When Carrie Harper started looking for an art studio to set up her Pear Workshop two years ago, she visited a long line of warehouses, basements and dark spaces during her hunt for the perfect spot.
Then she met fellow artist Kendra Smith, who had just moved into a spacious, well-lit room above Kelowna’s downtown Starbucks, on Bernard Avenue. Needing a studio mate, Kendra invited Carrie to share the spot and the two became fast friends.
“As soon as we met we were bosom buddies. We’re like soul mates,” Kendra said.
“When I walked in here I didn’t even have to think about it,” Carrie added, explaining that the space was what her mother would term “a favourable environment.”
It’s easy to see how an artist could fall in love with such a room. Two large windows that run nearly from floor to ceiling let plenty of north light in. North light’s bright but soft qualities make it ideal for painters to work with since it has all the colours of light in it. The dark wood that frames the windows, and the small window seat, give the place the character of an old soul.
A sign on the outside of the building dates it to 1913, making it one of the original buildings on the main street.
It’s undergone many incarnations in that time. The previous occupant, a goldsmith, did some major renovations on the room, removing the drop ceiling to reveal a much taller one behind it. He also refinished the wood floor and, according to the girls, put some heart and soul into the place.
While he found the lack of traffic up on the second floor to be a problem for his business, Carrie and Kendra love that it gives them quiet time to paint, without being too far removed from the bustle of the downtown.
“It feels good in here,” Kendra said. “The vibe is really good. It really does make me feel like it’s easier to get in the zone.”
In addition to the architectural touches that give the place character, such as the embellished radiators, the old, solid wood door with brass hardware and the arched alcove that help to make the two artists feel more creative, they deliberately keep the studio low-tech.
“When we come here there’s no TV, no phone, no computer. Just a place to paint,” Kendra said. Her recent purchase of an iPhone has made it hard to enforce, but she still sees it as a place to escape to and create.
For times when she’s lured outside the studio to paint, her painting suitcase – once belonging to her great-aunt – is ready and waiting.
Carrie works on a water colour
A shelf by Carrie’s desk houses a treasure trove of brushes and small art samples.
Carrie grew up in an orchard and picked the pear as a symbol of her work because she likes its curvaceous femininity.
Kendra painting at her desk.
A veritable rainbow of colours alight on Kendra’s palette.
– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier