For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council features Tanis Thomas and Carl Quesnel, a Pinawa couple who own and operate a family business called Boreal Workshop, which creates stunning handcrafted jewellery. In addition to jewellery and personal goods, they produce art objects, and vessels and containers suitable for personal and ceremonial use.
In 2016, Boreal Workshop moved from Winnipeg to Pinawa. The couple felt drawn by the beauty of the Canadian Shield. The scenic surroundings played a major role in their decision to live and work in this community.
Tanis Thomas is a member of Ochekwi-Sipi Cree Nation (Fisher River), with Cree and Metis ancestors from the Interlake and Grand Beach regions of Manitoba. Her education in art began at an early age. Her uncle, Don LaForte, was an accomplished visual artist and bon vivant.
Thomas said. “He passed on a belief that art is intrinsic to our nature.”
Carl Quesnel, the head jeweller and lapidary-gemologist is Canadian, of English and French ancestry, with roots in Winnipeg, and the Manigatogan-Long Lake area of Manitoba. For those who may not know, a lapidary is a person who cuts, polishes or engraves stones. Quesnel was introduced to lapidary at a young age by parents and grandparents, and he has studied gemology with the Gemological Institute of America. He is also an accomplished gold, silver, and copper smith.
The couple has lived and worked in diverse regions of Canada, from the Arctic to the Prairies. Boreal Workshop’s classical, minimalist aesthetic is reflected in each piece they design and hand make. As well, their work is informed by Indigenous and European cultures, the traditions of art and craft, and the environment.
Thomas said, “The influences of cultures, traditions, and the beauty of the natural world are intrinsic to our art.”
All of their creations are hand made in Canada and ethically produced. They cut and facet gemstones using select rough sourced from around the world. The metalwork they produce is also all handmade, typically in copper, silver, and gold. Where possible, they use local sources and distributors, and consider sustainability and the environment.
Their work is available on their website, www.borealworkshop.com, as well as at select retail locations in Manitoba. Pieces have been donated to the art and ceremonial exhibit, “Walking with Our Sisters,” and they support Manitoba-based arts organizations and exhibits with donations of jewellery and vessels for fundraising events.
Their motto: “We make beautiful things for all people.”