Patti Willis Delights with Dragonflies and Fairy Homes

Patti Willis is inspired by wetlands and the wonder of children.

Ceramic artist Patti Willis was one of the novice crafters exhibiting at the very first Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair in 1981; now, 38 years later, she’s still there.

Back in the early days she was a young mother wearing an Indian bedspread skirt, with a baby on her hip. Today she’s a grandmother who shares a Craft Fair table with her now-adult daughter, the fabric artist Lily Harned. And these days she has two granddaughters, whose wide-eyed delight inspires new directions for her work. Over decades at the Denman Fair and many other British Columbia craft events, she has honed her technique and aesthetic vision, maturing into a respected master of her craft.

Willis delved into pottery soon after moving to Denman Island in 1970. She’d been living in Berkeley, California, studying philosophy while protesting in the civil rights and anti-war movements. She describes her route to Denman Island in the book Dancing in Gumboots: “My mate at the time and I had met a group of New Yorkers who had just bought property on the island. They carried a hefty duffle bag of crisp, ruby-red apples, which they had smuggled across the border.

Delicate vases adorned by hand-painted flowers.

“The apples were highly biblical; we bit into one and were seduced into visiting these people in their Denman Garden of Eden, and ultimately to becoming settlers ourselves.” Willis, her partner, and a group of friends bought 160 acres of farm, forest, and wetlands, added some cows and horses, planted gardens, and got involved in community life.

Finding her philosophy degree unmarketable in this remote location, Willis turned to pottery, which until then had been a hobby. She started out doing traditional stone wear, and then found her niche when another Denman potter, Gordon Hutchens, introduced her to the use of drawing and to white clay.

Willis’ work is highly recognizable: delicate, often tiny, porcelain bowls, vases and other objects, hand-painted with natural motifs like sunflowers, irises, oak leaves, dragonflies and moths.

Willis considers her work folk art, because of the simplicity of its aesthetic, its repetition of images, and its evocation of nature. “There are plenty of potters, like Gordon Hutchens, who make truly fine art—that’s not me.”

It may be folk art, but the techniques used to create Willis’ work are complex, involving multiple firings, underglazes and gloss overglazes, and fine brush work. “It’s quite a surgical procedure,” she says. “Because I work with painting on whiteware, I have to wash my hands a lot and keep everything really clean.”

“Living next to a duck pond for almost 50 years, how could I not be inspired?”

Willis’ images reflect the forest, meadows, and the water that surround her home and studio on the farm. “Living next to a duck pond for almost 50 years, how can I not be inspired?” she asks, rhetorically.

Her more recent muses are her granddaughters. “I got the idea of making fairy homes from watching them,” says Willis. The fairy homes are as cute and fanciful as the name suggests—small rotunda with domed roofs, whimsical decorations, tiny doors and windows, gentle pastel colours, and fun patterns.

Willis has combined her ceramics career with organizing and research work in the international peace movement. She still considers Denman akin to the Garden of Eden, and sees the annual Craft Fair as a powerful expression of the community’s essence.

“A vibrant community displays itself in art and artefact, in music and theatre—it’s the heartbeat of a community. And the fair embodies the tradition of the marketplace—a tradition that’s really really old. So when I get in my car that first morning to go down to the community hall, I feel a connection with those who bring their wares all over the world to a central place,” says Willis.

Selling at a fair, like any marketplace, supports authentic relationships with buyers. “I really honour the patrons who come to the fair year after year,” says Willis. “Some who I first met 38 years ago still come, some of them with walkers and canes. And there are also all the younger people, which is so gratifying. The fair is multigenerational.”

Medicine from the Forest Crafted by Philippa Joly

Philippa Joly takes care to harvest ethically from the forest, respecting the original people of these lands who have gathered plants sustainibly for millennia.

