Niki Kingsmill of Niki Kingsmill Fine Art and Illustration

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INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

I’ve been painting and creating since I was very young. Both my mum and grandmother painted themselves, so I grew up watching them. I was always making something.

What do you love most about your process?

I love how freeing it is. I can’t really explain how it feels to have an idea, execute it, and be so energized by what I’m doing!

How has your practice changed over time?

When I was younger, I was painting or drawing occasionally when I had time, but never took it too seriously. I then took a 4 month course at the AGO in Toronto while I was in high school. We learned all sorts of painting and drawing methods. It was a fabulous course that introduced me to so many new ways of making. I think this is when I realized I wanted to pursue art in University.

I went on to study Art History & Studio Art at Concordia University. I learned so much from my studio classes, but still hadn’t really found my own style. I believe it was only when I was out of school, and frustrated with my job in the financial industry, that I started to really experiment with the intention of doing this full time. I really wanted to get to a point where I’d feel comfortable leaving my job, and I did!

What is your favourite childhood memory?

We used to do an annual trip to Maine with my parents and brother. We would drive through Vermont and stay by the beach in Maine, and eat so much lobster! Many great memories from those trips!

What inspired you to become a craftsperson/artist?

Not sure what really sparked my interest, but I know I’ve always gravitated towards creative work. I knew I would never be happy doing anything else. And although I was scared to leave my job in the financial industry, I would have regretted it if I didn’t try!

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If you could be any character from any novel, who would you be?

My favourite books to read are Granta’s – they are a collection of short stories surrounding a particular theme, so the charcters are always changing. Too many wonderful ones to remember!

What do you like to listen to when you work?

I actually like to listen to artists like Tycho, Air, and playlists where there are no lyrics. I like to just have music on that lets me zone into my work.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

Everywhere! Online tools like Pinterest are great for inspiration. Instagram is as well because you can see people’s real photos of a particular place or subject. Usually those get me started on a train of thought, and I’ll keep notes of what’s running through my head. Just walking or driving also helps me to think, or visiting a second hand store that’s full of all sorts of unique treasures.

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Tell us about your workspace/studio.

I am very lucky to have a large home studio that lets in so much beautiful natural light. I have my prints and cards on display, room for my desk where I paint watercolour, and a corner for all my oil and acrylic painting at the easel.

Where can you be found when you're not in your studio?

I like to take a break and go to the gym, or I’m making something delicious to eat in the kitchen!

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Anna Kari of Anna Kari Fine Knitwear

Anna Kari Knitwear

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

I am self-taught on the machine but I have always hand knit, so understanding and developing work on a knitting machine was not too much of a stretch. I fell into machine knitting after a career in developing printed and silhouettes for womenswear collections. I felt knitting had a certain warmth and vitality as a physical object and I wanted to pursue that. After finding and restoring a number of Swiss hand flat vintage knitting machines from the 1940’s and 1950’s, a process I really enjoyed, I began to develop swatches and full collections on the machines. Ever since that first machine I have really enjoyed the physical process of knitting on such wonderful pieces of equipment.

What do you love most about your process?

That I make 3D objects out of yarn, which is essentially a long line of twisted fibre. Amazing!

How has your practice changed over time?

My work has gotten simpler and more functional over time. I cram less ideas into one piece. 

What inspired you to become a craftsperson/artist?

 I have always been interested in making and building having come from a long line of craftspeople (basketmakers, violin makers, knitters, weavers and clockmakers!). I was always drawing and working with colour in some form.

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What is your favourite childhood memory?

 

Walking the dogs through poppy fields in England with the family. I always collected acorns, wild grasses and chestnuts on my walks.

If you could be any character from any novel, who would you be? Why?

Bathseba Everdeen from Far from the Madding Crowd. Although her character lived in 1874, she followed her gut, she made mistakes and she made bold choices. She was one of the first fictional characters I could identify with. 

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What do you like to listen to when you work?
Movie soundtracks and composers (Hans Zimmer and Ennio Morricone), industrial electronica and shoegaze.

 

Where do you turn for inspiration?

Colour wise I'm very influenced by my everyday and immediate surroundings so the colours in my garden and seasonal changes are places that inspire me. With knitting inspiration I look to the 1940’s and 1970’s for patterns and ideas. I also have a great deal of vintage knitting magazine from the 20’s to 50’s which I return to often.

Tell us about your workspace/studio.

