ABOUT ARTISANS NORTHWEST
'Artisans Northwest' was started by Sharon Seibert in 1975 as 'The Craft Market', which took place in the old YMCA building in Fort William. It then moved to Ogden School for quite a few years. The name then changed to "The Art & Craft Market", which was run by Wim and Jo Baarchers.
For a few years, Artisans then had shows in the fall/winter and the spring/summer.
Fall/winter shows happened at the Airline Motor Hotel, taking up a few rooms each event.
The Spring/Summer shows, called Flavour and Flair, took place at Fort William Gardens. These shows had a fun festive atmosphere, often there were a series of demonstrations occurring during the shows. So not only could you shop, but also see the artisans at work, or learn how they do their art or craft.
Eventually Artisans moved to the Valhalla Inn, and stopped doing the spring/summer events in exchange for massive displays at other events happening in Thunder Bay, like the Mayor's Luncheon. Often you could also find us at displays at Pioneer days at Pioneer village, where demonstrations also occurred.
Artisans has grown from a once-monthly four hour market that moved from place to place, to a multi week two month event, that happened every second weekend in October, November and December at the Airlane Motor Motel, to a two-day event occurring every November at the Valhalla Inn and now the Da Vinci.
Artisans Northwest is coordinated and run by its members as a non-for-profit organization. We have an Annual General Meeting where our executive is voted into their positions. Our group is run using a set of By-Laws that have been written and amended over the years by active members.
The work and displays at our shows are of the highest quality, and are often unique and designed by the artisan themselves. Artisans Northwest shows are the longest running, premier art and fine craft show in the city.
To be accepted as an artisan, your art or craft must be submitted to a committee of your peers for jurying. Current members jury again when they decide to work in a new media. When you speak to longtime members, you will likely find that they work in several different media.
The show is also monitored by the members in order to maintain its high standards. Before each of our shows, the Chair of Selection inspects the Artisan's work to ensure the quality and content are what the Artisan initially juried for. The artists themselves also constantly come up with new and innovative items to keep the show looking fresh, but keep the high standards that admitted them to the group initially.
In 2020, our membership had to re-evaluate how we would have a show or if we would have a show at all due to Covid-19.
The membership was asked via surveymonkey poll in April of 2020, if they would be willing to try something we have never done before, a virtual show. The majority of the membership responded in the affirmative. So, in mid May 2020, we planned a Virtual Art and Fine Craft show. Most of the membership saw this as a way to experiment together, to learn in a new way together, and also be inspired by each other.
A virtual show was for some the first time they would learn to sell their work online. It was a step forward into the digital marketplace.
The involved participants practiced how to post, how to describe and how to interact with their potential customers by mentoring each other on a private FB group. Each involved member not only learned themselves how to post, but also mentored each other while learning. This is something that happens at our shows, but this time it happened online. During our virtual show days, the membership chatted online in real time in long threads including other people that they had never met before in their chats. It was quite a fabulous experience for all. Many of our members have continued to sell online all through the pandemic.
2020 was to be an anniversary year for us, 45 years together, which is no small thing to accomplish as a collective. We had to re-evaluate this and decided to postpone celebration for a year, to see if we could have a physical show in 2021.
During the pandemic the most important thing for any one of us is that we are able to be creative, to keep our patrons, friends, family and membership safe, and we grow as a collective !
This is why in 2021 we celebrated our 45 years together, but did it online and in person. This way all of our members could sell the way that they felt most comfortable while the fourth wave of the pandemic slowly eased, and our patrons can shop how they felt most comfortable.
We had many fun events planned leading up to our in person event and also during our online event celebrating our anniversary. There were contest giveaways, interesting trivia questions, historical posts and pictures, and on November 20th, we unveiled our new logo, which was designed by our members.
This year, we plan to have our show on November 4 & 5 at the Valhalla Inn and Conference Centre.
Check back here often to see what updates we have, to see what members are taking part in this years show, and also to see any new members!