Try This: Go on a Local Artists Studio Tour

We recently stumbled on the new and growing trend of “homemade tourism” (think everything from handmade jewelry to baked goods to pottery to microbreweries and all points in between!).  The trend is generally most visible in events like community craft fairs, school fair fundraisers, and local artisan studio tours.

Our recent trip to Malcolm Island was just a tad early for the official kick off of the First Annual Sointula Craft Tour but Robin at The Oceanfront Hotel was awesome and able to connect us with many of the artists participating in the tour.  They opened their studios early for us to preview their collections for when the upcoming tour starts in December 2018.

The Sointula Craft Tour features six different studios and all have their own unique flair!  With products ranging from paintings, mixed media art, felted goods, wood work, cards, custom colouring books, and eco-dyed clothing, there is actually something for everyone on this self-guided tour!

During our weekend stay, we were able to visit a few studios, including Nanshands Studio & Gift Shop, Betty Carlson Art, Janet Etter Art Shack, and Whale Country Gallery, and Harmony Gardens Gallery.  All these studios are featured in the Sointula Craft Tour and we also got to check out a few more shops that operating on reduced winter hours right now but are open and lively during the summer season.  To visit now, don’t be shy about giving them a call to set up an appointment.  You won’t be disappointed!

During our visit, many Islanders were busy preparing for the 42nd annual Sointula Winterfest Weekend (happening Nov 16-17, 2018) and the artists were excited about creating another avenue in this new studio tour to continue to develop their craft and help encourage more visitors to come to the island.  As it’s self-guided, there is no pressure to go quickly from shop to shop, but rather people can mosey along the tour route and spend time talking with the artists themselves.

The tour has also partnered with the local bus driver, Andrew at Utopia Transport Logistics (you can reach him at 778-316-7480), so this new Craft Tour provides an amazing day trip opportunity for anyone so inclined.  You can walk-on to the ferry in Port McNeill and hop on the bus to ride from studio to studio.  The ferry is a quick 30 minute sailing and you can save on the fare by leaving your car behind for the day!

At each of the studios, you’ll fall in love with something… I can almost guarantee it.  Be it the felted slippers or handmade soaps at Nanshands, colourful Coastal paintings at Janet’s Art Shack, the eco-dyed, upcycled clothing at Whale Country Gallery or the mixed media art at Betty’s, something will catch your eye and you might decide to take a piece of Sointula home with you.  Bring cash or tap credit cards in case that desire hits you.

Malcolm Island joins a few other Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island areas in their offering of an artist and studio tour.  Here are a couple other tours to check out:

Harmony Gardens Gallery
  1. Gabriola Island Studio Tour has been running every Thanksgiving for 22 years. Seriously, put this on your calendar for next year!  The tour featured 83 artists in 2018 and “continues to be one of the grandest fine-art events in the northwest. From art for your wall to art for your hand, the Gabriola Tour is every art enthusiast’s dream—a dynamic showcase for artists working in all media.” (from the Gabriola Arts Council site).  For more about Gabriola Island, check out our Other Island Guide HERE.
  2. Cedar Yellow Point Country Christmas Tour – Featuring 16 different stops, this self-guided tour will take you to different farms and art studios all throughout Cedar and Yellow Point.  Incorporating 3 themes of “art, pottery, and naturally good”, the tour runs from November 22-25, 2018.
  3. Salt Spring Studio Tour – a self-guided tradition for over 25 years, this tour features farms, food places, a brewery, a winery, jewelry makers, a leather cobbler, painters, sculptors, and potters.  Salt Spring Island is an easy trip from both Crofton or Victoria and this particular tour “makes it possible for you to watch artists while they work, following their passion” (from the Salt Spring Tour site).  We also have more information about Salt Spring Island HERE.
  4. Quadra Island Studio Tour – this is one of Vancouver Island’s longest running studio tours!  “Enjoy exploring the work of 30+ artists at 20 studios all around Quadra.  Many artists do demonstrations of their techniques and the tour ultimately offers a glimpse into the secret corners of Quadra where the artists can be found!” (from the Quadra Studio Tour site).
Janet Etter Art Shack

There is also a Central Island Studio Tour in Qualicum and the Comox Valley on the last weekend in May each year and the Stinking Fish Tour in Metchosin and East Sooke, just outside Victoria, in November.

Studio tours put you in the front row of creativity and innovation and you have the opportunity to talk to artists directly following these self-guided routes.  Like the Quadra Tour description, most studio tours take you off the beaten path and introduce you to new and exciting stops and shops and truly celebrate the unique art and creations of each area.  They make the perfect daytrip and you’ll get home feeling admiration for the artists and inspired by their work!

To check out more of our Van Isle adventures, click here

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