When Susan Richards isn’t bending and plying silver, or beading designs into her one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, she is coordinating one of the longest running Christmas artisan/craft fairs in the Okanagan.
A huge task, to say the least, it takes time and energy to not only make and design her original jewelry, but to organize the annual Okanagan Artisans Guild Show and Sale, which celebrates its 35th year this coming Friday and Saturday.
The three ballrooms of the Best Western Vernon Lodge will once again be filled to the rafters with locally-handcrafted fine arts and crafts by the show’s 40 vendors.
Richards has been involved with the guild’s show since 2002, when her mom urged her to show her work.
“(She) had been a big part of the show herself in its early years,” said Richards. “After my first year as a vendor, I was asked to take over as organizer of the show and did so with lots of help from fellow artisan participants Debbee Werner and Karen Thoresen.”
Richards has had success making her living from art.
Raised in Vernon, she was predisposed and surrounded by art as a child, and her favourite subjects in high school were art and physical education.
“From very early on I knew that I wanted to make a living with my art,” said Richards. “I have always been surrounded by art of some kind as my grandfather was a painter and my mom, a weaver.”
Richards’ first summer job out of high school was at the Vernon Community Arts Centre, where she worked for one year before being accepted to the Alberta College of Art. After returning from college, she became the assistant arts coordinator at the centre and a few years later took on the leading coordinator position until the birth of her first daughter.
“Both my husband and I felt strongly about one of us staying home to look after our two girls, Kaitlyn and Alexandra, so that is what I chose to do,” she said. “During these years I taught art classes to children as well as the mentally challenged and continued to dabble with different types of mediums, including stained glass, mosaics, felting, lampwork beads and silversmithing.”
Richards has since turned that dabbling into a successful business with her Studio 401 jewelry line, which she says showcases an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic styles.
“My tag line is live unique,” said Richards, whose jewelry is described as an interesting mix of rustic and hard-edged, balanced by a kind of softness.
“I love incorporating found objects, be it old silver spoons or vintage beads, which makes for many one-of-a-kind pieces. All of my work is oxidized to give it that vintage look, reflecting the inspiration from which it came.”
Richards says she is looking forward to seeing what her fellow jewellers, as well as potters, glassworkers, sculptors, woodworkers, painters, soap makers, textile and felt artists, candle makers and other artisans have in store for the guild show.
“I am dedicated to the whole idea behind the creation of the show, which is to showcase local artisans, particularly as professionals who work so hard at trying to make a living from their art, skills and products,” said Richards. “The show also promotes locally handcrafted wares, which are becoming less viable as mass importation invades our market.”
Hours for the Okanagan Artisans Guild Show and Sale at the Best Western Vernon Lodge are Friday, noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Admission is free of charge. Visitors can enter to win the door prize of a fine dining experience at the Vernon Lodge’s BX Creek Bar & Grill, valued at $100.