Garden delights

There is a fanciful garden blooming upstairs at the Lynn Valley Branch of the North Vancouver District Public Library. Fabric artist Kirsten Chursinoff’s exhibit Garden Escape is now on until Dec. 6, 2022.

From craft to art

The fabric and thread creations are a colourful burst of energy in the display space. At first glance, they appear to be traditional works of drawing or painting but a closer look reveals the intricate stitches and layers of textiles. 

kirsten churisnoff“It is like painting with thread and fabric,” she said. “People think of fabric as being for useful things, like tablecloths, bed coverings, clothing. Seeing textiles on the wall in the same sort of format as paintings can put them in that ‘art’ category more than the ‘craft’ – which are more useful artifacts. It’s a very tactile hands-on material but it’s displayed in a more artful way.”

The intricate pieces combine a variety of techniques. 

“I use quilting techniques but the pieces are smaller than a quilt. There is a lot of detailed embroidery. Some of it is done using a sewing machine but a lot is done by hand, pulling the thread through the cloth. The machine work goes a lot faster, it’s great for piecing together the background. And the handwork is much slower and I can be more intentional with the flowers or leaf shapes adding details.”

 Being a working mom with a creative space filled with both stacks of fabric and bins of Lego, the option to work fast or slow has been an important part of creating her pieces. 

“I think they work well together. I am also a mother of two children so life can get busy. It’s nice to be able to go back and forth between techniques according to what is happening in my life.” 

Garden Escape

This month’s exhibit was very much influenced by what was happening in Chursinoff’s life. 

“Most of the pieces in this exhibit were completed during the pandemic, I was searching for beauty in a time of uncertainty and staying close to home,” she said. “I have always been drawn to flowers and nature. I have been drawn to botanical gardens. I only have a small balcony garden myself, so I am jealous of larger spaces to grow flowers – it’s an endless resource of inspiration. There are so many possibilities.”

As an artist, Chursinoff enjoys the challenge of capturing movement in a ‘slow’ art form.

“There is tension between using a technique that takes a long time and capturing a moment in nature. I am trying to capture something, more of a feeling,” she said. “There is a lot of movement in flowers in leaves, as the wind goes by or a bird flits past. It’s trying to capture those moments of motion or whimsy working in a technique that takes a long time to do. 

“There are real and imagined flowers and I want to capture the spontaneity of a garden or a flower growing out of place or weeds growing at the side of the road. Those moments of beauty you sort of stumble upon when you aren’t expecting it – like when you are walking kids to school or when mushrooms pop up in the fall. It’s those moments of surprise out in nature.” 

She hopes the use of thread and fabric in unexpected ways delights observers. 

“I like the moments of surprise when they see it is not actually paint or traditional ‘art’ materials. They see it’s fabric and come a little closer to see how it’s made and figure out what is going on in there. They look at the techniques and how it’s made. The ‘That wasn’t what I expected it to be!’ and they lean in to figure out and try to solve a mystery.” 

Adding how she is pleased to be at the NVDPL this month. 

“I enjoy exhibiting at libraries because in a way it is more accessible,” said Chursinoff. “Not everyone would go to an art gallery but there is a broader representation of the community that would go to the library. Sometimes they just stumble on it and get to have that art gallery experience in a place they feel comfortable.” 

Garden Escape is on at the Lynn Valley branch of the NVDPL until Dec. 6. 

Images courtesy of Kirsten Chursinoff.

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Getting wild about art

Later this month local artist Caroline Liggett will host a night of brushes and brews at Wildeye Brewing. It’s a chance to have some fun, try something new and take home a piece of art at the end of the evening.

Painting with pints

Lynn Valley’s Liggett is heading down the hill to Wildeye Brewing, Tuesday, August 16 from 7-9 pm to guide new artists through a paint party.

“It’s really fun, I am goofy and silly which takes the pressure off,” she said.

Well-versed over the past two years in Zoom paint parties, Liggett is pumped to pick up and share her techniques with the public again. 

“We used to do this all the time at restaurants. I have been slowly returning to small private groups and continuing my lessons but this is my first one [since the pandemic began] that is open to the public. I’m excited.”

The idea is simple: bring an apron or clothes that can survive a bit of paint and Liggett will take care of the rest. 

