It had always been Gail Sweeny’s dream to create a place for local artisans to shine.
That dream finally came to fruition when Sweeny opened Green Sheep Gallery in the heart of Armstrong.
“Local artisans are not always found or recognized or have the ability to sell their work,” Sweeny said. “I wanted to have a place where artisans would have the opportunity to have their work in a gallery. I needed a place to help other artisans elevate their work.”
Sweeny’s intimate shop, located at 3410 Okanagan Street, has its roots in her work as a fibre artist for her company, Green Sheep Fibre, which she has taken on the road to juried shows from coast to coast.
“I specialize in felting with silk. Felting with silk is my jam,” Sweeny laughed. “I’m very tactile. I love the organic feel of it. No matter how hard you try to make it what you want, it holds onto its own thing. You definitely have control, but sometimes you don’t and that’s probably what I love best of working with silk and wool.”
While she has worked almost exclusively with fibres for the past 18 years, Sweeny’s love of crafts blossomed when her mother, a master spinner and weaver, taught her how to knit when she was six-years-old.
“I’ve been an artisan my whole life,” Sweeny said, adding that she’s dabbled in everything from pottery to soap-making.
When choosing work for the shop, Sweeny relies on her lifelong love of the craft.
“It’s really my own eye, my own feeling. I’ve had amazing things walk through the door,” she said. “I try to accept or reject from a place of kindness because I want to encourage people. I don’t want to ever discourage anyone.”
Drawing from her own experiences as a self-taught artist, Sweeny said that everyone has a journey to follow with their art, and, if an artisan’s work doesn’t fit in the gallery now, they should keep their spirits up and try again.
“That’s the only way you can bring the positive energy in, is to be open,” Sweeny said.
Green Sheep Gallery currently features the work of about 10 artisans with various mediums including painting, jewelry, pottery, sculptures and quilts.
“I want things that are unique, I want things that individual. I want things people have never seen. That’s the kind of thing that appeals to me,” Sweeny said. “I’d like an eclectic mix. I like people to be able to come in and see something different.”
With Green Sheep Gallery, Sweeny said she has blurred the lines between a gallery and a store to put the focus on the artisans.
“I will represent their work in a real way. I love it. I respect it. It’s not just about selling to make a commission. To pass on the love of their work to a customer or client, for their stories to match up, that means a lot to me,” Sweeny said.
“I believe everything you make by hand has a story and energy is attached to that piece. I’ve always loved the story of crafts. Story is so important. I honestly think people buy the story — that’s the reason people are attracted to art in the first place.”
Green Sheep Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artisans are welcome to drop in and meet Sweeny for the chance to display their work. For more information about upcoming exhibitions current work on display, visit Green Sheep Gallery on Facebook.