Danforth East Arts Fair: Meet DEAF13 exhibitor Artisans At Work

It’s only a couple of short weeks away from the Danforth East Arts Fair and we want to introduce you to one of the amazing vendors who will be at DEAF13 September 14 and 15 at East Lynn Park.

The Artisans At Work headquarters near the corner of Woodbine and Danforth

The Artisans At Work headquarters near the corner of Woodbine and Danforth

Tara Shelton runs Artisans At Work, a Danforth East arts hub where residents can indulge their creativity and artisans can market their works. She also makes jewellery, specializing in creating miniature sculpture and turning them into wearable totems. She recently chatted with DEAF13 organizer Shauna Rempel.

1. Please describe Artisans At Work in 10 words or less.

A beautiful community arts hub, connecting folks to arts classes, locally made gifts and produce.

2. How did you begin your creative journey?

My mother, Carol Ann Shelton, is a wonderful painter and gave me the gift of self confidence and patience in any art I try. I took Gemmology from George Brown College, and I learned my jewellery skills by the late, great Steve Stephanian, a perfectionist — but a kind teacher and a kindred friend. He taught me metalsmithing, and introduced me to wax-carving. I sculpted in wax as a child, using the red wax that came on the edam cheese. I also sculpted from the clay from the creek bottom on my family’s farm, near London, Ontario.

3. How did Artisans At Work come about?

In the Gemmology course, we were asked to come up with a business idea. I came up with a jewellery arts store that rented bench space, tools, and supplied a professional retail area . . . somewhere to support jewellers by giving them work space and bring their works to market for them.

Around 1999, I was so lucky to be chosen for my business idea for a fantastic, year-long course run through the federal government for entrepreneurs in business plan writing and implementation. I bought all the things I needed and signed a lease in the Beaches, but when we arrived to move in, the owners changed their minds and wanted $500 more in rent a month! My lawyer advised not to conduct further business with them, and so I retreated with the idea, recoiling at the realities of doing business!

I continued to sell my jewellery. I also spent that time honing the business idea.
I desperately wanted to open something in my own neighbourhood, ever since I moved here to East Danforth. Looking for the right space was always tricky. About two years ago, I got involved with the fabulous DECA, and with their Pop-Up Shops team. I applied for a space during the second round of pop ups, and I found a most excellent space for myself here at 2071 Danforth! I decided it was now or never to put my dusty business plan into action, and signed a five-year lease.

4. What skills and experiences do you bring to your work?

In addition to my training in business management courses, gemmology and jewellery, I worked at several fine jewellery stores and three major diamond and jewellery appraisal businesses. Putting all those skills and experiences together for my own business is like a timely puzzle, and I am in a position to help others to do the same. I believe skills should be taught and shared.

5. What inspires you?

Nature, nature and always nature. The lifeforms of this world keep me in love with art and life itself. Just the fact that we are animals making art or adoring artworks of plants, insects and animals truly fascinates and inspires me! I am so proud when someone buys my jewellery because they love the totem of the animal I made.

6. How is your work different from that of other artists in your field?

I am finding my niche in carving and sculpture of the natural and pastoral world that I love. Everything is hand-carved by myself, from a sketch of my own. I prefer to control the workmanship by doing it myself, in small batches.

Tara Shelton sculpts sloths and other charismatic creatures that can then be worn as jewellery

Tara Shelton sculpts sloths and other charismatic creatures that can then be worn as jewellery

7. What are some of the events and services offered by Artisans At Work?

Our First Friday event is fast becoming a favourite! Every month, we have an evening that involves live music, licensed bar, a local restaurant and a new art exhibition with a theme from our inspiring young curator interns! This September is our inaugural east-end nod to the bigger, brassier film fest in the west: DIPF Fest or Danforth Independent Photo & Film Festival. We have an astonishingly high calibre of juried photographers and film makers taking part. (For more details, visit http://www.artisans-at-work.com/first-fridays.html)

As of October, we are hosting a Saturday Indoor Winter Farmers’ Market. We also have super Christmas Craft Show Weekends planned for November and December. (For more details, visit http://www.artisans-at-work.com/craft-shows-farmers-market.html)

As for services, we are so lucky to be hosting some of the neighbourhood’s finest arts and crafts classes for kids and adults! We rent our Work Studios as art-related work space for short and long terms. I provide jewellery services. And how could I forget mentioning that we are always welcoming new artists to sell their work on consignment or to rent sales space!

8. Finally, what are you most looking forward to at DEAF13?

I am very much looking forward to seeing what the participants of the Fair have been busy doing! Each year it seems there are more and more fabulous people coming to share in our neighbourhood festival of art, and I love seeing the residents flooding out of their homes to support it.

See Artisans At Work’s Tara Shelton along with Ian Bradshaw, Theresa Morin, Little Kitchen Gourmet and Suzie Nedkov at DEAF13. For more info, visit deca-arts.ca

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