Familiar Faces: Shannan and Jennifer O'Brien of Sublime Art Materials

Familiar Faces: Shannan and Jennifer O'Brien of Sublime Art Materials

May 12, 2017

Jennifer O'Brien (left) with her sister Shannan O'Brien of Sublime Art Materials in Tsawwassen. Photo: Adrian MacNair

If necessity is the mother of invention, then it is surely also a relative of innovation. For two local sisters, it was a lack of readily available art supplies and materials that launched the business Sublime a decade ago in the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall.

"We were looking for places to buy art supplies," says Shannan O'Brien, laughing at the irony. "And it was getting to be too much of a drive to go to Vancouver just to get something."

Her sister Jennifer O'Brien, who works closely with her in running the business, studied art at Kwantlen University. In fact, art runs in their family, and at first they were the principle benefactors of having a conveniently located store that sells a myriad of supplies from drawing and painting, to crafting and even office supplies.

But word soon got around the community and Sublime Art Materials found its place as the go-to store for local artists. There is a strong artist community here, from hobbyists dabbling in pencils and pastels to professionals who sell their work for a living. Many members of the South Delta Artists Guild, located up 56 th street at Gallery 1710, make good use of the store.

"There are lots of artists in all sorts of mediums and we try to run different events so that artists have a place to display and sell their art," says Jennifer.

Although the Artists Guild has art showings year round, Sublime contributes to the exposure of local artists by collaborating with the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall to put on two art shows and contests each year. The spring show is going on right now, with paintings on display throughout the mall until the end of May. The interest in art also gives people an opportunity to check out the many other businesses in the mall.

"We want to get people into the mall looking around and spending some time in here," explains Shannan.

For those neophyte artists who wander into Sublime Art Materials, Shannan says they will usually recommend "simple and basic options" so that person doesn't get overwhelmed by choices. With the dozens of mediums in art to choose from, picking the one that best suits your skills can be tricky. But to paraphrase nineteenth century artist and poet Gelett Burgess, even if you don't know art you generally know what you like.

"I think most people see the style that they like, drawing or painting, and then they try to get better at that," says Shannan.

Having grown up in Tsawwassen, the O'Brien sisters were already familiar faces in the community long before they opened Sublime. But the sisterly connection has made it even easier to run a business together. Of course, there may be another reason for that.

"It's worked out well for us because we're sort of odd," says Shannan, pausing to smile at Jennifer. "And we understand the odd I think, so it all works out for us."

Sublime Art Materials is located on the western entrance of the Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall beside Joe's Market. You can also visit their website at sublimeartmaterials.com.