Enterprising artisans going global

Local artisans are preparing to launch themselves into a world wide sales market.

Mike Robertson

Mike Robertson

Local artisans are preparing to launch themselves into a world wide sales market.

The Enterprising Artisans Project was discussed with local artists and artisans last week during a Burns Lake meeting.

Project coordinators explained how local artists could reach global markets and increase the potential for the sale of their work through a web site that is to be created.

The idea originated with the Chief Louie Paddle Company which is owned and operated by the Cheslatta Carrier Nation. They were researching methods to market their products and distribute them more efficiently. In addition they wanted access to overseas export markets.

After discussions with individual artists and cooperative groups, it was determined that many local artisans in Northern B.C. faced similar challenges and the Enterprising Artisans Project was developed. The project will begin to operate in the Nadina region which includes Burns Lake, the Southside, Granisle, Topley, Houston, Telkwa, and Smithers.

Andrea Newell, Enterprising Artisans Project coordinator said, “The feedback we have received from Granisle, Smithers and Houston has been great. We have also had phone calls from Fraser Lake and Hazelton, they want in too,” Newell said adding that the project may end up being much bigger than originally planned.

She said the idea is to create an opportunity for local artisans to promote their products through a single web site, reaching a much wider sales audience.

“Many artisans have difficulty selling their work. They rely on door to door sales, word of mouth or commission work,” she said, adding that they are missing out on potential sales by not marketing their work online.

“It is not just in Burns Lake that artists and artisans are struggling, others in the region are experiencing the same thing,” she said. “It is very hard to sell things by yourself, but when you have more people together you will have more traffic on your web site,” Newell said.

The group is looking at creating a regional and collective marketing plan and branding the region by working as a community of artists. “We are looking at what makes our area unique,” she said.

The project is still currently in the discussion stage and ideas from the region’s artists are being gathered.

“We are perhaps looking at having a centralized distribution centre and the sales would probably be commission based,” Newell said. It is hoped that the web site may also lead to spin off based opportunities such as increased tourism to the area after overseas buyers see what the Lakes District has to offer.

“There is a real grass roots movement happening in communities across North America where people are replacing the commercial items in their homes with local, hand made products,” she said.

“We have a lot that we can offer by branding our area and showcasing the talent we have. I have been blown away by the art work that I have seen,” she added.

Mike Robertson senior policy advisor from Cheslatta Carrier Nation said there are also some amazing artisans and carvers from the Southside, but they have a really limited market when selling their products.

“It is a real opportunity to be able to take this art, sell it, package it and ship it off,” he said. “This will make our community stronger and keep people healthy and prosperous.”

The web site will possibly include a personal profile page for each artist, as well as photos of individual pieces of art that is for sale. It will be self sustaining and will most likely be run on a commission basis to keep the site funded.

“Any profits made will go back into the social enterprise [the Enterprising Artisans Project],” said Robertson.

The group currently have 60 artists and artisans signed up and they hope to have the web site up and running by the end of 2011.