By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY –Two Garden River arts and crafts exhibitors recently discovered a new market at the 15th Annual Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Xmas Gift Show and Sale in Thunder Bay.
“This is our first year up here in Thunder Bay and we’re having quite the experience,” says Michael Nolan, who drove up to Thunder Bay with Anthony Perreault on Dec. 2. “I ran out of sweetgrass and sage, that’s a pretty big seller, on the first day.”
Nolan sells a variety of traditional crafts, including dreamcatchers up to three feet in diameter that were created by his partner Darlene (Trudeau) Nolan.
“She’s been making dreamcatchers her whole life,” Nolan says. “I don’t think there is anybody who can make dreamcatchers like my wife does.”
Nolan creates his own style of medicine wheels and he sells a selection of Jordan Nolan hockey cards, ranging from $3 up to $100. Jordan is Nolan’s first cousin.
“My wife’s mother does some beadwork and I got into beading last year,” Nolan says. “I made five medallions and they all sold quickly. It’s a lot of time and patience to do beadwork, but it’s wonderful work.”
Nolan says about 90 per cent of his crafts are made by Darlene, his mother-in-law and himself.
“We’ll buy CDs, and I’m getting into clothing, sweaters,” Nolan says.
Nolan says the eight-and-a-half hour drive up to Thunder Bay is unusual for him and Perreault, as they usually travel no more than three hours from Sault Ste. Marie.
“I do Rama every year and I did Six Nations this year for the first time,” Nolan says. “Six Nations is a very big Pow-Wow. I’ll definitely be going back there again.”
Perreault enjoys meeting and talking with people in new places on the Pow-Wow trail during the summer and at conferences during the winter.
“We have a store in Garden River called The Family Tree, so we take what we can on the road with us,” Perreault says, noting the store’s main customers are Anishinabe from around the Great Lakes. “We have smudge bowls, purses, jackets, moccasins, mukluks, wallets. We also sell soaps and lotions, we’ve got air fresheners.”
Perreault sources his soap products from a Native family in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“It’s a good seller,” Perreault says. “It’s subtle, not strong like other (soap) we’ve had before. Soaps are $5, lotions are $8. I brought up a whole bunch and that’s what I’ve got left, barely anything. This is a good show; I’ve sold lots.”
Perreault and Nolan plan to return to the Aboriginal Fine Arts and Crafts Christmas Gift Show and Sale next year. This year’s sale ran from Dec. 2-6 at the Victoriaville Centre.
“There’s lots of moccasins and gloves here, really nice beaded work from these Native ladies … from the northern communities,” Perreault says. “It’s really good stuff — I’m hoping to buy some with a discount price so I can bring them back to my store and sell them there. There’s lots of people looking for gloves around Christmas time.”
Perreault says supply and demand plays a big role in his business, noting he is selling his abalone shells for $20.
“I brought up 16, I have 11 left,” Perreault says. “I’ll hopefully get rid of them today because we’re heading home tonight.”
Perreault says his portable credit-debit card reader is an advantage when people do not have enough cash with them to make a purchase.
“I’ve made a couple of thousand in sales just with that machine at this venue,” Perreault says.