A few of our products...
That's Empressive started as a gallery that featured work by the Ojibwa painter, Nokomis, and her artsy friends...both native and non-native. The latter were folk that she'd met over the years as she criss-crossed the continent selling her wares.
But it soon became obvios...stuff not found in your average shopping mall.
Here's some of the art, the crafts and the giftware that we now have to offer...there's lots more but you'll have to walk in the door to believe it.
Nokomis - The Paintings of an Ojibwa Grandmother
The gallery is home to Nokomis, an Ojibwa grandmother who paints memories of growing up in the bush north of Lake Superior seventy years ago. Her original works hang on the walls, but she also has limited and open edition prints available as well as plaques and note cards.
Because Nokomis paints memories she knows what happened before and after anything you can see in the painting. The people she portrays have been intimately involved in her life and she tells their stories.
Every print, plaque and notecard has the story written on the back but take a moment and ask her to sit back and tell you the story yourself...you'll get way more than a few words and phrases.
One of her paintings is called The Saga of the New Stove. The story is written out on her website, but there's a sequel to that original tale and it's worthwhile coming for a visit just just to hear her tell you how it all turned out...Chapter Two, so to speak.
The gallery also has a huge selection of limited edition silkscreened prints and art cards by the artist's friends ... dozens of other native artists of the Woodland School that emerged in the footsteps of Norval Morrisseau.
Polymer Clay...also by Nokomis
Look closely at the patterns...every intricate design is made from clay that has been individually cut and pieced together! Nothing is painted. Not even the details in the faces.
These aren't clays that have been dug out of the ground. They're man-made polymers that are manufactured in standard primary colours then mixed by the artist to the particular shade or hue that compliments her designs.
The artist builds patterns that run the entire length of a long tube so that each slice is identical to the next and the next. The technique, though invented by the Chinese glass bead makers more than 2000 years ago, was adopted by the Italian glass industry in the fifteenth century and is known as mille fiore...thousand flowers.
Each pin, or necklace or keychain is unique. The artist says that when she makes her "lady" pins it's like playing dolls...as she browses the canes that are filed in tiny drawers in her studio it's like looking in the closet to see what the ladies will wear that day.
Lots of choices here, but there's a definite emphasis on the bold and the chunky as opposed to the delicate and dainty.
Single, double and triple strand necklaces...some with large pendants, some with "pearls" and other shiny bits...are already on the shelves and more are on the way.
There are earrings to match the necklaces but they sell quickly...so if you see something you like, don't hesitate if you want a matching set.
The stretchy bracelets are to die for...every colour combination you can think of. Some muted, some flamboyant, some in colours that probably go perfectly with something that you already have in your closet. Prices vary according to the number and size of the beads.
Check out the watches, rings and keychains at the same time.
And remember that we always carry a large selection of jewelry organizers...some are stand alone, some are designed to hang on your wall.
Lilach Lotan Ceramics
Lilach’s first encounter with clay was in 2000 when she studied Ceramics Design in Israel’s top art school – the Bezalel Academy. After graduation she and her husband Ron immigrated to Canada.
She's introduced a fresh spirit into the local pottery scene and has defined a signature style. Lilach’s work continues to evolve and change and has recently devoted herself to mastering porcelain, and utilizing it to create lighhting fixtures.
In 2005 Lilach Lotan was the first non American to win the coveted Niche Award given out by the Rosen Group, organizers of the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, and publishers of NICHE and American Style magazines. She received the award in the category best described as the most marketable functional ceramics. She repeated the performance the following year!
Also in 2006 she was declared the most promising emerging artist by Ceramics Monthly magazine and two of her pieces have recently been featured in “500 Pitchers” and "500 Plates and Chargers" by Lark Books, distributed worldwide.
Gary McKague's Raku Boxes, Plaques and Ornaments
Gary McKague is a friend of mine. He's been on the Canadian craft show circuit for way more years than he wants to admit. When my own legs worked properly I used to see him unloading his crates in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and the smaller shows in between.
Nowadays he lives on the shores of Lake Winnipeg where he fires his hand-built raku boxes, plaques and sculpted ornaments in a barrel on the beach.
Gary's themes are truly Canadian...polar bears with attitude, geese on the wing, buffalo on the move and Inuit drummers and dancers.
Each piece is entirely handbuilt - no molds allowed. The boxes are intricately cut to fit together perfectly and each orament is individually sculpted and glazed.
Voyager Art and Tile
Brian MacArthur and Dawn Detarando are the talent behind this ceramic studio located in Central Alberta.
Both have been traditionally schooled in the Fine Arts and have been working together as a team for more than 12 years.
Dawn taught at College and University levels and even now gives lectures, workshops and demonstrations in the ceramic arts. She recently won the Lieutenant Governor General Emerging Artist Award for 2009.
In her studio she is inspired by her prairie surroundings and the more distant mountains to the west. Using metaphors and a symbolic vocabulary of clay objects, she most often produces sculpture that expresses a need to migrate or travel.
Brian graduated from the Red Deer College Arts program in 1992, attained a BFA from the University of Regina in 1994 and has an MFA from The Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio in 1997.
