Coast Salish Christmas craft market goes virtual for the 2020 holiday season

The event hosted by the Museum of Surrey features 43 vendors selling homemade goods

Elinor Atkins, freelance artist and vendor in this year’s Coast Salish Christmas craft market (submitted).

The Coast Salish Christmas craft market went virtual this year, so folks could still participate and support local businesses this holiday season.

Hosted by the Coast Salish Arts & Cultural Society and the Museum of Surrey for the third year, the market is running from Nov. 12 until Dec. 19 and features 43 vendors, selling everything from art and home decor to fashion, kitchen and bath accessories, jewellery, and homemade gifts.

“There’s a real diversity of vendors,” says Sandra Borger, the visitor experience coordinator at the Museum of Surrey. “You can find something for five dollars. You can find something for a few hundred dollars.”

Describing her work as “contemporary Coast Salish style art,” Elinor Atkins’ Indigenous heritage shines in each piece of artwork (submitted).

Due to COVID-19, the decision to transition the event online was made in the summer. The museum has a webpage where links are provided to vendors’ social media and websites. Customers can explore a variety of items via photo gallery and then contact the vendor directly if they’re interested in inquiring about or purchasing a product.

“The Museum of Surrey is a people museum,” says Borger. “We are by the people of Surrey, for the people of Surrey, reflecting the people of Surrey.”

Borger says they “are really grateful and honoured” to have close relationships with local INdigenous creators and that aside from the market, the museum has also worked with the Coast Salish Arts & Cultural Society to showcase Indigenous art, demonstrations, and voices.

“The craft fair just sort of came up naturally out of our existing relationship,” she says.

Art by Elinor Atkins (submitted).

There’s a number of returning vendors, but also a crop of newcomers. Borger says one benefit to going virtual is the infinite amount of space, whereas the museum can only accommodate 20 to 25 vendors.

“It’s definitely a privilege. I’m excited because I’m just starting off in my journey,” says Elinor Atkins, a freelance artist and second-time participant of the Christmas craft market. “I’m an emerging artist, and so any kind of opportunity for exposure is amazing, and especially as an Indigenous artist, I think there needs to be more representation.”

Of Coast Salish and Kwantlen heritage, her traditional name is Miməwqθelət, which translates to “the song the first bird sings in the morning.” Atkins says her love for art was nurtured by her parents, and recalls childhood photos where her “feet weren’t even touching the ground, and [she] was sitting there, drawing.”

Art by Elinor Atkins (submitted).

She describes her artistic passion as “contemporary Coast Salish-style art” and “neo-traditional tattoo style.”

“Elinor is fantastic,” says Borger. “She’s so young, and so talented.”

A unique challenge faced by the craft market will be the lack of an in-person sensory experience that people have when physically shopping, and a loss of human interaction where Atkins and customers would discuss her art together.

Borger says that making sure the links to vendors’ socials and webpages are active is time consuming, but “so worth it.”

Atkins feels the virtual market gives her more freedom,as her catalogue of artwork is online, and she’s not restricted by physical space.“I think it gives people more of an idea of the range of work I’m capable of doing,” she says.

Art by Elinor Atkins (submitted).

The craft market has been quite successful in previous years, and both Borger and Atkins are optimistic this year’s market will also be a hit, especially due to the prevalence of online shopping and the trendiness of buying locally-sourced gifts.

Craft vendors typically sell their products from October to December, but due to the pandemic, in-person markets have been temporarily shut down, which diminishes artists’ sources of income. Borger says the cornerstone of the market is promoting local business people who are going through a tough time.

“Our mission is to connect diverse voices together,” says Borger.

People interested in exploring this year’s Christmas craft market can do so on the Museum of Surrey’s webpage.