The “Mom-Entrepreneurs” – An Interview with Sabrina Widner, Coastal Storm Gallery

The Mom-Entrepreneurs

An Interview with Sabrina Widner, Co-owner of Coastal Storm Gallery

By Alyssa Laube

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About: Self-proclaimed “mom-entrepreneurs” Sabrina Widner lives in Sooke with her children and husband, where she spends most of her time taking care of loved ones and running Coastal Storm Gallery with her twin sister, Sam! Sabrina and Sam focus on exhibiting local artisans and feature a wide selection of beautiful aboriginal artwork. This year, they designed “Coastal Imagination Masks” which were sold at several of Make and Break Arts Foundation’s fundraisers all over the Lower Mainland and supported arts based projects like Art World Expo and summer art camps for children and youth.


How and when did you decide that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

After spending almost eight years working in downtown Victoria, picking kids up from daycare, and feeling tired and under-appreciated at work, it was time for a change! I invested in a few properties (that currently pay my bills) so that I could spend my days walking my dog, volunteering in my local community, and actively participating in raising my own children. However, after a while of being a stay-at-home mom, it becomes a little tedious. So, my journey as a business owner began.


Can you tell the story of how you came up with the idea for Coastal Storm Gallery?

I have a beautiful aboriginal art collection, and friends and family started to ask me why I wasn’t buying and selling pieces online yet, so I did in 2009! However, not everything went perfectly the first time. My original business partner did not share the same vision as me. We came up with an online aboriginal gallery, and did a few trade shows and mall kiosks, but things fizzled out. Now, my sister and I are running Coastal Storm Gallery together, and things have been awesome ever since!


Sam, what lead you to becoming Sabrinas business partner with the gallery?

Since graduating from college in 2001, I have been in various customer service roles which I absolutely love. I’ve managed retail stores, implemented customer service within a private company, and since 2008, I have been working for the local Health Authority. Initially, I was with Mental Health & Substance Use, which is an eye-opening program that allowed me to serve a population that deserves great customer service and complete respect. Currently, I am working within Public Health and now serve an even broader range of people.

Considering how young I am, you will be surprised to know that my husband and I have been married for five years now and have been together officially for eighteen years! We were pregnant within days after our wedding; having my Son in 2009 was the greatest experience of my life and every day I love him more and more.

With a busy career, a husband, and a son, finding time to spend with my sister was becoming a challenge. When she asked if I’d like to become involved with her business, initially I was hesitant and wondered where I would find the time, but I have to say it has been a great experience! We chat all the time, our children get to spend tons of time together “while their mommies work”, and I love it!

Why are you drawn to aboriginal artwork?

I think it’s because of the heritage! Even young aboriginal artists begin with a wealth of information and usually have family members that have mentored them since youth. Aboriginals of the first people of Canada. Their history dates back hundreds of years, many tribes have continued to pass information on through the generations, and I find amazing value in that. For every piece, there’s a story. Each animal has a different meaning, they have their own mythical creatures, the artist themselves have stories to share, and every family has a history. For example, I carry Nancy Dawson’s jewellery. She was taught how to carve and weave by her elders and she has passed that skill down by mentoring all of her sister’s children. They all currently hand carve silver jewelry. Her family crest is the wolf, and when her family holds a potluck, they give handmade items all engraved with wolf symbols to signify the family’s wealth.

You helped to create and sell “Coastal Imagination Masks with Make & Break Arts Foundation this year. Can you tell us more about the masks and how you got involved with MAB?  

One day, while sitting by the poolside at Monika’s house, we started taking about galleries and how much we both love art. I mentioned that I was lucky if the kids would let me have five minutes in a gallery without bribing them with a treat, and how I wished that there was something on-site that would work for the whole family. It would have to be desirable to a child, high-quality, and of course, fitting to be sold in a gallery setting. That’s what inspired me to create a line of children’s masks! I’m not great behind a sewing machine, but my best-friend and twin, Sam, sure is!

