A letter from Amy Zacharias, Cedar Mountain Studios
I grew up surrounded by people who make their living making things (usually in a barn in their backyard).
I was raised on Saltspring Island, a community with more than an average number of talented artisans and craftspeople. During the spring, summer, and early fall local artisans and farmers gather in our village park to sell what they “make, bake and grow” on Saltspring Island.
The Saltspring Saturday market is no ordinary farmer's market. It’s the best of the best. It’s like a juried arts and craft show with spectacularly good food. From the jewelry, art, pottery, and woodworking to the cheese, soap, coffee, ice cream, pasta, vinegar, jam, shampoo, and most beautiful veggies you’ll ever lay eyes on, the Saltspring Market is a beacon of exceptionalism.
My parents have attended the Saturday Market for twenty-seven years with myself and my siblings often in tow. Like many other local artisans, my folks moved to Saltspring because they fell in love with a beautiful place, and once here had to figure out how to make a living.
Cedar Mountain Studios also attends other annual craft shows, including the Toronto One-Of-A-Kind show which brings together an exceptional community of creative people who are seriously passionate about their artistic pursuits. We were very proud to be inducted into their Hall of Fame a few years back.
These folks - the makers, the creators, the artisans - are my tribe and I am going to make it my life’s work to celebrate and support them. So, while my siblings left home to pursue urban careers, I decided to stay put, and take over our family business. I also decided that I wanted to open a retail store with my mom.
Honoring makers and their art is the reason mom and I launched Cedar Mountain & Co., which is the new retail arm of Cedar Mountain Studios.
My mother has a unique passion for collecting and using beautiful things, especially original and handmade objects. Happily, I’ve inherited this interest and we’re blessed to know lots of makers. We’ve pondered opening a retail store for years, however, the timing was never quite right. I started a family, the studio was always busy, and we wanted the perfect space.
Finally last year, everything clicked and we made the leap. We found a store, my dad and husband designed and built an incredibly beautiful space, and my mom and I stocked it with things we love.
Year one was a success. We love how the store provides us frequent and direct access to our customers so we get more immediate feedback about what they like and don’t which is making us better craftspeople and wholesalers.
We also use the store to test new ideas. We create many products that nobody outside our company sees. Dad is a prolific experimenter and creator and our barn is cluttered with handmade lamps, light switch covers, trivets, tea towels, salad tongs, burnt art, and an endless assortment of other products that never made it to market. The store provides us an opportunity to experiment with small-batch items like these.
The store is more work than we expected but is joyful. People are happy when they come into a gift store and working with my mom in the store is so much fun. Our lives are so intertwined already, starting yet another project together just feels natural. My mom is one of my favourite people on this planet and working with her feels like play. We get along so well, almost never argue, and our skills are perfectly complementary.
My mom is a people person, with more empathy than most other humans know. She has the best eye and is an exceptional gift giver. She doesn’t buy you what she likes, but rather will pick out something perfect for you. She’s also a risk-taker and will test products nobody else understands.
I’m a good editor and more decisive, clearer about what I like and don’t like. I’m also very organized and good at staying up late doing tedious things like inventory. We both love how the store gives us an opportunity to show people how to use beautiful items in their everyday lives.
We’re finding our groove and filling the space with some of our favourite finds. We’re suckers for beautiful fabric and love purses, bags, basically anything with a zipper that you put things in. Mom and I created this line of textile 'hold anything bags' made from repurposed furniture textiles called Frank & Ernst. It's one of our many passion projects.
We have one essential criterion when buying for the store - the product has to make us squeal with excitement. We gravitate towards handmade but insist on quality and we stock items that compliment what we make at Cedar Mountain Studios.
We’re so excited to share some of our favorites in our web store including hand-drawn tea towels made by Sa Boothroyd (one of my mom’s oldest and best friends), The Avocado Sock (for a perfectly ripe avocado every time) and some all-natural beauty products made by our lifelong family friends at Saltspring Soapworks. Their hand lotion is da bomb, and mom always has two tubes in her purse.
We can’t wait to share more maker stories and to hear what you love. We’re loading more things online every day and hope you’ll explore and enjoy it!