“Show up a bit early, have a bite to eat, grab a pint and everything is set up for you,” she said. “I have the supplies and I guide you through the steps. You will have a piece of art you will want to hang at the end of the night.”

August 16, would-be artists will be painting a grove of cedar trees. 

“This is geared to the beginner painter, but it will be a good time for someone with a bit of experience who wants to share the evening with friends. It’s not a technical painting. I have done it before and broken it down so I can teach it step-by-step.”

Directions will be given throughout the evening with Liggett floating between artists to offer one-on-one support. 

Art for everyone

As a busy working mom, Liggett became an artist through grief. In a search for beatuy to help overcome the loss of her sister, Liggett began to create. 

“It’s almost like therapy,” she said. “I think over the last few years mental health has suffered for so many people.”

It is also an excellent way to connect and learn something.

“I was an education assistant and I use that training when working with children. I work with many families of children with autism and families I met in the school system. As special needs kids age out of school, there aren’t a lot of opportunities. I love working with them.”

Sign up

Art can mean many things to the artist. It’s relaxation, it’s creative, it’s fun, said Liggett. 

“It’s about having fun. It’s usually mostly women, so if you are looking to meet an artistic babe…” laughs Liggett. “There are lots of opportunities to laugh and try something new.”

To register for the Aug. 16, Wildeye Brewing event, the cost is $35 per person and can be done by contacting Liggett. The deadline to register is Aug 14. Visit her website, Facebook or Instagram to connect with her. 

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Music and events returning to the plaza

There is hope that music and events will return to Lynn Valley Plaza this summer and the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission has opened auditions for a return to its seasonal events. 

Looking ahead

The NVRC is in the thick of planning and preparing for a summer that looks more like 2019, that the past two pandemic years. It might not be a “back to normal” but the plans sound like it will be a big step forward. 

As we are once again able to gather, art expression, art-making, and creativity are a wonderful way to bring children, youth, adults, and seniors together,” said Jeremy Neill, marketing coordinator for the commission. “NVRC is currently accepting applications from emerging, mid-career, and professional artists.”

Performers and artists are welcome to submit their applications through April 30. 

This is an excellent opportunity for artists to conceive and showcase their work, creativity, skills, imagination and talent in a public space,” he said. “All art genres are welcome including visual and multidisciplinary arts, music, dance, and theatre.” 

How to apply

The programmers are aiming to encourage community engagement and highlight cultural richness and diversity. Successful applicants bring unique and engaging experiences that are intended for audiences in a variety of North Vancouver neighbourhoods and are delivered through outdoor workshops or performances. 

For more details on the process and application details visit the NVRC website

Looking for more?

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Kids community choir launching this spring

There will be a bit more music gracing the hills of Lynn Valley this spring. The Lynn Valley Voices Choir is expanding to include a children and youth choir this April.

Banding together

The established community choir at the Lynn Valley United Church, Lynn Valley Voices, is growing with the grit and adaptability it sowed over the pandemic. 

Frank Zieginson

“Music is big here,” said Frank Zieginson, minister of music at Lynn Valley United Church. “One of my things here is the LVV community choir (LVCCC). Once it was established and had its feet under it, I wanted to open up community singing to children and youth.”

While the adult choir has been going for a number of years now, covid has made it challenging to start the new project. Crossing his fingers for the appropriate public health orders, Zieginson hopes to launch the new Lynn Valley Voices Kids Community Choir April 7

“Like all programs at the United Church the choir is about inclusion,” he said. “Whoever you are, wherever you are. Experience singer or not. You just have to be open to learning these skills.”

Children and youth six years and up are invited to join the choir for a weekly afternoon practice on Thursdays. 

“We want to create a safe place for all ages, regardless of identity, or faith. 

The music is thoughtful and uplifting,” said Zieginson. “The power of singing or making music together creates a sense of community connection of being able to achieve something they don’t think they can on their own.”

Adapt and thrive

Zieginson has seen those achievements first hand when he launched the adult choir and had to adapt it to be a covid-safe online version. 

“We held zoom rehearsals every week. It was a bunch of heads in boxes singing Brady Bunch style,” he explained. “Sometimes they would rehearse and record pieces solo and send them to me. I would produce them and layer them together so people were singing beside who they would in person. We would then play that at rehearsal to show how they were progressing. It was a lot of work but it was really important to gather regularly.”

