WRAP it for you for Free, and ship it to wherever and to whomever you wish.
If you live in the Greater Victoria area, and you have left your gift buying until the last minute, you have the option to ORDER ONLINE and PICK UP your purchase at our STUDIO in Oak Bay Village – we will aim to have it ready for you in two hours. We will be open until 1.00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Here are our recommendations for Top 10 Gift Ideas for Women:
For your girlfriend, wife or Mum, jewellery is always well received – even for that ‘Someone who has everything’ (there is always someone). A Honica necklace or earrings are stylish and beautiful. Our client’s tell us they always receive compliments when they wear their Honica jewellery.
We have a fantastic artist, Alvaro Sanchez who creates some of the most beautiful and stylish work in B.C. You can see more of his work HERE
If these don’t appeal, we have more jewellery choices than you could shake a Gold Amex card at – all handmade with love right here in B.C. You can see the wide variety of jewellery we offer here: http://www.sidestreetstudio.com/collections/jewellery
What’s the best way to avoid that dreaded question, “Does this make me look fat?” The answer is scarves! With scarves, one size fits all, and there are many ways to wear them. We have a variety of unique styles from felted scarves to pure silk scarves. They are a wonderful, versatile gift! We have a good number of local textile Artists who create a superb range of scarves. You can see some of the styles we offer HERE:
3/ Glass Art
For the romantically inclined, Robert Held, one of Canada’s foremost glass artists creates a wide range of unique Glass Heart Bowls, Vases, Paperweights and more. Each one is signed by Bob and is unique. You could write a handwritten card with a note such as, “I give you my heart.” This will be sure to melt her heart when she opens your thoughtful gift.
If you appreciate the cook in your life, treat her to a unique piece of pottery! We have casserole dishes, jugs, baking dishes, pie plates, pitchers and glasses. All of our pottery is handmade in B.C. by a great group of Artists. Items are oven, dishwasher and microwave safe.
5/ Sewing accessories
Perhaps your intended or partner is keen on sewing, needlework or knitting. Wray Parsons is a micro wood turner who has been creating the most magnificent pieces for decades – from needle holders with strong rare earth magnets, to scissors of Italian steel together with cases of various local woods from Pacific Yew to Yellow Cedar Burl.
Tiny thimble holders, magnetic pin holders or tape measures in the shapes of Acorns – most are individually signed by Wray and are practical and true keepsakes.
6/ Handmade Padraig Wool Slippers
Padraig wool slippers have been handmade in Vancouver for almost 40 years. They are classics and quite simply the best slipper in the world. The sheepskin interior sole makes them super warm and comfortable. We have a huge range of sizes and colours that will fit ‘bigfoot’ to the smallest ‘twinkle toes’.
7/ Keepsake Books & Cards by Charles Van Sandwyk
Side Street Studio has an enormous collection of Charles Van Sandwyks cards and books - truly beautiful illustrations with wonderful stories that are appreciated by all. Charles’ Christmas book, ‘The Unexpected Gift’ is about the importance of connecting to those we care about - without the electronic devices of the world. Christmas is a wonderful time to do just that. If you have children or grandchildren, Mom or Grandmother will truly appreciate the opportunity to create a new Christmas tradition by reading this imaginative story as a family.
8/ Wood Chopping Boards and Serving Platters
These beautiful, one-of-a-kind wood chopping boards are made on Vancouver Island by Detlef Grundmann These are beautiful & useful handcrafted chopping boards. Made on Vancouver Island by Detlef Grundmann from locally grown Maple, Cherry & Black Walnut woods. Length: 12 inches by width: 9 inches by 3/4 inch thick. Food safe. Well cared for this board should last a lifetime.
9/ Apple Design Teapot
If your lady is an avid tea drinker, why not get her a unique handmade teapot? Jack Olive's beautiful pottery uses a distinctive multi-glazing technique and has a unique look. He discovered that rich, layered ceramic glazes are particularly useful in creating a sense of depth in design.
10/ Hand Made Soap & more!