His new ceramic sculpture is recognized and exhibited nationally and internationally.
Brian’s work focuses on Canadian heritage and folklore, and their importance in our national identity. He uses humour and approachable subject matter to create an engaging accessibility for the viewers...as in the ceramic canoe laden with Tim Horton donuts and carried by two other Canadian icons...beaver.
When you visit my store think garden and gifts, gadgets and goodies and...SOAP...the most amazing stuff you’ll ever see!
It’s handmade by a woman who’s figured out how to make a hybrid mixture of vegetable glycerin look like semi-precious stones that have been freshly mined from the earth.
Amethyst, opal, jasper, malachite, rose quartz, turquoise - on and on.
The price will make your eyes bulge out...$15 each!!!! I had serious doubts about my own sanity when I phoned in the order.
But then I opened up the first shipment and knew I had a winner. The colours aren’t just gorgeous...they’re layered and melded together in a way that makes the soap look like real ore. How does she do that?
While I was still unpacking the boxes, a grizzled looking rancher came into the shop. He lives down the road...quite aways over on the Saskatchewan side of the Red Deer River.
It seems that his wife had him living in the dog house and he was trying to find a gift that would get him back on her good side. He was really taken by the soap...bought two bars without blinking an eye.
And the purchase must have really done the trick. He not only made it back into the matrimonial bedroom, but seems to have shared his technique with his partner in crime...another guy on the far side of seventy. I know this because two days later his friend and neighbour showed up looking for “that rock soap that the women like”.
Like his buddy, this second gentleman also purchased two bars of soap...one for his wife and one for himself. He explained, that he’d come directly from pulling a calf free of it’s mother and thought he could use a good wash.
He also purchased
two of our new
Must have been a hot
time in the old town
Past Times Pottery
Darn...it's hard to tell from my photograph, but that image on the left is a handbuilt- pot and the face and hat are part of the lid.
The artist, Rita Watkins, works in her California studio surrounded by orchards and vineyards and that makes me wonder what I'm doing here in Rattlesnake Gulch, Alberta.
Although she's received formal training in the use of acrylics, oils and watercolours Rita's work in clay has evolved from experience and experiments. Her technique of layering underglazes achieves the painterly style that decorates her pottery and tiles.
Rita's "Paper Doll Collection" is inspired by the vintage fashion paper dolls of her childhood but are named after friends and family members.
Silk Slippers and Handbags
The lady who makes these started out a dozen years ago by making slippers just for herself...but people were literally buying them off her feet! She started a little business but it soon exploded. So she hired sewers (but of course has always created the designs and chosen the fabrics herself) and began not only to sell at craft shows but to wholesale to retailers like myself. Well.....not EXACTLY like myself.
I met her when I was doing a show in Atlanta Georgia. I really, really wanted a pair of slippers for myself so thought I'd place a small order and get my own slippers wholesale! Good idea. But she politely told me that because she was overwhelmed with orders that nowadays she only sold to very upscale boutiques...as in Park Avenue in New York City, Rodeo Drive in Hollywood and of course, Palm Springs.
Without blinking and with a straight face I immediately said, "But That's Empressive is a very well known gallery. People come from all over western Canada to shop in my store."
That is true. I just didn't say how many people.
Anyway, she let me place a small order. The slippers, of course were a big hit. Especially because I took them with me to the Christmas Market at Spruce Meadows in Calgary and sold out.
The following year I spent at least two weeks in October planning my Christmas slipper order. On an Excel spreadsheet I calculated/guestimated how many I'd need in the various size and colour combinations. When I finally phoned in the order I think I must have been dictating for at least a half an hour when she finally interrupted and asked...."Where's Empress?"
"It's north of Medicine Hat", I said.
"Medicine what?!", she said.
Seems that I out-sold Rodeo Drive in Hollywood that year and I just bet that as soon as I hung up she googled "Empress, Alberta" and is still in shock.
How about an accessory upgrade?
We suggest you mix up a pair of shorts or breezy skirt, a white tee shirt and a glitter hat to stay cool and look cool all summer long.
These hats are all glitter and girl...the adjustable velcro back even has room for a pony tail.
They come in a dos and the textured fabric and sequins give just the right amount of glitz to make your outfit intantly fabulous!
Western Themed Giftware
We live in cowboy country...real straight-leg jeans, dirt on the boots, ropes in the trucks, kind of cowboy country...so of course we had to bring in some western giftware.
When you come to town you're more than likely to meet a couple of our real life characters...lady wranglers, professional bullriders, and farm wives who really do raise chickens, sell eggs, bake bread, swing the 'nut bucket' during a branding and in their spare time teach school.
If it's pouring rain the farmers and ranchers can't work, so come for an early morning coffee and listen to the conversation.
When some of these old characters sit down for coffee we could film Corner Gas without ever writing a script!
This is just a sampling of what we have on our shelves. Come for a visit but plan to spend the day because there's lots to see ... Sagebrush Studios, the Drive-by Catalogue House Tour, Acadia Valley Elevator Museum and Crafts Shop and the Great Sand Hills.
Here's some info about other Empress Artisans