Erin Boniferro is the proud owner of Collage Collage, a combined art studio and shop in Vancouver, Canada. Here she talks about starting her dream business and teaching art to children.
JEAN: Erin, I came across your studio/shop in the latest issue of LMNOP and have since explored your website and blog. If I were in Vancouver, I’d stop by and visit as well! What a wonderful place it looks like! What led you to start Collage Collage?
ERIN: I don't think I could tell you what led me to start Collage Collage, because I've been moving towards it for most of my life. My grandparents had a grocery store and a hardware store, so the idea of a shop of my own has been a long time coming. I'm a practicing artist who ended up teaching at a number of gallery and museum-based programs over the years—I love the experience of sharing contemporary works with children. This store lets all these aspects come together: I can be an artist, an educator, and shopkeeper all in one.
JEAN: What was it like conceptualizing and launching your own shop and studio?
ERIN: It was thrilling, terrifying and totally wonderful. There were certain markers in my career that would resonate, long before the store had a name or a completed business plan; I just held onto these moments and found a place for them in my store. It's a real joy to enter the space each day and see 10 years of gathering come together.
JEAN: Art and art education are obviously a big part of your life. Why do you believe it’s important to encourage children to explore and create through art?
ERIN: I believe that we
all benefit when we take the time to consider the work being made all around
us. In contemporary arts, design, music—we get a chance to explore or discuss
something we might not have before. I like this form of communication, and I
find it integral for adults and children alike.
JEAN: I’d love to hear more about the art classes you offer! What activities do your students seem to like the best? What materials do they have the most fun with?
ERIN: We use a little bit
of everything around here—I couldn't tell you which ones I like the most, but
the students all seem rather happy when they get their sketch books to take
home at the end of the session—now filled with all the warm-up drawings and
scribble sessions from all their classes. One thing I always enjoy watching
them do are self portraits with mirrors, water colour paint and pastels. The
combination of careful drawing, tracing with pastels and then seeing the resist
of the watercolors is always a good time. And the portraits are as much about
the students as they are of them.
JEAN: Will you share a bit about the shop side of Collage Collage and the things you sell, from art materials to illustrated books and other artful items? It must be fun selecting it all! How do you decide what to stock?
ERIN: I've been looking for items for the store for a very, very long time. One side holds most of the materials, pom poms, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, all things I remember loving and have since seen students in my class enjoying. It's gotten more sophisticated to include beautiful, quality materials for adults and children alike. Stockmar crayons, Lyra pencils, Canson papers, hand made books and journals, amazing stickers from Moomah in NYC, the supplies themselves are inspiring.
As for the books, they are a carefully edited selection of artists I admire and
am inspired by, story books that resonated with me and my students over the
years, as well as gems introduced to me by others over the span of a lifetime.
I'm hugely inspired by the Reggio Approach, and I'm thrilled to be carrying a
number of their titles in the store. It took a trip to Italy to get it going,
and I'm so happy I can share these titles with my community.
I also have the pleasure of keeping the most talented friend's work in store as well. It's nice to come from a community of artists, designers, writers—so many of them from my arts school days—who now produce work that I can share with others in my store.
I can't tell you exactly how I choose what comes into the shop. It has to be unique, unlike what I've seen everywhere else. And it has to be something of value—a treasure for someone to bring home, even if it's a 5cent button.
JEAN: Do you have any favorite artful resources (books/blogs/websites) to share with my readers?
http://www.lefthandedscissors.ca/index.html - megan is a friend, and I love what she's doing
http://www.simplyreadbooks.com/ - I carry a lot of these titles in my shop!
http://windyandfriends.blogspot.com/ - one of the creators of the Windy Series runs a beautiful blog with great projects.
JEAN: Thanks so much, Erin! Collage Collage sounds like such a perfect mix of art making, inspiration, and supplies. Vancouverites are lucky to have you and your studio!
What do you think? Don't you wish you could stop by to do a little shopping and perhaps sign up for a "crafternoon"?