Hi there! My name is April (the one in the sunglasses). This old family photo is of my sister and I collecting crystals. I wanted to take this time to share more about our family business, Crystal Cabin, with you.
Crystal Cabin was started by my parents, Dutes and Laura Dutheil in 1980 in a converted wood saw shed. The small shop was located on our property, on a hilltop in Tlell, Haida Gwaii, surrounded by spruce and alder trees with the Tlell River winding in the background.
My late father was a mineral collector, lapidary artist, and goldsmith. My mother is a multi-disciplinary artist. They started the business to sell their jewelry and art. The small shop was filled with their creations, including mineral slices and jewelry of local agate and a local rhyolite we call Serenity Stone, locally collected crystals and colourful stones from afar, hand-strung healing necklaces, and handmade dolls. In the early years they also sold their products at music festivals across British Columbia.
From a young age my father went mineral collecting with his father (my grandfather) in Ontario’s great Canadian Shield. His keen interest in crystal and fossil specimens naturally made their way into the store. My mother's interest in stones was for crystal healing.
Crystal Cabin's first logo was designed and painted by my mother and was of a frog riding a crystal. About 25 years later I asked my father what that logo was all about, he chuckled and said that it was supposed to be him, a French frog, as my father was born in Versailles, France. As a child, growing up with a family business, I never really understood what the deal was with crystals and why my parents were always making things. However, I didn’t think too hard about it and my sister and I kept busy by exploring Haida Gwaii and by making our own art and jewelry. We had an amazing and creative childhood.
As time went on, local Haida artists approached my parents to sell their art and jewelry in our shop. Their work complemented the store and overtime a unique collection emerged, consisting of original Haida paintings and prints, paddles, masks, wood, and argillite carvings, as well as copper, silver, and gold carved jewelry.
In 1998, our parents renovated a larger space to become the new store. This allowed them to share a wider selection of Haida art, mineral specimens, and their own jewelry. During this time Dutes continued in his lapidary creations and transitioned away from metalwork in silver to only working in 14k gold. The crystals and gemstones that he used in his jewelry pieces always had meaning due to their energetic and metaphysical properties or because of the unique geological processes that the stone went through while it was being formed. The wearers of his jewelry felt very connected to his pieces, and used them as amulets to support and affirm their intentions. His jewelry was naturalistic in design to allow the natural characteristics of the stones to be the focal point.
As the business grew, my mother focused on designing her own line of crystal healing jewelry, and the day to day running of the business. Our presentation of Haida art grew to include more than 30 Haida artists. All of the new shelving, display cases, and counters for the store were built by hand by my father out of local cedar, because much like his jewelry designs, he wanted to keep the look of the space local, organic, and natural. In the original Crystal Cabin Dutes set up a small mineral museum, which featured local specimens of agate, calcite, quartz crystal, and fossil that he had collected on Haida Gwaii since 1970.
A few years later in 2002, my father designed and built the Tlell Stone Circle, which is an outdoor installation of eight local mineral specimens from Haida Gwaii. Each piece had a custom welded metal encasing and could turn freely to be fully interactive. Dutes worked with his friend, Paul Wojdak, who at the time was British Columbia's provincial geologist for the northwest region, to identify and recount the geological history of each piece. During its opening ceremony, the Tlell Stone Circle was blessed and given a Haida name by Haida elder, Betty Richardson, and danced by Haida master carver, Christian White.
Fast forward to 2016, which was a year of so much change and unpredictability. That year my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Doctors told us he would only have a few months to live, so my sister and I moved home to spend time with him. Miraculously he was with us until 2018, and in these two years together we gained so many beautiful moments.
I had been living in Paris, France working in Corporate Communications at The Estée Lauder Companies. However, when I came home, I realized that I too had a passion for jewelry, Haida art, and crystals. I decided to keep the business going, building on the foundation that our parents created. From time to time, my sister, who is a visual artist, also comes to lend a hand.
In 2017, Dutes, my sister, and I put together a pocket guide called Agate Collecting with Dutes. This was something that my father always wanted to do, so we decided to put his knowledge to paper. We started Rock Talks, which was an interactive talk that brings guests on a tour through the Tlell Stone Circle to learn about Haida Gwaii’s local geology. That same year we had a huge 70th birthday party bash for Dutes, which included countless friends from across the islands, an outdoor barbecue, DJs, and a live five-person rock band in the store. We also commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Tlell Stone Circle with an event which brought Neil Blacklock as a guest speaker to present his research of the energy vortexes and ley lines on Haida Gwaii. In 2019, we completed a mural installation on the store called Crystal Rainforest, which combined concepts from Dutes, my sister, our staff, and I, and was executed by local artist Thomas Arnatt and Haida artist Kwi Jones.
With so many changes, losses, and learnings along the way, the business continues to evolve. I’m excited for what the future has to hold, but much like how our parents operated the business, Crystal Cabin continues to ebb and flow with the natural rhythm of our lives.
Thank you for your love and support,