Saturday, 15 March 2014

Arts' Gallery and Future Prospects

     Inspiring individuals can expand a city’s cultural footprint by drawing like-minded people under a welcoming umbrella. Don Bayes, a savvy artisan and businessman first partnered with Carol Kajorine last November to form the home of Hide 5 Leather and Pike Lake Forge at 12 St. Paul St. in the North Core. The space is called Arts’ Gallery.
     Joyce Seppala who creates unique and fantastic clothing designs and Steve Godin who creates fine woodworks, are both in the process of setting up shop with Don and Carol. This gang also continues to work Saturday mornings at the Thunder Bay Country Market in the Dorothy Dove Building on the CLE Grounds.
      Unlike other umbrella organizations that have come and gone, Don is a sensible organizer and salesman whose discerning ability includes finding talented people who create original works of art that are folk-functional, decorative, trendy and contemporary.
    Don has begun an artistic and commercial venture sure to surprise and please these artist’s fans, and any other patron of the arts. Set up like a gallery with a couple working studios and room at the back for classes, the space has also has a retail vibe that is funky, spacious, and less cluttered than most retail shops. It is also dotted with works by other contributing artists and there are more artists to come.
     Don himself is branching out, experimenting with his leather works, taking on challenges and finding inspiration from artists around him, including Carol Kajorine, whose metal works blend both functional and fine art so well that it takes a moment to figure out whether some of her pieces are art or art and some kind of display to host jewelry or wrist bands for sale.
     Don wants to help expand Thunder Bay’s artistic development in stages, beginning with classes offered in the space to eventually developing a school. He is inspired by the success he sees in Grand Marais with the North House Folk School. This school not only assures that Grand Marais’ history remains relevant, it offers its residents a way to fully integrate into their community with hand made creations.   
     Don’s folk school concept for the North Core could be really valuable. Much like teaching someone to fish, teaching people how to make original things keeps the mind and soul healthy and can even make one a little dough. A folk school would also be a great tourist stop for Thunder Bay. Don is thinking big. Thinking big is what Thunder Bay is getting good at.  
     “We want to take culture out of the Walmart world, take us out of the consumer society and create something that is close to home and built to last,” says Don. “We want to provide value for our clients by creating something that is less commercial. I want them to come back, but not for the same item.”
     As an example of one of the artists in the space, Don has been a leatherworker for over 40 years, producing mostly one-of-a-kind creations like handware for blade blanks. He’s got Damascus skinning knives, popular to use on deer, moose, caribou - whatever. He’s begun employing chainmail for leatherwork. He makes men’s and women’s wear, from buckskins to bikinis. His corset design with cincher on the waist is similar to the fantastic steam punk style. Some works employ porcupine quills. He’s creating unique lamps that sport top hats. When pressed, he had trouble finding one overall unique item. He strolls the space pointing to various items, which stand out amongst items that are also trendy. Being the savvy businessman Don caters to both the unique and what’s hip.
     When asked about interesting customers he bursts into a laugh. “From hunters and fishermen to the BDSM society!” he declares. Don describes pieces he’s created for use in historical reenactments. “We get them all, man!”

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