Clavis Studio opens virtual art exhibition

· The Pulse

An Edmonton-based startup that helps interior designers visualize and demonstrate their work is collaborating with an online art gallery to showcase both its platform and the work of Canadian artists.

Clavis Studio opened its virtual art exhibition on Nov. 22. It's a collaboration with the Ontario-based Artterra, which connects art lovers and interior designers with emerging Canadian artists and artisans.

Clavis built 3D models of some of Artterra's pieces and placed them within a set of virtual rooms that can be visited on the web or through a VR headset.

It's "a way to help people see what can be done with the Clavis platform — what can be built, what can be visualized, what can be shared," Clavis Studio co-founder Abby Aiyeleye told Episode 40 of Bloom.

The collaboration emerged when Aiyeleye met Artterra founder Parisa Golchoubian met at Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses, a mentorship and grant program to support the advancement of BIPOC business owners, which was run by the DMZ in Toronto with funding from the American Express Foundation.

Golchoubian called the collaboration "a dream partnership for our businesses" and an immersive experience "that truly feels like the future of art and interior design."

So far, people seem to be interacting with the art the way they would in real life, Aiyeleye observed.

"What we found really interesting is people would ... move really close to a painting to look at the detail that you would typically miss in a video or a picture," she said. "So that's been exciting, just getting that feedback."

A 3D rendering of a furnished living room with six pieces of art on the wall

The virtual art exhibition created by Clavis Studio and Artterra can be visited online or in VR until Dec. 22. (Supplied)

Aiyeleye's involvement with DMZ also led to her being named to the incubator's Women of the Year list for 2022. It's one of many honours she has accumulated recently. She was also named the Most Promising Startup Entrepreneur of the Year at the Start Alberta Tech Awards in 2021, and Clavis Studio received the Newcomer Entrepreneur Award of Distinction from the Alberta Chambers of Commerce earlier this year.

"It helps validate what we're doing," Aiyeleye said of such awards. "It gives you more momentum, it gives you more drive, it encourages you to keep going."

When she and her co-founder and husband Ayo Aiyeleye started the company in November 2019, they thought their customers would be homeowners who wanted help designing their own spaces. They discovered, however, that the homeowners who were using the platform were bringing interior designers and decorators in to help them. That revealed a business-to-business opportunity.

Now Clavis Studio serves interior designers and decorators with an all-in-one platform that allows them to "show their clients just how creative they can be," while also helping them with the back-end functions that such small-business owners need.

Even though Edmonton's interior design industry isn't huge, the city has been a great place in which to build Clavis Studio, Aiyeleye said.

"There's almost two million people here, but you always feel like you just need to meet a few people to get to where you're trying to get to," she said, citing help and mentorship from people like former Edmonton Public Schools Foundation director Sandra Woitas, whom she met through the Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton Committee.

Aiyeleye gives back in return, making her voice heard as an associate member of The A100 and a member of Edmonton Unlimited's Innovation Growth Council.

"As a Black, female, millennial startup founder, I have a very interesting intersectional lens to things, so I want to be able to share that," Aiyeleye said. "I want perspectives to be very, very diverse and intersectional because that's how we're going to make sure that we're building the city of the future."

Hear more about Aiyeleye's entrepreneurial journey in the Dec. 1 episode of Taproot's podcast about innovation in Edmonton.