Philippa Joly just has to step outside her Denman Island home to find an abundance of materials for her craft. The surrounding forest provides almost everything  she needs to create her product line of healing salves and tinctures. Lichen. Elderberries. Oregon Grape. Cedar. Forest mushrooms. Even her hand-made chocolate (medicine for the soul, she calls it) contains wild rose petals from the bushes that grow in fragrant tangles in her backyard.

Joly is a clinical herbalist, medicine-maker, educator, and proprietor of Bright Moon Botanicals. “I create high-quality handmade medicine out of mostly wildcrafted plants,” she says. You can find Joly at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, Nov 30 and Dec 1. This will be her seventh year vending at the fair.

Her table will focus mainly on her winter product line: Kick the Sick, an immune booster; Sunshine in a Bottle, which treats winter time depression; a cough syrup which is a client favourite; and a new heart medicine which works for physical disorders like high blood pressure, as well as for emotional challenges of the heart like grief and heartbreak.

Products like Kick the Sick and Sunlight in a Bottle provide help during the winter months.

All are made by hand, in small batches. “This allows me to pay attention to every detail and to ensure the medicines are high-quality.” Herbalism is a complex science and Joly draws on years of training, including programs at Wild Seeds School of Herbal Medicine on Salt Spring Island, and Pacific Rim College in Victoria.

Joly is motivated by her love of plants. “I love what plants know and offer us; they’re so generous. I enjoy being the messenger, the intermediary between plants and people. And once you get to know the plants, you’re never lonely. You always have friends around,” she says.

This intimate relationship with plants, like all relationships, can’t be a one-way street, says Joly. It has to be reciprocal. That means practicing ethical wild crafting.

Making small batches allows Joly to pay attention to every detail, ensuring her medicines are high quality.

“A big part of this is that I think about the ancestors of this land and the people whose territory this is,” she says. “I’m aware that these are places where for millennia people have gathered plants and I’m gratefully and humbly walking in their footsteps.

“And it’s really important to know the places you gather from, so you can go back and see the effects of your gathering with an awareness of how each plant grows and spreads, and what a healthy population of that plant looks like. It’s important to give back. Some places really like it when you bring them some compost.”

The Denman Craft Fair is a favourite annual event for Joly. “It’s very affirming, because many people are excited with what I have to offer. It’s nice to be part of the community of artisans, and I love the festive feeling.”

Free Raffle Highlights Stocking Stuffers

Cuteness, yummyness, and beauty in a basket!
bunny on stump with decorations
This needle-felted bunny is looking forward to a new home.

There aren’t any truly slow times at the Denman Christmas Craft Fair, but there are times that are less busy than, say, Saturday morning, when the crowds can make the scene worthy of a CBC rush hour traffic report from Vancouver: “Expect delays over by Gordon Hutchens, and the left lane is slow by the kids’ table. There’s a stalled group over in the Activity Centre by the candles, so you might want to consider heading left when you get past Fireweed’s table.”

Many fair-goers love the heady atmosphere created by the concentration of people, but others prefer more space. Fair organizers have widened the aisles, which helps, and now they’re offering a tempting prize for people visiting in the slower times: a free raffle for anyone entering the doors between 2:00 and 4:00 both days. The prize is a selection of stocking stuffers made by Craft Fair vendors.

“There are always so many great stocking stuffers on sale at the fair,” says Fair Coordinator Autumn White. “That makes this a fun way to even out traffic a bit.” She defines “stocking stuffer” as a relatively small item priced at around $20.00 or less. These don’t necessarily need to be stuffed into anything, she points out—they make great gifts for many occasions.

“You could buy eight little gifts, one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah,” says Fair Media Coordinator Laura Busheikin, who celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter solstice. “And I always buy a bunch of small gifts at the fair to keep on hand throughout the year for hostess gifts and other tokens of appreciation. I love having a drawer full of candles, soaps, needle-felted creatures, shiny things, and more, on hand to give away as needed.”