Together the choir and director were able to host virtual concerts and for the start of the 2021-22 season return to in-person rehearsals. 

“There is something about a song sung in a choir,” said Zieginson. “When a song and a message takes hold it changes the way they sing and can even change the way they look at the world.”

How to raise your voice

When the children’s choir launches in April it will be more than two years of limited social and community connections for children – especially the arts. The hope is to provide an important outlet of expression and a chance for like-minded kids to work together, said Zieginson. The goal is to join the LVVCC at its annual spring concert in June. 

Interested families can sign up here. Children do not need to audition to participate. There is a $100 fee for the duration of the program, but in the spirit of inclusivity families with financial concerns can reach out to Zieginson to ensure participation for all interested kids. As full vaccination becomes available, youth are expected to present proof of vaccination.

The adult LVVCC officially launches its season in September but welcomes singers to join at any time. Participants can register here. Adults are asked to participate in a non-determining audition. Basically, an assessment to see where you best fit within the choir and to determine how the choir can best support your musical growth explained Zieginson. The choir is especially in need of bass and tenor voices. The winter term has a delayed start of Jan 20th in guidance with current health priorities. Proof of vaccination is required.  

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Lighting up Lynn Valley

For eight years the lights have been twinkling behind Ruth Crescent. The almost hidden path behind Froggy Pad Daycare has been bringing neighbourhood smiles, raising money and shedding much-needed attention on underserved community issues. You are invited to visit the magical walk this December.  

Community built

In the cold and rain of late November, the Lee/Bassett family is carefully running last-minute checks of their community light display. With the first phase of the display lit up on December 1st, they still have music to add and a light show to program. Each year there is a little more to do on the community display in hopes of accomplishing two simple goals: delight the neighbourhood and support a valuable community cause: Team Finn

“There are about 80,000 lights,” estimated Jamie Bassett. “There are three trees with 2,000 each, so that is 6,000 right there.” 

Bassett and his sons Christopher and Nicholas are the primary executioners of wife/mom Catherine Lee’s vision. She is the owner of Froggy Pad and is deeply passionate about raising awareness of important community issues.  The back property and fence have a rotating showcase drawing attention to important causes. 

“Catherine received a grant to help create them. There is a teacher who does all the drawings and stencils and I help make the boxes. There are about eight different themes throughout the year,” said Bassett offering the examples of Black Lives Matter, Every Child Matters Indigenous support and Terry Fox. 

All year, along the forest path behind Ruth Crescent (accessed via the driveway of 4375 Ruth Cres.) there are a variety of displays to encounter. Larger spectacles for Halloween and Christmas raise money for the Burn Fund and Team Finn. 

“This is really a community effort,” said Bassett. “We have a neighbour help us set up and provide the electricity and another neighbour stores the lights and display items in their crawl space. We don’t have any storage with the daycare, so we simply couldn’t do it without our neighbours.”

Ever evolving, previous versions of the light display have used other properties and both sides of the path. This year the focus is on the Froggy Pad property after the District of North Vancouver ask them at Halloween to remove lights from the Districts’ side of the path.

Community causes

“People asked if they could help pay for the display and we thought we can do that but let’s support a good cause. Finn was planning to attend our daycare with his brother, so it was natural that we support their cancer research,” said Bassett. “Last year we raised about $1500. People just do it.”

Donations can be made at the front door of Froggy Pad Daycare at 4367 Ruth Cres. The entrance to the light path can be found just to the right via the neighbouring driveway. 

“Come by and enjoy this Upper Lynn community project,” he said. 

Photos courtesy of Christopher Lee. 

Looking for more?

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Rocking in a covid world

Artists often say art isn’t what they do, it’s who they are. When the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020 there were no more gigs for musicians like Paul Gemino. A passion to play began on a rainy front porch one night at 7pm, soon a neighbourhood was coming together through music and the Allan Road Band was born.

The day the music died

The shocking shutdown of life in March 2020 had local musician Paul Gemino lost. 

“Suddenly there was nothing,” he said. “Psychologically it was like there was a black cloud all around me. I couldn’t be all of me. It was like I was lonely or lost.”