Together, Sam and I designed a West Coast animal-themed line of felt masks. We both have boys and know for a fact that dress-up items are extremely limited for them; it’s either a profession or a super hero, and none of it is made locally. We set out to fix that! All of our masks are machine-stitched, machine-washable, and extremely durable. We tested our product at a local craft fair and school fundraiser and got some amazing feedback!

I know that Monika works hard for her charity and I thought that we could both benefit by working together, so I sent her some product information and she ran with it! We did a custom order for her Halloween fundraiser of skulls and pumpkins, and created Ruldoph masks which she used to fundraise over the Christmas holidays. She has also included our masks in some online promotions as a part of her fairytale theme. Our hope is to continue to compliment her fundraising with seasonal masks. 

Theres a list of symbols on your website. Why have you listed these, and what culture are they from? Where can they been seen in the gallery?

I decided to update my website and gear it towards local artisans. The website is still in transition, which is one of the reasons why the symbol page is still there. When the website was only aboriginal, the symbols page was there as reference.

What inspired you to start supporting local artisans? 

Sabrina: During the last few years, I have become very active in my community and met so many amazing, talented people. I believe that businesses work because all members benefit; you’re only as successful as those around you! So, my sister and I have approached artisans we know in hopes of promoting their work.

Sam: Sabrina’s new focus on supporting local artists is a great move for her. I currently work with a lovely woman who creates beautiful one-of-a-kind jewelry with her sister under Gin-Nel Jewels. Gina is a mother of eight and needed a creative outlet. Making jewellery was it for her, and working with her sister is the bonus! There’s just something about sisters working together.

I went to a craft show to introduce Sabrina to Gina & they hit if off! A few days after that, I asked Gina if she could make earrings out of pennies (which I have always wanted and can finally do now that the penny is no longer used). She agreed and we started to talk about other opportunities. Gina’s products will start to be available on our website soon and we will be showcasing her creations at Art World Expo in Vancouver and Toronto!

What is it like to run a business with your twin?

The best part of it all is being able to work with my sister and best friend. When I have an idea in the middle of the night, a problem during the day, or too busy of a schedule to get everything done alone, I just call her! We can count on each other to support whatever the other person needs. For us, equal work means equal partnership. I love her, she loves me, and now we can spend time together doing what we both love!

Sabrina, youre a self-proclaimed mom-entrepeneur. Why have you given yourself this title?

Part of why I describe myself as a “mom-entrepreneur” is that I’m doing something I truly enjoy while being able to sustain all of my family obligations first!

Visit http://www.coastalstormgallery.com/ 

Hopefully, you stopped by the Coastal Storm Gallery booth at Art World Expo this year! Sabrina and Sam will also be at Art World Expo Toronto in October!


The Pioneering Spirit-An Interview with West Coast Artist, Susan Galick

The Pioneering Spirit

An Interview with West Coast Artist, Susan Galick

By Alyssa Laube



About: Susan Galick describes herself as a fun-loving lady with a passion for life, family and friends. She aims to live each and every day to it’s fullest and is happily devoted to the things she loves to do most – painting, music, art, and all things creative!


How long have you been involved in art?

I have been involved in some sort of art my entire life from sewing, knitting, needlecraft, tole painting, fashion design, stained glass, wood burning, chocolate making, cake decorating, handcrafts of all types, soap making – anything and everything creative. I could never watch television.


How has your life changed since you’ve become a professional artist?

At this point in my life I am now able to spend more time creating art.  Being able to paint every day is the biggest change for me.


Many of your paintings seem to be set in B.C. What is it about our province that inspires you?

B.C. is gorgeous and I think that we take it for granted just how beautiful our province is from the coast to the Okanagan to the Kootenays and to northern B.C. I spent 9 years living in the caribou where my husband and I raised our 2 sons on a pristine lake.  For me, I always need to be near the water, whether it be a lake or the ocean. Although I prefer the ocean as it is forever changing.  I have been blessed to have lived by the water for pretty much my entire life from the ocean, to rivers to lakes. Water inspires me.


Which area of Vancouver has been your favourite to paint?



Have you ever painted scenes from a different province or country?