Some highlights from the prize package include:

stocking stuffers on stump with decorations
Soft textures, captivating aromas, delicious flavours, and bright colours will fill stockings with holiday cheer.
  • Cozy felted insoles and a do-it-yourself needle-felting kit from Christine O’Neill
  • Tiny ceramics pieces, including an aqua-blue mini-vase by Shirley Phillips and a delicately flowered hand-painted bowl by Patti Willis
  • Body products, including gently-scented soap from Laura Pope and menthol foot and chest rub from Three Corners Naturals.

There’s also jam, salve, a change purse, an adorable tomato-themed knitted cap, a bag of Cream of Earl Grey Tea, and more. Look for the raffle entry boxes at the main doors of each hall. Please enter only once per day. The draw will take place Sunday at 4:00 and winners will be notified right away.

Now in its 38th year, the Denman Craft Fair features over 80 artisans from Denman and further afield.  Nov 30 & Dec 1, 10 – 4:00. It’s free, and there’s a shuttle from the Denman West ferry terminal, so tell your friends to walk on. As usual, a variety of delicious lunches and snacks will be available, created by local cooks and farmers.

Nurturing Young Artists: Craft Fair Kids Grow Up


The kids’ table at the Denman Christmas Craft Fair is always a busy place—full of creativity, young talent, great deals and, well, cuteness. It’s also a training ground for Denman’s next generation of professional artisans.

Lily H
Bags by fabric artist Lily Harned

This year, there are three (at least) adult vendors who got their start as kids at the fair. Looking back, they say their experience as young participants brought them inspiration and confidence, honed their art skills, and taught them basic entrepreneurial attitudes and know-how.

“I grew up at craft fairs,” says fabric artist Lily Harned, who sells pouches, bags and fabric baskets. Her mother, ceramic artist Patti Willis, and her father, glass artist John Harned, were part of the original fair 37 years ago and are still selling at the fair in 2018.

“I have so many great memories,” she says. “Not just of the Denman fair, where I sold jewelry as a teenager, but also many others that my parents took me to: the renaissance fair in Courtenay, early Circle Craft in Vancouver, and I remember one at the Empress in Victoria—it was so much fun!

“I was lucky to grow up in a culture of people making things by hand—not just my parents, but also all my neighbours were potters and weavers and what not. On Denman, it’s just part of the culture. I took it for granted but now I realize how special it is. Of course, there are makers everywhere but not such a concentration of them.”

Craft Fair regulars know Megan Rose Babb as the Denman Island artisan who sells beautiful jewelry made from recycled bicycle parts and inner tires. Now 36, she started out at the fair as a creative 10-year-old.

Megan Babb necklace
Megan Rose created this necklace from recycled bicycle inner tubes

“There’s a funny story about my first year. I was selling beaded earrings that were the same style as ones LeeAndra Jacobs [a long-term Denman Craft Fair vendor] makes—a big mix of different colours that LeeAndra calls Jambalaya. I’d seen the ones she made and just copied them! LeeAndra was very gracious about it. I still sometimes see [Denman ceramic artist] Bev Severn wearing the pair she bought from me back then,” says Megan.

As she grew up, Megan moved into other adventures such as making music, living in Montreal and London, and travelling across Canada by bike. When she returned to Denman six years ago, she had already established herself as an artisan with a line of jewelry that she sold on-line and in various outlets. She returned to the fair with these products, adding home-made organic chocolate-hazelnut spread to sweeten the deal.

“This fair is really well organized and attended, with a really high caliber of artisans, and it’s so fun and festive. Everyone on the island seems really happy; we get to see each other, make money, and get beautiful gifts, helping neighbours do their thing and supporting the local economy,” says Megan.

Elishka Hajek creates digital illustrations, such as this one, on a graphics tablet

Elishka Hajek has been creating art since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She still draws, but her main genre is digital painting and illustration. She started vending at the fair when she was in grade five at Denman Elementary School, selling photography cards and pinwheel cookies.

“I loved the atmosphere, the busyness. And I really liked talking to people about my art,” says Elishka. The fair became an annual highlight. It was mostly about sharing her art and having fun, but it also provided an education. “I learned how to explain my techniques. Also I learned how to sell my products—to think about how to set up a display, and how to be organized.”

This year, Elishka is 18 and a grade 12 student at G.P. Vanier, and will be having her own table for the first time, selling greeting cards, prints and stickers. “I’m looking forward to having more space and having complete control over that space, and to being taken more seriously as an adult artist—not that we don’t take the kids seriously; they are good artists. But it feels different having my own table.”

Like Lily and Megan, Elishka says Denman provides a nurturing environment for a young artist. “It’s such a supportive community, and being surrounded by nature has really influenced me.” Next year, Elishka plans to go to college to study art and animation.

Copper Creations: Metalwork artist Mary Hicks plays with light

Mary Hicks
Mary Hicks

Denman Island metalwork artist Mary Hicks traces her inspiration all the way back to King Tut. Or more specifically, to the renowned international exhibition called The Treasures of Tutankhamun, which toured the world from 1972 to 1979, sparking global interest in the life and culture of this Egyptian Pharoah, who ruled 3000 years ago.

At the time, Mary Hicks was a pre-teen living in Chicago. Already a lover of art, Mary spent much of her spare time visiting the city’s many museums, galleries and sculpture gardens. When the King Tut exhibit came to the Chicago Natural History Museum in 1977, Hicks braved the long line-ups, and was not disappointed.

“I remember maneuvering through the crowds to get to the front of the showcases and being so struck by the beautiful metalwork, the brilliance of it, the play of light and the enduring quality of it. These things had been created so incredibly long ago and still remained. For me, that was the start of wanting to create objects of beauty that will arouse emotion or intrigue.”

Mary Hicks

It took a couple of decades, however, before Hicks began working with metal. In her formative years she attended California Institute of Arts, and was an art photographer/mixed media artist for over 30 years prior to becoming a sculptor.

It was literally a search for light that led Hicks to metalwork. She wanted a wall sconce for a bedside light, and decided to make it herself, out of copper foil. “When it was done, there was something about the quality of light when it hit the metal. It was so warm, so vibrant, so alive. I was completely captivated, and while photography will always be one of my main passions I have worked primarily with metal ever since.”

Metal offered the opportunity to move beyond the two-dimensional realm. Hicks began creating sculptural pieces, exploring weaving, grids and multi-layered patterns.

Mary Hicks necklace cropped

“I’ve always been drawn to abstraction,” says Hicks. “In my photography, I’m often shooting the innards of flowers. It’s the patterns of things and the quality of light—that’s what has always fascinated me.”

Hicks also makes art jewelry. “People started asking me to make jewelry. They’d see my sculptures and say, ‘I’d wear that if it I could.’” says Hicks. “I have woven copper jewelry pieces, pendants, earrings and hair barrettes.”

The jewelry will be the main feature at Hicks’ table at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, along with small sculptures, ornaments, and photography. Hicks has been vending at the Denman fair for 10 years, and says the event is a highlight of the season.

“I’m honoured to be part of this community of incredible artists. I’ve attended several fairs and this is one of the best,” she says. You can see Mary Hicks’ artwork at

Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair

Nov 30 & Dec 1, 2018, 10 – 4

Free shuttle from the ferry, so you can walk on at Buckley Bay.

Home-made meals and treats available all day.

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Art You Can Play With: Celebrating The Life Force With Susan Cain

Cain flying bird sculpture

Susan Cain’s puppets straddle worlds. They are toys, and they are art. They are whimsical bundles of feathers and sequins, and they are archetypal figures, seeming to emerge magically from the numinous world of fairy tales. For a psychologist, they are therapeutic tools;  for a teacher, educational aids. They are 100% artifice, but if you look at them for long, it might occur to you that they are creatures of the wild.

Cain cat sculpture close up

“When I’m making them,” says Cain, “I can’t just crank them out. I have to wait for them to come alive. And that’s what attracts people to them. They’re alive. They have soul.”

