It’s an entrepreneur’s dream: you produce a commodity that you believe in, develop a marketing and distribution model that will get it out there and then you hope it will catch on like wildfire.
Sarah and Scott Barrie’s new business venture may not be at the “wildfire” stage but it’s one of those ideas that was put into action and is generating a buzz.
The Barries’ company, Bough & Antler Northwest Goods, is producing an eye-catching line of Campbell River T-shirts that are garnishing a lot of attention. And these aren’t the generic wolf, eagle and bear T-shirts with Campbell River replacing the name of virtually every town in B.C., if not Canada.
“It’s been positive,” Scott says. “We know that the tourist T-shirt is an ubiquitous thing throughout the world and we saw that maybe locally, in Campbell River, we weren’t seeing very much that we would personally pick up and wear and we thought, you know, doing this would be something that is fun and might appeal to lcoals who have a sort of native pride (in the local landscape), as it were.”
The Barries’ T-shirts are unique. They are handrawn scenics derived from the couple’s own photographs of local scenes underneath a bold, all-caps name of local places. There are four images available: the Campbell River, Elk Falls, Strathcona Park and Discovery Passage. They are drawn in what Scott calls a “classic 1930s National Park era style” and utilize black and one of red, purple or two versions of green plus the off-white colour of the t-shirt fabric to fill in the negative space of the image.
They wanted to create shirts that were affordable. With t-shirts, every colour incurs a charge. They couldn’t afford to print full colour t-shirts and they would be too expensive to entice people to buy them.
The scenes aren’t exact depictions, there has been some artistic licence taken. For example, the Campbell River scene shows a stretch of river running with salmon in it and and a bear fishing. The setting sun is sinking behind distant mountains and the banks are heavily forested.
“For the Campbell River T-shirt we wanted to compress the scene and get us much about that particular venue as we could in one shirt so it’s not a necessarily 100 per cent accurate depiction of the river but I think the spirit of it is definitely there,” Scott says.The T-shirts were intended to be for the tourist market but the Barries are finding that they are just as popular with locals. They went with four designs, hoping that wouldn’t spread themselves too thin.
Their fears may have been unfounded because they started with an initial run of the T-shirts but they soon sold out.
“We had to place a second order right away,” Sarah says.
They were also hoping to see which images sold the best but over the summer the verdict is somewhat inconclusive because they’re all selling well, although the Campbell River T-shirt seems to selling the best.
They started in June by putting the word out to friends and acquaintances on Facebook. They linked with the owner of French Creek Collective in Campbell River and have placed their T-shirts in that store. There is also a website – boughandantler.com.
“The selling part of things, the sales part is a little new and foreign to us,” Scott says.
As independent graphic designers, the Barries are used to working with clientelle and soliciting new work. But producing a new commodity and getting it out to the market place is a whole new ball of wax.
The Barries moved to Campbell River four years ago. For Sarah, who was born and raised here, it’s a homecoming. Scott is from the East Coast and moved out west to attend university in Victoria. That is where he and Sarah met. Living in Victoria converted Scott to a Vancouver Islander and after university the now-married couple moved around to a few places – including to Nova Scotia and to Hornby Island with $700 in the bank and a van to live in – before moving to Campbell River as a place to raise their two children.
Scott says he brings an outsider’s eye to the community and suggests people may not fully realize what they have here. “Here it’s dramatic landscapes and seescapes everywhere you turn,” he says.
For an outdoorsy family it fits perfectly and business wise they’re sensing a change in attitude as the value of the eco-tourism opportunities sinks in.