How the Edmonton community helped Vikki Wiercinski go from maker fairs to selling across North America

By Michelle Ferguson April 26, 2018

Vikki Wiercinski in her home. -- (Shayne Woodsmith/EEDC)

Over the next four weeks Edmonton Made will profile each member of the selection committee for Gifted, the Edmonton Made gift guide. The six-person panel, in consultation with Edmonton Made, will choose the products that will appear in the 2018 edition of Edmonton Made’s signature catalogue. Find out more about the selection process here.

Vikki Wiercinski

Owner, Mezzaluna Studio / Event Director, Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair

Crossing the threshold of Vikki Wiercinski’s home, one's eyes are immediately drawn to a polka dot print the colour of Creamsicles.

The orange and white art clashes delightfully with a striped monochrome area rug and acts as a focal point in what the Edmonton artist describes as “controlled colour chaos.”

Hues and patterns abound in the cozy downtown three-storey. Whimsical throw pillows rest atop a geometric blanket in the living room, while a green kettle adds a pop of colour to the kitchen. Painted metal legs brighten minimalist furniture.

Wiercinski’s home and design sensibility are both influenced by the Finnish belief that bold, crazy prints and splashes of colour are the best way to combat the dark days of winter.

“It’s the idea that your indoors need to be bright; your indoors need to be cheery. And colour spreads joy, ultimately,” explains Wiercinski.

Edmonton for Vikki Wiercinski

  • How long have you lived in Edmonton? 32 years (One year in Montreal as a teen, half a year in Halifax in my 20s)
  • What is Edmonton’s best hidden gem? The architectural marvel that is the Peter Hemingway (coronation) pool
  • Favourite Edmonton hangout? Lock Stock or Coffee Bureau for daytime coffees, Bar Clementine for evening drinks, the Aviary to catch a band, SNAP Gallery...
  • What’s one thing from Edmonton you think the world should know about? The friendliness and mutual support here among independent businesses and arts communities cannot be beat.
  • Describe Edmonton in one word. Deep-rooted (if you must have one word: steadfast)

The artist’s interest in Finnish design began in university. A classmate noticed Wiercinski’s propensity for pattern work and gave her a swatch of Marimekko fabric. A world-renowned Finnish design house, Marimekko has become synonymous with the pop art of the ’60s and ’70s. Wiercinski became obsessed, and eventually began dabbling in textiles of her own.

Taking inspiration from the natural world (like her Finnish counterparts), Wiercinski would draw abstract shapes during her off-hours as a corporate designer. In spring 2009, she asked a friend at a T-shirt print shop to help her silkscreen one of her patterns onto some white tea towels.

The next weekend, her first run of her now iconic tea towels sold out within half a day at the Royal Bison Art and Craft Fair. Now they are carried by retailers across North America.

“It’s kind of inextricable… showing at Royal Bison every six months and my line accelerating,” says Wiercinski.

I would say that a lot of the reason that we have the maker culture that we do has to do with having opportunities like Royal Bison. It shows things are possible; it showed me things are possible.

The bi-annual craft fair acted as an incubator for her home accessories line, Mezzaluna Studio, for many years. Not only did it impose strict product development deadlines, but it also allowed her to get immediate feedback from customers. So when founder Raymond Biesinger’s relocation threatened to shut the fair down eight years ago, Wiercinski and a few others stepped in. While others have moved on, she’s been running Royal Bison since 2010.

“I think Edmonton would be left wanting [without Royal Bison],” she says. “There’s nothing else like it in Edmonton, and I would say that a lot of the reason that we have the maker culture that we do has to do with having opportunities like Royal Bison. It shows things are possible; it showed me things are possible.”

2017 was a marquee year for Wiercinski: she was named Maker of the Year by Western Living Magazine; received a national order from La Maison Simons; and travelled to Finland to serve as an artist-in-residence at artist-run centre, Arteles. Her joke map, Edmonton: It’s Fine Here — created in response to an unflattering Lonely Planet review — caught the attention of local media and raised her profile among Edmontonians. Looking forward the artist is focused on growing her business abroad and helping other makers achieve success of their own.

Reminder: Submissions for Gifted 2018 close in less than a week. Send yours in before April 30, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. MST. More information on the application process here.

Vikki Wiercinski in her home. -- (Shayne Woodsmith/EEDC)

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