Mentorship and our Emerging Artist Award

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Accessories, Blog, Jewelry, Mentorship, Textiles

Back in 2003 when SFM began we were just at the beginning of our careers, and so were all the friends we invited to be a part of the show over those first few years. We grew up together creatively and professionally alongside our efforts to maintain and grow the SFM community and fifteen years and many shows later, here we are. We’d like to think we’ve learned something along the way and that’s why in 2015 we started our Emerging Artist Scholarship. The ambition behind this project was to offer support to a successful applicant whom is in their first five years of their professional career as a designer/maker/artist/craftsperson by providing them with a sponsored booth at our annual market. The intention also included understanding that our successful applicant would have exposure to an amazing community of arts patrons and established folks in the field and we hoped that relationships or connections would go beyond our show floor.

For this post we asked our inaugural recipient and this years recipient to share some of their stories with us about their creative endeavors so far.


WESTERLY SHOES : Inaugural Emerging Scholarship Recipient 2015

Proprietor/Designer at Westerly Handmade Shoes, Renee Macdonald. Photo Credit : Ilijc Albanese

How did you get started & how long have you been in business?

I’ve been making shoes for clients since 2009 and launched Westerly Handmade Shoes in 2012. There are not a lot of hands-on opportunities for learning to make shoes on the west coast, so it meant being very self-directed. I took a 5 day shoemaking intro course, and then took up a job in shoe repair, and of course put hours and hours and hours into developing my skill in my studio.

Why do you make the art you do?

‘Art’ is only one piece of the work that I do. Without the need to work within the parameters of beauty, form and function, I think I would question whether it is worth all the effort that goes into each pair.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being in the emerging years of your artistic career?

The challenge may indeed be how many years it takes to establish and build a reputation and business. It takes patience and endurance to get through the early years.

Bespoke and coveted pair of Westerly Handmade Shoes. Photo Credit: Renee Macdonald.

Do you have any mentors?

I take much inspiration from fellow makers and entrepreneurs working within the local makers community in Vancouver. Unfortunately, although I think it would be of great benefit to have one, I am without a mentor.

How did receiving the SFM scholarship impact your work/process?

Just in being recognized for my work leads to a boost in confidence and motivation. And any opportunity to get the work out in front of a larger audience inevitably adds to the energy building around Westerly Handmade Shoes.

What informs your work/inspires you?

Our feet are dynamic human parts. They are nearly always in a state of motion and require comfort and support through every phase of movement. Creating footwear to look good, feel good, and hold up against the elements are constants in my design and construction process.

Renee from Westerly Shoes in her workshop. Photo Credit : Ilijc Albanese

Where do you find your creative community?

I’m lucky to work in a building teeming with creatives: artists, entrepreneurs and makers of many types. So I’m rubbing shoulders with them every day. Funnily enough though, perhaps the best thing about being invited to show at Shiny Fuzzy Muddy was discovering the extent of the skilled, creative, and like-minded makers that this city holds. I found it to be slightly intoxicating to be surrounded by so many people pouring themselves into the task of making their chosen products to the best of their abilities.


Only Child Handicrafts : Emerging Scholarship Recipient 2017

Only Child Handicrafts owner, Krysta Furioso.

How did you get started & how long have you been in business?

Growing up near the Great Lakes, I was first introduced to beadwork by the Ojibwe People of that area, with whom I proudly share part of my heritage. This beautiful melding of history and craftsmanship sparked something in me as a young child, and beadweaving has remained my beloved creative outlet to this day. After 25 years creating my own beadwoven pieces, ONLY CHILD Handicrafts was born in 2014 as way for me to share this ancient craft with a wider audience.

Why do you make the art you do?

As I child, I was struck by the creativity and obvious time investment in each piece of carefully woven beadwork that I came in contact with, and with the way each shape or colour might communicate something about the culture within which it was created. In many cultures and families, beadwoven pieces are made with immense love, and are worn, mended, and cared for with great respect, often passed down through generations. The craft itself is also passed down mother to son, father to daughter, and grows and survives with each new beadweaver. As a graphic designer by trade, as well as a lifelong love of history, this craft speaks to my passions.

Beadwoven Pendant. Not only handskill, but time and patience are necessary tools of the trade for Only Child Handicrafts.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being in the emerging years of your artistic career?

I never use a loom, so each bead is sewn into the piece individually, using a small number of traditional beadweaving stitches, making my work very time consuming to produce. I’ve found it a challenge to keep up with my own inspiration as ideas and innovations come to me quicker than I can make them a reality.

Do you have any mentors?

My good friend, the talented ceramicist Julie MacKinnon, inspires me daily with her discipline and devotion to her work. She has grown her hobby into a successful business, which is an incredible accomplishment.

What informs your work/inspires you?

Being a graphic designer helps me immensely in ushering an idea or image from my mind into the beads. From traditional Baltic, Slavic, Scandinavian, Asian and Arabic motifs, to the customary patterns of the many Aboriginal Peoples of North America, I revel in the shapes and colours with which we decorate our lives.

Where do you find your creative community?

I live on Salt Spring Island, which is teeming with creative people of countless disciplines. Living within a community that so greatly values the creativity of its inhabitants has made it easy for me to connect with like-minded people who are making and doing amazing things. Taking part in the famous Saturday Market here on Salt Spring has also allowed me to connect with dozens of talented artists and artisans.


Only Child Handicraft’s cozy workspace on Salt Spring Island.


The importance of providing this opportunity for exposure and mentorship each year is about sharing and growing our community. For those of us that have been in the field for 10 plus years we attribute so much of our successes to the support of our patrons, advocates, peers, colleagues, family members and now a whole new generation of creative makers, thinkers and innovators. There’s enough room for everyone to succeed and we hope that we are a part of creating that space.