Arts and crafts facility BLIM a hidden gem in the heart of Vancouver B.C.’s Chinatown

Upon hearing about BLIM from my colleague, I knew I had to check it out.

In its third location since opening in 2003, BLIM — a combination clothing store, art gallery and creative space — is nestled on the corner of East Pender and Columbia in Chinatown, just a couple blocks from Tinseltown.

“It started up at the end of 2003, when the Sugar Refinery and Blinding Light shut down. There was a need for an undeground experimental art venue,” said director and artist Yuriko Iga.

Early BLIM (2003 to 2005)

Born in Winnipeg and raised in Calgary, it was places like the two mentioned above that enticed her to move to Vancouver in 2002. So in their absence, Iga opened up BLIM in the penthouse suite of the Old BC Electric Building on Carrall Street.

The original focus of the venue was music, film and performance to fill the void left by places like the Refinery. However there was another component that is still central to Blim today.

“We’ve always been doing screen printing since day one, it’s what I did at art school and we wanted to incorporate it into the space somehow,” said Iga.

It is what she calls the “bread and butter” of her business and has traditionally been the most popular — both beginner and seasoned artists bring their own image on either transparency or CD and create their own works of art that range from custom T-shirts and hoodies to buttons and CD covers.

Transitional BLIM (2005 to 2010)

In 2005 BLIM underwent a change and moved across False Creek to Main Street, where its audience also shifted slightly.

“When we moved to Main Street it was more a daytime venue, a daytime crafts facility just because of the location, and also [because of] myself getting older,” said Iga.

Modern BLIM (2010 to present)

After spending half a decade in the same location, Iga said they had outgrown the space and decided to return to their roots. In May of last year, BLIM found itself on the move one more time and landed in its current East Pender locale.

“This is a nice blend of original BLIM and Main Street BLIM — we house events again and also have a retail end, crafts and gallery and also private studios on the second floor.”

Impressions

Like an American Apparel broken free from its corporate links, BLIM is a fusion of hipster chic and artistic expression. Patrons are immediately greeted by neatly-folded T-shirts for sale featuring designs like a giant outlined Justin Bieber head or a distorted technicolor Mickey Mouse. Generic clothing in various colors line the store, blank canvasses for those that aspire to make something equally as impressive as Disney on Drugs.

Down at the other end are several large tables where the so-called magic happens. During my visit a fellow, who clearly knew what he was doing, was hard at work on a very complicated looking screen print. Beside him were two first-timers whom I felt an immediate kinship of noviceness with. In the spirit of fusion, they were making a logo that blended the head of Hello Kitty with the Wu-Tang Clan symbol. Pure genious.


First-time BLIM patrons Marielle Camaclang and Carl Cortez pose with their creation.

Things to watch for

February 27: monthly community market at Heritage Hall on Main Street featuring vendors, hot food and entertainment, admission by donation.

March 5: second annual Bingo, Booze and Blasphemy hosted at BLIM. Prizes and beer galore, five dollar cover includes a bingo dabber.

For more information visit the events page.


BLIM director Yuriko Iga stands in front of one of many
shelves filled with art supplies.

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