Durant Sessions and Eyeland Framemakers

Frame game.

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Sara Moshurchak was attending a lecture for her optician’s program at Douglas College when she realized she didn’t just want to prescribe glasses, she wanted to make them herself. The guest speaker in class that day was Eyeland Framemakers founder Klaus Sebok, there to teach students about framemaking, which, even back in 1988, was considered a finicky, half-extinct niche profession, akin to shoe cobbling or Geppetto-style marionette construction. “I come from a family of tinkerers and people who make things,” says Moshurchak, whose initial attraction to opticianry stemmed from an early reliance on glasses to correct her myopia. “My grandpa was a mechanic and he was the guy who, when you closed the door in the bathroom, it would set off a sensor that would turn on a radio, so our house was always rigged with all these little projects.” But hand-make glasses? Until Sebok’s lecture, Moshurchak didn’t even register you could do that. “I actually turned to my friend and said, ‘I’m going to own that guy’s business one day,’ just as kind of a joke,” she says. “But then I did.”

A redhead with infectiously upbeat energy and raspberry cat-eye glasses of her own design, Moshurchak began her apprenticeship at age 20, took over the shop by 30, and is delighted to currently be seeing Eyeland Framemakers (formerly called Granville Eyeland, a playful reference to their old location on Granville Island) into its 22nd year—proof that custom eyewear is still a viable trade. She’s recently moved shop to a larger Gastown location, complete with storefront, spacious backroom studio, and little nook-desks where members of her small team sit sanding down frames and lenses for hours. Each pair typically takes 10 hours minimum to construct (Moshurchak alone crafted 150 last year) but the bespoke frames that have won her clients as internationally far flung as Mongolia, Australia, and Vietnam require much longer. She fits for unusual head and bridge shapes, creates custom acetate, and can suspend almost anything a client’s heart desires into frames: one pair has wheat grains for a farmer’s wife; another has husks from English Bay palm trees; wedding dress lace; hair. Could she do rainbow sprinkles? “Oh, of course.” Moshurchak is Canada’s only custom framemaker, and one of three women in the profession worldwide (the others reside in Paris), but there are those who have chosen to pursue their love of eyewear design sans all those hours molding hinges.

Enter Gastown’s Durant Sessions owner Eric Dickstein, who approaches glasses with the appreciative intensity of a collector. Dickstein worked as a hairdresser, as well as with Oliver Peoples in Los Angeles, and founded dutil. denim before opening his meticulously curated eyewear boutique early this past summer. Dickstein discovered that similar principles to those of hair design applied to glasses, and that he had a knack for identifying perfectly flattering frames and colours for every face. “I totally geeked out on the whole concept of glasses as a functional accessory,” he says. “I look at frames, the thickness of them, their hinges and whether they’re functional or not, colours, materials.” Durant’s crisp, white shelves are lined with rare and sophisticated collections from around the globe. There’s Japanese line Eyevan 7285, for example, a company whose century-long history informs the design of its contemporary wares.

Durant’s lab allows for further customization of any pair of glasses, as well as the opportunity for clients to contribute hands-on to the customization process by operating sandblasters, which Dickstein explains lends any frame an attractive, matte finish, and a tint pot. Tint pots, for the uninitiated, look a bit like deep fryers, and lenses dipped in them intensify in colour, like Easter eggs. “I’ve always been intrigued by how colour can really alter the perception of something; for instance, whether you’re a blonde or a redhead, it almost changes your whole persona, and I feel like it’s the same with lenses,” says Dickstein, who crafts original dye hues in Vancouver-centric shades like the Stanley Park green gradient, English Bay blue gradient, and PNE purple-to-pink gradient. “I believe where eyewear is going is having beautifully simple frames that are personalized and slightly accentuated; even super subtle tints bring attention to the rim of the frame and the perimeter of the eye wire, just elevating the whole piece,” says Dickstein, before excusing himself to assist a customer who had, moments before, audibly explained to a sales assistant that she split her time between L.A., New York, and Paris, but had come to Durant Sessions to buy three new pairs of glasses.

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January 20, 2016