My studio looks a bit like a car mechanic garage and a yarn shop combined. It is very spare and full of light. When I was a child my dad had a clockmaking studio in a restored 15th century horse stable and Ive always gravitated towards a space with character and light.

Where can you be found when you're not in your studio?

At the record store, going for walks, spending time with my son, and growing veggies in the garden. Music and the outdoors are my jam.

Anna Kari Knitwear at Black & Smith Country General

Amanda Wright of Sweet and Simple Co.

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Sweet & Simple Co. was founded in 2014 as a way to fill a void in the Hamilton food scene, by offering timeless handmade confections. Sweet & Simple Co. strives to provide treats that lack the preservatives found in larger brands. Using as many locally sourced and natural ingredients as possible, Sweet & Simple Co. makes it easy to enjoy your favorite treats, knowing exactly what you’re getting.

INTERVIEW

How did you get into your art/craft?

I started making sweets about four years ago, sort of as a fluke, I decided to try making Salt Water Taffy on a whim. Since then, I've been addicted to making sweets, and experimenting with different flavours. I turned it into a business about two & a half years ago, and have never looked back!

What do you love most about your process?

I have loved chemistry and science for as long as I can remember, and it's probably my favorite thing about making sweets! There are so many different factors to take into consideration, and sugar is such a fun medium to play with! My favourite part of the process is just constant experimenting, be it new flavours or a different technique, there's never a dull moment. Besides, who doesn't love candy?

How has your practice changed over time?

I am extremely more efficient than I once was! I often look back on the way I used to do things and chuckle about how little I knew when I started my business. As time goes on I get more familiar with the way different factors will alter the process, and more comfortable taking risks.

What inspired you to become a craftsperson/artist?

See above! I have always loved working with my hands, and turning raw materials into something tangible. It's not always an easy line of work, but it's so rewarding to be able to create for a living.

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If you could be any character from any novel, who would you be? Why?

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. Minus the red hair, I think we have a lot in common. I have always loved the way her imagination is portrayed and celebrated. For as long as I can recall, my imagination has always run wild. Now I'm in my 30s and don't see any sign of that slowing down, and I love it :)

What is your favourite childhood memory?

My favourite memories from childhood usually revolve around making things. Both of my Grandmothers were very creative, one with baking & one with crafting. Spending time with them making things will always be such a treasure to me, and I think really fostered my creative drive.

What do you like to listen to when you work?

Much to the dismay of the people I share a work space with... I love listening to Pop Music while I work. It makes the time pass quickly and puts me in a good mood for a long day in the kitchen.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

All over. Instagram is huge for me, as it allows me to connect with so many other similar makers, literally all over the world. I also love to travel, and try different confections and food from everywhere I go. It's allowed me to discover some really great and unique flavour combinations.
 

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Tell us about your workspace/studio.

I work out of The Kitchen Collective, in downtown Hamilton. It's a shared commercial kitchen space for food businesses to make their product. Right now we have about 23 businesses sharing the space. It's a bit chaotic at times, but also such a fun space to share! We all learn so much from each other since we make different products, and allows for collaboration between businesses.

Where can you be found when you're not in your studio?

I'm a medical secretary part-time, so am also working in the office a couple days a week. It was my full time job before I started my business, and I enjoy it so much, so I'm thankful I get to do both! Otherwise, you can find me at home, snuggled up watching gilmore girls, probably crafting something, and spending time outside.

What's your favourite holiday tradition?

My favourite thing about the holidays is just spending time with family! As a maker, this season tends to be a crazy one, and when we finally get to the holidays, it's so nice to just rest & enjoy the season.

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Clare Pearson of CP Metal

CP Metal Earrings

"Clare Pearson has studied Design at Sheridan College, Fibres and Sculpture at Concordia University and Jewellery at George Brown College. Her sculptural installations have been exhibited at various Ontario galleries (including The Art Gallery of Hamilton, McMaster Museum of Art and Hamilton Artists Inc.) and her work has found homes with private collectors worldwide. She references her background in design and three-dimensional art in creating the delicate elements of her jewellery. Drawn to the world of functionality, she has turned her focus to precious metals, creating small scale sculptures for the body. Clare works from her Dundas, Ontario studio for private collectors and galleries and is an instructor at Dundas Valley School of Art."
 


INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?
Thankfully, my parents have always encouraged creativity and I started at a very young age. My first art classes were at the Hamilton Art School which used to occupy the whole third floor at 41 King William Street in Hamilton.  Years later, that space was divided into small studio spaces and I rented a studio there for a couple of years. Now, that building is home to The Mule and Factor(e) Design Initiative. I was a full-time foundation student at DVSA, studied Craft and Design at Sheridan for a year, before our instructors went on strike. During that strike, I decided to switch my focus to the Fine Arts program at Concordia University, where I immersed myself in the faculties of sculpture and fibres. I spent many years after university as a member of the Osmosis Collective, working in my studio and showing in group exhibitions. I’ve always been a mixed media/assemblage artist and worked in 3D. When I was exploring media and tried my hand at precious metal fabrication, I was hooked. I’ve never looked back. Now it’s small-scale sculpture that can be worn.

What do you like to listen to while you’re working?

I really like music from West and North Africa.  Also Nick Cave, Tindersticks, Agnes Obel. To name a few.

Outside of your medium, what other types of art/design/etc are you inspired by?

Architecture and landscape design.

If you couldn’t be an artist/craftsperson, what would you love to be?
My dog. He has a very good life.

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Where is your studio located?
My studio is in Dundas. 

What’s your favourite thing about your city?
I love being so close to the conservation area and all the trails.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
My family is from the North East coast of England- so I would love to live somewhere coastal. I’m drawn to Scotland’s West Hebrides. I have no issue with cold, grey and damp.

What do you love most about Canada?
That we haven’t ignored our responsibility to our fellow human beings fleeing countries of unrest.
 

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What brand/artist can you not get enough of?
The works of visual artists Berlinde De Bruyckere and Anish Kapoor.

What’s one thing you hope makes it big?
Widespread appreciation for all things handmade.

What's your favourite book?
Too many favourites. One I return to from time to time is Giacometti Portrait by James Lord.

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What's your favourite thing to do with your “down time”?
Trail walks with my dog, Kane.

If you could go to dinner with ANYBODY, alive or dead, who would it be?
Piet Oudolf and Tadao Ando. Together.

What’s one goal you’re working towards right now?
Live/work balance but I can’t sit still long enough to figure out how that works.

What’s your favourite thing to do over the holidays?
Bundled-up hikes on the Bruce Trail (with snow shoes, if the weather permits!)
I like making big pots of soup, followed by warm blankets and scotch.

 

 

Kristen and Lora of Sun + Stars

Sun and Stars Co.

"sun+stars is the passion project of a couple of creative mamas, Kristen + Lora who have been friends for over 15 years. Drawn together through our mutual love of tiny donuts, cute cacti, 60's soul music and vintage clothing.

As long time veterans of the Toronto fashion industry (Roots, Club Monaco, Joe Fresh, PreLoved), and lovers of all things handmade, in the summer of 2015 we decided to join forces and create a line of our own.

Together we aim to design items that appeal to both kids and their parents; Pieces that add imagination to a child's bedroom or look playful in a living room. We believe in quality goods made from sustainable materials that will live in your home for years to come."

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

We both have backgrounds in fashion and have always loved making things for ourselves. After becoming moms, we came together and talked about starting a kids line, making printed decor and clothing with modern, simple graphics. We had a friend show us how to silkscreen one afternoon and we've been hooked ever since. We love the satisfaction of working with a new screen and raising it up to reveal our design.

What do you like to listen to while you’re working? 

We usually throw on a playlist with a 60's or 70's mix....sometimes some 80's and 90's creeps in there.

Outside of your medium, what other types of art/design/etc are you inspired by?

Kristen + Lora -Photography

If you couldn’t be an artist/craftsperson, what would you love to be?

Kristen- A museum curator or pastry chef.
Lora- A writer

Silkscreens by sun+stars
sun+stars co silkscreening

Where is your studio located?

Our studio is located in Lora's house in the west end of Toronto. We both live in a neighbourhood called the Junction.

What's your favourite thing about your city?

Kristen- Toronto rules! I love all the distinctly, different neighborhoods...the Junction, Roncesvalles Village, Parkdale and Leslieville are my faves. Each is special in its own way with beautiful houses, shops and restaurants.
Lora- I love how many parks there are in the city, you are always a 10 minute walk away from a park.

If you could live anywhere else in the world where would it be?

Kristen- Edinburgh or Venice Beach
Lora- I always thought I would live in a big old house in the country....somewhere in Canada I wouldn't want to take my kids too far away from family.

What do you love most about Canada?

Kristen- Our beautiful landscape and diversity
Lora- I feel lucky to raise my family in a place that's progressive and safe, filled with beautiful places and diverse people.

