In our modern throwaway society, many people have lost their appreciation for the value of handmade items. The amount of care and work that an artisan puts into crafting something wonderful or even the most homely item, can be quite amazing. People really need to see into the process to appreciate the effort it takes to make something by hand. Gucci Japan has put together a series of fantastic videos detailing the making of a variety of handmade goods. You can see the full range of Hand videos here.
This is my first jewellery collection and so far, I’ve just got the pendants going. It will eventually have bracelets, earrings and other types of jewellery as well. The collection features etched images of original photographs, mostly botanical, taken in Vancouver’s parks and gardens. The photographs are etched into copper and silver, and the metal is formed into jewellery using traditional goldsmithing techniques. I’ve been fortunate to come up with a way to combine my two passions, photography and metalsmithing and make something lovely and unique.
Each piece is named for a person or feature of Vancouver and her fascinating history, and has a story to go with it. For instance, the Johnson pendant is named for Pauline Johnson, one of Canada’s most famous poets. The image on the pendant is of a tree overlooking Lost Lagoon, in Stanley Park, etched in copper and silver.
A poet, performer and of mixed Mohawk and English heritage, Pauline Johnson was an important figure in Canada’s history, both as a woman poet and as a First Nations writer and performer. Daughter of a Mohawk chief, born on the Six Nations reserve, she lived in Vancouver, in the West End, during her retirement from performing. She loved Stanley Park and like to paddle her canoe in Coal Harbour. and the tidal basin in the park, where the water vanished upon the low tide, naming it Lost Lagoon. Her poem, The Lost Lagoon, was published in her Legends of Vancouver collection, back in 1911. When she died, her ashes were buried in her beloved park and a monument was erected in her honour.
On the back of each piece, a design from Japanese Sashiko embroidery is etched, providing a nice patterned detail. My studio is in the former Japantown, now the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. This design feature is a way to acknowledge the area’s history. In fact the studio is in a building that’s over one hundred years old, housing at on point Ebata Japanese Goods in 1906 and Tsuruda Sewing in 1941. Now it’s home to the Octopus Artist Studios and Soigné Studio (where I work out of).
Last weekend, June 6th and 7th, I was at the Vancouver Maker Faire at the PNE building. Soigné had a table promoting the classes we teach at the studio.
For those that are unfamiliar with it, Maker Faire started in San Francisco in 2006 and is a celebration of the Maker movement, of creativity, DIY and invention. Part science fair, part exhibition, and all fascinating, it's now spread to cities across the globe.
At the Vancouver event, there were booths for 3D printers, electronics, hackerspaces, crafters, vendors such as electronics, food trucks, and shared maker spaces. You could learn to solder, take a letterpress introduction, learn about arduinos, see 3D printers and a CNC mill in action.
At the Soigné table I had my etching station set up. Lots of people were very interested to see it in action. We also had samples from many of the classes we teach. In addition to etching, I will be teaching classes in saw piercing, chain making and copper plating organic matter (electroforming). From Beata Kacy, who runs the studio, you can learn leather crafting, felt making, soap making, metal clay jewellery and stained glass style pendants. We have other teachers as well and are regularly adding new classes. You can find the class schedule here. I hope to see you in a class at the studio soon.
I'm incredibly lucky to live only two blocks away from what is considered one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world, Stanley Park, right in the heart of Vancouver's West End. With 400 hectares of west coast rain forest, beaches, gardens and kilometres of walking paths, its a true urban oasis. Surrounding the outside of the park is the Seawall, over 5km of a pedestrian and bicycle pathway, providing a wonderful stroll with amazing views of Burrard Inlet, Vancouver and the North Shore. Officially opened in 1888, and named for Lord Stanley, the Governor General at the time, the city recently held celebrations for the 125th anniversary of the parks creation.
Originally traditional land shared by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, there were settlements scattered within the park including the largest, XwayXway, where Lumbermen's Arch now stands. Potlatches were held there up until 1875. During the 1880s, when the park was created, this was the largest settlement left on the peninsula, and it was raised when the road was put through the park. The inhabitants of the park, including Chinese workers and a Hawaiian settlement, Kanaka Ranch, were all eventually removed from the park., most by 1930. You can learn more about First Nations culture in the summer with a visit to Klahowya Village.
