Despite their name, the members of the Mountain ObjectMakers Cooperative didn't want their efforts to organize a collective to turn into an uphill battle.
The co-op's members — glass artist Trisha Nakagawa, conceptual artist Jenny Judge, jewelry designers Miriam de Langley and Catarina Teixeira, and potters Margaret Forbes and Kathryn Tidey — set up their studio in a unit in Function Junction last fall.
In an interview, three of them — Judge, de Langley and Forbes — say they looked for locations for a year and did a lot of research before deciding to take the plunge.
"The six of us came together gradually... the main reason we came together was to make workspace affordable," Judge says.
She offered the group her previous experience as a member of an artists' collective in New Zealand.
"It's a very calming way of working," Judge says of the cooperative model.
"In Whistler, it doesn't really exist yet. We want to make Whistler viable for artists and the only viable way is to be sharing space."
Forbes adds they incorporated Mountain ObjectMakers after going to the BC Cooperative Association for guidelines and help with legal work. The Whistler Centre for Sustainability provided help through their business development and social enterprise program.
Judge also contacted the Terminal City Glass Co-op in Vancouver to find out about their process of working together.
"They have 300 members, so it is very different, but they gave us a lot of advice," she says.
Apart from affordable workspace, the three say there are other reasons to follow the co-op model.
"That was strategic, as well. Whistler is a community where people come and go all the time. We knew that if there wasn't a collective entity, it would fall apart if someone left and there was a long lease," Forbes says.
"We know the co-op will still go forward, even if we're not here 10 years from now. Our members have embraced the concept."
The way it is set up also allows them to consider expansion, should other artists want to join. At the moment, there is room for one more.
Judge adds: "There was a lot of surprise that we pulled this together because there's this attitude that artists aren't businesspeople or that they want handouts. I think successful artists also have a vision of where they are going. It isn't a haphazard event, there is a lot of planning."
The result is a studio that suits all their needs. There is a general studio that doubles as a showroom and place to meet clients. The two jewelers work in a different space upstairs.
In the back there is a room for kilns, polishers and heavy equipment. This keeps dust levels to a minimum.
For more information and links to the artists' websites, visit www.mountainobjectmakers.com.
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