Impressions, A New Buzz

The new owner of Impressions Art Supplies and Framing is stirring things up a little. Anyone who changes careers at midlife out of choice, learns to play drums at 40, and believes that, “Everyone has an artist in them”, has to be buzzing a bit. Kris Sand, formerly of Williams Lake, has bought himself an art supply store – and not just an art supply store. Impressions is the place to go for Bristol board, glass, purses, gift cards, brushes, paints, ribbons, art supply boxes, pastels, canvasses, people, coffee, laughs, portraits and a comfy chair to sit in while you take it all in. Oh, and if you want to take a workshop or two, no problem, that will be offered upstairs in the renovated studio space starting in September.   

Kris Sand is excited to be part of the changing face of Campbell River, seeing the potential—as the economy shifts—of creating a space that can become an artistic hub of Campbell River. He feels there’s an incredible amount of talent in CR, whether in ceramics, glass blowing, jewelry making, painting, pottery or photography, and he’s ready to use his wit, business savvy and humour to keep past customers and attract all manner of new ones. The staff “all have a passion for art” and Kris feels Impressions is a people-oriented business. You just have to step in the door to see what he means. 

Kris was previously a logging contractor in Williams Lake and at age 30 when his father died, he ran the family logging business. When his mother retired, Kris took over operations with a partner for five more years and later, feeling that it was “time to make major change”, Kris and his family came to Campbell River. He says they drove up and down the Seawalk, saw blue herons, fish boats, sail boats and the extensive ocean frontage, and realized Campbell River “had everything you could ever want in a place to live”. They’ve been here five years and now Kris is the energetic owner of an art supply outlet.

Art is a far cry from logging, especially for someone with no previous art connections. But Kris tells me he had “always been a doodler”, always had an appreciation for art, and has two cousins involved in art – one an art curator in Brisbane, the other a poet and writer in Vancouver. Kris is definitely a people-person and the for-sale status of the art store piqued his interest. He says, “It seemed like a real departure and was a way out of logging, something I’ve never done before. It was new and exciting and I get to meet and talk with people. This is for me.” 

It’s easy to jump into the energy of the place when you meet the art-smart staff; see local artist Max Binger drawing or painting at the front of the store; and take in the portraits of Kris and the staff – Krista, Alana, Carolyn and Randi – done by Perrin Sparks who is also available to paint portraits for customers. Kris also points out Mike Goodman photos along the walls and encourages anyone to, “Come and have your portraits done in the store!” 

Customers range from artsy teens to artists in their 60’s and 70’s. Kris believes that “Art is a universal thing” and has even invited a seven-year- old to show his art in store, although that offer hasn’t been taken up yet! For Kris his new business is “not like work. It’s more of a passion” so when he says, “Come in and have coffee and a chat”, he really means it!

The space is organized and full-up, and here’s what else is in it: pastels, prints and paints, scrapbooks, stickers and cardstock, beads and brushes, pens: metallic, glaze, calligraphy, fineliner, fountain, of course canvas and frames, and Merlin the Great Dane pup who’s also featured on the sign outside with his doggy-friend Duke. The store is still transitioning with Kris at the helm interacting with customers and sales reps; investing in new inventory; promoting local artists; undertaking artsy renovations; and progressing towards getting involved in art shows and offering workshops. Representatives from paint manufacturers provide live demos on different paints, mediums and textures for amateur and professional artists to experiment with. Kris hopes art will be “the hub of Campbell River” and notices, for example, that people are fascinated to watch artists painting, “seeing the process of art from beginning to end.” 

Pinpointing what he likes best about his new business endeavor isn’t easy but Kris says that the most important aspect is the people, saying, “We’re working for you”. He says humour is a big part, as is a great staff and not having staff turnovers—sounds like a people-person’s good business motto. Impressions donates frames to Carihi’s art program and to the Chris Wooten Studio (which I’m told is a must-see) and recently donated a $150.00 gift certificate to the winning entry at the Campbell River Art Gallery members’ show 

There’s a lot Kris is learning: getting to know artists, suppliers and their wares – like the manufacturer Golden that has a new acrylic paint that stays wet longer; and learning about framing—a whole entity in itself and an intense part of the business. But not only paintings are framed. The staff also frames jerseys and has framed great-white shark and tiger shark teeth in shadow-box frames. Kris says an eye for colour is necessary for good framing and that artists trust them to make that decision. He adds, “If you’ve got it, we can frame it!”

Next is finished studio space upstairs for classes. A walk through the area behind the store reveals a cutting area and upstairs is the studio: a spacious room accented in blue, yellow and red, with easels, large tables, an area for coffee and tea-making and lots of natural light. Kris has three or four teachers lined up for drawing and painting, and life-pose classes. Watch for the grand opening—and the Great Danes at the easel!