From upcycled blazers to handmade bloomer shorts, silkscreen print T-shirts to hand-knit headbands and repurposed jewelry to natural skin care products: A Curious Shop is a small boutique in the ByWard Market brimming with local talent.
The York Street store is stocked with all this and more, as owners Michelle Potter and Fiona Sant take sips of ginger tea between excited bouts of chatter and short bursts of laughter.
“We want customers to have a good time when they come in,” said Potter. “We’ve got the music playing and we’re always dancing around and playing with the product.”
Both artists themselves, Sant and Potter began selling their work, and the work of other local artists, at craft shows and music festivals a few years ago.
With such events being few and often seasonal, they opened A Curious Shop as a permanent venue for local artists to display their crafts year-round.
Open since October, the pair are considering a second location to expand their inventory and bring in more artists. Currently, they sell merchandise on behalf of 50 artisans.
“This space is too small to contain the creativity of everybody in this city,” said Potter. “There’s so many people who are sitting at home, kids in the background, making what they love to make.”
Sant and Potter are also the pioneers of A Curious Collective, an Ottawa-based group of artisans who have a shared passion for encouraging the “creation, sharing and appreciation of independent art” in the community, Potter said.
“With all the artists we meet, there’s that hesitation,” said Sant. “Can I actually make a living off my art? When you show support by going to a craft show or coming to a store like ours, you’re encouraging that person to keep going.”
Potter and Sant started creating as most artisans do, as a hobby, before realizing they could make money doing what they love.
Potter sells her jewelry under the label My Jacket Pocket and Sant sells seasonal accessories under the label idi Designs. Both use repurposed materials. With their collective and now their shop, Sant and Potter have created a space not just where goods are exchanged for money, but also a community where ideas are shared, friendships are formed and artists are supported.
“Everyone here is working on behalf of everyone else, so everyone benefits,” said Bonnie Mechefske, who sells her skincare line, Mains de Mariposa, at the store.
Kym Brown sells her one-of-a-kind clothing and fascinators at the store and said she appreciates the two-way relationship artists have with the owners and particularly their knowledge of the creative process.
“They understand what goes into the making of the pieces — not just the labour — but the soul and personality of everything,” she said.
Sant and Potter pride themselves in being able to offer customers a personal shopping experience.
“We know the artist who made it and how they made it and why they made it,” said Sant.
Under the Curious umbrella, Potter and Sant also organize craft shows and events, some of which will soon start taking place in their shop.
Their next event will be a craft show at Knox Presbyterian Church on Feb. 9 in hope of attracting tourists in the area for Winterlude.
“What better souvenir than something that was made in the city you’re visiting?” said Potter.
Connect with Kathryn Forrest |Kforrest@ottawacitizen.com