Cain, who lives on Hornby Island, fell in love with puppets during a stint as a member of a puppet theatre troupe in San Francisco in 1980. She has been making them ever since. She also creates paintings, drawings and mixed media sculpture. Holiday shoppers can find her work at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair (see below for dates and more info) where her table has been a favourite for over ten years.

Animals have always been Cain’s greatest inspiration, she says. “Animals have inspired many myths and fables and with my puppets and sculptures, I celebrate this life force.

“On Hornby, animals are woven into our everyday life, from the frogs and herring in the spring, the fawns that wander by with their mothers, and all of the amazing birds, from the eagles to the hummingbirds, that are all nesting and raising their young. Insects are everywhere you look, foraging and pollinating.”

Cain is also inspired by materials. Her studio is chock full of bags and baskets of fabrics, buttons, beads, trim, fringe, shells, bones, rocks, wool, and mysterious objects that don’t yet have a purpose, but will some day. There are bags of silvery painted faux feathers that someone gave her, and bundles of particularly well-shaped twigs from a pruning job. The space is a treasure trove.

Since moving to BC, Cain has enjoyed a successful artistic career. Her work has appeared in several dozen solo and group exhibitions in Canada and the United States and has sold all over the world.

Susan Cane

Cain’s colourful Craft Fair table offers the chance to buy a major art work, such as a wire mesh cougar sculpture, or pick up smaller items such as baby bat finger puppets or shiny Christmas tree ornaments, which make great stocking stuffers.

Visit Susan Cain and over 80 other local artisans at this year’s Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, NOv 30 & Dec 1, 2019, 10 – 4:00.  It’s free, and there’s a shuttle from the Denman West ferry terminal, so you can park at Buckley Bay and walk on to the ferry. As usual, a variety of delicious lunches and snacks will be available, created by local cooks and farmers.

More info:, or find us on Facebook.

Forest Hood: A Crafter Grows from Denman Soil

Denman Island Craft Fair artist Laura Thompson, creator of Forest Hood
Denman Island Craft Fair artist Laura Thompson, creator of Forest Hood

Typically, artisans study, practice and develop their craftsmanship for years before being ready to market a polished, unique and high-quality product. But not always. For Laura Thompson, creator of Forest Hood, the journey from admiring consumer to maker/entrepreneur took a year.

That journey began at last year’s Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, says Laura.

“There was so much amazing stuff at the fair, but what most caught my eye were the hoods produced by Sara Hullanta. They were so stylish and practical, and so unique. I thought I’d like to learn to make them, and I also thought they could be successfully sold on-line. I saw so much potential!

“Sara taught me how to make them and I ran with it! With her blessing, I took the original idea, came up with a name, and rethought the fabric, details and construction. And learned how to make them.

“I’d never used a sewing machine before in my life. That’s why I’m thankful to live on an island where there are so many accomplished fabric artists willing to help. I got a crash course from the best of the best! I even got to consult with someone on Denman who has a Masters degree in fabric. I didn’t even know there was such a thing!”
“Because of all this support, and because I pretty much obsessed about the hoods, everything developed quickly,” says Laura. She spent six months learning from mentors, and experimenting with fabric, stitching, angles, thread, patterns and colour.

For fabric, Laura settled on a wool outer layer over a fleece inner layer. The wool provides warmth and is water-resistant—a must in our climate. The fleece adds softness and insulation.

“People tell me they love wearing these. Unlike a toque, they don’t squash your hair. They keep you warm but still let air circulate around your head. If you get too hot, you can push back the hood partially or completely. A local bird watcher who is out on the beach every day, all winter long, tells me it keeps the rain off his glasses and the sun out of his eyes, thanks to the overhang.”

Laura moved from Vancouver to Denman Island four years ago, leaving a career as a mortgage broker to homestead on a Lacon Road acreage. “I was happy to walk away from the world of finance and the city to have a better life for myself and my children. The whole time so far on Denman I’ve been looking at different ideas of what to do and this is the one that grabbed me,” says Laura.

