The owner of the Side Street Studio in Oak Bay is grateful for the online business that allowed her to weather the COVID-19 storm.
Jill Fitz Hirschbold became the fourth owner of the 34-year-old Side Street Studio on Oak Bay Avenue in 2017
The store reopened on May 26, though Fitz Hirschbold considers it a blessing that the previous owners had catalogued everything online and that she was able to continue to offer the works of more than 200 B.C. artists.
“I do ship all over the world but mostly Canada and B.C., and if you order locally, I deliver it free,” she said. “During the break, I was in the store every week, just me, shipping orders.”
On the shelves are nametags for each artist including where they’re from in B.C., as about 200 artists are impressively showcased in the small shop. It features everything from handmade jewelry, pottery, glass art, woodworking, textiles, photography (including Fitz Hirschbold’s own abstract photos on glass and refinished palettes), gift cards and more.
The artists range from 19 to 91 years in age.
“I couldn’t have uploaded all of it online if I had started at COVID-19,” Fitz Hirschbold said. “When the [shutdown] happened, online sales went up. Every artist has a unique code, a unique style. It’s quite the process to photograph and catalogue each of them. And I started with zero [experience] with social media.”
Over the last two years Fitz Hirschbold has completely renovated the store. She also expanded the range of handcrafted work and added the work from about 100 artists, including Indigenous art. There are hundreds of earrings in the store in wood, glass and silver.
Before she took to photography, Fitz Hirschbold had a career in environmental science where she managed a team of 50 people. Some of the skills translate, but working in retail is still something new, she said.
Fitz Hirschbold’s own photos are popular and hang on many walls in town. She typically shoots landscapes and abstract pieces, such as a rusted belt of an oil tanker, and gives them added life on old and reclaimed wood. As of lately, she’s put her works on glass prints.
Fitz Hirschbold’s journey into the art scene started with showing her work at the Sooke Fine Arts show and local studio tours and led to more. At a pop-up show in 2017 another photographer mentioned he was representing the listing for the Side Street Studio business.
“They didn’t know it was me even though my [photography] gift cards, and prints, had been selling in the store for a few years,” Fitz Hirschbold said. “Being an artist myself, on the other side of the cabinet, I can appreciate what it’s like for artists. They trust me in the store to represent them.”
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