News / Canada
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this unrelenting global pandemic!
It's been almost a year since this blog was updated so I thought I should take a few minutes to explain the impact of Covid-19 on WithAPast, and how new inventory items are being safely added to the online store.
During the first few years of our operation, much of the inventory listed for sale on WithAPast has come from downsizing and estate sales, many of which have been within a 200 km radius of our location in Hamilton, Ontario. As is the case for many other small businesses, this past year has brought changes to the way we do business and in particular, how we acquire inventory. Although there are still a great many estate and downsizing auctions taking place, I haven't attended one since March, 2020.
This change in our supply chain would would normally lead to a significant shortfall in new product listings. Fortunately though, I've had a rather large backlog of items waiting to be cataloged, researched, photographed, edited and posted onto the site. There are many reasons for such a significant backlog and procrastination is just one of them :) Primarily though, I don't like to post new items unless I have a fairly good idea of what it is, where it comes from, and what its original cost might have been. Researching works of art is one of my biggest challenges.
As I make my way through the backlog and new items are slowly being added to the site, you can be assured that all of the items listed for sale have been safely stored in my home storage room for at least the past year. I wrote an earlier blog post about how to safely open and clean delivery packages during Covid-19. I feel very fortunate to have been working from home since early March, 2020. I expect that to continue into the Fall of 2021.
Hopefully this post will give customers some peace of mind as to the origins of all items listed for sale on WithAPast. If you have any specific questions about our process, please feel free to reach out via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not sure where the time has gone, but WithAPast was launched, very softly, just about three years ago. No longer a start-up really. While the business was registered and this website was launched in January, 2015, the planning and organizing began much earlier, in late 2014.
This venture was based on the very simple idea that there is value and much life left in many of the things we acquire and collect over the years. Particularly true when those items were created or manufactured with quality materials and workmanship. The challenge though is matching those quality items with someone who is looking for that particular item. Which is where an online store comes in. The entire world is your customer base.
There is a flexibility in online retail that brick and mortar stores simply don't have. Low overhead costs allow an online retailer to stock many different products to test the market. WithAPast has ventured into the sale of many different products that I would not have anticipated when I started three years ago. I expect to focus on fewer overall product categories in the next few years, now that I have a good amount of data on what customers and potential customers are looking for.
The amount of time that goes into each and every listed item on the site would likely surprise you. I know it continues to surprise me! That time spent on product research and listings, along with site optimization and ongoing maintenance is at least in part, my excuse for not updating this Blog more frequently. I'm hoping to dedicate a bit more time in future to updating more regularly. We'll see how that goes.
For now though, I'm taking this three year benchmark as an opportunity to thank those customers who have supported WithAPast these first three years. I hope we will continue to be of service over the next three. Thank you!
We've been asked why this store sells in US Dollars given the fact that it's a Canadian store. The simple answer is....Pinterest. The majority of traffic to this site originates from Pinterest and translates into a large percentage of our sales.
Last summer when Pinterest announced the launch of Buyable Pins, one of the requirements for implementing their new initiative on Shopify stores was that stores had to sell in US Dollars. So, we converted this store over and at the same time, tried to convert our prices to reflect the change in currency.
The exchange rate from US to Canadian Dollars has jumped recently and it has been fluctuating between $1.31 and $1.35 in recent months. Rather than continually amending our prices to reflect the currency fluctuations, we've decided to offer free shipping on all orders over $50.00 shipped to a Canadian address, while the listed exchange rate is over $1.30. Hopefully this small change will help to offset the conversion shock.
Shipping charges will automatically be discounted from your order on checkout, when entering the discount code ´Ship Canada´ along with a shipping address in Canada.
It seems as though 'Fabric or Textile Arts' are attracting much more attention lately. I myself have a somewhat new found appreciation for this often under-appreciated art form, so I'm quite happy to see the Textile Arts seemingly enjoy a resurgence of sorts.
I wonder if the past disregard for these beautiful pieces is because they were created almost entirely by women and girls and they were used by women in the day to day running of the home. I really have no idea but I'm certain there is a women's studies thesis out there somewhere that can link this theory.
Needlepoint, weaving, knitting, embroidery, tapestry....all examples of skills that have historically been passed down through generations of women. The imagination, creativity, level of skill, and attention to the smallest of detail are evident when you look closely and try to imagine the time it would have taken to create these truly one of a kind works of art.
