The loss of her corporate career turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Alexandria craft artist Julie Darrock.

Her new store Cedar & Fern opened at 8 Main Street North in Alexandria just over a month ago, and the multi-talented artist has since been busy filling orders for items she previously created only for family and friends. It’s been a quick turnaround from a low point less than a year ago, when Darrock was released from her job after spending more than 20 years in the corporate world.

“After the fact, I’m thankful for (the change in careers) – it took me a little bit of time to figure that out,” Darrock explains, of how the sudden job loss sparked her to take her artwork to the next level. “It’s been totally a blessing in disguise to give me that nudge to follow my passion, which is creating.”

Cedar & Fern specializes in Canadian hand-made wooden signs, decor and gifts for the home. All of the artwork in the store comes from either Darrock herself, or from one of about a dozen Eastern Ontario craftspeople and Canadian artists from as far away as Saskatchewan.
It is important to me to promote other local artists and Canadian-made goods and makers,” Darrock emphasizes.“It’s been a tough year – all of us are missing our in-person shows and events.

“It’s important to me to get other makers in the shop and get them exposure as well.”

In addition to her retail space in Alexandria, Darrock works out of a historic rural log cabin at her home in the village. The traditional structure served as the original home on the property and the space has been since upgraded into an art studio. Nestled under towering cedars and surrounded by wildlife, the cabin is an idyllic spot which inspires creativity.

But even when working in a historic, natural location, an artist has to keep up with the times. To that end, Darrock has also created a website where customers can view the many items available at Cedar & Fern. The site features photos, pricing and product information to enable customers to find exactly what they want before ordering online or visiting the store. The store also maintains Facebook and Instagram pages.

Reaction to the new store and products inside have Darrock excited about the future.

“I didn’t stop yesterday, from the moment I opened the door. We sold so many items to people buying for Christmas. Everyone is shopping early and shopping local – which is wonderful. They really want to support local business and local makers.”

Cedar & Fern is located at 8 Main Street North in the heart of downtown Alexandria. Photo by Reid Masson