Curious Goods and Crafts offers unique indigenous gift ideas

Marie Birkbeck

If you are looking for a unique gift, Curious Goods and Crafts in the Trading Post building in Valemount is a must-visit gift shop. Now in its third year of operation, the business is gaining visibility and becoming a popular tourist stop. 

Michele Aatia was born and raised in Jasper, Alberta and has been interested in Native Art since she was a teenager. She started collecting it in earnest in 1993 when she and a friend visited Brazil in 1993 and ended up trading their Volkswagen for some of the local artwork.

Over the years Michele has travelled extensively and collected native art from as far south as Brazil all the way to the Inuit in northern Canada, representing the culture of the Navajo, Haida, Cree, Stoney, Mohawk, Inca and Inuit. International imports from Katmandu, Ecuador, Nepal, India, Afghanistan and Morocco add to the uniqueness of her collection. 

In 2015, Michele realized that she needed to share her extensive collection of art and secured space that was once occupied by Irly Building supplies. The interior has been opened up to create a more friendly, inviting space and to allow the larger pieces to be displayed. 

As we toured the store, her passion for her work emanated in her voice. She tenderly declares that your visit to her shop can also be an educational experience. Every piece has a story, and Aatia can tell you exactly where each item originated, what it is made of, how it was made and very likely personally knows the artist that created it. Most of the artwork is purchased directly from the artists.  

Aatia emphasizes that Curious Goods is not just for tourists; there is something for everyone. Space does not permit listing all of the inventory, but some things you will find in the store include clothing from Nepal and Katmandu, musical instruments made from coconut shells, semi-precious gemstones from Brazil, bronze statues from Afghanistan, Persian rugs, paper mache jewelry made by children in a Ugandan orphanage, and horses made of camel bones. There are paintings by a Canadian artist, a Navajo war drum from New Mexico, wall hangings, dream catchers made with a wide range leathers, and even an Indian headdress that locals and tourist alike are encouraged to model for a photo op while they are in the shop.  

Curious Goods & Crafts located at 940 Main Street is open most days from 10 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. You can see a more detailed collection of photos on her Facebook page Curious Goods and Crafts. Email Michele at curiousgoodsandcrafts@hotmail.com 

Marie Birkbeck photo
Marie Birkbeck photo

Marie Birkbeck photo
Marie Birkbeck photo