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A creative tradition

Samples of crafts at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design

From the shelves of top North American retailers to the arms of fashionistas in Hollywood and Cannes, Cape Breton crafts are getting around these days —thanks to a local centre that’s successfully positioning craft as a “must have” product …

For 40 years, the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design has been educating students, residents and visitors about Cape Breton heritage crafts—while helping the island’s artisans achieve success on the global stage.

The impressive 14,000 square foot facility in Sydney plays a pivotal role in the island’s creative economy, selling the work of more than 70 Cape Breton artisans, and its New York-style third floor loft often plays host to travelling exhibits in partnership with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

But it also does much more.

“We work with craft businesses throughout the whole island,” explains Carol Beaton, executive director.

“Business skills, entrepreneurship development, workshops and seminars ―we help crafters broaden their market, their business and help market the craft sector as a whole.”

As a result, companies like Galloping Cows of Port Hood, a gourmet preserves company, are growing. They were picked up recently by

Likewise, Larch Wood Enterprises of East Margaree sells its heirloom cutting boards through many of North America’s top kitchen retailers, including Holt Renfrew and Williams Sonoma.

And Michique Fine Apparel of Sydney sells its signature hand-crafted bags and accessories worldwide. 

And those are just a few of their local success stories.

One of the Centre’s most successful projects has been the Artisan Trail Map, depicting the locations of several artists around the island. Building on the success of this map, a mobile phone app was launched in summer 2012, aimed at helping tourists plan an engaging and interactive visit to the Island.

The Centre’s Gallery Shop has also welcomed increased cruise ship visitor traffic thanks to a new hop on/hop off bus tour adding the Centre to its list of stops. And plans are in the works for a ring-making workshop for couples wanting to make their own custom wedding rings in the Centre’s metal studio.

Carol believes none of this would be possible without the help of ACOA.

“Their support not only of our facility but other cultural facilities throughout the island has laid a strong foundation to grow and develop,” she says.

“A number of our artists have been in business for over 30 years and are getting close to retirement. Our Centre is an opportunity to help our youth develop into the artists of tomorrow.”

With such commitment, supporting the creative process may become a traditional art, as well.

Published December 11, 2012