Tucked away on Front Street in downtown Thorold, a one-of-a-kind stationary shop is reminding us of the beauty and intimacy that comes from handcrafting the written word.
This allure and appreciation for quality handmade goods crafted with care inspired the creation of Figg Street Co. – a fine stationery, artisanal papers & gifts shop dedicated to supplying the community with an extensive collection of unique products that come with great stories and ethical practices.
Delicate fine stationery, hand bound notebooks, artisanal papers, decorative gifts and an extensive collection of handmade, hand pressed, hand decorated greeting cards adorn the tables; each product flowing together harmoniously throughout the space, fashioning a haven for both artists and shoppers alike in search of century-old craftsmanship for the modern day lifestyle.
The owner and the creative visionary behind the elegant and unique Figg Street Co. is Antoinette D’Angelo. Following years of traveling and living in cities throughout North America, D’Angelo found herself settled in Niagara with her family. Inspired by her travels and the artisanal shops she discovered while living in Ottawa’s artist-fueled neighborhood the Glebe, D’Angelo decided it was finally time to pursue her dreams and open her own stationary shop; poetically described as her “Dream on paper.”
“I just knew it was now or never,” said D’Angelo. “I found there was a need for a place like this. You can go to a lot of stores and buy cards, but these are artful cards.”
Figg Street Co., has also made it their mission to remind us that in today’s fast-paced and instant digital age, taking the time to create and be mindful in the moment should be cherished more than ever. Whether it is writing in a journal, framing a piece of art or composing the perfect birthday card, the act of crafting should be slow and intentional with an artful purpose.
“I think that you can frame a beautiful card that you receive and it becomes a piece of art,” said D’Angelo. “And when the person you give the card to walks by that frame, they will be reminded of you.”
During her search for the perfect town in which to plant her store’s roots, D’Angelo was introduced to Thorold by a neighbour; her stationery shop dreams soon after fell into place and have continued to grow organically on Front Street with the help of the Thorold community.
“A store like this belongs on a street like this,” said D’Angelo. “It doesn’t belong in a mall or in a big city. It is about the community and the personality behind it.”
An art enthusiast and cherisher of beautiful papers, fine stationery and the artisanal process, D’Angelo describes her store’s products as affordable luxury.
“I believe in quality products,” said D’Angelo.
“If you are going to spend your money, you should spend it well. Buy something once that will last and give you happiness for a long time.”
Along with quality products, D’Angelo as well believes in supporting the small, independent producer over the big box retailer and encourages her customers to be mindful of the products they choose to purchase.
“I don’t go the way of mass produced products,” said D’Angelo. “There are some things that people are looking for, and you have to appease them, but I really try to look at the story and where the products are made and what kind of care is taken into making the cards in terms of the environment and ethical issues of how people are treated.”
“One thing I also love is to find products with great stories to go with them,” said D’Angelo. “It’s what makes them special.”
Artists and artisans regularly featured at Figg Street Co. include Hilda Glasgow – one of the top fashion illustrators from 1940 – 1960’s who’s original sketches have since been turned into limited edition reproductions, notecards, greeting cards and vintage inspired colouring books – and Paula Skene, an American artist and card producer who specializes in traditional customary embossing techniques. Each one of Skene’s designs are hand carved into a piece of copper and then produced one at a time.
“Every single little line is hand carved and etched in copper,” said D’Angelo. “And then the gold foiling is done by hand. So this one card touches many hands.”
Local artists showcased at Figg Street Co. also include water colour painter Katrina Dawn – who reproduces her paintings into miniature prints and greeting cards – and Hannelore Story Works, an artist who specializes in creating one-of-a-kind hand bound, hand torn journals with Coptic stitching [which allows each book to always lie flat whether you’re left or right handed].
One-of-a-kind Niagara artist Rosalind Went’s company Harry and Ida can also be found on the Thorold shops shelves – whose individual creations include banners, gift tags, scrapbooking pieces and repurposed wood items all of which have been upcycled and recycled from vintage and found items.
