In 1997, the Blackberry Artists Society formed as a cooperative to run a gift shop at the old city hall building in Port Moody.
The city had transformed the St. Johns Street building into the Port Moody Arts Centre and needed an operator for the shop.
Twenty-five years on, the society and the shop are still going strong and continue to set the bar higher each year, said president Del Holbrook who spoke to the Tri-City News on the week of the opening of its annual Christmas Marketplace at PoMoArts.
The Marketplace, which is also run by the society’s 17 members, is held in the Ann Kitching Gallery close to the gift shop and includes handcrafted holiday gifts from the members who are skilled in woodworking, drawing, painting, jewelry making and photography.
And, for its milestone anniversary, the society picked a theme of silver and gold to be weaved into their Christmas Marketplace wares.
Holbrook said the Marketplace’s biggest draw is the Christmas tree, which is festooned with ornaments created by the members.
Shoppers come in to buy a handful for themselves or friends and family as stocking stuffers, as they’re small and affordable.
Still, other shoppers return to the Marketplace not only to find original items but to collect objects from their favourite artist; about one-third of the Blackberry members have been with the society for more than a decade, Holbrook said, and “they have fans.”
However, new to this year’s winter sale is the work by two new members: Athabasca “Red” Wischi, who draws in pen, ink and pencil crayon; and Joanne Henderson of Mossom Creek Studio, a Port Moody business that designs and makes statement jewelry pieces.
Holbrook said the members, who live in the Tri-Cities, Burnaby and New Westminster, have their art juried before their society application is approved and are re-juried every three years for quality control.
“Our objective is to keep increasing our sales,” he said, “and we’re doing that by five to six per cent a year. That’s because we keep upping the bar and being unique to Port Moody.”
For both the year-round gift shop and Christmas Marketplace, members determine their own price, Holbrook said, with the co-op and PoMoArts Society — which now runs the arts centre building — taking a 20 per cent cut.
“Everyone works hard to get their stuff in and we replenish all the time,” he said, adding, “Sales have been good so far and we’re seeing a lot of movement of items.”
Holbrook said the society is grateful for the support of PoMoArts, which is also hosting its Winter Treasures artisan market.
The Blackberry Artists Society’s Christmas Marketplace runs at PoMoArts (2425 St. Johns St., Port Moody) until Dec. 22. Visit blackberrygiftshop.ca.
Basketry: Cynthia Head
Drawing: Athabasca Witschi
Fibre: Angela Holbrook, Beryl Hickinbottom, Jane Ostenstad, Elizabeth Wallace
Glass: Violet Finvers
Jewelry: Linda Chow, Joanne Henderson, Violet Finvers, Luci Gimenes
Painting: Beth David, Jane Ostenstad, Wendy Schmidt, Elizabeth Wallace, Alison White
Paper: Yolanda Cheung
Photography: Paul Shannon
Wood: Del Holbrook, Laurie Jones-Canta