The sounds of pots and pans brought Gemino out of his house one night. As a musician and composer with more than 35 years of professional experience – and encouraged by wife Faye Slevage – Gemino thought he could lend his guitar to the ragtag orchestra acknowledging front-line workers and healthcare personnel. 

“I played three songs that first night in the pouring rain on my covered porch,” said Gemino. “One guy came by. The second night there were three. Then a few more and more. But that first night, in the pouring rain, that first guy began [to clap], and it might as well have been a crowd of 10,000.”

Gemino’s thoughts echo countless other live performers who also lost not only their livelihoods but also the outlet for their passions. 

“I have been playing music since forever,” he said. “It’s in my DNA to be a musician.”

After the solo success of the first few nights, Gemino gave a call to a fellow musician and then two. Gaining momentum, another friend joined and another until the six-piece Allan Road Band was formed. 

“Eventually we did 40 days in a row – never repeating a song,” he said. “It was an organic sort of growing. We started to get people noticing, not just here but all over the world. My wife would put her cellphone up on a stand and record it and we would share it. Then I got a message from London, England asking me to play Jimi Hendrix’s Fire at an upcoming show. It’s a bit of a crazy song – but I thought ‘Yes.’ This whole thing has been about saying ‘yes’ to what could be.”

The current Allan Road Band has a lot of others saying yes too. Gemino is joined by Bill Schatz, Brian Carballo, Peter Lepine, Les Toth and Ron Froehlich. His wife Faye Savage picks up the other jobs like sound technician, PR and photographer.

Normalize the neighbourhood

What the Allan Road Band didn’t know was that their passion was also becoming a weekly beacon of light and hope in Lynn Valley. 

“We were living in strange times,” said Colleen Eschner, who lives in Gemino’s neighbourhood. “It was one hour to look forward to each week – and I really looked forward to it. It was a chance to see people you care about, to see neighbours, to experience something as a community and to do something that was safe – and normal.” 

As the weeks went on word of mouth spread and the sounds of music drew people to the unadvertised events. It was a chance for people to be outside and together but also socially distant, said Gemino.

“It was invigorating to see people talking and connecting – checking in, shuffling over to give space,” he said. “I didn’t know we had two paramedics on the street. Here I was thanking essential workers and they were out doing the work.” 

The weekly concerts were time to put aside the challenging time and escape for a little while.

“I had covid – getting quite sick,” said Eschner. “It was almost a shock to sit quietly and listen to the music again. It was hope. It was respite. It was so normal but everything was different. We were looking at the world through a different lens.”

One of Gemino’s joys was getting requests from patients in hospital. 

“I had one rule – no downers. Someone fighting for their health needs to hear energy or happy.”

Come together

As the summer and year went on the audience grew and was always appreciative. 

“I had a family move in next door and two days later I am pulling out gear and the ‘dad’ is dumbfounded. It’s not every day you move next door to a rock band,” laughed Gemino. “The ‘mom’ was about eight months pregnant and they came out with their 18-month-old that day and have been great supporters.”

There were other stand out memories like the connection the band fostered with DNV Firefighters during the Arglye grad parade, the 88-year-old neighbour from down the block who called her kids and grandkids and had a family picnic, and little three-year-old Nora who brings her ukelele and joins the band. That little maestro led to an entire kids concert with more than 15 ukeleles.

“Mabye three could play – and it was noise but it was fun noise,” said Gemino

The passion and joy of the band is palpable on show days, said Eschner. It draws the community out of their homes.

“When you go and sing along for an hour or just sit with a friend, it was so healing,” she said. “It holds on to you and echoes around in your head and body and stays with you.”

The path forward

As the regulations change the band moves forward – not onward. Gemino has been able to return to his other job, a taekwondo instructor but live music gigs are limited and not the same as before with restrictions like no dancing. As rough as that is for the Allan Road Band members’ other musical pursuits, it does mean they will be returning to the driveway as weather allows. 

“There is no question we will keep doing it. It’s all passion – and so much fun,” said Gemino. 

There is little doubt Eschner will be listening. 

“I so look forward to it and I so appreciate the time and effort of the entire band.” 

To learn more about the Allan Road Band check out their Facebook page. They hope to have concert number 75 soon. More on Paul Gemino can be found on Facebook and this page

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Local student’s art to help LGHF

When he couldn’t quite put his thoughts into words, turning to art helped Bjorn Thor be heard. The Lynn Valley Elementary Grade 7 student is the winner of the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation’s annual greeting card contest.

