Hearts and Crafts
My brother Mark and I were looking for a new venue for the ‘Taste of Newfoundland’ experience we offer to convention planners here in the capitol city of St. John’s. We currently visit the ‘Quidi Vidi Brewery’ to sample their many varieties of craft beer – most especially the ‘Iceberg Beer’ that is actually brewed using water from 10,000-year-old icebergs they harvest from the many bays and inlets that define Newfoundland’s coastline. We then visit the ‘Newman’s Premises’ where guests are provided a paring of port wine (aged in Newfoundland since 1679) with an assortment of chocolates from the ‘Newfoundland Chocolate Company’ – whose only reason for existing is their love of chocolate, which becomes infinitely obvious with every single bite.
“…brewed using 10,000-year-old icebergs”
For the third option, we decided to focus on Newfoundland’s berries – not only because of their variety, flavour and unique qualities, but as well for their historical importance in providing sustenance to early settlers during the long winter season. Not to mention the wonderful stories associated with their unique, local genus – Bakeapples and Partridge Berries.
“… local genus – Bakeapples…”
All we needed now was a venue in which to present them. A number of really spectacular locations were suggested, including everything from the WW2 bunkers at Cape Spear to a ‘Stage Head” on the harbour’s ‘Lower Battery’, but we really wanted to place our guests in a location where they would be able to purchase these items as souvenirs. Since there are no jam or jelly manufacturers in the area we decided that our best option was to partner with one of the local gifts shops – and thus the point of this story.
“… variety of jams and jellies…”
Yesterday Mark and I made our way into the downtown core where we visited a local heritage shop on Water Street. The lady who greeted us was lovely and took great care in showing us the variety of jams and jellies they provide for their customers. She then took us upstairs to view their gallery and the space they could make available for our guests. It was ideal.
While Mark discussed the details of a ‘Tasting’, I found myself wandering about the store admiring the variety, and more importantly, the quality of items on display; all the while thinking how far we’ve come as an industry.
“… quality items on display…”
35 years ago, when we first started McCarthy’s Party Tours, the crafts we’d find throughout the island consisted of home knit goods, local preserves, and an assortment of hand made “Newfie knickknacks” that played up our local humour and preyed on the unfortunate misconceptions many of our guests brought to the island. Items like a square shaped “Newfie Rolling Pin”, a “Newfie” mug with the handle located inside the cup, or two beer bottles taped together to be sold as “Newfie Binoculars”.
I can only imagine the fun the boys must have had and the beer they must have consumed during the long winter months they spent creating their crafts; for they were pretty “crafty”. My Mother, on the other hand would have a completely different opinion, for these displays drove her absolutely bananas; they were so low brow and, dare I say, insulting to Newfoundland and its people. Her response at the time was to remind people that Newfoundlanders neither purchased nor used any of the items, and instead spent the tourist season selling their wares and the remainder of the year laughing all the way to the bank.
Thus, I’m certain our Mother would be rather thankful to see this shop and the many wonderful treasures offered by true artisans who specialize in magnificent pottery works, beautifully painted sculptures, perfectly framed photographs, award winning novels, exquisite jewelry items, and many specialty food items.
“… many wonderful treasures…”
On the way back to the office I pitched the idea for this story to my brother and we shared a great laugh reminiscing about the good old days, our self deprecating nature, the fun we often share at our own expense, and what we considered to be the true turning point for the industry, when the boys glued a cocktail umbrella to a beach rock with a label on the bottom that read, “Genuine Souvenir of Taiwan – Made in Newfoundland.” – the day our crafts began to take the form of art.
Just as my brother David often reminds folks when describing his undergraduate studies as a ‘Bachelor of Arts and Crafts’, life on this island is indeed a wonderful study in humanities!
“… a wonderful study in humanities!”