Denman Island Craft Fair artist Laura Thompson, creator of Forest Hood

“I was always a numbers person—I never called myself an artist. But now the whole world of fabric art is opening up, a world of creativity I’ve never known before. It’s like a light went on. I’m inspired—maybe a bit obsessed. And I’m having fun.”

Check out Forest Hood along with over 80 other artisans at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, Dec 1 & 2, 10 – 4:00. It’s free, and there’s a shuttle from the Denman West ferry terminal, so tell your friends to walk on. As usual, a variety of delicious lunches and snacks will be available, created by local cooks and farmers. 

Photos by McKinnon Photography 

Glass Art Shines at Denman Craft Fair

Denman Island Craft Fair Glass artist John Harned
Denman Island Craft Fair Glass artist John Harned

The Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair struggles a bit with stereotyping: some people hear the name and imagine a draughty hall full of all-natural, home-spun wares that hearken back to a simpler time, or perhaps to the 70s—macrame plant hangers spring to mind. While those adjectives could describe much of what’s there (although you might not find macrame plant hangers); the world of craft today is highly sophisticated, and a visit to the Denman Craft Fair is a full-on artistic experience. There are plenty of examples of old traditions exquisitely maintained, but also works that are highly contemporary and creatively innovative.

Glass artist John Harned, who’s been an exhibitor at the Denman fair since its inception in 1981, is a case in point. His glass tableware spans an aesthetic palette stretching from bold, abstract geometric patterns to floral and leaf motifs; with colour schemes ranging from cool black-and-white to vibrant rainbow hues, and deep velvety textures contrasting with metallic sparkle.

Harned says that ideas about what a ‘craft’ is have evolved over the decades. “I didn’t think of myself as an artist when I started, but along the way people starting telling me that’s what I was. It’s something that’s been debated over the years—the line between craft and art. These days there is no division.”

Denman Island Craft Fair artist John Harned

Working in his idyllic Denman Island studio, with the ocean close by and the forest all around, Harned is inspired by nature, but also by art both old and new, and all types of design. “I’m sort of a magazine freak,” he says. “I have quite a collection: anything to do with interior decorating, architecture, painting and print making. I’m interested in pattern so I research all the other disciplines that have to do with pattern, such as tapestries, fabrics, and graphic design. Also, I have many books of art imagery throughout the centuries which I use as reference and inspiration.”

Harned didn’t start out as a visual artist, but rather as a classical musician. While studying for a music degree from prestigious Oberlin College, he also took courses in drawing, painting and art history. Years later, living on Denman Island, he discovered glass work while recuperating from an injury. He began with stained glass and then in the 80s discovered kiln-fired fused glasswork. This relatively-unknown technology offered exciting new design possibilities. 

He began teaching himself through trial and error, and then in the 1990s he took a course on fused glass at the Pilchuck International Glass School, which, he says, literally transformed his life. “I had all this new information, inspiration and motivation. There is so much to explore, and I’ve been doing that ever since.”

Harned is one of a handful of Denman Island artisans that have been exhibiting at the Denman Craft Fair since its inception. Over the decades, he’s seen it grow from a local get-together to an iconic regional event. He’s attended many other fairs, but the Denman one is always a highlight.

“The Denman fair is rich with character. I get to see what my peers and doing and discover new artists. There are always people emerging out of the woodwork who have great skills and who are taking their work seriously.”

Denman Island Craft Fair artist John Harned

You’ll find John Harned and over 80 other artisans at the Denman Island Craft Fair, Dec 1 & 2, 10 – 4:00 pm, at the Denman Community Hall and Activity Centre. It’s free, and there’s a shuttle from the Denman West ferry terminal, so you can park at Buckley Bay and walk on to the ferry. As usual, a variety of delicious lunches and snacks will be available, created by local cooks and farmers. 