Yes, I have painted the U.S., Mexico and Europe. I hope to travel more in the future as my duties as a Mom and Grandmother are reduced as the kids get older.  My life revolves around my family.


What is your favourite thing/place to paint?

“Working boats’, street scenes, character buildings and vehicles.


What is your biggest challenge as an artist?

My biggest challenge is trusting myself and my own style and retaining that loose, unique style.  I do not wish to become a ‘tight painter’.


Do you think your personality is shown through your work? How so?

Yes, I believe it does. In fact I was just told this last night by a very established, famous local artist. I look at life with a positive outlook, no matter which trials we have to go through, and I have had my share…I strive to be happy and paint happy paintings.


Some of your paintings seem to be “blurred”. Could you explain what draws you to this technique?

I love loose, painterly strokes. My favourite artists are those than can portray what they are trying to say in as few strokes as possible along with light being a focus. Ken Auster is one of my favourite artists. I strive to create a focal point and add more tight detail in that area then blur out the background with loose strokes.


What is it about painting boats that you enjoy?

I just love the lines of boats, especially ‘working’ boats with character.  I grew up on the water fishing with my father and have spent a great deal of my life near the ocean.


How do you know when you’ve found something you would like to paint?

When I get really excited and I cannot get it out of my head, I know i’d like to paint it.  No words can describe the scene and I want to share it by painting whatever it may be that excites me at the time.


How do you stay inspired?

That is a difficult question.  “Stuff” happens in everyday life which interferes with my ability to get inspired. When that happens I go to my “Beach Box” – my wonderful home on the ocean in Sooke. It sits on Juan de Fuca Strait. Here is the link and I think you will understand as the photos will explain more than my words.



Are there any other artists who have played a significant role in your development as a painter? If so, who?

Yes, after I lost my husband of 39 years to cancer I forced myself to go to an art school “open house.”  I had always wanted to paint and it was the local, talented Carmel Clare that I first met.  She is the main reason that I am where I am.  She is now my mentor, one of my best friends and my inspiration.


Do you sell every piece you finish?

I’m not sure how to answer that. In general, yes, I suppose I eventually do. Some take longer than others but some I give away to friends or family.  For me it’s not about the money but for the enjoyment of painting. If someone gets excited when they see one of my paintings and just has to have it, that’s what is the most enjoyable for me. My favourite painting, personally, was my one of my Gastown paintings. It sold quickly so I felt like I did not get to enjoy it for long in my own gallery.


What was your first piece?

My first piece was an abstract water drop painting.  I had it hanging in our bathroom while we put our home up for sale in White Rock.  Sarah Daniels used to be the traffic/weather lady for BCTV and a realtor.  She fell in love with my painting and phoned me up to ask if I would sell it.  That was my first painting and my first sale.


What is it like to have your own studio?

It’s a dream come true for me. I can go downstairs and paint any time of the day or night that I want and I am my own boss which is very important to me.


How has owning your own studio changed how you personally, creatively, and professionally?

Owning my own studio forces me to take my art seriously.  Previously, I used to think that I had to take care of my family, house, many gardens, etc. before I could settle down and paint.  I felt that painting was secondary to the rest of my work.  Owning my own studio makes me realize that this is my job now and I can paint anytime of day, get it done and the rest can be secondary.


How to you hope to grow as an artist?

Last night I joined a local art group with their goal being to form a West Coast Guild. I hope to learn from these accomplished artists and to be able to contribute my expertise as well, whether it be my ability to bring joy and happiness to others or to help mentor young people. I have 5 grand kids who mean the world to me and I try to be an inspiration to them as well.


What are you hoping to accomplish at this year’s art expo?

I am hoping to meet new people outside of my world, expose myself to new experiences, hopefully sell a few pieces, and network with others.


Do you have a motto, or any advice you’d like to give budding artists?

I have been through a lot in the past few years.  My perfect, idyllic life that my husband and I worked so hard to obtain was literally turned upside down when my husband got cancer and consequently passed aways 14 months later.  My family and I were devastated.  My favourite quote is, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today a gift”.  That is how I try to live my life.  I have always tried to live each and every day to its fullest.  I have a strong faith that has taken me through so much and blessed me with so much.  My advice to my kids and others is that if you really want something, we are blessed to lived in a country where anything is possible if you have the passion, drive, and ambition to get what you want. It’s true!

