Gaynor Gauthier

Gaynor Gauthier: a life of printer’s ink and art

After more than 35 years in the graphics design business, Gaynor Gauthier is hanging up her exacto knife.

Twenty two years ago, publishing was very different than it is now. These days anyone can become a desk top publisher, but back in 1990 things were a lot more complicated and printing was an art as much as a business.

Anyone in the graphics and publishing business will remember cutting and pasting, wax machines and set squares, repro paper, exacto knives and drafting tables. It was cumbersome, compared to today’s computer assisted publishing, but it was an art. Gaynor Gauthier thrived in that world.

In 1990, Gauthier came to Sooke with a lengthy background as a graphic designer working for printing and graphic firms.

“I’m still a newcomer,” she says with a laugh.

Originally from “back east,” Gauthier found herself in Sooke and when she went in to buy an ad at the Sooke News Mirror, publisher John Arnett hired her on the spot.

“He needed someone to do high-end ads, and it also allowed me to carry on my business (graphic design),” said Gauthier. Her stint at the Mirror was brief, but it allowed time for her own business to take off. She was Phase West Graphics and she plastered the town with her graphics. Business cards, posters, pamphlets, visitor guides, you name it and Gauthier did it. She even hand drew logos and illustrations. You couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and you had to have a thorough knowledge of the processes.

“It’s like giving birth,” said Gauthier.

Running a business in Sooke, with all the competition in Victoria, was tough, but she persevered. She worked below the poverty line and for minimum wage many times. She often worked 70-80 hours a week. But she believed in herself and what she was trying to accomplish.

“A graphic designer is not the same as someone who does desk top publishing — your work has to look professional,” she said. “It’s important to have a professional image.”

And image is what she sold, at both Phase West Graphics and Blue Moon Graphics.

She worked for most of the established arts groups and organizations in Sooke and for a time she produced Positively Sooke, a monthly “good news” community magazine.

Her clients appreciated her efforts. In many cases, she changed corporate images and with the upgrading their business tripled.

“All of a sudden the doors opened for clients in Sooke,” she said.

As testament to that, one client stated, “…your work must have reached every corner of the world into diaries and backpacks with other happy vacation memories of the Sooke Region.” Those words came from Whiffin Spit Lodge just after Gauthier announced that she was retiring from the graphic design business. She will continue to work for a couple of local groups as a community service more than as a job.

These days the offset printing industry is suffering and along with that, no doubt, go the small independent printing and graphic design firms. Gauthier’s son Colin still works for a printing company and she says they both “have printer’s ink in their veins.” He was her strongest advocate to quit the business and do art.

Gauthier hasn’t had a vacation since 1997 and now that she is retired, she wants to discover her own backyard and do some art. Images, graphics, colour and print will all appear somehow in her art. She does very realistic portrait work and now wants to do things not so controlled, something abstract. She’s anxious to get her art studio set up.

Chances are that when she does, she will be listening to the blues, creating art and discovering the inner woman within.