“She dabbles in a little bit of everything,” said D’Angelo. “She has collected paper from her various trips around the world forever; and she stock piled it into a room for years and now she is using it up to make something beautiful.”
Rosalind Went says Figg Street Co. is so special within Niagara’s art and retail scene not only for the products that have been chosen to be sold, but for the exceptional support and appreciation shown towards the artists themselves.
“Antoinette is so good at recognizing things that others don’t,” said Went. “She stresses quality over quantity; she’s wonderful for promoting her artists and harvesting her artists’ locally. It is such a privilege to have my work in that shop amongst the other artists.”
“She really is, in my opinion, the best quality store for stationary and pens and local art in the Niagara Region,” said Went.
Alongside Figg Street Co.’s collection of products and gifts, the awning adorned storefront hosts a monthly art show each year between April and December showcasing a new and different artist or photographer’s work on the walls. The art is also made available for purchase while on display.
“I always have new art,” said D’Angelo. “They really provide a pop of colour and fresh life to the walls each month.”
D’Angelo said they are currently booked solid until 2020 with “a wonderfully diverse variety of painters, artists and photographers.”
Coming in 2018, Figg Street Co. is also looking to host a variety of artisanal led workshops for budding artists and craft lovers within the community.
“There is a lot of interest [in the workshops],” said D’Angelo. “I think people really just want to get together and get around a table and learn something and be close to others. There is a need to connect and people want to connect – I am asked this all the time.”
D’Angelo said one particular workshop that is already garnering attention is an introduction to paper quilling – the ancient art of paper filigree crafted by cutting paper into long thin strips and then rolling and pinching the pieces into different shapes to form decorative art.
As for Figg Street Co.’s future, D’Angelo said she will continue to encourage local shopping and supporting local artists as her business grows; she plans to continue to expand her stock by catering to the artistic desires and requests of her growing clientele.
“I want to share more with people the importance of shopping local and supporting local,” said D’Angelo. “I am always having artists and products suggested to me by customers and I really want to encourage this kind of passion for products and stock my shelves with them when possible.”
with Rosalind Went
We chatted with Niagara artist Rosalind Went – creator of Harry and Ida – about her upcycled and recycled products and what inspires her to breathe new life into discarded pieces.
How did Harry and Ida begin?
It started about three years ago. Two longtime friends of mine died in quick succession from horrific cancer and I found I just didn’t want to write anymore – I wanted to create art.
What inspired the name Harry and Ida?
My husband’s family always kept diaries from about 1900 and I was flicking through them one day just reading… [my husband’s] grandparents were called Harry and Ida. One [diary] I came across was from when they were at our Northern Ontario island and they had breakfast one morning and then the next entry was ‘Ma and I built a dock,’ as if everyone has breakfast and then went out and built a dock. I just thought, boy, they are such an inspiration.
Between the family inspiration and my love for the 1940’s and ‘50’s – I love vintage items and retro items – I just wanted to, after my two friends died, upcycle and reuse what we already have.
Why upcycle pieces instead of crafting from new?
We all think we are doing our part when we put our blue and green bins out on the curbside each week. But, I also volunteer at a charity shop each week and the things we see that people kindly donate to give to others – between that and making art, I just wanted to reuse things instead of throwing them out.
What kind of pieces do you like to create?
It varies! I brought back wood [from our torn down boat house] and made signs and so on and it caught on and I found myself selling a number of pieces of the old wood that were redone.
I’ve also always had a fascination with stationary, old papers, old envelopes … Paper has always been my go to. A few years back, I made a series of vintage tags and embellished them with vintage silk ribbons that I had found at another charity shop.
If I see a bag of old, weathered clothes pins I’ll reuse scraps of papers to recreate them. Old typewriter tins also make beautiful gifts.
Do you ever purchase new products?
A good 80% of my products are recycled. I strive as much as I can to buy from charity shops – utilize things that other people have discarded – and try to incorporate that into everything I create. I have to use some new papers and tags, but I always make them into my own. I stain them with coffee or tea and let them dry, flatten them and go from there. And fountain pens – I try to use the ink from these pens. Everything I try to reuse.