AYA Eyewear featuring the artwork of Nipissing First Nation artist Donald Chretien Available online at: www.claudiaalan.com
Nipissing artist Donald Chrétien released his Journey and Birch designs for AYA Eyewear eyeglasses earlier this month.
“There are a lot of people on hold waiting for them,” says Chrétien, who graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1985 and now lives in Newmarket, Ontario. “They came out pretty good. The colours are pretty bang on from what we conceptualized and that is a very important part of my artwork. It’s kind of nice that we have something from this end of Canada because all of the commercial [work] seems to be West Coast art.”
Chrétien began working with Carla D’Angelo, president of Claudia Alan, about a year ago on the two Ojibwa designs for their AYA collection.
“First, we did some conceptual drawings and she went through them and we found a happy medium,” Chrétien says. “I left it to her to figure out which ones would be saleable.”
Chrétien looks forward to working with D’Angelo on more eyeglass frame designs in the future, noting that she has been happy so far with the pre-sales on his two eyeglass designs.
“I’ve been doing this for quite a while — my biggest piece was for the  Olympics,” Chrétien says about his art. “I have an 80-foot mural in the Pacific Coliseum.”
Chrétien began working with D’Angelo after purchasing eyeglasses from Claudia Alan. He sent her a message asking if she was interested in using other styles of artwork from across Canada on her eyeglasses.
“She called me right back and that is how the whole process started,” Chrétien says. “She actually gave me the outline of the [eyeglasses]. I did a lot of pencil sketches at first inside that frame. Each [style of eyeglasses] has a different type of arm on it, so I had the templates for that and I did artwork to fit within those templates.”
Chrétien says he used a computer to create the artwork for the eyeglass frames.
“There is a way of drawing in vectors which is more of a [computer-assisted design (CAD)] system,” Chrétien says. “I know how to do that so everything worked out pretty smoothly. I do a lot of work now on the computer. The piece I did for the Olympics was on the computer also.”
Chrétien says he introduced a small cutout in the frame of one of his eyeglass designs, which was new for Claudia Alan.
“So that was kind of neat,” Chrétien says. “It was something different, a little negative space.”
D’Angelo first began creating eyewear about 20 years ago and developed the AYA collection in 2009.
“We started the [AYA] collection with Corinne Hunt, a First Nation artist from B.C.,” D’Angelo says. “We started it kind of as a little experiment, this idea we had, and it just really took off.”
D’Angelo says Chrétien’s work caught her eye after the 2010 Olympics, where Hunt and Chrétien’s work was featured.
“We developed a relationship over the phone and he’s just been wonderful to work with,” D’Angelo says. “We have two frame styles featuring [his] two artworks that we are launching this collection with. We have actually put it on pre-sale and the response is amazing, so I think it is going to do well. People are really responding to the design.”
D’Angelo says the timing was right to make Chrétien’s style of glasses due to improvements in printing technologies.
“So this is kind of a little test and it’s proving to be successful,” D’Angelo says. “So we’ve got a bunch of sunglasses and other optical products in the works, quick to launch after, assuming it all goes well.”
D’Angelo sells her eyeglasses at art galleries, optical stores and museums across North America as well as over the internet at www.claudiaalan.com.
This article was written by Rick Garrick and originally published on Anishinabek News. This article has been republished with permission.
MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.