Indie Oxford Interview: Broad Canvas

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

In a fast paced world, it can be difficult to find time for creativity. Broad Canvas in central Oxford have been striving to rectify that for nearly 40 years. Their store on Broad Street is jam packed with materials to help you find inspiration and tap into your creativity.

We caught up with Ryan from the Broad Canvas team, to find out about the history of the shop, how it has evolved over time, and why creativity is essential to our wellbeing. >>

broad canvas Oxford

Tell me about Broad Canvas, and why it was set up.

Broad Canvas was opened in 1981 by a local family with the view to providing Oxford with a dedicated Art and Craft materials supply shop. The aim was to support local artists and students in their creative endeavours by providing a place where customers could purchase the essential equipment for their art-making. Over the years we have built a knowledgeable team of staff members who have been on hand to answer questions and give invaluable information to the aspiring artists in the city since we opened.

Broad Canvas Oxford

Tell me about the staff of Broad Canvas.

Our staff are all practising artists, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers or students of art and design. This is essential to what we do here in that we cover so many different disciplines. From painting, drawing and printmaking through to model making, needlework and sculpture it’s very useful to have a team who have the first-hand experience in these areas to give advice and guidance.

Broad Canvas Oxford

What is Broad Canvas best known for?

Inspiration! It can be found in any sheet of blank paper.

broad canvas Oxford

What makes the shop unique?

Anyone who has visited the shop will know that it somehow defies the laws of physics, we pack in every art supply you can think of from floor to celing- if a space in the shop should fit 10 products, we fit 20! Many of our customers delight in the fact that they can find so much in so little space.

broad canvas Oxford

How has Broad Canvas evolved since opening?

Broad Canvas has not only had to change its offerings with the ever shifting creative trends but also adapt to the way customers now purchase their materials. We’ve recently launched our new website which includes an online shop. We’re hoping that it’ll also become an online resource where customers can take full advantage of the knowledge base we have at the shop and access tutorials, product reviews, and all things informative.

Broad Canvas Oxford

How has the shop added to the local community?

Engagement with artists is top of the agenda here. One of the ways that we’ve achieved this recently is through design competitions, enabling our customers to show us what they do with their materials once they’ve left the shop. We must say there is lots of creative talent out there and we never tire of seeing something that someone has put the effort into making. Our Creative Rewards Card gives a discount to regular local customers. We also sponsor prizes for local art societies such as The Oxford Art Society and where possible give support to artists and students putting on exhibitions.

Broad Canvas Oxford

Who are your customers?

Our customers are everyone from high profile professional artists and illustrators to first time dabblers who want something creative to do but haven’t found their niche. We also cater for the art and architecture students at the universities and the visitors to the city who want a reminder of their time here. It’s a real mixture of familiar faces and one-off visitors, sometimes people pop up on our social feeds who have posted their artworks and it’s a great feeling to know that they’ve made that art with something they got from us or because we’ve given them some useful advice.

Broad Canvas Oxford

What does it mean to you to be able to create?

It’s something in-built, the need to make something new. Whether it involves picking up a pencil, a brush, a guitar or a spatula, creating art, music or food is a necessary part of everyday life.

Broad Canvas Oxford

In the same way that dreams organise the thoughts accumulated throughout the day, so being creative is an outlet for the emotions and pressure of the day’s events.

How does being creative help with wellbeing?

It’s been proven that even one session of creativity can give emotional benefits. It’s the feeling that you’re taking some time just for yourself, stepping outside the pace of modern life and making something simply for the pleasure of doing it.

In the same way that dreams organise the thoughts accumulated throughout the day, so being creative is an outlet for the emotions and pressure of the day’s events.

Broad Canvas Oxford

Tell me about your plans for 2020.

Last year we started The Broad Canvas Drawing Club (or BC/DC as we like to call it) and this year we hope to continue to attract new members. It’s an evening out for those who enjoy drawing, chatting and pubs. Everyone is welcome, from beginner to professional, to sketch whatever and wherever we find ourselves in front of. Previously we’ve visited the roof of the Westgate and a high speed ice-hockey training session and lots of pubs (obviously!). Anyone wanting to join and get involved or perhaps try a new hobby can drop us an email at

If you have a chance come and say hello- you never know you might feel the urge to get creative!

Broad Canvas Oxford

Lastly, what are your favourite independent businesses in Oxfordshire?

Truck Store & Riverman Records: essential places to visit for the vinyl enthusiast. We are big music fans here at Broad Canvas and staff have spent many an hour discussing and recommending albums to each other so it goes without saying that we love record shops.

Shop at the Old Fire Station: for their range of brilliant gifts, many of which are created by local designers, artists and makers. Also, it’s a business with a social conscience and what’s not to love about that?

Scriptum: if we don’t stock it, ask Scriptum. A treasure trove of stationery and nick-nackery.

OVADA Gallery: inspiration on tap! OVADA provides Oxford with many useful artist resources such as life drawing classes, artist studio spaces and The Warehouse Art School, which is an artist-led, alternative to formal Higher Education courses. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on their calendar of events for an opportunity to see great exhibitions in a truly unique gallery space.

Truck Store Oxford
Shop at the Old Fire Station Oxford

If you’d like to find out more about the Drawing Club, check out their Facebook event for their next meet up on 5th February.

If you’ve bought materials from Broad Canvas to get creative with, we’d love to see your creations! Pop a picture in the comments below, or tag us in your work on Facebook or Instagram.




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