The era in which women were expected to have and to devote the time and effort in creating these pieces is long past but that doesn't in any way lessen my own appreciation for the lovely pieces they were able to create. From the simple stitch samplers young school girls worked on to practice and perfect their stitches, to hand tatted lace, elegant embroidered fabrics, and stitched/woven works of wall art, these pieces are becoming scarcer as the years go by.
The fabric arts for sale from WithAPast range from vintage to antique. Each is a beautiful example of a bygone time and an important historical nod to the work of women who came before us. Look closely at a sample of this creative and skilled art form when you have a chance. You'll likely be as blown away as I am when you pause and try to imagine the time and skill required to create these one of a kind treasures.
Inuit & Indigenous Art always draws my attention and captures my imagination. I suspect that it has something to do with the simple honesty that I see.
In the many, many, downsizing and estate sales and auctions I've been to, I can't seem to walk or scroll past Indigenous pieces without at least trying to win them. I'm not always successful but I do now have a very nice collection of art and sculpture.
I've hesitated to list these pieces for sale for a couple of reasons. Most of them feel quite personal to me and I'm somewhat hesitant to part with them. It also feels somehow wrong to make a profit from artwork that I had no part in creating or from an artist's work who is in no way benefitting. I suppose the same could be said for other vintage and antique items I've listed for sale but the difference for me is that manufactured pieces can't usually be attributed to a single artisan. Artwork in general, and Inuit art in particular, is often signed and the artist can usually be identified.
It's generally agreed that artists receive the least amount of money in the original sale of an artwork. When a piece is resold, prices often increase as the reputation of the artist and the market grows. Resale of that same piece can sometimes reach staggering numbers. The fact that collectors are willing to pay such amounts for these exceptional works is a wonderful thing. A testament to the skill of the art community in the Canadian north, and the quality of the works produced there. The artists who created these beautiful pieces however, don't receive any money when their art is resold. The sometimes huge returns go to the galleries, auction houses, brokers, etc., as they should for their part in promoting, organizing and increasing the awareness of this beautiful art community. However, nothing goes back to the original artist nor to the community that produces and supports these artists. That just seems wrong.
The Artist Resale Right entitles visual artists to share in the ongoing success of their art by providing them with a percentage (5%) of any resale of their art. Not an outrageous amount. $2.50 on a piece sold for $100 or $500 on a piece sold for $10,000. To date, 59 countries across the world have endorsed the Artist Resale Right and legislation has been adopted to ensure this right for artists. The Artist Resale Right has not been adopted in Canada nor in the United States, with the exception of California. So, artists in North American generally receive nothing on the resale of their work. Shameful really. There's much more information available on this subject in the links below.
CARFAC Help Bring the Artist’s Resale Right to Canada
Recommendations for an Artist Resale Right in Canada, November 2010
Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective
Nunatsiaq Online: March, 2012 -Nunavut government supports resale royalties for artists
Resale rights for visual artists can only help to nurture and promote the artistic community, which in turn will hopefully allow artists to create a sustainable living through sales of their work.
In my tiny little world of online sales, I'm committed to establishing a system whereby 5% from the sale of any original art will be remitted back to the artist. I'm not quite sure how I'll do that yet, and it would be a whole lot easier if I could simply file a return of sales along with any funds owing to a governing body, but I'm confident I can find a way and I'm open to suggestions. This will likely represent a minuscule amount of real money, but it's more a statement of support for a long overdue initiative. Ethical buying and selling....what a concept!
To be perfectly honest, I know very little about art. I have no conscious sense of form, composition or light, nor do I have any insight into what an artist may be trying to convey. I'm not artistic or even all that creative. But I love art. In all its varied forms. I'm in awe of the skill with which an artist can impart their vision onto canvas or into stone or music or their medium of choice and am intrigued by the different emotions and feeling their work conveys, different for each and every person experiencing it.
With one of my first ever pay cheques, from my very first full time job, I bought a small work from a tiny local gallery. I still have it some 35 years later, although the gallery is now long gone. It evokes some of the very same feelings today that it did when I first brought it home, along with a few new ones. Which is exactly why I bought it, and have hauled it along with me where ever I've moved, hanging it on a new wall in each and every place I made my home. I've continued to buy small pieces of art over the years, based entirely on what I like and how the piece makes me feel.
