Travellers on busy B.C. ferries on the May long weekend couldn't avoid a healthy jolt of the Coast's flourishing arts and culture. On board, visitors could sip their espressos while listening to the fine guitar work of Coast musician Steve Karagianis or the soft, sweet voice of Cindy Johnston who will perform on summer sailings.
But it is in the Langdale ferry terminal that Coast arts shine. Last Sunday and holiday Monday, motorists eased the wait between sailings by scrambling out of their cars with kids and dogs to peruse the growing craft market located in shady booths along one side of the parking lot. Travellers sniffed the fragrances from three different soap vendors, listened to music from Ten Bear, tried on a variety of hand-crafted jewellery and vests, admired Garett Sinclaire's cedar planters shaped into waterfowl, massaged the hand-felted, unique purses of Almuth Billig and munched popcorn from a new market addition, Buddies at the Bay. "There seems like way more traffic than other years," said jewellery artisan Kerri Luciani. She has been selling her earrings, anklets and other gifts such as bookmarks and scissor fobs at various craft markets. Now, in her second year as co-ordinator of this marketplace, she must arrive early, by 7:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings, to ensure that the others, 10 or more crafters depending on the holiday, also set up smoothly. Most are in place by 9 a.m. and will be on their feet chatting with the public all day until the 4:30 p.m. ferry at the earliest.
So what do they do between ferries? Work on their tans? Sometimes, says Peggy Collins of Wild Thing Designs, but for most of the summer from July to mid-September, there is no free time. As one ferry loads, the next overload is pulling up at their door. "Fortunately, I can work on my jewellery while I'm here, particularly the wirework," says Collins who snips and winds the silver wire on her hand-dyed coconut shell earrings and her etched-glass designs. "It's busy," echoes Luciani. "You won't find any of us sitting down in July." And you must like meeting new people. "It's a captive audience," admits Louise Meints of Grammy's Stitchery. "The people I meet are tremendous. And they let me know when they're buying gifts to ship away to Australia or Japan." Meints does not sell through stores; her entire inventory of colourfully designed vests and fleece garments is held right there in the small booth, along with her daughter's hand-made soaps. "I like the entrepreneurial spirit here," says musician Graham Walker, who was selling his children's CDs, picture books and rhythm kits on holiday Monday. He's new to this ferry marketplace, he says, but not new to craft fairs. It allows him more off-Coast market exposure. As he spoke, he passed his headphones over to a visitor who listened to a song about little green men and broke into a smile. It sure beats sitting in a hot car. The aroma was compelling at Ruth Duffin's table. For years, fans of her Body Sense fragrant soaps and lotions could find her at her own store in lower Gibsons. Now, she wholesales, she says, describing a recent experience in which her cottage industry produced a custom batch of 5,000 small pikaki-scented soaps, the same variety you might find in about 30 local B & Bs. Though she still sells in stores, for the most part, it's the ferry marketplace that keeps her hopping.
As the long weekend drew to a close, the representatives of the Coast's arts scene were still smiling.
"For 80 per cent of the artisans it's really worth-while financially," said Luciani. "There are four or five who are making their living from their craft." Artisans wishing to rent a table can contact Luciani for details at 604-886-0150.