Morocco meets Gastown at Twenty One Tonnes pop-up shop

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      Pop-up shops are nothing new for Gastown boutique One of a Few (354 Water Street). At the start of 2011, Gypsy Market Vintage—a constantly evolving collection of retro finds curated by stylist Sarah La Greca—moved into the cozy boutique’s upstairs loft; a few months later, Isabelle Dunlop’s hand-knit shawls and scarves found its way into the womenswear shop.

      December has brought a third pop-up shop to One of a Few owner Michelle Rizzardo’s charming space: Twenty One Tonnes, a small trade project by Chessa Osburn, who imports home décor accessories from markets around the world.

      “I just love markets of all kinds,” Osburn, who works as a case worker at Pathways Information Centre in the Downtown Eastside, told the Straight by phone. “I studied international development, but I love design. I think this is maybe a marriage of the two sides of my curiosities.”

      Osburn launched Twenty One Tonnes, which gets its name from the maximum load of a shipping container, as an online shop in late July. Inspired by her travels to Uganda, El Salvador, and Morocco, Osburn wanted to start a small business that would celebrate the work of crafts people and artisans.

      All of the items currently available online and at One of a Few are imported from Morocco. The hand-blown glass cuts ($9.50 to $11.50) were introduced to Osburn during her first trip to Marrakesh.

      “I went there for the first time as a tourist for fun, and was eating at a truck-stop on my way to the desert. Water was served in these glasses, so they’re not the kind of glasses that are exported commonly; they’re just something to use in Morocco by local people in an everyday way,” she said. “I thought they were so beautiful, so simple, and so I asked where I could find them.”

      Other items for sale include three colours of leather poufs ($295), which are made at a tannery in Fez, and wool pompom blankets ($275), which Osburn described as a dying Moroccan craft.

      The Twenty One Tones pop-up shop will be available at One of a Few through the holiday season. In the New Year, Osburn hopes to find new spaces to sell the goods while planning another trip to Morocco.

      “I’m really sort of learning how to make it work because I’m finding that it’s tricky with this kind of stuff to just do it online,” she said. “It’s very tactile. You sort of want to touch and feel these things, so I’m learning how to balance the online with pop-up shops.”

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