Art really doesn't have to be expensive. Some of my favourites were picked up from street artists from where ever I happened to be travelling, at music festivals, craft shows, and more recently at auctions. The common thread is always that each piece makes me feel something....happy, thoughtful, wistful......To me the sole purpose of art is elicit emotion or make a connection of some kind.
So, I don't really get the appeal of mass-produced factory art. The Ikea furniture of the art world. Not that there's anything wrong with Ikea furniture....it's just not really meant to endure beyond the average length of time it takes to complete a university degree. Disposable. Superficial. Mass produced. It lacks that special something that an artist infuses into their work . It seems to be less about making a connection and more about matching the furniture. There really is no comparison though to an original work, conceived of and executed by an artist with the talent and skill to connect people and make them feel something. What a cool way to make a living.
I feel like a treasure hunter.
For the most part, I buy things that catch my interest and capture my imagination and I assume they will do the same for others. Sometimes they do. Not always though. My end goal is to purchase items I'll be able to sell and it seems I have the most success buying and selling what I like.
My approach is probably a little unorthodox but I buy what I can afford, what I like, and what looks a bit different. Usually in that order. The treasure hunter part comes in when I get my purchase home and do some research into what it is and where it came from.
The computer geek in me gets an enormous sense of satisfaction from solving the puzzle of what something actually is, where it originated, how old it is and what the value might be. The history buff in me is thrilled to discover a bit about the history of a specific piece, what it may originally have been used for, and a bit about the time and place it was produced in.
A few months back, I bought a sculpture from an online estate sale. There were only a few photos of the piece and they were not the best quality. The description of the piece was very vague, simply stating 'Stone Sculpture - Heavy' and the dimensions were incorrect. Something about this piece captured my imagination, in spite of the lack of detailed, quality photos. Very few people seemed to be interested, and I had the winning bid. It was fairly challenging picking it up and getting it home as I was very surprised to discover it was much larger and heavier than described in the listing. It weighs 137 pounds, to be exact. It was also much more beautiful than was evident in the listing!
The size and weight made it difficult to research and I was told, after sending photos to a few people for appraisal purposes, that likely its highest value was in my own appreciation of the sculpture. A kind way to say that it has no real value, I think. I was intrigued though and wanted to know more about the sculptor and where it came from. So, I did my own research and after many, many hours of searching, I've discovered the origins of the piece that makes me smile every time I walk past it.
It's a lovely example of Zimbabwe Shona sculpture, so named because they are created by the Shona of Zimbabwe. The Shona people have been hand sculpting stone into works of art for nearly a thousand years. The name Zimbabwe is derived from the Shona word which means 'house of stone'.
Even more exciting to me, was learning that the piece I wrestled to get into my house and struggled to research, was created by the one and only, Colleen Madamombe. Ms. Madamombe, who died in 2009, was one of only a handful of women sculptors in Zimbabwe, and often considered among the very best. Her sculptures are said to highlight the special qualities of Shona women, as well as to communicate the inequities that affect their lives and status.
The feminist in me is a bit in awe that one of her sculptures is at this moment, in my living room. How cool is that? Most certainly a treasure found!
Like many, I'm concerned about the affects of climate change and recognize the environmental impact of the dozens of small decisions we make each and every day. The benefits of reducing, re-purposing, reusing, repairing and recycling are clear and the decision to include previously owned for some of our home furnishings and decor is one of those small decisions.
I like brand new things as much as anyone, but I'm increasingly frustrated with our throw away culture. We each have the opportunity to reduce our impact on the environment with every purchase that we make. Quite simply, purchasing a beautiful, vintage, hand cut crystal bowl from the 1930's or 1940's, will have a much smaller environmental impact than buying a replica, which has been mass produced off-shore in a factory with questionable materials and labour practices, over-packaged, shipped and then trucked to your local big box store. My primary goal with this site is to give new life to some unique and beautiful items, while reducing the environmental impact of some of our purchasing decisions.
There is a simple beauty in each and every item listed on this site, that's embellished by its deep history. The products offered on With A Past were created by artisans and master craftsmen & women, in a time before mass production practices of today. Quality and workmanship are two reasons why these items have outlasted their generation. In many cases they have been lovingly collected and cared for by families through a generation when home furnishings and décor were expected to last a lifetime. All of the items you'll see in these pages have exceeded that expectation.