Luxurious, natural soap made from organic vegetable oil with 5 handmade bars of Ylang Ylang/Patchouli, Fir/Eucalyptus/Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Lavender/Bergamot, Mint/Tee Tree. Strung on a Hemp rope. Undo the knot, use one and hang the others up to make your bathroom, closet etc always smell good. By Kama Soap
Take a moment and look at some of the other perfect gift ideas for women, from handcrafted jewellery boxes, to locally made pure & natural soap, to our BC Art. Side Street Studio has more than 15,000 items all handcrafted in BC - so if you cannot find something then ……..maybe it doesn’t exist
Did we mention you can order Jewellery online and we will GIFT WRAP it for you for FREE, and ship it to wherever and to whomever you wish? Just get in touch and we can make it happen! 250- 592-1262.
As a reminder, if you live in the Greater Victoria area, and you find you have left your gift buying until the last minute, you have the option to ORDER ONLINE and PICK UP your purchase at our studio in Oak Bay Village – we will aim to have it ready for you in two hours.We will be open until 1.00 pm on Christmas Eve.
So that’s it; problem solved – at least for another year. (phew)
Side Street Studio
Oak Bay Avenue, Victoria, B. C. Canada
PS. And for that ‘particular’ person may I recommend ‘Bitchy Babe’ from our ‘Soulful Sister’ Aromatherapy Collection.
Finally...a huge thanks to Nick York of www.exclusivepixmedia.co.uk for his kind permission to use three of his great pictures of 'men suffering' under the shopping experience! Nick denies that he is featured in any of the pictures but knows the feeling too well..... :)
The story of Side Street Studio is more than the history of a business. It is the physical expression of a belief that real art should be accessible to everyone. It is also the evolution of a business model supported by principles of community-building economics.
Here’s how it happened.
In 1984, six women artists rented a space on a small side street in Victoria’s Oak Bay neighbourhood. Their location gave them a name for their collective business, and it also allowed them to do what they love: show and share their art with local people.
They believed art, however basic, should be experienced and enjoyed by everyone.
They established two rules for their business. Firstly, everything in Side Street Studio must be made in British Columbia by small artisan businesses. Secondly, everything in Side Street Studio must be beautiful and the very best of its kind.
Hello! My name is Jill Fitz Hirschbold and I am the proud new owner of Side Studio.
I have lived on the Coast for 30 years and my formal education is in the Sciences. I have a Diploma in Environmental Quality Control, a Bachelor of Science; I’m a Certified PADI Dive Master, a Paddleboard Instructor and spent 12 years working as a Laboratory Manager in Environmental Analytical Chemistry before starting a family. When my daughters were born, in my early 40’s, I made the decision to leave my career to stay at home with them.
To be honest I could not have predicted what would come next.
Over the last 7 years I have created a home based business with my West Coast and Abstract Photography. It extends from a line of photo gift cards to large format art sales and photography services. I have participated in Studio Tours, Arts Shows; have been a member of the Gage Gallery and for many years was represented by the Brentwood Bay Resort. I have organized art shows from the conceptual theme, curated participating artists, hung the artwork, scheduled staff, facilitated sales and fully planned the opening nights. My pieces have made their way to England, China and the US and many private residences in Western Canada. I have participated and successfully sold at the Sooke Fine Arts show in 2015/17. I have also volunteered my photography skills to Raincoast Conservation, Greenpeace Canada, FraserFEST, Watershed Watch, Tour de Victoria, Swiftsure, Santa Shuffle, many other community events and donated works to the Banff Mid-Summers Ball 2014/15/16/17/18, CNIB Art Appeal 2015/17, Heart for Hospice 2015, VGH/UBD Night of 1000 Stars Gala 2015 and YWCA Woman of Distinction Awards 2016/17. I have participated in over 20 shows and have self-published three books of my images paired with my writing.
You would think with all of that going on and raising children it would be enough but I was missing the daily interaction that comes with working outside the home. Then this amazing opportunity came my way. I have sold my cards at Side Street for many years so was very familiar with the Studio and the business model. It is a perfect fit.
My goal is to continue to build on the vision and many years of hard work, by all of the previous owners, that has made the Studio a success. To maintain the standard that is expected by customers when visiting the store and online, to keep all the artists that customers have come to know and love but also add in new talent so there is always something new to see. I also hope to meet each of the British Columbia artists that are represented in the store and try and understand a bit about how their process works. It is that personal connection that can be translated to the customer when we sell their handmade artwork.
Art comes from the Heart and that is truly what makes this store a success!
My wonderful staff, Kathy, Jean, Samantha, Heather, Shirley and Sheila, and I invite you to come down to the Studio and see what we have been up to.
