We love the ever-expanding creative scene in Vancouver, especially the awesome adult/kid learning zone Collage Collage. The owner, Erin Boniferro, has nurtured a strong connection between fine arts, craft, and maker culture to form a uniquely creative space. The result is a haven for both seasoned and first-time creators to unlock their creative potential.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background for those who may not be familiar?
I’m Erin Boniferro, an artist and educator who graduated from Emily Carr in 2002. After working for several galleries + artist run centres over the years I opened Collage Collage. While I enjoyed programming for galleries, I really wanted a space of my own to serve as gallery, workshop, and store for anyone looking to interact with contemporary arts.
You’ve said your background at Emily Carr was a catalyst for developing this business because of the school’s encouragement of the self starter mentality. How do you define your place in the art world now? Do you still consider yourself as part of it or as more of say, a maker or crafter?
I certainly still feel a strong connection to the art world. My days of being at all the openings may be over, but we all know it’s much more than that anyways. The store acts as a place to invite artists and designers to interact with families. This is the strength in our programming. Actually introducing the artists and makers to our clientele is such an honour. Personally, of course my own practise has changed at least for a while to one that is about curating, writing and programming. And keep in mind, when we’re teaching, we’re making machines.
What do you think are the key elements that differentiate the Collage Collage experience from an at home crafting experience?
Coming into Collage Collage for an art or crafting experience means that you’re going to have just that. Home has distractions, messes to clean up, phones that will ring. We’ve created a space so that you can spend the time together making and exploring. No need to worry about having all the right supplies, or how long it might take to set up or clean up. I think we really honour the experience this way, by assisting families in getting creative together, in an accessible, inspiring and welcoming environment. All my staff and I are artists, and we’re here to support both parents and kids together. Ultimately, we hope that families will take the experience home with them, and through us finds ways to bring some creative activities they learn here into their everyday lives.
In terms of defining moments in your business, what do you think yours have been over the past five years?
There was a Dad who came in for an Adult Craft Night and made something for his son. He told me he’d never made anything for either of his children before, and we helped make that happen. That was a big one. Another mom told me she really loved that what we do around here is about real art. This resonated for a long time too. I recently wrote a reference for a staff member, who’s pursuing a Masters. She wrote about her experience of working here, and how it’s influenced her as an artist, and those words meant the world to me. To understand that what we’re doing around here is cultivating something that is life long is really at the heart of why I opened in the first place, and that it’s working – for adults + kids is completely thrilling.
And on that note, what have your favourite moments been from that same time period?
Watching my talented staff grow into their roles as teachers, seeing an inspired class set-up to make something great together. Anytime a student or client is really pleased with themselves or the experience, that’s always a favourite. Recently a mom came in to make a gift for her 16yr old daughter, she was way out of her comfort zone, and she really went for it through a private class with us. I’m still so honoured to have gone through that with her.
It sounds like you’ve inspired a lot of children and adults alike in your community. What inspires you about it and Vancouver generally?
My community of makers and doers. Really, it’s a lot of the same folks from my Emily Carr days, and it’s multiplied since the shop opened. I have some incredible small business owner peers who inspire me to no end, I think Vancouver is the perfect size of a city to get something going in. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that I can walk anywhere, any season, anytime.
What do you look forward to accomplishing with Collage Collage in the future?
I’d love to see another location or two….and I’d love to see us expanding our product offerings outside of BC. I’d like to expand our reach to other artists and designers, and work with new partners in making and crafting. And I have this blog I never write enough for…
Upcoming Events at Collage Collage:
Sara Gillingham will install a window for us in April to celebrate her new book + workshop with us April 11th.
We just got in these crazy beautiful Kites from Haptic Labs out of Brooklyn, made in Bali. They’re beautiful on their own, but the fact that you can fly them as kites is extra cool.
Spring Classes begin April 13th and (gulp!) SUMMER CAMP CRAFTERNOON registration is OPEN already. So exciting.