Through the Peep Hole



To learn more about Susan and her work, you can visit http://www.susangalick.com/

She can be contacted at (778)-879-7273 or susan.k.galick@gmail.com

Carve or Starve!-An Interview with Jesse Toso

About: Jesse Toso, born and raised here in British Columbia, is a talented woodcarver whose tool of choice is equally impressive: a chainsaw! To see some of Jesse’s extraordinary work, go to: 





The first time you carved was at a competition in 2005, at which you took first prize in the Amateur category! What motivated you to take part in the competition, and did you have a feeling that you would be a natural?

I grew up in Campbell River where the Transformations on the Shore Chainsaw Carving Competition has been taking place since 1997 and I remember looking at the amazing carvings produced at the event each year and I thought to myself: “I could do that”.  So,  I borrowed a chainsaw and hacked away at this giant piece of Douglas fir and by the end of the week, I had shaped out a Phoenix. After taking home the $1000 prize, I decided to do it every year after. This year will be my tenth!


Why do you prefer to work with a chainsaw, rather than other tools? 

Chainsaws are fast.  

In your opinion, how does the type of wood influence the final carving? 

The type of wood I use influences the final carving immensely.  The colour, the size/shape, the grain are all contributing factors.  Sometimes I look at a piece of wood and determine what to carve based on it’s shape and type, and other times I will want to carve something and look for a piece of wood that will work, but ultimately it is the wood’s inherent qualities and characteristics which influences the final carving.

What did you do for a living before wood carving entered your life? Do you think you will continue to wood carve for the rest of your career? 

I am a carpenter by trade as is my dad so working with wood comes to me naturally.  I will continue to keep carving wood, but I am also interested in exploring the artistic relationship(s) between other building materials, namely: glass, metal and concrete.  And I’ve always wanted to try carving ice.

What is the best part of working in wood carving?

Wood is a beautiful, natural, and quite versatile.  And it’s sustainable.

How have you improved over the years? 

I improve every time I carve. Going to annual carving events such as the competition in Campbell River and Carva-Palooza (an annual chainsaw carver’s convention in Ontario) has also been a huge boost.  I hope to continue improving with every carve.

What do you consider your most difficult piece? How about your favorite one? 

I would say the 16-foot spider hanging on the side of a building in downtown Campbell River was my most challenging and my favourite, too.  It involved creative engineering, 3D visualization, chainsaw joinery, and it was done in five days (as a part of the carving competition).  Also, it caused a bit of controversy.  People wrote into the local newspaper asking it be taken down as they have arachnophobia and could no longer go to the theatre because of the giant wood spider overhead!  Other people then responded in defence of the spider, and it so had people talking in Campbell River.  Which is what art should do, right? I have since carved several spiders and I will be bringing a “smaller” 8-foot version to Art World Expo.

You’ve worked on a variety of different sculptures, mainly focusing on animals. Do you prefer to use nature for your inspiration and how come? 

I am drawn to curvy, smooth, rounded, flowing shapes such as octopus legs, dragons, or the neck of a heron, and so find myself carving such shapes.  It happens that most things with these characteristics are from nature.

How has working first-hand with nature changed your relationship with it? 

Trees are precious. I am honored and humbled when I carve into wood that had once been a tree that had been standing for hundreds of years. I feel I need to use every bit of the wood I am carving.  Many of my carvings are from off-cuts from other carvings. 

Do you think that wood carving differs from other forms of art? How so? 

All art is expression. Carving wood with chainsaws is just another way for me to say: “Look what I can do!”

Do you have any advice for beginners in the field? 

Carve or starve! 


Have you ever done a collaborative piece? If not, would you like to? 

I have done several collaborative pieces.  As a part of Carva-Palooza, one of the several carvings we do is made with a partner. Actually, this year I will be leading a group project (at Carva-Palooza) where eight of us will carve a complete chess set out of logs. I am really excited to see how this turns out.