Our Tofino Neighbours: Claire Watson, Artist

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Shawna Gardham
By Shawna Gardham, Public & Media Relations Manager
Newsletters25 January 2020


Claire Watson describes designing a coin for the Royal Canadian Mint—a considerable achievement for any artist—as the highlight of her career “thus far.” This means: as an artist of many mediums inspired by our dynamic west coast environment, the work she creates while fulfilling the rest of her creative wishlist will be exciting to watch! Thankfully, as a local resident of Tofino, we get a front-row seat to the show.

A professional illustrator with incredible talent and a diverse portfolio, it may be surprising to hear Claire is mostly self-taught. After having her first daughter (with husband, Adam), Claire started a made-to-order chalkboard business, figuring everything out by herself: business management, accounting, design, illustration and hand lettering. She says it was a lot of work but great to have flexibility while raising their two young kids, it allowed her to juggle parenting with self-employment. And neither hampered her success; by the time she sold the business in 2012, Claire says she had hand-designed and illustrated over 1,000 custom chalkboard signs and, with Adam’s help, framed and shipped them all over the world.

Born in England, Claire grew up in Victoria, then she and her family moved to Gabriola Island for eight years prior to coming to the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was around the time of selling her chalkboard business (2012), when their kids were entering high school and travel from Gabriola to Vancouver Island became incredibly time-consuming, that Adam was offered a job as a fishing guide in Tofino. They made the move in 2013, and Claire says they “instantly felt as though we were home and knew this was where we belonged.”

Upon their arrival, Claire took a job in the booking office of the company Adam was working for, but, after being self-employed for 12 years, she was eager to get back to working for herself. Claire turned back to her artistic abilities—and what a great fortune it’s been for Tofino’s creative community! Since moving here, Claire has been part of a number of projects at the Inn including designing and illustrating our Christmas card last year (2019), participating in our Artists in Action program and illustrating the kelp design weaving through the newly-unveiled cedar and yew wood table in Howard’s Wine Cellar. Her artistry of the kelp inlaid with rocks was paramount to enhancing this special centrepiece of our new intimate venue and, as she noted, keeps with the Wickaninnish Inn’s theme of “bringing the outside in.” It is exactly this: her desire to evolve her skillset while adding her thoughtful aesthetic, that makes it so wonderful and easy to work with Claire—and fun to watch! We’re delighted to have her artistic flourish live in our space.

Speaking of space, it’s a valuable resource for Claire and her family who live aboard a 44’ sailboat here. This way of life has fostered a deep connection and admiration for the coast, something that is embodied in the art she does. As we continue to follow Claire’s artistic journey, we’re happy to showcase some of her pieces in our Gift Gallery. If you’re looking to take a memory home with you, take a look there on your next visit!

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