"The Window" is offering more to the art community in the Downtown Eastside

// Katie Shore

Crafting isn't just about dried pasta sculptures anymore. The craft industry has exploded from a practice of old ladies and preschool teachers into a hip, expressive community that people really buying into. People are not only purchasing the handmade wares; they are crafting on their own more than ever. Various craft blogs and communities like ThreadBanger bring easy and creative ideas to the every man and woman, with websites such as Etsy giving these crafters an opportunity to sell the end result.

In Vancouver, we now have The Window Community Art Shop. Funded by the Portland Hotel Society Services, The Window is a shop opening soon in the Downtown Eastside that will be selling wares by local crafters, giving them an opportunity to gain exposure throughout the community. “We're looking to sell homewares, knitted items, soaps, and other sorts of gifty things,” says Katherine Piasta. “If you're more of an artist, we also love stuff like cards.” Piasta is one of those spearheading the project and the opportunity could not have come at a better time for her. “I was working with Community Thrift Clothing, also run by Portland Hotel Services, and I was interested in doing something different. When I learned about the project, I knew immediately that Iwanted to get involved. I'd had an idea for a similar project on my mind as it was.”

However, The Window Community Art Shop isn't just a place where you can find unique items by local crafters. The space also aims to provide a community for artists and includes a crafting workspace. “The studio includes two giant kilns, sewing machines, and other supplies available to the public, right now for free,” says Piasta. “We also hope to have different artists come in to host workshops that will be made available to the public.” The Downtown Eastside location is especially accessible and central to everyone in the Vancouver area. So far, the community is being very responsive and getting excited about the possibilities presented by The Window. “There's a store a little like this in my hometown back in the Midwest, and I love going in there because you never know exactly what you'll see,” says Tally Heilke, a Vancouver Island crafter who runs a successful crafting blog called I Could Make That. “You get that nice feeling of knowing that you're supporting local creativity.”

Piasca seems excited, explaining, “We just got the word out recently and we seem to be having a pretty positive response so far.” Their Oct. 27 opening, as described by the press release on their Facebook page, will have seen crafters visiting The Window in order to “show and tell” their crafts and potentially have them sold at the store.

The Portland Hotel Society is centred around the Portland Hotel, where they provide permanent accommodations for 86 adults with difficulties such as addiction and mental illness. Another initiative of theirs is the successful second-hand store, Community Thrift and Vintage. The Window project is completely non-profit and serves only to benefit the artists and the community.

“The artists make 75 per cent of the profit and the rest goes back to the PHS, which will put it back into the store. What goes around will definitely come back around in the end,” explains Piasca.

“I love that handmade is becoming such a sought-after thing these days – it's exciting to see people realizing that handmade items can be – and often are – better made than their factorymade counterparts,” says Heilke.

The Window is a place for crafters not only to sell their wares, but a community for them to share ideas and give their work a flare that it may not have received otherwise. Perhaps this is what the future of the “gift shop” looks like – notfor- profit organizations that provide just the right amount of kitsch while continuing to give back to the community. So if you're into unique crafts, or are a crafter yourself, check out The Window. After all, what could be better than an opportunity to give back to the community by purchasing something one-of-a-kind?

The Window Community Art Shop is located at 9 West Hastings St. Community Thrift and Vintage is located at 41 West Cordova St.

// Katie Shore, Writer
// Illustration by JJ Brewis

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com