I’ve been wanting to explore more nooks and crannies of the NB art scene, and Sackville is one of those places that seems to have a LOT going on but where I am not likely to get anytime soon. I reached out to Michelle Beaulieu of Earth Fine Craft to share products from some of her favourite artists represented in her shop.
Michelle and her then-partner Darin Bavis started Earth Fine Craft several years ago with 15 artists. She now stocks the shop with the work of over 100 artists from all over the Maritimes. At Earth you’ll find a huge variety of mediums, styles and themes, with each piece somehow relating back to the Earth, hence the name, which also happens to have art at its heart.
A graduate of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design in textiles, Michelle has a real eye for quality and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi which gives that creative personal touch. The way she arranges the shop and how she brings together a huge selection of beautiful, quirky and unique items give this shop the one-of-a-kind atmosphere and character many have come to know and love.
I did a little Q/A with Michelle to find out more about Earth Fine Craft. Her 12 favourites are below!
Tell us a bit about Earth Fine Craft
We love unique, weird, wild and pretty things that you can’t find just anywhere. We stand out from most fine craft gift shops in that sense. Products are related to our planet in one form or another. Whether made of a natural material, embodies something from the earth, dead or alive, (we have a lot of skull themed items) are made in traditional ways, lowers our eco-footprint etc… There also has to be a certain level of craftsmanship. We aim for things on the high end of the spectrum, like Ales Janosik’s hand whittled castles or Maru’s pottery.
Some of Earth’s artisans are professionals, others do this on the side. We also feature and have featured several MTA students’ work. Plus we have a kids of Sackville wall, which we extend to any kid from the surrounding area. We believe in the innocence of their approach, their talents and supporting their process from an early age. They feel proud to have their work featured and get pretty excited if a piece sells. Sometimes they get discouraged if it doesn’t but I try to encourage them by saying sometimes it takes time, or the right person to come in or they have to keep practicing and try something new. I am always super gentle with them…
What are some challenges you face owning this business?
Challenge #1 is space. With only 400 square feet it can be difficult to not only display everything but also to display without making it look cluttered. It’s actually a very common comment that the space does not feel cluttered so I guess my efforts pay off. The art of placement is something I enjoy tremendously. But it’s a lot of work. Sometimes I wish I had more space but another common comment is that the size of the shop is part of the charm of this place.
Challenge #2 :It is sometimes hard to get stock from artisans. Potters for example are quite busy. It’s definitely one of the best selling items for me and probably all stores who sell it. But artisans have babies, they move.. yet somehow the shop is always full. There is a constant ebb and flow. I love that. The shop always feels new because you never know what’s in at any given moment.
Challenge #3 is traffic. Sackville is a very interesting little town. The University brings a lot of people through as does the 6 or so art and music festivals in town. For such a small town it has so much to offer. Everyone passing through comments on how charming it is. The architecture, the waterfowl park, the marsh, super cute shops, local and ethnic food restaurants, an incredible farmers market, a ton of artists, environmentalists, cool young families, a small pub with a bowling alley that features live music, etc etc etc. having said that there are dead times and everyone would benefit from more traffic. Sackville is a well kept secret I hope gets exposed at least a little. We want to keep the small town charm but it could use a little boost.
What do you love about your shop?
There are so many things I love about my shop. I am constantly chatting with my customers to find out where they are from and why they are in town. I have met some pretty fascinating folks from all over the world. I try to be as down to earth as possible. Pun intended. I don’t like going into a shop and feeling pressured so I avoid that approach. I do want to help them in their quest however. Asking the right question is key. As mentioned above I love to ‘decorate’ the shop. I am constantly moving things around so it’s always like a new shop. I love getting new products and seeing what my artisans are up to and how far they push themselves creatively. I feel a great deal of inspiration being surrounded by so much talent and incredible vision. I don’t have much time to work in the studio but I try to take as much of that energy with me when I do.
Without further ado… Thanks for taking the time to share these with us Melissa! How did you ever choose??
Michelle’s 12 favourite things
- Bride of Frankenstein by Melissa Morris aka Mrs Mistake. Melissa is extremely creative and dabbles in quite a few unique stitching projects. Michelle and Melissa are both part of a Stitch and Bitch group that meets at Thunder and Lightning Pub in Sackville every Wednesday. Check out her family business at www.Baytown.ca and Bay Town on Facebook.
2. Fig Design creates these charming children’s illustration, most of which are based on her own children or sometimes the child in her. Each one conveys a sense of wonder and innocence. Here is one of my many favourites. Agnes now resides in Sackville NB.
3. Geow-lud-mo-sis-eg : Little People represent a kind of omen in Aboriginal Lore. Handmade by Adéline Thomas of Shediac NB, they are highly detailed and intricate, whimsical and earthy, composed of mushrooms, old man’s beard, branches, wool, beads and clay. They even wear mukluks!
4. White Chalk Arrows Ashley Anne Clark of PEI – Beach Fox #334 seaweed painting. Each piece is hand drawn on wood, with collaged images of various animals, using different materials to achieve texture. You can see the seaweed along the bottom of this painting. Love these!
5. The Kitten Collection is a line of Fine Wire Wrapped Gemstone Chokers on leather cords. These are absolutely stunning. Photo credit Keeping Beauty Natural.
6. These are wooden magnets with Ernest Cadegan: Images of Landscape and Life. He is from Wolfville NS and is one of the top sellers in the shop. This is a new product I am super excited about.
7. Dreamcatcher Mindful Handicrafts by Natalie Levesque of Moncton
This is quite a large piece. What I love the most about it is the natural relief in the fungus which gives dimension to the piece. They don’t always come this way. Although they are usually a rather rough surface to draw on, this one would be a bit more challenging to ink. Sackville NB.
The Alchemist’s Lunar Calendar was hand drawn by Ashley Brown aka Hammerthreads of Woodstock NB. I have been collecting a similar lunar calendar since 2003, but mass produced in the states, so I was quite excited when Ashley started making these.
“Plum and Posey offers jewelry incorporating casts of antique wax seals from their treasured collection. Their work celebrates the exceptional craftsmanship of the artists of the 18th and 19th centuries who created these wonderful designs rich in imagery and meaning”
These Awesome Silk screened Broken Bridge patches by MTA student Jen Frail are some of the latest goodies to join Earth’ s eclectic collection.
This stunning rug hook by Sackville’s Oma’s Primitive Art was inspired by renowned rug hooker Deanne Fitzpatrick. Each one of Oma’s pieces is finished with recycled saris and comes with a lovely little poem. This one is titled “The Ocean and the Calling”.
Check out Earth Fine Craft on Facebook or go visit in person!