Artisanal Delights of Crawford Bay
Come for the scenery, stay for the people.
Crawford Bay is a special place — the welcome sign tips you off from the start with it's motto: "Artistic by nature"
by Ilana Cameron
The magic of watching someone do a craft well, one rooted in deep tradition and with great skill might just be one of my favourite things. I spent the day in Crawford Bay and I left wishing I'd made it possible to spend the whole weekend there. The rich traditions that are represented by the different artisans are astounding. Walk in, ask questions and prepare to learn something because these people are making things with their hands every day, for you and for me — right before your eyes. Some of the artisans collaborate and create things using both their crafts, they sell each other's work and have forged a community of caring that is evident in the vibrant diversity and the depth of the skill here.
Where: Crawford Bay (mostly north of the community park)
Budget: That's fully up to you!
Ages: These are working studios, small children should be supervised
What to bring: Cash and a camera!
North Woven Broom
No one makes such a large variety of brooms like North Woven Brooms. I explored the shop and fell in love with the different sizes and styles in the tiny shop. They have tiny crumb brooms, mesquite handled floor ones with twisted and ornate handles, wedding brooms with double bristles and utilitarian brooms with dowelled handles. There is truly one for every taste and every purpose. I bought up a small broom and can tell already I'm going to add to my collection soon with another kind.
Luke didn't plan on being a broom maker but says it fits perfectly with his ethics and a passion to make things well and with his hands. The shop has been going since the late 1980's, Luke learned from his uncle and aunt who had the store before him. His cousins run a broom shop in Vancouver.
"There aren't a lot of people doing what we do." Luke told me, "I sell larger brooms, whereas my cousins sell more of the tiny brooms that fit in people's luggage."
"Weaving in shoes is like playing piano in mitts”
Janet and her assistant greeted me as soon as I entered the colourful strawbale studio. I gravitated to the loom where she was weaving barefoot. I started asking questions and learned quickly that Janet is a wealth of knowledge for all things weaving. Her delight is palpable — she loves the physicality of the process, how it uses her mind and the beauty of the end product.
They only use natural fibres in the shop, cotton, silk, rayon, and chenille. "Nothing mined, only grown." Said Janet as she deftly pedalled the treadles, this shifts the patterns of the strings, re-threading her treadle. I listen to the rhythms.
"I'm making up the pattern as I go, with my feet." Janet told me, "It takes me three days to set up the warp of a loom. Sometimes I change my mind and have to ponder it for awhile to work my way out of that one. I've set up 100 metre warps and never finished trying all the variations, that is while it's still fun."
I asked her what got her into the art and science of weaving.
"I fell in love the with the structure of the loom. I love the math of it. I love the music of it. My thing is asymmetrical patterns."
Janet said she has met people from all over the world with rich and interesting weaving traditions and has noticed similarities in patterns from cultures geographically distant from each other.
"Weaving developed at around the same time all over the world, that fascinates me." She said laughing while her feet worked the pedals as a tap dancer would.
Dog Patch Pottery
Lea Belcourt is in her 19th season at Dog Patch Pottery. She has done a wonderful job of curating pottery from potters in the area and further afield in Nelson too. I loved comparing the different styles and designs, finding new treasures as I explored the shop. I was curious about where she gets her ideas for her pieces.
"I am inspired by watching my customers and what they gravitate towards. When people like a certain colour of blue I can make more pieces with that. I'm always testing things out, it's so great to have this shop and be able to have that immediate feedback."
I asked Lea what her favourite piece is to make these days.
"Anything to do with pottery, as long as it pottery I'm happy. I love wheel work and hand building. It is really fun to make big salad bowls."
Among the pottery that Lea carries are the colourful pottery from Pridham Studios in Creston, the whimsical work of Shprixieland Studios, and some new-to-me work by Nelson potter Emily Meyers, she does a series of cups she calls Deck because they are designed for drinking things like gin outside in the sun.
The info sign outside the forge explains in beautiful detail what being a blacksmith means in this day and age ad what kinds of metal they use and some basic terms are helpfully explained.
Cory is the head blacksmith here, he was making knobs for drawers when I arrived and kindly took a moment to have a chat. He's got some interesting plans for next year that include having people being able to try their hand at blacksmithing. There is a gallery connected the forge with pottery, enamelled copper jewellery and a gallery.
Helene from FireWorks Copper Enamel gave me a tour of her studio on the second floor. She was mentored by the previous artist and has continued the tradition. A common story here in the Crawford Bay for thousands of years of tradition are passed down person by person.
Places I'd like to visit next time...
La Gala handmade jewellery and clothing. Galadriel runs a beautiful shop nestled between Dog Patch Pottery and Black Salt Cafe. She makes all the jewellery and sources lovely up-cycled women's clothing made from sarees from India.
Seena Bee's Soap: Her soaps are also available in Crawford Bay at the KOOTENAY FORGE & FURNACE GALLERY. You can order online and choose store pick-up at checkout. Just give them a call 250 225 1915 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to make arrangements for you to pick up your order.
The Ashram: They have a bookshop, beautiful gardens and several classes and concerts throughout the year.
All this exploring made me hungry. Good thing there's an abundance of options!
Rockwood: Authentic Chinese food in Gray Creek, park on either side of the highway and follow the delicious smell. Make sure you check when they close, I went swimming and got there too late. Another reason to go back soon.
The Hub: Classic pub fare + they also have an air b+b rooms available. So handy!
Black Salt Cafe: Tapas style fare, fresh and locally sourced ingredients. I'm always tempted to just have cake for dinner because their dessert display is always mouthwatering.
Crawford Bay Store: Well stocked with essentials and treats. Great place to pack a picnic for the beach.
Red's Bakery: They do a variety of baked pastries and breads. I sampled their chocolate croissant and hope to try their savoury options next time. They also do made to order sandwiches.
Darlene at the Crawford Bay Visitors Centre loves to share her hot tips about what to see and do in the area.
If you have questions about where to stay, hike, what events are on or anything else stop by on the main strip, it's located between the Kootenay Forge and Barefoot Weaving.
She is also an artisan with a leatherwork business that is currently only wholesale, but she has plans to open a shop in the area in the future.
Take your time and discover ancient traditions kept alive by the talented artisans in this lovely lakeside community. Next time I'm bringing my bicycle so I can explore some of the mountain bike trails the East Shore Trail and Bike Association has created in the area.
Artisans of Crawford Bay https://artisansofcrawfordbay.com/
Birds of Crawford Bay checklist: get yours at the visitor's centre: www.kootenaylake.bc.ca