Erin Boniferro for Collage Collage
Sometimes a glue-stick is just a glue-stick. Other times a glue-stick is the eldest sibling in a family of crayons, paintbrushes, bells, butterfly wings, googly eyes, glitter and spoons. Sound ridiculous? Not to Erin Boniferro, owner, curator and event coordinator of Collage Collage, Vancouver’s wee arts & crafts utopia. Come, fill your glass with cider, pop two jellybeans and let’s talk shop.
Tell me about your first event.
The store's opening was an event, and the opening of the first show where I asked artists to choose one of their own works from childhood. It was awesome, and really good for a laugh. Nice to get everyone on the same level, and let my young audience see that their works looked a lot like the artists and designers when they were small.
Are the kids are more creative when their parents are at the table with them, or is there really no difference?
Kids are clever. They can be very different depending on whether their folks are around – both positive and negative. I see the challenge for most parents in being supportive without doing things for them, and this skill varies from parent to parent as they also build confidence in how to get creative themselves. They’re also learning about their kid everyday, adjusting to what they do and don't need help with.
Do you get a sense that this new generation of youngsters is more carefree and creative than those in the past? Perhaps this is best determined by comparing your friends and yourself at that age.
That's a great question. I find that attention spans are shorter - I'm sure for a number of reasons - and I worry sometimes that kids aren’t getting a chance to feel the kind of boredom needed to figure themselves out. Remember getting sent outside without any toys? Just sent out to play? I think we're missing that. I think the whole DIY culture is great for this because it means that parents are getting back into making things and kids are watching this, wanting to try for themselves. I love my folks, but they weren't crafty.
My grandmother was, and my Opa could draw like no one else, but I think I got a lot of chances to explore creativity without having to be so formal.
Can you give us a nugget of wisdom that a child has imparted to you?
I try my best to introduce the kids to as many contemporary artists as I can. This leads some of them to believe that we're all friends, and it's hilarious to me because, let's face it, there's just no way in the world I'm going to personally know any of these folks. The kids however, interpret the lessons about them, and the information about their art as coming directly from them through me. It means that they ask me things like, "Does your friend Nick Cave always make these sound suits?" or "Will you ask Miranda July why she wants us to make banners for our friends all the time?". I love that they make this direct link to the artists.
As far as nuggets of wisdom go, I am blessed with zingers on a regular basis. Yesterday, a five-year-old told me that, "this place has really good service, you should be very proud of yourself." And my favorite: "Erin, you're a good artist and you have nice hair."
I imagine a "strictly kids" art show as being the most perfect exhibit of all. No fear, all fun. Nobody sits in rational judgment because nobody has learned how! Have you done or thought of doing an art show like this? Or would that be silly? I'm curious because I've never come across one that isn't related to a school system.
I've done a couple here at the store, one with Dickens School after a visiting artist came in to assist with a photo project. Another with works taken from some of our “crafternoon” programs. I've always thought about asking a few kids to do shows in between the curated shows, and I think it would be great. Let's chat!
How does music fit into the picture? Has there been instrument making? Like a wee-jam session?
I'd love to have more music in the picture. I have made guitars and banjos and it's always, always a hit. We've had a booth at the Folk Fest for the past 2 years, actually. I'm trying to nail a date down with a friend who plays the Ukulele for a wee jam session, and I recently had "Murder Burger" play at the store. It’s a two-piece girl band, ages 9 and 11.
We spoke a little bit about art books for adults (John Baldessari), art books for kids (Robert Munsch) and the overlap. Artists such as Marcel Dzama & Julie Morstad are great examples of occupying the area of overlap. What do you think is present in their work, an energy that activates or an ingredient that speaks to the ageless age?
I don't think you can pin down a single attribute that makes something super exciting for all ages. Certainly some of Dzama's work would be far too violent to show to little children, and some of Julie's imagery is a little more spooky than the works she does for kid's books. What I'm trying to do at the store is curate a book collection that includes works I find interesting, challenging, beautiful, interesting or relevant. Of course all these things don't apply to each and every book in the shop, but I do get a kick out of having Baldessari and sparkle glue in the same space.
What are you looking forward to in the New Year?
I'm looking forward to adding new classes for kids and adults, and working out the details on some Collage Party nights for grown-ups. Also, I'm expanding some of the lines that I carry, and working on some more custom kits for the shop. And I just starting talking to this gal about more music in the store, so we'll see where that leads!
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