Clayoquot Crafts in Tofino: Doing more with less…
by Alex Nicolic, Tofino
He has seen a few changes over the past thirty-five years. He has seen Tofino transform from what was once a sleepy fishing village to the magnetic sea-side resort it is now. And Daniel Lamarche has evolved alongside the town, adjusting to the economic and environmental shifts facing one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Originally from Quebec, he spent over five years exploring Europe and South America before travelling across Canada, eventually ending up at the end of the road here in Tofino. After twenty-five years working in the fishing industry, cutting cedar shake-blocks in a saw-mill, and building houses, Daniel opened Clayoquot Crafts in 1993 - a pivotal year for western Vancouver Island's forestry industry.
He had always wanted to work more with cedar and to create a finished product. So, for ten years prior to launching his enterprise, he collected un-saleable cedar and turned it into furniture. What started as a hobby turned into one of the most unique, creative and practical businesses in the area.
Since his first years in Tofino, Daniel understood the importance of keeping local wood in the area, and worked toward creating a value-added industry. As the director for value-added businesses he organized presentations and sought partners for the Long Beach Model Forest. Until five years ago, he was the president of the Value-Added Wood Industry Association.
He maintains that a sustainable forestry industry is impossible without local involvement, and value-added products are the best way to get involved locally as the practice generates more jobs and cuts fewer trees. "It's a good way to go green," says Daniel, citing the environmental component of the industry.
Indeed, wood furniture is superior to plastic in every way. It is more durable and the production process requires less chemicals. And, where plastic furniture ends up in the landfill forever, wood furniture decomposes when discarded at the end of its usefulness.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to create a value-added industry when faced with the competition of overseas labour markets. Access to local timber is also a major problem as many logging companies prefer the economies of scale provided by larger customers. Hence, Daniel sources much of his raw materials from a saw-mill that salvages blow-down cedars beachcombed in Bedwell Sound. In fact, much of his wood is cut from imperfect boards the mill is unable to sell.
During Clayoquot Craft's infancy, Daniel supplied furniture for local Bed & Breakfasts and hosted shows in town where he would invite the local resorts. As the resorts began to recognize the quality of his products, they gave his business a boost by furnishing their properties with his work. This also provided exposure to the tourist market.
Today, with the downturn in the US housing market, most of his pieces are shipped overseas to Europe and Australia as kits. Nonetheless, much of his work still ends up south of the border and can be found overlooking beautiful vistas across Canada.
What started as a home-based business on Chesterman Beach has now grown to require a larger space in the big red building on Industrial Way, where it has been operating for the past six months. Just look for the patio display. Daniel's wife, Barbara, has always handled the office and paperwork, and the business now also employs an assistant craftsperson, Bruce.
Daniel hopes to expand his enterprise to employ up to ten people. He would like to provide work for even more locals, if greater access to and availability of local wood presents itself.
Daniel's creations can be found at many local resorts. He has done over 200 pieces for the Wickaninnish Inn, Middle Beach Lodge is extensively furnished with his products, and Long Beach Lodge is also home to much of his merchandise.
With no retail outlet, the bulk of his orders are done over the internet. Still, he is seeing an increase in traffic through his studio lately as people looking to enhance their surroundings with decorative furniture come to order pieces directly from the source, and see sustainability in action.
Unit 6, 671 Industrial Way, Tofino
1-877-522-3327 • (250)725-3990
Alex Nikolic is a contributor to a number of BC publications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org