Kenneth Torrance became a recognized stone carver straight out of high school, but the solitary studio life left him longing for community. “It was a lonely craft,” he remembers. After getting a post-secondary degree and starting a career in marketing, then graphic design, he worked his way up to the position of creative director at a global product design and sourcing company in Vancouver. He was no longer isolated—but he had also lost his bond with the craft. “I had this epiphany moment walking through the warehouse, and realized I had no connection to the craftspeople or the material: the things that had been really important to me as an artist,” says Torrance.
He quit his job and founded Barter Design, with community and craft top of mind. “I believe in the power of makers,” he says, “but I also realize that it takes a community to raise a product.” Case in point: the sharing bowl, one of Barter’s original products. Torrance argues that each step in the process (from the mining of the clay to the designing of the prototype to the manufacturing of the moulds to the operating of the Ram press) is important, and that each should be a celebrated component of the bowl’s story.
Today, Barter collaborates with 30 companies across the Sunshine Coast and throughout British Columbia. Torrance calls himself a “local forager,” and works closely with all kinds of craftspeople, including blacksmiths, CNC machinists, woodturners and candlestick makers. He is currently working on expanding his community of foragers across the world (he’s chatting with manufacturers in England, Italy and Spain), finding local makers to collaborate with. “I don’t like the idea of shipping from Canada—I would rather create economy within each localized region,” says Torrance.
The Sacred Sip vessel, cup and maple tray is a handmade drinkware set designed with ritual in mind.
Torrance took inspiration from a grove of alder trees for his Grove candlesticks.
The Smokestack candle features a practically seamless transition between wood and wax.
Barter’s Revolve planter contrasts urban concrete with beautiful natural birch.
Portrait by Julie Bowen, product shots by Kenneth Torrance.