Now home only to wildlife and a small population of rough sleepers, the park is fantastic to walk through as often as I can. The list of attractions also includes the Rose Garden, The Greig Rhododendron Garden, Vancouver Aquarium, tennis courts, Lost Lagoon, a pitch and putt green and even a couple of restaurants such as The Fish House. The wild inhabitants include a variety of waterfowl, geese, swans, several species of ducks, and herons. You'll also see turtles, racoons and even possibly the odd coyote. And lots and lots of tourists and fellow Vancouverites. Go early in the day though as the Seawall can become quite congested, especially during summer weekends.
If you want to read further about the park, check out these resources.
Stanley Park's Secret by Jean Barman (available from the Vancouver library as well)
Having had my share of layoffs in the past few years, one thing I really wanted to venture into was self employment. I asked myself what skills do I have that I could use to make a career for myself? In my case, goldsmithing and photography both came to mind. And I thought brilliant! Why not combine the two?
Thus, the Pieces of Vancouver line of jewellery was born, combining photography, goldsmithing and Vancouver history. Each item is etched with a photograph, primarily botanical, taken in the gardens and parks of Vancouver. Vancouver is full of fascinating history and each image has a story behind it, based on the neighbourhood it was shot in.
Thanks to EI (Employment Insurance), I've had the chance to develop and work on this line of jewellery and my business, Dan's Garage. The self employment program is virtually unknown to most Canadians, even though it is funded by EI. It's a great program that is administered by the Community Futures offices in rural parts of BC and work centres like WorkBC in places such as Vancouver.
Here in the Vancouver area, the program is provided by various colleges like Langara, Douglas, BCIT and also through the YMCA and Embers Ventures. Eligibility is open to people currently on EI, those having been on EI in the last three years, or five for maternity claims. You'll have to contact a WorkBC centre and talk to a case manager to get started.
The program, through the colleges here, provides a 10 week training session in business basics with the goal of a thorough business plan at the end. Classes are extensive and cover things like marketing, sales, cash flow forecasting and basic bookkeeping. At the end of the 10 weeks, participants present their business plans to a panel and if successful, go on to the second portion. The latter half of the program covers 38 weeks of working full time on your business.
During all this, you can continue on your EI claim. If you have exhausted it or are no longer on a claim, income support of up to $300 a week is provided for the full 48 weeks of the program. This support is vital to being able to put in full time hours on a new business that may not bring in any money for months.
There's good news if you can't qualify as an EI claimant. Langara College has opened up its 10 week program to fee paying students. For $1995 you not only get the 10 weeks of business training, but you also get to take three continuing ed courses, for free! They need to be related to business in general or yours in specific, which is worth up to roughly $1500. That's a pretty good deal.
And for those who can't take daytime courses, Embers in Vancouver also runs a three month, two evening a week self employment program which costs only $250 and scholarships are available for those on low incomes. A great idea if you are looking to transition from a day job to being self employed.
I can't recommend highly enough the program in general and the one at Langara in particular. Given the continuing uncertainty in the job market for all areas, self employment is definitely a viable option for having the career you want.
I'm lucky to have found a great place to create. Soigné Studio in the Octopus Studios artist building in Downtown Eastside is one of the loveliest shared studio spaces in Vancouver. Having just started my jewellery business, Dan's Garage this past January, finding an inexpensive place to work was a real priority. Run by Beata Kacy, the artists I share the space with create a range of jewellery and we are all working goldsmiths. If you are an artist looking for an inexpensive space, keep an eye on the Octopus, as spaces come up regularly.
We teach a range of classes, not just in jeweller,y at the studio. I teach electrolytic etching, and will be adding classes to my roster such as pierce work. You can also take metal clay, soap making, felting and stained glass style pendants with Beata. We also have other goldsmithing classes with other teachers as well. Contact me if you'd like to come visit, the kettle's always ready.