Photos by McKinnon Photography 

Corlan Vineyards

Denman Island Craft Fair Pat and Selwyn Jones of Corlan Vineyards
Corlan Vineyards is Denman Island’s only winery

Pat and Selwyn Jones can boast something rare for a commercial vintner: they have quite possibly met every single person who has ever bought a bottle of their wine. In spite of requests from restaurants, and the convenience that retail sales would offer, they choose to sell their product in person at farmers’ markets and local events like the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, so they can ensure that all their clients know where their wine comes from and how best to store and serve it.

This dedication to authenticity, quality and personal connection is what draws people to the Denman Craft Fair year after year, says Craft Fair Coordinator, Autumn White. “I’m excited that Pat and Selwyn, of Corlan Vineyards, will be selling their wines at the fair again this year – they’ve been a big hit since they started vending at the fair two years ago. Their wine exemplifies the Craft Fair’s values of small-scale, hand-made, local and sustainable.”
As well, this year the Jones will also take part in the event’s food fair, offering comfort food such as home-made soup and shepherd’s pie, all based on products from their farm.

The personal touch is important for Corlan’s wines, says Selwyn, because the wines do not contain potassium metabisulphite, a preservative used in most commercial wine, including many organic wines. This reflects the Jones’ commitment to purity.

Denman Island Craft Fair Selwyn Jones among the grapevines at Corlan Vineyards
Selwyn Jones among the grapevines at Corlan Vineyards

“We want our wines to be completely natural,” says Pat. Some people have allergies to sulphites, or find them hard to digest, and many people simply prefer to avoid preservatives in food and drink.

However, without sulphites, wine needs to be drank within three days of opening to ensure quality. After that, it begins to oxidize, compromising its flavour.
“It’s best to open our wine when you have friends over,” says Selwyn. “We need to be able to explain this to our customers, so we need to have face-to-face sales. It’s also important to explain that the shelf life of the wine, if unopened, is great. It just gets better and better.”

Corlan produces four wines, sold under the label To Ewe Wines: Sandy Island White is made with Corlan’s estate grown Ortega, a cross between Muller-Thurgau and Seigerrebe, which produce a crisp aromatic wine with citrus overtones. Siegerrebe is another aromatic white which is a personal favourite of the winemakers.

Chrome Island Red features Marechal Foch grapes, a French-American hybrid which ripens dependably in our climate, and produces an inky red, which is aged in neutral barrels.
Blackberry dessert wine is Corlan’s only sweet wine, and a favourite on Denman Island, where blackberries grow abundantly.

“Our wines have a strong fruit flavour,” explains Pat. “This is because we don’t irrigate the vineyards. This also means we’re not depleting the groundwater, which is important for sustainability. There are parts of Europe where this is practiced. It gives the wine more flavour.”

Corlan is Denman Island’s only vineyard and winery. All the wines come from fruit (mostly Ortega and Marechal Foch grapes, and blackberries) grown on the sunny 10- acre certified organic farm, which also includes Clun Forest Sheep, three working border collies, a large flock of laying hens, a propagating greenhouse with nursery, and a tasting room.

Running a certified organic farm is labour intensive but the Joneses wouldn’t have it any other way. They love the work itself, the long days in the garden and vineyard, and the payoffs. “It gives you a tremendous feeling of independence. We produce most of our own food. We’re almost completely self-sufficient. And the biggest blessing is that we know what we are eating. We know it is chemical-free and healthy,” says Selwyn. Weekends find them at the Denman Farmers’ Market and the Qualicum Farmers’ Market, making those face-to-face sales. They are looking forward to the Denman Craft Fair, partly because it’s a magical and fun community event, but also because the sales are brisk.

“The Fair is great for us,” says Pat. “We get people coming back each year. Wine makes a great gift.”

Busy though they are during the Fair, Pat and Selwyn also find time to do their holiday shopping on site. “It’s such an easy, nice place to buy presents, without having to go into stores at this time of year,” says Pat. Just like their clients, they love the face-to- face exchange of hand-made, high-quality, sustainable products.

Originally published in The Island Word, November 2017 photos by Colby Rex O’Neill