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Victoria holiday craft fair aims to break stigma against mental health

Local artists displayed their work and learned about marketing
Sharon Bryant says she doesn’t know where the designs come from, but when she does art she feels much more focused and calm. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Dozens of artists lined the lobby at the Eric Martin Pavilion on Thursday for the Craft for Kindness Bazaar.

Each artist had accessed mental health services with Island Health in some way, and the show gave them a chance to show off their products and practice their marketing techniques.

The main mandate in having the fair is to break the stigma surrounding mental health, said Fatima McCarthy, who is part of the occupational therapy team for mental health and substance use.

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“Most of our clients cannot have nine-to-five jobs and this way they can work on their own time. They can develop projects,” McCarthy said. “The objective of the fair is to give people some insight on marketing.”

Judges went around and gave prizes for the best display and presentation of products.

Jeremy Aiyudurai received one of these awards for his abstract paintings.

“It’s about energy and light and music,” Aiyudurai explained. “One day I woke up and I felt like I needed to do art, and everyone told me I should do art. It felt like the whole universe was telling me to do art, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Jeremy Aiyudurai does abstract acrylic paintings that remind him of light and music. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Aiyudurai said his colourful creations give him something to look forward to each day. He also said that being able to present at the fair gave him an opportunity to grow.

“It makes me a bit nervous, but I need to get out there,” he said.

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For Veronica Barton, doing jewelry, silversmithing, beading and sewing is following her family tradition of creativity. She’s been to the fair at least six times.

“I like the fact that it’s helping the community and the art people that I know in the city,” Barton said. “It’s a venture towards self-employment.”

Jessica Stepushyn is a visual artist who works in many mediums. While her most serious passion is in painting, at the craft fair she was selling Japanese-style crochet stuffed animals known as amigurumi.

Jessica Stepushyn was selling Japanese-style crochet stuffed animals known as amigurumi. Making the cute critters helps with her anxiety. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

“I kind of reached critical mass in my apartment where I had to get rid of them, Stepushyn said. “I don’t make them to sell. I make them because it deals with my anxiety and I guess selling them is the happy outcome.”

Sharon Bryant only started coming to the craft fair recently but has been doing abstract drawings since she can remember.

“Everyone asks where I get my ideas from and I don’t know,” Bryant said. “I start with a line and I draw another line and it becomes what it becomes and people always see different things in it and that’s what I like about it.”

Bryant said doing this kind of art helps her stay more focused, mindful and calm.

“It’s good because I don’t have to think, but I’m in the moment as well and then it just comes out,” she said.

To see more of Aiyudurai’s work head to and to see more of Stepushyn’s work, head to

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Veronica Barton had her work on display at the Craft for Kindness Bazaar. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)