Make Room for the Broom
North Woven Broom Company, Crawford Bay, BC
As a male my tendency would be to see a broom as purely functional. A handle. Bristles. Get the job done. The thing with visiting an Artisan’s workspace and seeing them engaged in their craft is that the observer forms a strange and unintentional bond with the Artisan’s unique creation. A potter turning a bowl. A glassblower shaping a vase. A painter capturing a still-life. A sculptor releasing a figure from a chunk of wood. Seeing the Artisan step back and admire their finished handiwork frequently causes the observer to nod with admiration. And then want to buy the art piece. Not surprisingly, re-visiting the legendary North Woven Broom Company in Crawford Bay, British Columbia, during our recent Spring break road trip had precisely the same effect!
Stepping through the carpeted doorway of the quaint Alpine-looking tin-roofed log barn may be like stepping into Santa’s workshop. There, amidst laden shelves, hooks and rafters, are brooms being crafted of all shapes and sizes for every purpose. There are trimmed and untrimmed brooms; wooden shafted and metal shafted brooms; straight shafted and curved shafted brooms; brooms for sweeping; brooms for dusting; brooms for scrubbing. And although they may look decorative, they are super-functional and want to be used! This is useful art!
“But how is it art?”, you might ask. You need only consider the handiwork and watch the seeming effortlessness with which store owner, Luke, and broom maker, Willow, wield their materials and equipment to create each uniquely crafted piece. What a visitor might see being constructed before one’s eyes in a matter of minutes has actually required much behind-the-scenes preparation prior to being finished in the workshop.
Each winter Luke embarks on a journey to Arizona and to Canada’s west coast where he hunts for and collects each unique piece of weathered wood that he can transform into a broom handle. Returning to Crawford Bay he meticulously hand-sands and oils down each suitable piece. Broomcorn, commonly sourced from Mexico, is sorted and prepared for use in the shop.
As the spring season arrives, Luke and Willow begin crafting broom after unique broom. During any single year they produce and sell between 4,000 to 6,000 of their hand-made creations. Brooms can be purchased online and shipped directly from their workshop. However, most sales are spontaneous purchases by buyers who innocently popped into this artisan workshop not necessarily expecting to be wowed, and leave with one of these fully-functional treasures. Or perhaps even two or three!
Over the years we, ourselves, have accumulated a neat selection of our own. They are fabulous conversation pieces but even better tools for use in the home. Detouring from our secluded cabin in the woods at Owl Ridge to the North Woven Broom Company in Crawford Bay was well-worth the trip, as thousands of previous visitors – and even celebrities! – will attest to.
While in the neighbourhood you would do well to visit Dog Patch Pottery, Kootenay Forge, Fireworks Copper Enamel, and Barefoot Handweaving Studio, all within easy walking distance from the broom shop!