The creation of art is not enough for Danika Bock. What inspires her is crafting pieces that serve a greater purpose.
“Realizing I could create something that was not only fun to make, but also looked good and was useful was the ultimate accomplishment,” she says.
This love of attractive yet practical things led her to take the Graphic Design program at Red River College.
“Studying graphic design was a great way to explore this integration of usefulness, beauty and communication,” says the 2011 grad.
And although it may not be the most outwardly linear connection, this same pragmatism led her to open a stationery and gift shop.
Twenty-seven year old Bock, along with her printmaker husband Drex Serduletz, opened Tiny Feast in the Exchange District in October 2013. The store features high-end paper products and office supplies, housewares and art prints, amongst other things.
“My husband and I have always been drawn to well-made, thoughtfully-designed products. As creatives and homebodies, we think that products one uses on a daily basis should be both a pleasure to use and nice to look at.”
Hence the store’s name – Tiny Feast – which is a phrase the couple coined years ago. To them, it refers to items that “feel celebratory, lavish, almost extravagant – yet are intrinsically simple and useful, and therefore justifiably attainable on a personal, everyday level.”
Everything in the store is a feast for the eyes. Proudly displayed on custom wood tables and shelves, such items as greeting cards, notebooks, pens and pencils, stamps, coasters, aprons and tea towels are meticulously merchandized, but at the same time beckon to be touched.
“It’s always been part of our vision for the shop to be inviting and comfortable, and to provide an enjoyable shopping experience. Because our focus is on wares that people use in their everyday life, we want people to feel at home when in the store,” Bock explains.
Recently, Bock had a customer who was so happy with her purchase she said she couldn’t wait to go do her homework – which is exactly what a Tiny Feast epitomizes to the shop owners.
“Whether it’s in a cubicle, a classroom, or a spot at the kitchen table – everyone has their own workspace, and their own needs. Our hope is that our customers will leave our shop with something that makes their day a little more enjoyable, organized, or – ideally – both.”
“Once we realized that most of our favourite product lines could not be found anywhere in Winnipeg, we got excited about the potential to open a really unique shop here in the city.”
The couple handpicks all their products, and many of the lines they carry feature items they’ve coveted for a long time.
For example, one of Bock’s all-time favourite tiny feasts is a greeting card she purchased for her husband four years ago at Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis. It features a simple design of old pencil shavings.
“[Pencil shavings are] one of the messy little things that you’ve got on your desk and it’s essentially just garbage, but to take a minute to see the beauty in that… it’s become a symbol of creativity, and [a reminder] to just put pencil to paper every now and then.”
The couple now carries the card in Tiny Feast. And that’s just one of many stories they can tell about the products they stock.
To Bock, a well-designed greeting card is a perfect “souvenir from life’s adventures”; in their own home, the couple frames and displays their favourite cards.
“Having studied graphic design, I have a huge appreciation for the work that goes into the products we carry. Some of the companies we work with are fellow small businesses, and we’ve gotten to know the owners on a personal level.”
For example, many of the greeting card lines Tiny Feast carries are made up of small teams who do all their own designing, printing, packing and shipping.
“We’re extremely interested in hearing about these processes, and it’s nice to know the people we’re supporting by stocking their lines.”
Being able to understand the elements and principles of good design helps Bock immensely.
“My graphic design training definitely encouraged and sharpened my ability to analyze products in regards to both their form and their function,” she says. “Studying design has made me appreciate how the most simple design solutions are often the hardest to reach – there are fewer details to focus on, and the design must be really strong or it will fail. ”
Profile by Stacy Cardigan Smith (Creative Communications, 2006)