Christmas ornaments with a conscience

Strathcona's Tradeworks carpenters create holiday ornaments and gifts from pine beetle wood.

Credit: Saul Brown

The skilled women of Strathcona’s Tradeworks create holiday ornaments and gifts from pine beetle wood

More than an ordinary Christmas tree ornament and made from mountain pine beetle wood by women learning carpentry skills in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, these gifts tell the story of making the most from challenging situations.


The pine beetle epidemic

Mountain pine beetles are devastating forests throughout BC. About 14.5 million hectares of forests in BC have been affected to date—that’s approximately 25 percent of the province’s forest land!

Beetles lay eggs under the bark of pine trees, and when hatched effectively hinder the trees’ ability to absorb nutrients. The beetles carry a fungus that stains the wood blue or grey, giving it a district colour although not affecting the structural integrity of the wood.

Tradeworks turns dead trees into lemonade

Various companies in BC are turning the environmental problem into an opportunity by creating value-added wood products from the blue-stained wood.

A memorable company working in this space is Tradeworks Custom Products, a social mission business that trains women living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in carpentry. The women go through a 10-week training program to learn basic carpentry skills before beginning work in the social enterprise production wood working shop, creating various types of boxes, pens, gifts, awards and promotional products many of which are made from pine beetle wood.

Tradeworks creates products that hold a strong story for social and environmental responsibility. Over the last couple years I’ve gotten to know the women of Tradeworks quite well and I never cease to be amazed. Their creativity, strength and skill is seen and felt through the pieces they create.

Pine beetle wood products by Tradeworks carpenters

As the women learn and master various skills their confidence and self esteem builds and shines. I’ll never forget how much brighter Carolin’s face began to glow as she began to handturn wooden pens on the lathe.


Unique Christmas gifts with a story

This season, they’ve come up with beautiful laser cut Christmas ornaments and intricate snowflakes, all of which are unique, that are quite more than just something to hang off the tree.

Tradeworks is selling sets of four for $20 and include a variety of shapes including picture frames, miniature window sills and mini-Christmas trees to compliment the unique snowflake designs.

Engraved wood promotional products have also become popular for the shop and build a strong base for their business. Products from Tradeworks make great corporate gifts and give aways for companies that want to say more than “thank you” by telling stories about our community, province and environment.

Beyond great products

Besides using pine beetle wood, also known as denim pine, salvaged from forests in BC, Tradeworks Custom Products also uses a variety of reclaimed woods sourced from local area manufacturers such as Propellor Design, using waste offcuts from their Strathcona-based lighting and furniture manufacturing shop.

Tradeworks is also FSC certified, a sustainable wood certification that verifies the wood used has a chain of custody that can be linked back to responsibly managed forests.



To learn more or order Tradeworks products, give them a call at 604-253-9354.