She took a leap of faith.
A professional artist since 2002, Melissa Dinwoodie has always relied on jobs outside of the art world to support her passion.
Her decision to leave her well-paid job and follow her dream of pursuing art every day inspired the name of her new business Leap. Art Supplies & Gallery.
“You can talk about it for so long and then you finally have to do it and then it is totally scary and freaky,” she says with a laugh.
Dinwoodie didn’t leap alone.
Her close-knit family has been behind her dream from the beginning.
Raised in Armstrong, she got her bachelor of fine arts from Okanagan University College. She then went on to show her work in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, finally deciding to move back to the Okanagan, where she has lived for the last eight years.
“My family as a whole inspired me to become an artist. They are all very creative and encouraging, so I think I grew up with that bug in me,” says Dinwoodie.
Dinwoodie’s role models don’t have traditional ways of earning a living. Her uncles, Rob and Lee Dinwoodie, are both singers and her father, Keith Dinwoodie, is an auctioneer and rodeo announcer.
Her store in downtown Vernon is a clean, modern space with white walls, perfect for showcasing local art, softened by rustic wood shelving and a wood-top counter made by her dad.
With her mom’s help, Dinwoodie has much of her art supply inventory unpacked and displayed in the store, which is now open.
She also gives credit to Community Futures for her ability to open Leap.
The agency helped her make a business plan and provided her with business skills and a loan to start her dream.
Her goal is for her art supply store and gallery to be a place that people of all artistic abilities feel they can come and shop.
“I want it to be a welcoming place,” says Dinwoodie.
“I think some people have this idea of art being elitist and I want this to be a comfortable place to come and ask questions and talk.”
Leap. has a space to hold workshops and classes and Dinwoodie hopes to have a schedule finalized soon.
Her store has an open studio where Dinwoodie can paint during quiet times and she hopes that seeing her work in progress will generate conversations and questions.
“It is going to be a challenge for me because before when I had a studio, it was always very private. I didn’t like people seeing my paintings before they were finished because sometimes they turn out horribly, then you paint over and start again,” she said.
Going through the boxes of inventory, Dinwoodie knew she should feel stress and apprehension about opening her own business, but she found herself feeling the wonder and possibility that each new box of art supplies awakened in her.
“It is like candy to a little kid,” she said.
“Art is such a visual thing and the supplies are like that too, you see the colour and you get excited about it.”
Her supply inventory has a wide variety of tools for many mediums like illustration, painting and soap stone for carvers.
She carries popular brands like Liquitex, Winsor Newton and Stevenson.
Displaying and selling work from local artists is also another aspect of Dinwoodie’s shop.
“I want this to be the place where people come to buy that cool gift for someone special,” she said.
“I’m encouraging the artists to keep things fresh by swapping out their pieces.”
Leap. carries art from many mediums including ceramics, felt work, jewelry, paintings and more.
Her grand opening celebration is Saturday with extended hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a tasting from Olive Us, live guitar, local artists and door prizes.
During the day of the grand opening, there will be a fun photo booth for kids and adults to dress up and be silly.