It may have started out as the Little Shop That Could, but the lineup at Char Deptford’s studio out to the sidewalk last Christmas proves how far it’s come.
It’s been five years since Deptford opened her first studio in Campbell River – when, upon retiring from the investment banking world she decided to pursue her love of art.
“Everyone told me I was crazy, you’ll never make it,” she says. “So I named it the Little Shop That Could, and it is.”
The studio opened five years ago now and was run out of her home on Alexander Drive. About a year and a half ago, she relocated to the Maryland subdivision and runs her studio out of a detached, modest studio.
It’s warm and inviting, with Deptford’s calming acrylic and water colour nature paintings adorning the walls.
On the shelves are glass-blown treasures that she designs with a print unique to each piece.
There are wine glasses, champagne flutes and window hangers that sparkle and shine.
The glass comes from Egypt and is made by an Egyptian family Deptford connected with through a mutual friend.
“It’s a grandfather, father and grandson,” Deptford says. “We do it all online and through Facebook. Technology really comes into play.”
Deptford has never actually physically met the family; they do all their business via the Internet. Deptford draws the designs for the glass and the Egyptian artists create the glass and paint it.
“The designs can be a bit of a challenge because they’re not used to going outside of their realm,” she says. “I’m pushing them to do different things. They evolve with me. It works, it works really well. They have their creativity and I add to that what I want to see, my visual concepts – we blend.”
With the glass came the idea for a wedding line – high-end glasses, decanters, as well as invitations and party favours.
The favours, which come in up to 60 different colours, and the invitations, are all hand-made by Deptford’s friend and fellow artist Laurel Taylor who makes each item individually.
“All the wedding items are handmade so people can have a wedding that’s exclusive to them,” Deptford says.
Then there’s the paintings.
Deptford’s been painting full-time since her retirement 10 years ago.
“I will do my paintings in my dreams,” she says. “I go to sleep and I paint my dreams.”
Her studio walls are full of paintings of seals, seagulls, salmon, sail boats, and even a sunflower – all inspired by her love for nature.
“My brain never quits, even just walking I’ll see something,” she says. “I’ll see the birds, I’ll see the ducks, it’s all about where you live. I was in my 30s the first time I saw the ocean and it just grabbed my heart. I was so overwhelmed. It’s like a love affair now with the environment and where I live. I’ll visit family in Alberta and when I come back home, the first place I go is to the water.”
That love of the water comes through in Deptford’s work and is illustrated by the amount of paintings that include an ocean element in her studio. Paintings that incorporate a unique technique.
“I do something no other other artist does,” she says. “I paint using hypodermic needles, water and my thumb – no paintbrushes. I paint visions of the water with my technique. It’s free flowing, there’s no limit to it. It’s almost an abstract process but it ends up being a realistic picture.
“It took me three months to figure out how to use the needles and I had to get them from the States.”
But it paid off.
Deptford has been busier than ever and she currently has art on display throughout the United States, Eastern Canada and as far away as Holland.
“So much for retirement,” she says with a smile.
While on the circuit for the community Christmas Studio Tour, she’s seen her audience grow from 200 people two Christmases ago to more than 400 last Christmas, with a line up out the door to the street.
It’s helped that she’s started selling prints – smaller versions of her paintings and at a cheaper price than the full sized pieces.
“I had 50 prints and I sold all but five at the last Christmas show,” she says. “A lot of people were saying the same thing, ‘we love your art but we just can’t afford it.’ So that gives people another option.”
However, as far as art goes, Deptford says she does try to keep her work affordable.
And at her studio she aims to have something for everyone – it’s not just an art studio but a gift studio that also sells jewelry and cards.
“It keeps evolving,” Deptford says. “If someone would have told me five years ago I’d be designing glass I would say ‘you’re nuts.’
“It’s fun, it’s a passion, it’s an absolute passion that keeps your mind active.”
Chars Arts and Gift Studio is open to the public by appointment. To arrange a visit call 250-923-8093 or email firstname.lastname@example.org