In January 2011 Heather Phillips and Miki Rubin were inspired to open their own business after wrapping up five-year gigs as studio assistants.
“We were in a bit of a limbo in terms of finding a new job that we were both happy in and were able to be creative,” says Rubin. “Heather just showed up one day at my door and she had an idea of opening an arts supply store. We knew this neighbourhood needed one and I said, ‘Yeah let’s do it’ and the next day we got a business licence.”
Almost a year later, they opened ARTiculations, which is home to a workshop space and an art gallery as well as the art supply store component.
“A nice way to think of it is we can kind of take you from start to finish in the artistic process from picking out your supplies to getting ready for your show,” Phillips says.
Rather than have an abundance of supplies, they wanted to focus on high-quality materials and started off only selling items they’ve personally used or materials that were recommended by their artist friends. However, since opening in December, they have started fielding requests from customers.
“We just wanted a space where people could come in and not be overwhelmed by art supplies and feel cozy and comfortable and have walking space,” says Rubin.
“We decided to really curate and pick carefully what we wanted to carry so that it was a smaller selection, kind of more reflective of a smaller town store,” adds Phillips.
Although their space on Dundas Street West near Keele Street was perfect because they didn’t have to do any renovations to encompass all three elements in their store, Phillips says their location was also the right fit.
“The Junction was a big part of why we wanted to open this store, the location was important to us,” she says, adding she moved to the area four-and-a-half years ago with her husband and loved it because it feels like a small town in the city. “If you are going to do something like this it’s nice to do it for your own community.”
In addition to hosting artist talks, teaching workshops and running sessions where people can come in and work together creatively, they have also started hosting birthday parties where kids can learn art-based activities like block printing or creating sculptures.
“It’s kind of nice that we can offer that community-based space as well as the store aspect,” says Phillips, adding they are also open to offering the space to use for film shoots and various projects.
Phillips and Rubin, who met while studying visual arts at York University where they both specialized in sculpture-based art, also want to encourage and inspire their customers to make things and have their gallery be recognized for showcasing Toronto artists.
“We took a big risk and opened this up and tried something new,” says Phillips.
“Just seeing people come in and really love our space, it gives us satisfaction that we’ve accomplished something that people actually enjoy walking into or experiencing,” adds Rubin. “It might not seem like a big highlight to other people but to us these little things are highlights.”
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