The pandemic has really taken a toll on Toronto businesses (as well as local businesses across the world) and big-box stores seem to be trampling over the independently-owned, smaller stores that we all know and love!
We love supporting local and there’s no better time than the holidays to support your community, while also giving a unique gift to your loved ones.
For the art-lovers, we’ve picked a great local business: Craft Ontario. This Queen-West brick-and-mortar shop and art gallery hold the best curated selection of all-inclusive craft from local artists. Formerly the Ontario Craft Council, they are the only multidisciplinary art (craft) service organization in the province. Now available to the public through their online store, you can support a variety of craftsmanship from wood-working to jewelry and metal sculptures to ceramics, plus so much more, handmade by people in your community!
The rich, community culture that is supported by Craft Ontario, really gives life to the artists behind the art. FBI STYLE had the opportunity to chat with Executive Director Janna Hiemstra, who proudly spoke about the heart of the organization and working with its members.
Founded in 1976 from the combination of a shop-based and a member-based organization, both supporting craft-based artists, Craft Ontario realized that individual crafts-people are a critical part of culture and our local economies. As one combined organization, they wanted to build strength and advocate for the craft community, while providing support on a different level than individuals could get on their own.
Janna, who has been with the organization for 13 years, says her favourite part is working with such an amazing team and company. “It’s a really generous, caring community, and the level of, not only creative work, but also skill, intention, and involvement, is huge,” she expressed.
I can’t say enough, I just think they are the best kind of artists to work with.Janna Hiemstra, working with Craft Ontario’s craft artists
Along with working with individual artists, curating a selection to sell in their shop, and featuring them in their gallery (in-person and online), Craft Ontario holds exhibitions to explore contemporary craft in a different way. They allow the stories of their artists to be told in another context while developing lasting connections with the community.
Janna mentions that one of the first things impacted during the COVID-19 lockdowns was the creative, cultural experience, and our way of connecting, growing and learning with the community.
“One of the things with working with craft is that people really love to experience the objects in person, and going to a show and meeting an artist is a really important experience around knowing that you are supporting someone in your neighborhood and your local economy, and that there are really worthwhile stories associated with that artwork that you want to have in your life.”
All of a sudden there is that huge absence.
“Of course those stories can be told online, but that person-to-person element, I think, is really, really important, and that’s never going to go away.” Janna adds.
For many humans, art and culture is an essential part of staying healthy. Communities need art, likewise, art (and artists) need community. Craft Ontario strives to fill that (artist-to-community connection) void and prioritizes making craft a meaningful part of life.
During the pandemic and this holiday season (and after), we can continue to support artists from our Queen-West neighbourhood through the Craft Ontario Shop, available online for curbside pickup or delivery.
Looking for some inspiration? Check out some of Janna’s favourite pieces:
Are you a craft artist or collector yourself? Find out about becoming a member and accessing the awesome services that Craft Ontario offers for makers, collectors, supporters, cultural institutions, organizations, and businesses.
I'm a creative, passionate individual with an eye for a good story. Find me on my best days drinking coffee, listening to the summer rain, reading about the next wellness trend, or learning about Toronto's cultural hotspots.