Colourful creation

A piece from a young local artist is doing double the good on the North Shore. Thor’s piece of original art had a first life as a line drawing design for a colouring contest for Lynn Valley Elementary students. Now, full of colour, the piece is gracing fundraising greeting cards and will soon be on tables and mantels across Canada and beyond. 

“It’s warm, it’s whimsical and it makes you smile,” said Yolanda Brooks, communications manager. “Not only did Bjorn choose bright and bold colours, his illustration is full of small, subtle details that show that he is talented beyond his years. Everybody at the foundation loves the design and we’re sure the community will too.”

“It’s amazing,” said Thor. “Nothing has ever happened to me like this. I am really happy.”

The bold design chosen by the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation features a sunset, snowman and gingerbread house. Those details were noticed by the selection committee at LGHF.

The joyful image was designed to inspire other kids to get creative, said Thor.

“Since it was originally going to be for a colouring contest I wanted it to be really fun and make them want to draw,” he said.

Art as a way of life

Thor says art has been a part of his life since he could hold a pencil.

“I wasn’t very good at saying stuff when I was little, so I would draw it out,” he said. “So basically I have been drawing my whole life.”

Thor’s art opened an important communication avenue that gave him an early voice, said mom Ainsley. 

“He was a bit hard to understand, and I would say ‘Draw it for me.’ and I would get it right away,” she said. “Bjorn could draw better at two than I can at 40-something.”

Today, Thor is falling in the artistic footsteps of his father and grandfather who both attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design. 

“It makes me really happy while I am doing it. It’s something that I can always get better at,” said Thor. “I am not really a sports person, so for me art is the best.”

There are benefits for the family too.

“I don’t have to stand in the rain on Saturday afternoons,” laughed Ainsley. “But I do have to buy some expensive pens – which we are happy to do – and visit some sketchy places to check out the latest graffiti.”

Inspiration IRL and on Instagram

Inspiration from other artists’ social media accounts, like Germany’s Smoe Nova and Toronto’s Uber5000, motivated Thor to practice his skills enough to start his own Instagram. In a push to be like the artists he admired, Thor began to focus on his art improving and evolving his style. On his feed, you can see the transition from an early ink-and-paper style to digital art.

“My goal is to paint large pieces of graffiti on legal walls,” he said. “An Ipad or paper is pretty small. I wish I can do murals someday.”

The family is supportive of Thor’s passion, embarking on local graffiti walks and visiting prominent skateparks and graffiti alleys during a cross-country road trip last summer. A highlight was being able to see some of Uber5000’s work in person.

“If a kid loved science, the family would visit science centres,” said Ainsley. “For him, it’s graffiti. We are so proud and I love that he is doing what he loves.”

The LGHF greeting cards (12 for $15) are available at their foundation’s office, 231 East 15th Street, and will soon be on the shelves of local Save-On-Foods. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go towards the purchase of a second MRI machine at LGH. To check out Bjorn Thor’s art follow him on Instagram or check out his website

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Stitched with love

A local artist experienced in healing is leading the Lynn Valley Love sewing project. Quilter, artist, and instructor Berene Campbell is hoping the works will help reclaim the Lynn Valley Library and Village after the March 27th attack.

Lots of love

Berene Campbell

As an artist and creator Campbell has felt a need to respond when communities she cares about are struck by tragedy. She uses her work to foster social justice and healing.   

“There is a call – even from far away – when you see your fellow human beings suffering to do something about it,” she said. 

After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing Campbell was inspired to found the community project To Boston With Love. She and others voiced a call for handmade flags supporting the community, the injured and to recognize those that were killed. The project debuted during the month of April 2014 at the Boston Museum of Fine Art to mark one year after the bombing. 

Her initiatives for collective healing continued in Toronto where she was living at the time of its April 2018 van attack. She received over 2000 peace and love flags from across the world that were pieced together to form banners. The project, once completed, was placed in the North York City Centre where it filled a vast space with colour and positive messages.

“The overall idea is to turn this community hub into a space filled with beauty, comfort and love – like a big visual hug,” she said at the time.  

