Two Canadian Artists Thrive in "Have Your Home & Money Too" Ventures

Written by Posted On Monday, 19 December 2005 16:00

Many Canadians associate dolls and stained glass with this festive season or with home crafts, but they may not realize the range of sophisticated home-based enterprises that provide goods and inspiration for these and other creative endeavours. Our continuing "Have Your Home and Money Too" series provides an inside look at how two widely-acclaimed home-based Canadian artists and entrepreneurs express their original talents in two fanciful and creative worlds:

  • In snowy Ontario, London-based artist Michelle Barrow-Bélisle, who has branched out to become a Creative Industry Designer, creates breathtakingly-realistic baby dolls that sell to collectors around the world, as well as designing children's furniture.

  • On a gulf island off BC's Vancouver Island, accomplished glass artist Tammy Hudgeon fires our imaginations with richly-coloured, whimsically-abstracted fused-glass leaves, flowers and trees, presented as accent pieces or incorporated into larger artistic wonders.

Although both artists credit their home with providing a foundation for their inspiration, each home search was as different as the artists themselves.

"There was a desperate shortage of time when we moved from Montreal to London since we moved into a home borrowed from friends and there was only a limited window before they returned," said Michelle Barrow-Belisle, describing how she and her husband, Michel, found their urban townhouse. "We were out for a drive and found this area, and we jumped at it. We rent since these [units] are not available to purchase and if we buy we want something larger."

The couple also decided to rent since she did not intend to continue preschool teaching when they moved to London. She wanted to discover exactly what type of income a home-based business venture could generate before they committed to mortgage payments.

"We actually moved into our town home prior to my starting a home-based business," said Barrow-Belisle. "The space turned out to be perfect, as my studio is located in the basement. The desire to work for myself was compounded by the fact that I was not able to obtain the salary I had while living in Montreal. In addition to that, our son was only one year old at the time, so it become evident, that following my dream and working from home would be an ideal solution."

Launched early in 2002, A Child's World Designs & Productions has grown into a thriving creative design business that showcases Barrow-Belisle's diverse talents. As well as teaching design classes, writing for magazines and organizing doll shows, she designs her own line of elaborate true-to-life collectable baby dolls, a signature line of patterns/kits and popular hand-painted children's furniture.

"Orders come from all over the world–Australia, the US, UK and all across Canada," said Barrow-Belisle who admits this is a significant selling season for her products and services. "Christmas is big, so I'm looking forward to Christmas Day to take a breather."

Do the benefits of a home-based business outweigh any challenges for Barrow-Belisle?

"For me, the fact that there was not a lot of red tape involved was just another advantage to the whole package," she said. "As an artist at heart, I prefer to focus my attention on the design and creative end of things and I hire those who have expertise in the other areas of business where I am lacking."

Location and more space are at the top of Barrow-Belisle's list for their future home, which will house the family and a well-developed business. Ideally, she would like a property with room for a studio in which she could hold classes and, perhaps, run a small store.

"If a wonderful opportunity comes along, we're not going to miss out, but as it is we're not in a rush," said Barrow-Belisle. "We want this next home to be the last one and to encompass all we need."

Our other featured artist has recently made a move that favoured her artistic venture.

"Just over a year ago, I moved in and after this [July photo], I painted the house purple," said Tammy Hudgeon of her woodframe raised bungalow hidden on a tree-filled rural island lot. "This was my best year, the best summer, and part of that is being where I am. I'm not so remote and I'm getting more feedback and seeing more prosperity."

The change Hudgeon refers to revolves around her move from a less accessible setting. For over three years, she shared a A-frame house she helped build on Mudge Island, a small, ferry-less, rustic island, where insurance was so expensive she had to forgo it. She and her partner ran a sawmill on their 5 acre lot, but since everything had to be brought in by boat, a home-based business was a challenge.

"It was hard to live on Mudge and hauling glass in was hard, but that's where my glass business began," she said. "I worked and worked, and I was inspired. I'd think, 'Someone makes all the trinkets of the world and I'd rather be doing this than counting pills.' I felt so lucky to get to work from home that I thought it could not get any better than this."

Hudgeon had worked at a mainland pharmacy filling prescriptions before she moved to Mudge with her partner and became an artist and entrepreneur.

When the personal relationship changed and it was time to move on, Hudgeon chose a nearby larger, more populated island with a regular ferry service. She bought her current house with proceeds from the Mudge property and her glass venture. Sole owner of her new home, Hudgeon's artistic nature is evident in the house, landscaping and detached studio which houses her kilns.

She has come a long way from the fused-glass trinkets of her Mudge days. Hudgeon's art has evolved along with her real estate holdings. Now an award-winning artist, her fantastic glass works are exhibited and sold by accredited Canadian galleries like Victoria's West End Gallery , and collected by discerning private and corporate buyers alike. For more information, please call 250-247-0104.

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