“Shopping local” can get hyper-local if you look for artisans who make and sell their creations within your community.
Taylor Wright started her knitwear company Infinittay three years ago. “I was stressed at school, and knitting helped because it was just mindless and repetitive enough that I could do it while watching TV or listening to podcasts,” says the teacher’s college student. “I was making so many things — I had too many hats,” she says, laughing. She started making hats and infinity scarves for friends, and when she found herself making things for friends of friends, she realized she had a potential business in her hands — literally.
The 24-year-old tries to participate in one artisan show a month, and sells her hats and ear-warmers through four stores in Niagara: Grant’s Gifts in Port Colborne, Shannon Passero in Thorold, Craft Arts Market in St. Catharines, and Cherry Lane in Lincoln.
She also sells her modern, colour-blocked and fur-pompommed hats from her family’s house near the library. “People often come to the house for pick-up,” she says. “The easiest way to get product to people is via my front porch.”
Wright loves working for herself — although she’s also enjoying her current teaching placement in a kindergarten class. “I like controlling where the business goes, and I love the feeling you get when someone purchases something you made by hand,” she says, honoured that people want to spend their money on something she created. “I get personal satisfaction, and I’m making people happy.”
You can find Infinittay online at Etsy, via social media, and at events at Henry of Pelham (Dec. 2) and Mahtay Café in St. Catharines (Dec. 15 and 16).
Like Wright, Courtney Sendzik also stumbled into running her own creative business, Refined Linery. Sendzik studied graphic design and illustration, and also has an honours degree in visual arts, so it was natural that she would find drawing relaxing.
As a way of settling in for the evening Sendzik would ask her son Clark (now 5 years old) what to draw every night, and then she would go and create it. Ink on canvas, line drawings. “Most recently I’ve drawn a tractor trailer, plants, vehicles, musical instruments…,” she says.
As an enthusiastic reader, Sendzik has always had a habit of collecting quotes. “Ever since I can remember when I read something poignant I’ll write it down somewhere,” she says. “I have been writing lists of quotes for years.”
So she decided to merge two of her passions, and ascribe quotes to each illustration. “I would like to pass those pieces of wisdom on to my son, and this is a good way to do that,” she says.
Some examples of her 8”x10” canvases are a sketch of an ambulance, with the quote “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” (Aesop) A hot air balloon, with “Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.” (L. Drachman)
The 39-year-old artist has experimented with other ways of earning a living, including event and product photography and oil on canvas painting. The advent of young Clark put the oil paint on hold though — “He was a very busy toddler, and oil paint takes ages to dry. I didn’t want paint everywhere,” she says. She’s also done a fair bit of furniture refinishing.
Sendzik and her family moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake in the spring. Her husband Lawrence Buhler is the winemaker at Henry of Pelham winery in St. Catharines, and his work has taken them all over Canada. They’re happy to be back in Niagara, from where they both hail.
You can find Sendzik’s charming pieces online at the Etsy website, as well as via social media. She will also be part of the Etsy pop-up at the Outlet Collection the two weekends right before Christmas, and at other events. Sendzik also does custom work.
Cheryl Chiarelli’s business, Coconut Quartz, has its own origin story. “I have always loved glittering, sparkly things,” she says. Which led to mining, naturally. “My husband Stephen and I climb into pits and caves and abandoned mines with our buckets and little chisels,” she says, eyes alight. “We harvest big hunks of quartz, ammonite, feldspar and black tourmaline.”
The 47-year-old creator then takes those crystals and creates jewelry around them, incorporating upcycled vintage elements. She started doing this for herself, as something that simply takes her to her “happy place” — and then “people started asking to purchase the jewelry right off my body, so I thought I’d try a couple of craft shows.”
Coconut Quartz is now in its third year, and Chiarelli’s works are sold at craft shows and shops all over Ontario — including Maison Apothecare, Lakeview Wine Co., and the Fruit Shack, which carries her all-natural lip balms.
Apparently Chiarelli is one of those unique people who can unfold time: When she’s not climbing down mines, her full-time job as a civil servant somehow leaves her enough time to create her jewelry and study for her pilot’s licence. Oh, and she’s also a certified holistic nutritionist.
The Chiarellis moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake from St. Catharines 10 years ago, “because I wanted to expand, to garden, to grow. I just love the different feeling in this town,” Chiarelli says. She also wanted to be near her mother, who lives in Upper Canada Lodge.
You can find Coconut Quartz’s products online at her Etsy shop, and via social media. She also does custom work, and hosts “make-and-take” events, workshops and classes around beading and essential oils.
Tammy Cowan is living her childhood dream. Frocks on the Run is her retirement project, a far cry from her working life as a foster parent in Toronto.
“I can make anything,” says the 52-year-old seamstress. “I inherited a Singer Featherweight sewing machine in 1977, took sewing in home ec, and became obsessed,” she says. She’s been sewing for over 40 years, and has taken courses for making theatre costumes, historical garments, millinery, and even cobblering. Just don’t ask her to hem your pants — a request she says her Village neighbours often make.
“I decided I wanted to put my skills into what I love best — dresses,” she explains. So she started Frocks on the Run, making one-of-a-kind farm-style frocks, a classic style from vintage fabrics, as well as little girls’ dresses. “I make stuff people can afford, that people can actually wear,” she says with pride.
Her husband fixed up a trailer for Cowan to take to shows. “’It’s a ’79 Trillium Jubilee trailer, my husband did a stellar job on it. It’s a childhood dreamy thing,” she says. “Little kids get in it and don’t want to come out — they want to have tea parties in there.”
Similar to the other artisans, Cowan also does custom work, and her dresses can be found through Etsy, and via social media. “I love when locals come by — you can meet your community,” she says.