By Katie Watt
Black Star Studios
What happens when metal, glass and thread meet? You get Black Star Studios. Metal artist Cajsa Fredin; glass artist Natalie Ruby; and fabric artist Jen Abra are the three owners of the gallery and studio located in downtown Invermere. This summer on July 1st, the studio that has become known for taking the frustration out of art and replacing it with fun, and for its support for local artists, is turning 10.
“Black Star has taken on a life of its own,” says part owner of the studio, Ms. Ruby. “It has evolved over the years, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds,” she adds.
The idea for the business was born when Ms. Fredin noticed that a building space was up for lease in Invermere. At the time, she was playing with the idea of having a studio and gallery. Lucky for her, she had two friends who were also in search of a studio space at the time. On July 1st, 2009, the three women opened the gallery together.
“When we first opened, we started with 12 artists in our gallery, and now we’re up to 70,” says Ms. Abra. “That happened fast, too: within about 5 years,” she adds. Most of the artists featured in Black Star are local or have a connection to the Columbia Valley; if they’re neither of those, then they are at least Canadian. The three women also have their own unique studio spaces within the shop.
As Black Star grew older, it made strong relationships not only with artists, but with the community too. One of the ways it did this was by starting art workshops for “ages 5-99.” From there, their workshops took root throughout the community. They now hold workshops at local festivals, they facilitate teambuilding events, and if you’re looking for the perfect gift, they even have packaged, DIY versions of their lessons that include all the materials and instructions you would receive in a regular class.
When the three began their business, they never expected to become instructors, however.
“The workshops started from kids coming into the store and asking if we would teach them art,” recalls Ms. Abra. “We started with a painting of an owl in a tree, and then we thought ‘hey let’s do paper mache instead, next time someone asks’.” From there, the ideas continued to flow like watercolour paint. Over the years, they developed a schedule and they now hold daily 1 hour workshops on holidays, school breaks, and over the summer. They also have their own after school art program (not for the 99 year olds, unfortunately), they hold paint nights, and they run an art camp over summer holidays. Their summer schedule will be posted May long weekend, and visitors will be able to pre-register for events.
At 10 years old, Black Star isn’t one to skip school, either. The business has made its way into many of the local classrooms.
“They’re a fantastic resource for teachers, and as a business they’re very approachable. They’re regulars on the classroom scene for sure,” says local elementary school teacher Paulina Stankovski. “Black Star helps us complement what we’re learning in class with art.” Mrs. Stankovski’s daughter is also a regular at Black Star’s workshops.
“My daughter grew up around these guys,” she says. “She’s learned so much and has done so many projects through them, and she’ll never forget that. In a town like this that’s so heavy on sports, Blackstar is an outlet for kids that are more arty.”
As it enters adolescence, Blackstar studios is still young, fresh, and successful. After 10 years, what is it that keeps them going?
“We are all about taking the frustration out of art and promoting the fun,” says Natalie. “We do it because we love it. We are artists ourselves, and that helps us understand what our artists need. Our community has been cheering us on since day one.”
To thank the community for their support, the business will be holding free workshops for kids on Sunday, June 9th, and a free art night for adults on Monday, June 10th. The kids’ workshops will run from 10-5 p.m., and will be hosted at Black Star.
The art night event will run from 7-9 p.m., and will be hosted at the local Ullr Bar. For both events, there are only 50 spaces available. To reserve yourself a space, call 250-342-6663.