CRAFTED, Winnipeg’s premier craft sale and exhibition, has moved online this year. The event, which features over 50 artists, was established in 2015 with the primary goal of supporting craftspeople across Canada.
With sales reaching approximately $300,000 annually, the effect on Manitoba’s craft economy would be dire if the show were cancelled, making it an easy decision to switch from a physical exhibition to an online one rather than cancelling it entirely.
With the assistance of organizers from the Royal Bison Art and Craft Fair — a craft show in Edmonton, Alta. that found success online last April — CRAFTED 2020 Online was born.
One of this year’s participating artists is Brook Drabot, a Winnipeg glassblower who utilizes lamp work techniques to sculpt borosilicate glass into works of art.
Drabot finds inspiration in nature as well as the reflection and magnification of light.
This speaks to her choice of borosilicate glass — most often used for scientific equipment — which allows her to produce fine details and capture sensations of motion and softness in her work. Recently, Drabot has also been researching chromotherapy and experimenting with how she can work this concept into her glasswork.
Drabot has been a part of CRAFTED for the last few years and discussed how she loves the event and the way it connects creators from across Canada.
Like many artists who are facing challenges, such as keeping online shops stocked and up to date as well as maintaining an online presence, Drabot said that, for her, “The biggest challenge has been at home. Squeezing in studio time nights and weekends, keeping my boys up with homeschooling and finding time together as a family.”
“I know it is very different, but I’m still so happy to see what everyone participating has been working on,” she said.
Cathie Ugrin, a Manitoban textile artist exhibiting at CRAFTED 2020 Online this year, has also found that COVID-19 has impacted the amount of time she is able to spend on her work. One of the ways the pandemic has affected Ugrin’s practice is the demand for non-medical masks.
“My creative work was put aside as I became part of the ‘mask brigade’ figuring out which of the many online patterns were best [and] prepping metres and metres of fabric,” she said.
Ugrin has been involved with CRAFTED since it began. She has been making fibre art for 20 years and finds her biggest inspirations in looking at art in a variety of mediums as well as the Prairie sky.
Working primarily with cotton, tulle and batik fabrics, Ugrin creates abstract textile works using techniques she has discovered through experimentation, which she says is “extremely reflective of the time and place [she is] in.”
Last but not least, Terry Hildebrand is a Manitoban ceramicist who works with porcelain, creating unique surfaces that can only be achieved using soda or wood firing processes. As far as he knows, Hildebrand has one of the only soda kilns in the province, meaning that his work is one-of-a-kind across Manitoba.
Hildebrand, who has also been a part of CRAFTED in the past, is hopeful for the switch to an online exhibition. Apart from less people dropping by his studio and slower gallery sales, Hildebrand’s workday hasn’t changed drastically due to COVID-19.
“I’m probably one of the lucky ones with a studio in the backyard and able to keep making my ceramics,” he said.
As a closing statement, Hildebrand encouraged others to support local artists and businesses.
“Just support local when you can,” he said. “Amazon might be easy, but Jeff Bezos doesn’t need our money anymore.
“Plus, coffee tastes better in a handmade cup.”
CRAFTED 2020 Online will run virtually from Nov. 6 at 12 p.m. until Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. For more information, go to craftedsale.ca or visit them on social media.