Derry’s eco-friendly art shop marks one year in business
The owner of an eco-friendly art shop in Derry city center has hailed local support as she prepares to celebrate her first year in business.
Eco Art on Butcher Street specializes in natural, non-toxic art supplies, pigments and local crafts and also serves as a community space for workshops and events.
Artist Anna Barclay came up with the idea for the shop after exploring planet-friendly alternatives to the materials she used in her own paintings.
Anna, who has traveled extensively in South America to volunteer in environmental, marine and animal conservation projects, was frustrated that most commonly used acrylic paints contain microplastics, which end up by forcing its way into the sea and into our bloodstream.
“I would paint nature and the sea, but using paints that actually damage the ocean,” says Anna.
“I began to study the way artists painted before the industrial revolution and discovered suppliers producing natural earth-based paints that were safer for the user and the environment.”
Impressed by the quality of products derived from flowers, rocks and natural resources, Anna devised a plan for a sustainable art supply store and a “community space for creativity, benefiting people and the planet”.
When vacant premises appeared in Derry last year, just inside the city walls and opposite the Maldron Hotel, she decided to take the plunge.
“I love Derry as a city. There are a lot of creative people here and there are so many different festivals throughout the year that I knew it would be a great place,” says Anna.
Anna has also enrolled in the Start Up Accelerator program, a partnership between Derry City and Strabane District Council, Enterprise North West and Strabane Enterprise Agency with support from Fashion and Design Textile Hub and Strabane BID. Funded by the UK government through the Community Renewal Fund, it helps new entrepreneurs explore their ideas and develop their business skills.
Through the program, Anna received mentorship support and funding, attended workshops on topics such as finance and digital marketing, and met other new business owners.
“Navigating a new business over the past year has been unpredictable,” Anna admits.
“Having the security of one-on-one mentoring from Enterprise North West and a team of professionals you can go to for advice was great. And you get to meet other people who have done their own leap, which is really encouraging. They may have a totally different business than you, but you have the same worries and concerns.
“Thanks to the program and the funding, I was also able to hire a staff member. Having Katie, who is so passionate about what we do, helps us manage it day to day, it’s great. »
A community center
After furnishing the store with salvaged and recycled furniture, Anna was ready to welcome her first customers last fall.
Inside, the shop is full of natural and mineral pigments, colored pencils made from recycled paper, biodegradable glitter, beeswax candle making kits and much more.
There are also ethical and eco-friendly gifts and homewares made by local artisans, including screenprinter Naomi Arbuthnot of Naomi Prints, who Anna met through the Start Up Accelerator program.
Meanwhile, Eco Art’s Community Art Club gives local artists the opportunity to display their work in the showcase each month, and there are also workshops, zero waste events and activities linked to local festivals. such as Derry Halloween and the Foyle Maritime Festival.
To look forward
Anna says she’s had “so many positive reactions” from customers, tourists and artists who visit the town, and thanked locals for supporting her small business.
“My priority was to make Eco Art a community space – to encourage people to explore their own creativity, in a way that is harmonious for the planet,” she adds.
“The climate crisis is happening all the time and it’s not going to get better. It’s not to scare people, it’s to encourage them and tell them that it’s worth protecting. We don’t inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
She adds: ‘We live in a fast-paced society and I also think Covid has been a wake-up call to slow down, whether that’s taking time out in nature or exploring your artistic side. Even if people think they’re not “good” at art. The art is not there to sit and contemplate, it is about the journey and the process rather than the finished product.
Anna says she would encourage others with a business idea to seek out the support available from the Council and Enterprise North West, who can help you through the process.
She adds, “If you have a business idea that you are passionate about, there is support to help you make it a reality.”