From loss to love

Campbell’s motivation remains much the same after the March 27 stabbing that killed one, injured six, and left the community as a whole reeling. Compassionate, the past projects have been deeply meaningful to Campbell, but with this tragedy taking place in her home community, this one is special.

“My son and his girlfriend were here at the exact time – just one week prior,” she said. “For so many of us, it was just timing that kept us away that day.” 

In May of this year, she partnered with the NVDPL and the District of North Vancouver to begin the Lynn Valley Love sewing project. It is a two-part project set to be unveiled this month at the Lynn Valley branch. Earlier in the spring, the public was invited to pick up simple sewing kits to help stitch the community back together. The felt and cotton pieces were simply sewed at home by residents and dropped off for Campbell and her team to stitch together. The X’s of love have been received from other parts of the world as well as crafters saw the project launch online. 

For some it was an act to send love, for others participation is an act of their own healing and to reduce stress and anxiety.

It’s very repetitive. There is something zen about doing the stitching,” she said.

The second part of the project involves more elaborated quilted banners that will hang in the stairwell of the library. Campbell and her team have a vast network of quilters willing to contribute to the ‘visual hug.’ Banners have arrived from near and far. 

Campbell’s community action goes beyond public displays. She has also established the Handmade Collective Awards, a bursary (financial aid) fund for BIPOC, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ students at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her website also has a number of tutorials and projects for sewers. 

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Forging in the forest, not foraging

It took three years and countless hours to go from clicking an intriguing YouTube link to becoming a master bladesmith in his own right. Lynn Valley Forge’s Casey Vilensky now ships his creatively crafted knives all over the world. 

Forging patience

VilenskyWith a background as a luxury car mechanic and proficient woodworker, Vilensky pairs his metal and wood experience beautifully, making the blades, handles, and wooden sheaths of his knives. Three years in from his first attempt, his knives are unquestionably art. Vilensky’s Instagram account chronicles the progression from one art to another. 

“It’s a different thing, most people get into something like woodworking,” he said. “I kind of will metal into what I want it to do.”

A fateful day of woodworking research led Vilensky across some bladesmith videos. 

“YouTube is great for makers who share their craft,” he said “I was randomly watching videos and these Damascus knives came up and I was interested.”

Functional art

Using an existing space – not huge – about the size of a garage, Vilensky began to adapt his woodworking shop into Lynn Valley Forge.  

“I added tools as I could afford to buy them,” he said. “Definitely having a mechanical background gave me experience with the process and my skills for woodworking gave me the confidence to create. I knew absolutely nobody, no other blacksmith in the Lower Mainland. The learning curve was very high at first. Knifemaking isn’t just about making something beautiful it is also about making it functional. Nobody asked me to buy a knife for the first year.” 

His progress required patience and a lot of practice. 

“The shop gets hot, it’s noisy, you get covered in grinding dust and wood dust. It’s not glamorous but it produces results that are quite beautiful.”

His passion and pursuit of quality supplies and tools have also led him far from his previous career to fully embracing blacksmithing, not only as a creator but also as an importer. Vilensky now distributes trade tools to the growing blacksmithing community in Vancouver and Canada. 

As an artist, he specializes in intricate mosaic Damascus steel. He is strongly influenced by the history and traditions of Japanese knife making. 

“The mosaic means you are working with a repeatable pattern,” he explained. “They look like flowers or explosions or a river running down. You are basically trying to paint a picture with steel.” 

It’s a good time to be creating such labour-intensive pieces of art as more people are recognizing the time and effort it takes to make one knife, said Vilensky. 

“There was a huge failure rate as I was learning. I have a bucket of knives that didn’t work out,” he said. “It’s really frustrating – some patterns take two weeks, working the steel two hours a day, every day. You can only do one operation in one day, and prepare for the next. It can take two weeks and on the last operation it fails, overheats or cracks and you just . . . start over. Luckily that doesn’t happen too much anymore.”

Sharing the trade

With future goals to continue to improve his skills, Vilensky’s priority is to maintain the artistry, and despite the lucrative opportunity of high-end knives, not fall into the trap of overproduction. 

“I don’t want to fall out of love with this. I have no desire to make reproductions, every piece is unique and that is the way it is supposed to be,” he said. “It’s a fun hobby that I sell a few knives to pay for but I want to keep it a hobby I love and not turn it into a job.”