 
Freshly printed tree sun+stars co
 

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

Kristen- Right now I'm obsessed with "thief & bandit's" lingerie and "jb+dg's" beautiful wooden feathers
Lora- I love Jen Collin's ceramics and Korinne Vader's clothing, small fashion in natural fabrics.

What’s one thing you hope makes it big?

Kristen- There's a take out restaurant with a couple of locations here in Toronto called Urban Herbivore, I hope they make it big and open more locations...their delicious vegan food is the best.
Lora- I hope the tiny house movement gets bigger, we need to be realistic about the future of our planet.

What's your favourite book?

Kristen- I don't have any particular favourite. I like reading biographies mostly- "dirt" by motley crue and "then again" by Dianne Keaton are up there...
Lora- The little Prince...I love books for adults that read as books for kids and vice versa. I'm a HUGE Roald Dahl fan too.

 
Throw pillows by sun+stars co
 

What's your favourite thing to do with your “down time”.

Kristen- Watch Netflix and eat chips, guilty pleasures
Lora- I'm a do-er, I love going for walks, and DIY-ing

If you could go to dinner with ANYBODY, alive or dead, who would it be?

Kristen- David Bowie
Lora- Bette Davis, hopefully a night of too many drinks and fabulous one liners.

 

Xenia Taler

Xenia and Steven, and their studio space.

Xenia and Steven, and their studio space.

"Xenia and Steven's tiles have been sold and collected for over 15 years and are available in shops across North America. Their work has appeared in various media and has been featured in four books, the most recent being, Print and Pattern by Marie Perkins, Laurence King Publishing, 2010, and Olivier Dupon's The New Artisans, Thames & Hudson, 2011. Their distinctive images have been licensed to create products for companies such as Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters."

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

 

Steven's mother managed an upscale tile store so when I couldn't find work after graduating from film school she suggested I do custom tile painting for the store. I started in our apartment kitchen but pretty soon I got a kiln and a studio. By then Steven got into it too and he became very involved in learning all about glazes and tilemaking and developed the technical side of things while I focused on designing.

What do you like to listen to while you’re working?

Most days I'm at the computer doing administrative work so I find listening to anything distracting. When I'm helping with production or designing I listen to music. Steven listens mostly to lectures. My music taste runs to folk/rock and Steven is more into high energy stuff like early punk although he's the one who introduced me to most of the folk-y artists I like.

Outside of your medium, what other types of art/design/etc are you inspired by?

All the decorative arts, sculpture and painting, garden and landscape design, fashion, film. Literature is important to me too -it doesn't inspire me directly - but it keeps my mind occupied and gives me a lot of pleasure.

If you couldn’t be an artist/craftsperson, what would you love to be?

I don't think I would love anything else. If I had done something else, I would probably always dream or brood about being an artist. In fact since I do so little creative work as a result ofrunning this business, I brood and dream about that already.  But I might like being a therapist.

Where is your studio located?

North York

What’s your favourite thing about your city?

I love cycling through the ravines and emerging downtown or just exploring on my bike. It's made me re-discover Toronto.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

Somewhere by the sea or Barcelona.

What do you love most about Canada?

It feels safe.

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

It's always changing but right now I'm very interested in the work of Isamu Noguchi and want to learn how to make lampshades.

What’s one thing you hope makes it big?

Peace

Do you have a favourite book?

Chance by Joseph Conrad, also love Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe ran a tile factory) and Moby Dick, except I haven't actually finished it. It's just sitting there half-read on my night table. It requires a lot of concentration and I need to take breaks with Agatha Christie.

What's your favourite thing to do with your “down time”?

Tinker and doodle and just waste time - it's the ultimate luxury to feel like a kid with no time restrictions.

Porcelain moon ornament

Porcelain moon ornament

If you could go to dinner with ANYBODY, alive or dead, who would it be?

James Marshall the writer and illustrator. Or Kurt Vonnegut or Christopher Dresser or Halldór Laxness.  But really I am fine with just interacting with them through their art. I think I'll just go to dinner with my family.

What’s one goal you’re working towards right now?

For the last 4 years or so (with many interruptions) Steven and I have been working on a book. Its a novel for children with over 40 chapters that Steven wrote and that I illustrated. We're doing the final edit now before we hand it off to the designer. We're aiming to have it published as an e-book in the new year. There's an IG account for it where you can follow for updates and see some of the illustrations @theamazinganimalcavalcade

What’s your favourite thing to do over the holidays?

Read, sketch, watch movies and a little hiking.