From felt purses to ponchos, top Circle Craft finds

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      Now that your jack-o’-lanterns are safely stowed away in the compost bin, it’s time to get ready for the first big holiday craft fair of the season—and by “big”, we mean the Circle Craft Christmas Market is a lively labyrinth of more than 300 exhibitors showing their handiwork. From hiply West Coast wooden jewellery to South Asian–flavoured felts, here are some of the new artisan creations worth ferreting out at the festivities, which run from Tuesday (November 11) to November 16 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

      Ugly Bunny’s B.C.–inspired wood jewellery.


      Ugly Bunny

      This Kelowna-based jewellery line is a cool combo of rugged B.C. wilderness and high-tech technique. The brainchild of two Ontario transplants who wanted to live closer to the slopes, Ugly Bunny’s affordable wood designs are emblazoned with landscapes and animals that are meticulously laser-cut into the pieces.

      It’s doubtful the year-and-a-half-old line would even have been born in a different location, for reasons starting with the scenery it depicts: “A lot of the illustrations were based on photos my husband took backcountry snowboarding,” says designer Sarah Jane Reynolds, a fine-art graduate from OCAD University in Toronto who has a background in jewellery design. While Reynolds and her other half, Brett Sichello, create the graphics to put on the hardwood they source largely from a local carpenter, their neighbours are the ones who laser-cut their creations—a process the team is still exploring.

      “The reason we’ve been able to grow is they’re just so patient with us,” explains Reynolds, who adds that she’s got the trip to the laser-cutting workshop down to a “17-minute longboard ride”.

      For her part, Reynolds assembles, varnishes, and hand-paints the delicate pieces, right down to the minute gold chevron design on Ugly Bunny’s popular little stud earrings. Standout pendant necklaces you’ll see at Circle Craft feature spirit animals like a wolf, an owl, and a deer set into classic oval cabochons with brass chains; some show off the grain of woods like walnut and cherry, while others are set off against a turquoise background. Prices range from just $18 for studs up to $45 for statement necklaces.


      Sara Felts

      “When I do something, I go all out,” Vinitha Sara John tells the Straight. And so it is that the Vancouver artist has taken a craft that sometimes demands decades to perfect and brought it to new heights of expressiveness. Starting in 2011, when John picked up a little kit for needle felting, she’s immersed herself in books and workshops on the form, integrating her own heritage’s jewel-toned sari fabrics into the age-old boiling process, as well as hand-dyed silks and fine Italian merino wool. The result is lightweight felt that she uses for her textural, brightly hued clutches, garments, and South Asian–inspired bowls, as well as more neutral-hued “prints” of leaves and other natural imagery on clothes and scarves.

      “For me, the most important thing is I want it to be my own,” she explains. “I don’t want to go to a class and make 20 of the same kind of thing. I’m just trying to give it my own spin.”

      At this year’s market, look for scarves starting at about $150, bags at around $200, vest-wraps at $400 and up, and statement jackets at about $700. Each piece is a testament to the devotion of its maker. “One scarf alone takes me about three hours to do,” John says. “I have to love it, and I hope somebody else will love it too.”

      Hay-oh’s retro-modern pillows.



      Adrienne Parsons’s funky pillows and bags are made of fabric remnants, used denim, and upcycled materials, but she never sacrifices clean, modern design in the process. The Delta artist’s pillows are bold, retro geometric statement pieces that play with colour blocks. One look features a three-dimensional stitched, modernist flower with a felt centre that sticks out from the middle. It’s a style that’s reflected in the off-kilter geometry of her fun crib quilts as well, contemporary pieces that are crafted from traditional cotton.

      It’s no surprise that Parsons can make artful magic with needle and thread: her mother is fibre artist Marianne Parsons. “Growing up, I wasn’t always a fan of sewing,” Parsons admits with a laugh. “I would ask her to do some things for me, but I always had to put in my own time and effort.”

      The younger Parsons’s skill is finding stylish ways to use every corner of old materials. Her popular Blue Buds are denim pillows with one big alien eye and stuffed hanging legs that are perfect for kids’ rooms; now she’s fashioned small bags that use up the old jeans’ back pockets as well.

      “I’m a dabbler—I love trying things,” she says, and lucky for us: her stand will also feature felt ornaments, starting at $5, with prices going up to $200 for one of her sleekly cheery handmade baby quilts.

      Moojoes’ funky but practical rain ponchos.


      Moojoes rain gear

      Like all great ideas, Moojoes’ indispensable rain ponchos for kids were born out of necessity. North Vancouver friends Desiree Kranendijk and Stephanie Loewen designed them for their own families as much as anybody else.

      “I have four kids and Desiree has three, so we were looking for some rain gear that was affordable, high-quality, and safe that kids could put on themselves—and so that every season we were not buying a new rain jacket,” Loewen says.

      The result, after months of research on their kitchen floor into the best waterproof, breathable fabrics and cuts, is ponchos with 360-degree reflective visibility made from enviro-friendly, European Oeko-tex Standard 100 fabric. There’s a breathable mesh lining and hip prints on the hood liners. And the fit? Watch how Moojoes ponchos slide over a backpack when a kid’s walking to school. The designs come in size ranges like 3 to 5 and 5 to 7, so your child will get several years’ use out of them. (All are $79.95.) And best of all, they come in funky alternatives to the standard red or yellow raincoat: think aubergine, fuchsia, charcoal, and apple green.

      Parents started wanting their own ponchos, so you’ll see Moojoes’ adult line, including men’s, at $119.95. Much like this city’s rain, their popularity shows no sign of letting up.

      Follow Janet Smith on Twitter at @janetsmitharts.