British Columbia

Interest in crafting waxes as pandemic descends into dark season

As dark, cold, wet months take hold in British Columbia, it appears people are turning to crafting more than ever, just as people flocked to gardening and baking bread in the pandemic's earlier days.

Craft supply shops report surging interest in hobbies like candle-making, and challenges getting new inventory

Candle-making is one of the most accessible crafts. But as folks turn to crafting in ever bigger numbers during the shorter, darker days of the pandemic, supplies are running low. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The witch ritual outfitting shop Amanda Bullick co-owns in Vancouver only recently opened, but she's been surprised at how successful the fledgling business has already been.

"So far, for us, it's been great," said Bullick of Raven's Veil, a Commercial Drive store that offers ritual items like candles, tarot cards, and dried plant smoke bundles. 

It also hosts craft workshops with topics such as candle-making, resin-pouring, bug-pinning, and rat or rabbit taxidermy — classes that had a good turnout before they were put on hold due to recent COVID-19 restrictions.

The success of the workshops highlights an increased interest in crafting, as people find ways to cope with the ongoing pandemic, just as gardening and bread-baking flourished in its early days. The interest is surging to such an extent that it's leading to supply shortages, shop owners say.

"Everybody's doing a bit more crafting," Bullick said. "It forces you out of your brain and into your body a bit more, which makes you be present in that moment."

Candle-making — perhaps one of the more accessible offerings at Raven's Veil — is something nearly anyone can do, but getting supplies this year may be tricky.

'It's just gone off the charts'

Wicks and Wax, a Burnaby candle supply store where Raven's Veil gets its materials, is one of the craft shops experiencing a surge in business.

"We traditionally have a really crazy silly season, we call it. At the end of the year everybody starts crafting, preparing for Christmas craft markets, making handmade gifts to give out at Christmastime," said owner Laurence Crichton.

"But this year with COVID, it's just gone off the charts."

The store is sold out of soy wax, and has struggled to keep wicks in stock. Certain paraffin wax is also in short supply.

Crichton said he started noticing the uptick in business in mid-October. It used to take two days to ship an order — now Wicks and Wax takes up to four weeks.

Transactions between the start of November and Dec. 9 are up 20 per cent compared with the same time last year, he said, but revenue is up 60 per cent.

Crichton says the larger orders suggest more customers are doing larger batches of candle production, perhaps to turn a hobby into a business.

And with in-person craft fairs being cancelled this year, online sales are "going crazy," his customers tell him.

"We've got hobbyists coming in and wanting to stay sane and stay busy while they're all sitting at home," said Crichton. "Parents are going nuts having to entertain their kids more than they usually would."

Instructor Jo Lepeska helps a student with a rat taxidermy project during a workshop at Raven's Veil in Vancouver. (Amanda Bullick)

Sales ramping up online

Charlotte Kwon said it's been a tough year for her Vancouver business Maiwa Supply, which has a store that sells textile and prints, and a second that sells supplies like natural dyes.

The stores were shut for three months this year, and have relied on rent and wage relief to get by. Kwon said in-store business is down 80 per cent in 2020 — but it's a different story online, where business has more than doubled compared to previous years. 

"We're seeing a big uptick in people trying different things," Kwon said.

She said with the exception of odd items like hemp twine, Maiwa's inventory is in good shape, as she has always kept her inventory heavier than necessary.

Crichton, however, is feeling the effects of the pandemic's interruptions on his suppliers and it's making for some bare shelves. 

"The supply chain is kind of stretched to its limits, if not broken in some places," he said. "We're kind of on rations from our suppliers.

"We didn't see it coming," he added. But he says he can see why so many people are taking to crafts like never before.

"I think it gives you a chance to sit and think, just to slow down," he said. "Have something else to occupy your mind."


Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

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