John Topham writes;
“There is a lot of experience that goes into the crafting of my wooden bowls for fruit and salads . During my 34 years in the explosives industry with CIL/Orica, I have travelled extensively throughout Canada, Africa, the U.S., the Caribbean and South America. Since my retirement in 2002, I have been consulting for Austin Powder Co. of Cleveland. My other interests are photography and guitar”.
“My passion for wood turning evolved from my formal training in Fine Arts. I have been turning for a dozen years and am a founding member of the Summerland Wood turners Group. We meet monthly at a member’s shop; a social time devoted to turning, discussing safe work practices, products, tools, design and finishing”.
“I am a Member of Summerland Community Art Gallery”.
Side Street Studio in Victoria, B.C. has two types of my Salad & Fruit bowls.
“The Silver Maple bowls originated from Nanaimo Street in Penticton. They are from a tree that was planted more than 80 years ago, salvaged and given a new life as a beautiful bowls”.
“The Western Birch bowls originated from a tree from the ‘Carlson property’ on Washington Street in Summerland. This tree was planted more than 80 years ago, salvaged and given a new lease of life as a beautiful bowls”.
“All of my bowls are finished with pharmaceutical grade mineral oil. These historic bowls are food safe and ready for use with fruit, salad and vegetables. An occasional application of oil will ensure generations of service”.
Phil Cottell – A Suggestion for Politicians!
A short time ago Phil was asked to carve, a ‘Talking Stick’ from locally grown Yellow Cedar. This was designed by the excellent & hugely talented Coast Salish artist, Chris Paul, a member of the Tsartlip nation. Once finished the design will show the head of an Owl – expounding wisdom one can hope….
A ‘Talking Stick’ has traditionally been used by First Nations to pass around from member to member allowing only the person who is holding the stick to speak. This enables all those present at a council meeting to be heard; consensus can force the stick to move along to assure that the “long winded” don’t dominate the discussion; and the person holding the stick may allow others to interject.
And so we come to our two main suggestions: Firstly, that a ‘Talking Stick’ be part of all Provincial and Federal Government meetings and limited to a speaking time of 10 minutes. Some hope! Perhaps we could produce a list of societies, organizations, clubs, mainstream media (or specific individuals) that could benefit from the introduction of a ‘Talking Stick’….Some chance!
Secondly, that a revised form of ‘Talking Stick’ be introduced which discourages speakers from proposing the usual inane nonsense, well beloved by politicians of all parties. This could be called the B….. Stick – no; good manners prevents further discussion.
So on to Philip Cottell; Phil was born at Ladysmith, Vancouver Island. After completing a doctorate at Yale (Phil denies being a member of the Skull & Bones fraternity and so was denied the pleasure of meeting the former President of the US, Mr. George H. W. Bush) he returned to his native B.C. to take up a professorship at UBC. With time spent working in forestry and wood products research, retirement beckoned. Phil returned to the Island in 1997 and with great enthusiasm and skill began devoting his time to woodturning.
From the following images you can see shelves of various woods ‘seasoning or drying prior to being turned. Phil particularly enjoys creating beautiful as well as useful objects, utilizing salvaged wood from local trees — maple, arbutus, dogwood, cedar and others.
Many of these pieces are allowed to dry for up to 3 years before being turned.
Phil’s subjects range from organic burl bowls, salad bowls and sculptural vessels to coloured, wall-hung plaques that take their cues from the wood grain and figure.
As with many local artists, Phil strongly believes in conservation of our resources.
You can find lots of Phil’s magnificent work at Side Street Studio in Oak Bay Village or on line at www.sidestreetstudio.com
As far back as I can remember I’ve had an affinity for trees and wood. Growing up in Maple Bay on Vancouver Island the forest was my back yard and playground.
Professionally I worked for the Canadian Forest Service for 28 years as a forest health specialist. The work involved the identification and assessment of disturbances caused by insects and diseases and advising forest managers on mitigation.
I’d always dabbled with woodwork but it wasn’t until I turned 50 that I discovered wood turning. It has been a passion ever since. During this time I’ve experimented with most native hard and softwood species with emphasis on Pacific yew, broad-leaf maple, arbutus, and Garry oak.
In my pieces I strive to combine the two elements of beauty and utility. Beauty resides in the shape and finish as well as natural grain variations that make every piece unique. I specialize in salad bowls and serving platters. Each piece is finished with a food safe oil from the Chinese Tung tree.