Instead, he is sharing his love. The next project on the horizon is joining the team at Fraser River Forge to teach classes on bladesmithing. 

“I know how hard it was for me to get into, it was just watching videos and not having any personal instruction.”

Sharing his work on the other hand is more complicated. He walks a fine line of producing enough to fund future pieces while maintaining his quality and passion for the work. Vilensky makes a few pieces available through specialty shops but most stay in the hands of friends. The knives have made their way into the hands of chefs and collectors – even to Japan, often seen as the world leader in artisan knives. 

“It was humbling to have a few requests from Japan and having some good reviews from Japanese bladesmiths makes it feel like I have achieved something.”

Images courtesy of Casey Vilensky.

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

A space for digital storytellers

The goal of enhancing the community’s digital literacy has led to an innovative maker space at the Lynn Valley Branch of the North Vancouver District Public Library. The StoryLab’s covid-delayed public debut allowed the library to seamlessly pivot to its pandemic programming, and now it is open for creating.

Evolution of storytelling and literacy

“The original goal was to launch in April of 2020,” said Maryann Kempthorne, manager of innovation and learning for the NVDPL. “But a silver lining was we had this space and resources to take the library digital [during the pandemic restrictions]. We had a studio that allowed us to continue our programs online.”

The new StoryLab facility is a new creativity and learning space. Essentially it is an audio-visual maker space stocked with computers, digitization equipment, an audio booth, and a film studio – complete with lights, mics, and a green screen. It’s a technology hub that builds on the North Shore’s tradition of storytelling, said Kempthorne. 

“Maker spaces are a trend in libraries,” she explained. “We went with audiovisual instead of a sewing machine or 3D printer to suit the community. There is a lot of impact from the district and the shore that is visual and very media. We have North Shore Studios right here. We have an opportunity to influence storytelling in an audiovisual way.”

With a commitment to diversity and inclusion, the StoryLab is also an effort to support more people. 

“Our library has a really strong background in creating readers,” said Kempthorne. “Literacy can be digital literacy – podcasting, film, green screen production.”

But more than that, the StoryLab is about meeting patrons where they are and helping them grow, she said.  

“There are people who are not interested in our anchor services around print. We are able to reach them with content we make that is more accessible. Youth who can’t see themselves reflected in other services might see themselves in digital media learning. It also allows us to support multilingualism.”

When the StoryLab is not booked by the public, it is used by staff to enhance the digital collection, to run online programs and events, and to record audiobooks by patron request.

There are other practical uses for the space. In a pandemic world and the rise of video conferencing and digital connection, people without resources at home or the knowledge to participate can be helped by the StoryLab, said Kempthorne, giving the example of a senior needing to attend a virtual court hearing.

Collaborative creation

The original plan was to have a space where creators could come together to innovate. There is an entire room still on covid-hold that will host technology education sessions in the Digital Learning Lab. As the pandemic pivot continues the NVDPL has plans to host virtual sessions from expert creators, think filmmakers speaking in a similar way to an author talk. 

In the short time, it has been open, the current vision of collaboration has shifted and is supporting creators, small businesses, and local organizations. 

“One of the best examples is North Van Arts was completing one of their local videos and wanted to get people in to record in alternate languages.”

The space is also part of a larger collaborative North Shore vision between NVDPL, the North Vancouver City Library, and the West Vancouver Memorial Library as they all explore maker spaces and aim to provide complementary services with little duplication, said Kempthorne.

How it works

Users can now book the film studio, audio booth, computer stations, or digitization stations. Staff will have a quick consultation to see how much support a creator might need and offer reading materials, digital resources, or other prep materials to make their session a success. Users will need to utilize cloud file transfers or their own portable storage to save their projects and they are also welcome to bring in their own equipment. 

Kempthorne is excited about the innovation opportunities the StoryLab will provide. 

“We have an opportunity to attract and develop storytellers and digital media artists. Having more storytellers in residence at our local library is really exciting. One of the founding projects we did was for youth. Some of my podcasters we have now, came and attended when they were 12 – that’s the continuum of digital literacy and learning.”

This project is the first step in an evolving vision, said Kempthorne. Just as patrons can recommend books they can chat with and make requests with the digital services librarian to improve the space and further innovate.  


Visit the Lynn Valley branch or its website to learn more. 

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