June 18th, 2024

Artisans spread their wings at Handmade Market

By Dale Woodard on June 29, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard - Anshul Fernando, owner and artist of Butterfly Art, tends to his booth at the Lethbridge Handmade Market Saturday afternoon at the Exhibition Park.

It was truly a hands-on experience Saturday at the Lethbridge Exhibition North Pavilion.
With the province mere days removed from unveiling Stage 3 of its Open For Summer initiative as Alberta seeks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic of the past 15 months, the 23rd Lethbridge Handmade Market set up shop for a one-day event.
While the market was able to hold four events last year in the midst of the pandemic, as well as another in April, Lethbridge Handmade Market owner Jessy Gust noted it’s good to see a little light at the end of the COVID tunnel.
“After doing four during COVID and having to pivot our business a lot, artisans are very happy to be back and very happy to see normalcy in the future,” she said. “We’re starting to drop restrictions. We normally have a music stage and a lot of hands-on activities for families. We’re looking forward to bringing that back slowly and bringing back music.”
Over 80 artisans proudly displayed their handmade wares at the one-day event Saturday.
There was even some solo live entertainment.
“We have a live cellist, over $2,200 worth of handmade door prizes and a kids-wide scavenger hunt throughout the market to keep the kids involved while their parents are shopping,” said Gust, adding customer traffic was consistent at the event which ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “We have vendors from all over Canada, but a lot from Lethbridge and southern Alberta.”
Another handmade market will be held Aug. 7 and in the fall as Lethbridge Handmade Market celebrates its fifth anniversary.
“We’re very excited going into our fifth year,” said Gust. “As an artisan myself, I never imagined for it to grow and stay this long. It’s been an amazing five years and we looking forward to having another five years.”
Among the artisans on hand for Saturday’s market was Anshul Fernando, owner and artist of Butterfly Art from Calgary.
“I’ve been running this as a business since 1997 and I’ve been a collector since 1981,” said Fernando, who does the mounting and framing of his work with his wife, Stefanie. “I’ve been traveling the world looking for butterflies my whole life. I’ve been to 29 countries and now I’ve set up 24 farms around the world where I teach the locals how to grow the species we’re interested in. That way we can do it sustainably and have perfect quality to offer to the market place.”
Growing up in Australia, Fernando became fascinated with the butterflies and insects there.
When he moved to Calgary in 1981, Fernando said there was a migration path of butterflies in the heart of Calgary.
“My mom made me a net and I would catch them and put them in shoeboxes,” he said. “I had to figure out how to preserve them.”
Fernando met a door-to-door salesman who was selling butterflies, unmounted and folded up in little paper envelopes.
“I had no idea how to spread them and he came over and showed me,” he said. “It took me a few years to master it and I put over 10,000 hours into mastering my craft. Now I can spread any invertebrate and I’m very proud of my quality.”
Fernando ‘s booth at Saturday’s market had roughly 300 species ranging from the tropics of South America, Africa and Asia, but also had local species such as dragon flies, as well as monarchs and tiger swallowtails.
Fernando now looks to get his business back into flight after the pandemic.
“It’s our bread and butter,” he said. “For us having the lockdown it has a huge negative impact. Not just on our family, but all the families we support through our business. We’re very glad things are opening up because we want to be able to continue what we’re doing.”
The past 15 months have been challenging both personally and professionally for Fernando.
“We’ve had family members who had died of COVID and suppliers who have died of COVID,” he said. “COVID has directly touched our lives, so when we see the world starting to change and we have this virus under control and we can now get back to life, we can look forward to something and have hope.”
With Lethbridge being a regular stop on Fernando’s circuit across Canada, it was good to be back Saturday.
“We’ve been very happy with it,” he said. “This is an excellent show. We have large following and then there are lots of people who appreciate handmade art and the come and support us.”
Fernando said he’ll be heading up to Grande Prairie next.
“There are very few shows opening up, so we have to pick and choose the ones we go to,” he said. “Other than that, we’ll be back in Lethbridge in August and back here again September because there’s a tattoo show here as well.
“Lethbridge is one of our top cities in Canada.”

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