Artist Jason Roberts joined Nations Creations because he found that trying to market his art took away from his real love of making it.
He is now one of nine artists under contract with the social enterprise, Nations Creations, working out of the Coqualeetza site on Vedder Road.
Nations Creations came from a collaboration between Sto:lo Nation and the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation to establish a manufacturing training program for EI-eligible participants using laser etching, embroidery, heat transferring and printing. The artists are producing everything on-site from coasters to stemware to t-shirts and hoodies.
Roberts created a Coast Salish inspired design as a unique way to celebrate the 150th for Canada Day while recognizing thousands of years of indigenous history.
The Chilliwack Arts Council decided to employ the bold design for their Canada 150 promotional materials for the big event in Chilliwack.
Roberts, whose traditional name is Sxwoxil, is a member of Tzeachten First Nation.
“As an independent artist for many years, I have had to endure the struggle of exposing my aboriginal art to a broader audience,” he said.
“But it was limited to how I marketed myself. Being an artist is enjoyable, but to go out and build a market and sell my work, is tough.”
Some are interested in an artist’s work for reproduction, but there is rarely an opportunity for long-term earnings without selling the copyright.
“Here, as an artist, I feel more appreciated and valued as a person and an artist, than just a tool for profit,” Roberts said.
Nations Creations has 34 designs available in retail outlets in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Prince George, and Sechelt more. It also produces custom order work, with either First Nation motifs or existing corporate logos and designs. Even though the artists themselves are not involved in the corporate branding/production part of the business, a percentage of all profits from that end of Nations Creations will be pooled and shared among the artists under contract.
“While profit is always a consideration for any business, being a social enterprise involves much more,” said Nations Creations Program Supervisor Darren Stollings. “We really want to encourage aboriginal artists from across the province to contact us and get involved.”
Adding to the socially-responsible commitment, the business not only sources its designs from legitimate First Nations artists, it does so under a licensing agreement the pays them royalties from sales in perpetuity.