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I stopped at the Village at Pigeon Lake today to get groceries and more jars for canning. As I was walking back to my vehicle, I passed right by a shop that I had never seen before. Looking in through the open door, I was immediately drawn in by the color and uniqueness of the merchandise. I had arrived at Blue Heron Artists and Artisans Gallery.

I went in and was pleasantly greeted by a woman who welcomed me and informed me that the most of the pieces feature local artists from around the lake as well as central Alberta. I thought this was wonderful as not only can one buy handmade, but can support local artists at the same time. I was in the right place as I had recently taken the Handmade Pledge online: Pledge Handmade

Although it is usually more expensive, buying handmade is better for the environment, better for people and communities and makes for better gift-giving. Buying handmade often means that you are getting a unique, one-of-a kind item. As my tastes tend toward the unusual, I get a lot of satisfaction in finding interesting things are are both useful and beautiful. With the money I save from ‘making do’, ‘repurposing’ and ‘thrifting’, I can afford handmade when I need it or want it. Like many of you, I also hand-make most of the cards and gifts that I personally give away.

I really enjoyed my time at Blue Heron. They have so much to choose from:

We carry quilts, stained glass, fused glass, 3 different types of pottery, gold, silver and precious stone jewellery, knitted socks, touques and children’s sweaters, soapstone carvings, embroidered bags, weaving, porcelain dolls, rustic furniture, rustic birdhouses and feeders, paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolour as well as numbered prints, photography from around the lake, sewn plush dolls, candles and soaps, fibre art, felted items and casual quilted jackets.

I fell in love with four pieces of pottery: a small square mirror, a tile, a fish dish on three legs and a large funky chicken-woman vase. I bought the first three items but will have to save a little for the chicken-woman. I got chatting with the woman who greeted me earlier and it turned out that this was Sheila A Kelba-Warawa herself, the local artist who made all four of the pieces that I had chosen! When I asked her to describe her work, she told me:

My work has a funky edge. Although I enjoy throwing pots, my passion is hand-building, where I have the freedom to create slightly off the wall animals and animal women.

I love the organic shapes and especially the colors that glaze Sheila’s pieces (lime green, ocean blue, orange copper undersides, purple, pale yellow). Along with pots, candlesticks and tiles, she hand-builds fish and chickens in her own distinct style. Some of the edges are left bare, which makes the piece feel like it is a hundred years old and already full of stories. I was regretting that I did not bring my camera as I could have shown you more of Sheila’s work. Instead, I will visit her studio in Bentley, Alberta in a few weeks and do a more in depth interview and show you a wider range of her work (in Part Two). Until then, if you would like to contact Sheila, you can reach her through Blue Heron or through her personal email at mudhenstu@hotmail.com. You can also take a look at her biography on the Blue Heron website.

I look forward to many more visits to Blue Heron Artists and Artisans and supporting a wonderful local business here on Pigeon Lake while at the same time supporting local artisans from central Alberta. Next time you visit the Village at Pigeon Lake, be sure to stop in at 40 Village Drive and have a look around. Or click on the links provided and view their gallery online. I am sure you will find that perfect handmade item that you haven’t found anywhere else!

In the meantime, I will enjoy my new pieces! On the Blue Heron website, it says that “Sheila’s intention is to bring whimsy and joy to the viewer.” These pieces will surely do just that! The tile will sit on my desk to hold my tea as I work on this blog each day; the mirror will hang just outside the washroom and will be one of the first things that I see in the morning (adding a splash of lime green to an otherwise dull corner), and the whimsical fish dish will hold my handmade gardeners’ soap beside the kitchen sink and will make me smile every time I use it.