Welcome to BellaVita Artisan Studios!
We are a small family business run by husband and wife team, Lorenzo and Aurelia Bellavita, and inspired by our two children, Luca and Elianna.
Bellavita is actually our family’s surname, it means beautiful life in Lorenzo’s native language (Italian), and it speaks to the heart of our business and who we are. Through our work, we hope to share our passion for living a life filled with beauty and creativity with children and families everywhere.
In this day and age, fostering a deep connection to nature in our children can be a difficult task. We are surrounded by concrete, glass, plastic and other synthetics and live insulated against the wildness of Nature. Having the tactile experience of natural handmade toys in the home becomes all the more important, it brings that little bit of Nature right into our children’s hands and they connect deeply to this.
Here, at BellaVita Artisan Studios, we are dedicated to offering truly unique all natural artisan toys and one of kind creations that spark the imagination and encourage a deeper appreciation of beauty and nature. Through the use of 100% natural non-toxic materials that have not been over processed, our products maintain a tactile and visible connection to its natural source.
All of our products are created by hand right here in our home workshop and studios, tucked away in the forest of Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island on the West coast of Canada, using the wealth of local materials available to us. We approach our work as artists, with love, care and attention to every detail.
My passion for teaching and creating with colour and texture is a strong thread that had run through my entire life. It hard to say where it began, it has just always been there. It’s in my blood so to speak and it was nurtured by very supportive and creative parents and grandparents.
During my school years at the Vancouver Waldorf School, I spent hours in my mother’s and grandmother’s “work” rooms. My mother made clothes and toys for us. She also organized work groups that would meet at our home throughout the year and make toys for the Waldorf Christmas Fair. They made soft toys, waldorf dolls, gnomes of every colour and size, and many other treasures. I grew up surrounded by baskets of beautiful handmade things, and I learned how to make many these things myself. With my grandmother, a professional teacher of needlework and Japanese embroidery, I began stitching as soon as I could hold a needle; I am still learning from her to this very day.
As I became a teenager, visual art became more and more the focus of my creativity. After graduating from High School, I enrolled in the Capilano College Fine Arts Program, where I completed my diploma in Visual Arts in 1999.
Then I met Lorenzo and our adventure into parenthood began. As soon as I became a mother, like my mother before me, I felt the desire to create special treasures for my own children. I began exploring needle felting and then began to study weaving and spinning. As the years passed I continued my Fibre Arts training, studying with Masters in Natural Plant Dyeing from all over the world, through MAIWA in Vancouver, BC. Lorenzo and I created a dye kitchen in our home and I began to specialize in plant dyed felting wool, yarn and silk.
Teaching came along the way as a natural evolution. I have been running classes out of my studio for a number of years, and I am also the Handwork teacher at the Sunrise Waldorf School. In addition to this, I will be graduating from the Applied Arts Teacher Training at the Fiber Craft Studio in New York in the spring of 2015. This is a four year program dedicated specifically to teaching handwork to children in Grades 1 through 8.
After ten years as a business man in Milan, Italy, I came to Canada in search of a new way of life. I found it with my wife and our children and through scuba diving on the west coast. After ten years as a commercial diver, it was time to change my career again. Fusing two of my passions, sailboats and woodworking, I studied traditional boat building with the Silva bay Shipyard school on Gabriola Island. Building a wooden boat from scratch, was one of the most exhilarating experience of my life, second only to the joy of seeing my children play with the toys I have built them through the years.
I find wood an amazing material, still alive and continually breathing, expanding and contracting. I love the smell of it when it’s sanded and how it simply glows when the finish goes on. Understanding wood is a journey of a lifetime. Learning to work with it, to see in advance what a piece is going to look like when it is done, takes skills developed over many years of work. I am only at the beginning of this adventure, but I believe that my passion and dedication, together with my wife’s artistic eye, are filling the gap pretty fast.
I choose to make toys for many reasons, amongst them the chance to give children the possibility of playing with nature, instead of plastic disposable toys. But what I love most, it is that magic moment when you see a child opening a package, eyes and mouth open wide, and you know, right in that moment, that nothing matter more in the world then that toy...
About our materials:
Our signature material for wooden toys is our locally harvested Alder. It is carefully kiln dried to keep the bark in place and prevent splitting. We not use any metal in the construction of our wooden toys and all come finished with either non-toxic natural water based beeswax or natural oil. All our finishes have been rigorously tested and approved in Germany for use in natural toys.
The wool we use, and offer in our crafting supplies, comes from two sources. Local Cowichan Valley sheep wool, which is hand washed and carded; and happy western Canadian wool, milled at a working museum that uses antique equipment and gentle eco-friendly methods for cleaning. The wool is then dyed in small batches here at the studios using 100% natural plant colours.
There is something very special about a piece that is lovingly made by hand with natural materials. It has a particular warmth and preciousness to it that is not found in commercially mass produced toys. This warmth comes from both the hours of love and care taken in making it and from the material itself. These materials are true to their origin; they have not been processed or altered beyond recognition.
The local wool and wood used at BellaVita Artisan Studios still hold the energy of its natural source. And its source is right here in the farms and forests of the Cowichan Valley.