With a background in consumer product development Whitney Haynes has narrowed her niche to craft jewelry design in silver and leather. She has been creating jewelry for more then 6 years, with an acute focus over the past 4 years. Inherent in Whitney’s art are influences from her life as an outdoor enthusiast and a reflection of the essence of what she refers to as “my” Canada. Her design philosophy encompasses all things “Local” and “Canadiana in Nature”. Whitney strives to embrace local talent, to collaborate, connect and create. Find her exhibiting her handcrafted pieces and collections at the next month’s Artfest Kingston.
1. Tell us about yourself, your background with respect to fashion, jewellery and the creative arts. How did you come to call Kingston home?
I left Toronto after living there for 17 years. I worked as a product developer/buyer for various Canadian food companies and returned to my hometown of Kingston with my husband and kids 14 years ago. I started making and selling my jewelry about 7 years ago, I had no previous experience making anything but was looking for a creative way to make a living on my own terms. I picked jewelry making because people were liking what I was making for myself and as gifts for my family and I enjoyed the process very much. I am a mother of two, about to become an empty nester or as I see it unfolding a creative junkie holing up in my new studio down at The Tett Center for Creativity and Learning. I love the name they gave the Tett because I fit the bill, I am creative but have so much I want to learn. I grew up in Kingston, my husband grew up in Toronto, he fell in love with Kingston when visiting my family here. It was a pretty easy decision to pick up and leave Toronto even though employment was a big question mark for me. Luckily with some determination to find something I was decent at and had a passion for combined with a will not to return to corporate live I found a way to happily make a living.
My professional background has little to do with fashion, jewelry or creative arts, being a product developer for Costco was as a creative process but not one where I used my own hands. I grew up in a creative household, my mom always had crafts on the go and my sister Heather Haynes drew obsessively into her university days where she fell in love with painting. I for sure was around creative types but considered myself a jock and outdoor adventurer, not in the least bit creative.
2. Up until this past Spring, you shared gallery and retail space with your sister Heather who has now relocated her shop to Gananoque. How did this move impact and change how you do business?
When I learned that the gallery space would no longer be available to us to be honest I felt it was not the worst thing to happen, the timing seemed good for the next stage of both Heather and my business. I wanted to develop an on line store, grow into other markets through vending at craft shows and have time to develop more silversmith skills, when I worked retail hours along with making all my product on days off at my home studio there left little time to work on the rest of that. The gallery served me very, very well I could not have developed my brand as quickly any other way, there is a huge bonus to make and be able to sell your own creations, people love to get to know their makers and I love to get to know my customers. So since the closing of the gallery I have done a pop up show, had a small Mother’s Day Sale in my new studio space a the Tett and attended an outdoor Artfest show in Port Credit this past spring. My biggest challenge has been trying to get the word out that I have a new home that old and new customers are welcome to visit to purchase or place orders from. I believe it will happen in good time, in the meantime I am getting a chance to learn new skills and create new lines to keep my brand fresh.
3. When outlining the shake up for you and your business on your website, you underscore your desire to maintain a strong presence in downtown Kingston. Have you found a solution yet? Why is it so important for you to continue doing business downtown?
I wanted to maintain a presence in downtown for a couple of reasons. Number one I love being part of the downtown, shop local scene. We are a strong community of hard working creative people that receive great support from the local neighbor hoods. It is more than a trend that is happening with buying locally made and shopping independent merchants, it is a movement and I love being part of that both as a consumer and local maker. My great grandfather and then my grandfather ran a local business on Princess St for many decades, shopping local and downtown was instilled in me at a very young age, I like the idea of trying to continue that tradition in my own way.
4. You work primarily out of a home studio in Kingston. Can you describe your setup, and give us a sense of both the satisfaction and challenges you’ve encountered working from home?
Until recently I worked in a home studio in the basement. I loved it for the first few years of doing business because I was home with my family on days I was not working the gallery but toward the end I was finding my space limiting and therefore not as productive as I would like. The option to move into the Tett came at the perfect time, when I needed better space to work in and space to display and sell my jewelry from. For a wee bit of time when I was in between the gallery and my new space I realized quickly having people to my home and delivering orders to others homes was not going to be practical for my business. Now that my kids will both be gone to university I will not be missing time at home with them, so everything is working out really well.
5. As one of over 150 exhibitors and artisans participating in Artfest Kingston, what attracted to you to exhibit your pieces at the festival? What unique items do you hope to bring along to tempt buyers?
Artfest is a big outdoor show for Kingston, which attracts great crowds. Why wouldn’t I want to be part of that? They do a beautiful job of selecting a great mix of vendors from around Ontario, they create a fun market atmosphere with art activities for all ages, live music from local musicians and good local food fare.
Attending the show this year is more important then ever for me. I have customers who have been asking when I will have a full compliment of my jewelry again, I told then to come see me at Artfest, that I would have lots of stock again, so it will be nice to make some decent sales since closing the gallery. Maybe more important than that is letting people know were I have relocated to and have them understand that they can shop from my new studio/workspace anytime. As for what I will be selling this time around: my Birch & Sterling Line, many new leather wrist wraps, lots of hand stamped cuff rings and pendants and a great display of colourful fun summer Tassel necklaces.
6. Finally, what are your expectations for this year’s festival? Do you see yourself taking a break and making the rounds? If so, what types of exhibitors/performers will likely catch your eye?
I look forward to meeting new vendors at this summer’s Artfest, as I have not attended it for the past two years due to time commitments in the gallery. I will try to do some shopping for birthdays and Christmas and perhaps if I have a helper from time to time, I will take in the local music scene. I love sampling food products and bringing home goodies for my pantry as well. Artfest is a great addition to our city. They promote the arts, attract tourists and provide great free entertainment for the community during Canada Day Celebrations.