Art and Whimsies

Story and photos by Olivia Bosma

The Thunder Bay Country Market is a much-loved fixture in our community. The market provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life to start a business and earn a living doing what they love. Such an opportunity presented itself to long-time creator and founder of Art and Whimsies, Paula Clarke. In her store, customers can step inside her whimsical world of charming hand-sewn gnomes to purchase DIY gnome making kits and any gnome on display.

“My interest in sewing started around the age of 10 with guidance from my mother and we discovered I had a natural talent for it,” Clarke says. “I used to make my own clothes, and later, my children’s clothes.”

Throughout her lengthy careers in both the corporate and creative worlds, she has always been designing pieces that are as special and unique as the person they are given to. “I made dolls for my children and my friends’ children when they were little, so for over 40 years, I have been doing this,” she says. “As a former member of the Artisans Northwest group for eight-ish years and one of the original vendors at the early Craft Revivals, I’ve been selling my creations to the general public for over 20 years at community markets. I also used to teach art classes in our hobby and craft stores and schools.”

In recent years, Clarke has been sewing and creating a series of gnomes. Each gnome is handmade with care and with their own unique characteristics, right down to their own names. After many years of creating work, Clarke now holds a permanent spot at the market. “One of my customers last Christmas, also a vendor, encouraged me to apply by saying I just had to get my gnomes into the Thunder Bay Country Market,” she says. “That made me feel so good and how could I argue with such excitement! I thrive on personal interaction with other vendors and customers.”

Along with the ability to walk into Art and Whimsies to pick out a gnome, patrons can also custom order a gnome to suit their own whimsy. “Oh, I love it. Sometimes people will come up to me and just describe the person they want to give the gnome to, and I will design and create a gnome that I feel best matches that person,” Clarke says. In the future, Clarke will stay at her shop in the market and plans to expand her gnome line and DIY kits. One thing is for certain, she will never stop creating.

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