We’ve all been there, travelling to another city, province, or country and looking for the perfect token we can bring back to represent our experiences and remind us of our adventures. Sure, many still do the infamous “someone who loves me very much went to NL and bought me this t-shirt,” but for the most part, tourists are seeking a little more character in their souvenirs. Now more than ever, visitors are attracted to items that reflect our local culture, and craft producers are listening and delivering.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Craft Council (NLCC) highlights the importance of culture for tourists visiting our island: “There are so many aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador culture that are uniquely ours, and visitors expect to experience those when they are here. By designing craft that draws inspiration from these cultures and traditions, we are creating objects that tourists will attach those memories and experiences to. Therefore, it is incredibly important that the quality of the handmade product is extremely high to meet the expectations of the discerning visitor.”
Artisans from all over the province recognize the demand for uniquely Newfoundland and Labrador products, as well as the need to showcase our land and our history, and they work diligently to produce appropriate products. Janis Evans, one of the owners of The Roost, located in York Harbour, acknowledges that need: “Each artisan represented by our shop has a unique Newfoundland story to tell through their craft. Visitors want to hear these stories. It’s our job to make the connection.” The Roost is a gift shop and gallery that offers many crafts inspired by this place, including hooked rugs, watercolours of local scenery, jewellery made with handmade glass beads and sea glass, and other sea glass creations, including sculptures.
This province is rich in many resources—incorporating true Newfoundland and Labrador materials and techniques into their work has been a successful enterprise for artisans and crafters, one for which demand is on the rise. The NLCC says “there is a need to create high-quality, authentic craft that reflects the region, for visitors to take home with them. Artisans pull inspiration from the local surroundings and cultural traditions to design craft objects that reflect a tourist’s experience. Craft is an integral part of the fabric that is Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Natasha Canning, co-owner of Slippers ’n Things in Happy Valley–Goose Bay, also prides herself on providing items made with genuine Newfoundland and Labrador components. The business is a large provider of sealskin products such as slippers, hats, jackets, and more, but also offers innovative crafts using Labradorite, a feldspar mineral that is rich in colour and associated with Inuit lore. Natasha stresses that “people love the products that we make, but it’s not just the product itself. It’s the manufacturing process, it’s the story we tell, it’s what the craft represents. We are not just selling a product; we are selling an emotion.”
Making a personal connection is the reason visitors revel in our customs, language, and personalities. A safe environment and beautiful scenery, combined with a unique culture and humour, mean that our province and its inhabitants provide a spectacular and welcoming experience. So, while we strive to continue to develop high-quality, high-impact mementoes for our treasured guests, one thing to keep in mind is the ultimate thing that attracted them to our great province in the first place . . . us.