Bonnell Holland

Combining craft and commerce in Nelson’s downtown

Thirty years ago, a group of local artisans teamed up to open The Craft Connection.

Thirty years ago, a group of local artisans teamed up to open The Craft Connection.

Operating as a cooperative, the member-owners got their start displaying and selling their work together in the store’s first home in the Chahko Mika Mall. They shared the responsibility of running their new business, divvying up tasks like selling in the store, creating displays and bookkeeping.

Fiber artist Bonnell Holland was one of the founding members of the cooperative. She sold her handmade bags and other functional art in that first store — items that are still available in the shop today.

“Of course, it was a lot of volunteer hours in the beginning. Everyone was very dedicated to seeing it through,” Holland recalled. “We took a lot of pride in the store, and we still do today.”

The Craft Connection has moved twice over the decades. In 1990, having outgrown its mall space, it leased a storefront in the 400-block of Baker Street. Then in 2008, the collective purchased its own building — The Craft Connection’s current home — in the 300-block of Baker Street.

The store now featuresmore than 150 artisans, from the Kootenays and beyond. Gallery 378, the downstairs showroom, has become a great space to feature fine art, the exhibition of bigger pieces and exciting new work.

Holland and her fellow member-owners (there’s 10 of them in total) still work one shift per week in the store, though they’ve hired a dedicated sales staff to take care of most of the day-to-day operations. At monthly meetings, they jury new works, plan window displays and make other decisions about the store.

“We try to keep a good variety of items in the store, and encourage the artists to bring new items into their display often. For our local customers, we want them to be able to find something new each time they come in,” Holland said.

In recent years Holland has switched her focus as an artist from fiber to glass work, a craft her husband Moss turned her onto. The couple sells a line of colourful dishes and other decorative glass items in the store, under the name Moss Glassworks.

Their son, also no stranger to the glass studio, sells his stained-glass windows in the store, while their daughter works on the sales staff.

“We’re helping a lot of local artists make a living,” Holland said of the downtown store.

“Many artists aren’t extroverts, they don’t like the aspect of selling their work. We take care of that for them.”

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Craft Connection is offering daily door prizes at the store, beginning tomorrow (July 6) and continuing until the following Friday (July 12). Also on July 12, the store will be celebrating with a birthday party from 7 to 9 p.m. with music, drinks and goodies.

The Craft Connection is located at 378 Baker Street.

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