Food & Drink

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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Katie Cyr of The Monarch Tea Co

 
 

"Katie's first experience with tea comes in the memory of drinking Irish Breakfast with her grandmother out of delicate teacups.  Today, she carries the same reverence and passion for the art of tea into her day to day life. Katie founded The Monarch Tea Co. in late 2013 with the vision of bringing together the traditional eloquence of tea time with a modern twist."

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

Tea has been a passion of mine since a very young age. As I grew older, and my tea collection also grew, I started thinking about how neat it would be to make my love of tea into a profession. I drafted up different business plans, originally hoping to get right into starting a cafe. I ended up taking a step back and deciding that working on my Tea Sommelier certification, and selling in awesome boutiques and small businesses across Canada was more approachable to start with, while giving me the freedom to always be in new places.

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

I'm usually playing my favorite band, Death Cab for Cutie, or some indie/folk. Depending on the urgency of the tea order, I've also been known to have EDM or drum and bass going though!!

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

I love pottery (go Emma Smith!) and oil painting.

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

I'm an avid yogi.. so I would be a yoga teacher and share that passion with others.

Where is your studio located? What’s your favourite thing about your city?

I live and work in the awesome city of Hamilton, Ontario! There is so much to love about Hamilton, but one of the main things for me would be the support and love of small business and artisans here. We have a free monthly art crawl, where people can peruse local galleries, and artisans set up and display their wares. A lot of the businesses here cross promote and help build each other up, so it is a very supportive atmosphere. There is so much growth andtalent in this city and it's an honour to be apart of it.

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

I truly love where I am now, but if I had to pick somewhere else it would probably be the Big Sur area of California.

What do you love most about Canada?

The amazing beauty and diversity of our people, geography and culture.

Favourite thing to do with your “down time”.

Get into bed with a mug of tea and my cats with a novel!!

Wax seal being put on a fresh bag of tea!

Wax seal being put on a fresh bag of tea!

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

George Bernard Shaw, a famous Irish playwright who passed away in 1950.

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

Ah! So many to choose from! I'm obsessed with Crown Point Candles, a local non-GMO soy wax candle maker in Hamilton. I also love Soup Girl, who makes awesome vegan soup mixes!

What’s one thing you hope makes it big?

I hope that the popularity and love of tea continues to grow. I also hope that the ritual and tranquility of tea time becomes popular, so it can show people how important it is to de-connect from all the distractions we have, sit down with a friend or by yourself and just sip and be zen!

What's your favourite book?

I LOVE to read (tea and books FTW!) so I can't pick just one. I would have to say some recent favourites would be The Girls by Emma Cline and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

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

Completing my Tea Sommelier Certification through the Tea Board of Canada, which should be finished by February 2017!

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

I think one of my favourite things to do in the holidays is to get super cozy. I love having friends and family over and having a night of board games beside the fire, enjoying tea (or wine!) and spending time together. I also love getting outside and ice skating on a crisp winter night!

Brodie Dawson from Dawson's Hot Sauce

 
 

 

"Founder of Dawson's, Brodie started the company in mid 2013. He started cooking hot sauce as a hobby and a way to share great sauces with friends and family. This raised a lot of positive attention in his circle and eventually he was inspired by a colleague to open his own business. Less than a year later, Dawson's was launched and he hasn't looked back since!

As Dawson's began to grow, so did it's need for a keen eye in the kitchen. Bruce offered his skills where they were needed most. A Father and a mentor in cooking, Bruce was able to give Dawson's the professional skill it required and the family name it honored."

 

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

Mostly by chance. I retired from music back in 2013 and was looking for a way to be creative. Hot sauce was the answer, and for months I made sauce for friends and Family. Finally someone came along and said we should try marketing the sauces. Since then we've been growing and evolving as a company!

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

We find it a bit challenging to listen to music while working. Our kitchen is very loud and Bruce isn't fond of 'turning it up to 11.' We tend to just enjoy conversation and each others company.

What keeps you inspired?

A great hot sauce is very inspiring. We make many great sauces, but not without the many failures in between. Sometimes trying a sauce by another brand or something someone just made at home can be very inspiring. 

If you couldn’t be a craftsperson, what would you love to be?

I'd probably still be playing music to be honest. 

What’s your favourite thing about your city?

We are based out of Hamilton. We love the new food community that has paired with the artists all around town. It's nice to have culture, food and night life all together downtown again.

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

I'd like to live in New York. We spent time this year in Brooklyn and really loved the vibe. It has a big city Hamilton feeling with the people.

What do you love most about Canada?

I love our cultural diversity here. We have so many people from different walks of life, I feel we get to experience so much the world has to offer by bringing a little bit of everything to our cities and communities. Variety has always been a wonderful perk of being Canadian.

When you get some "down time" what do you like to do?

I love a good hang out. We keep a very active and vast social group and it's always great to go spend time with friends.

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

Ellen. Next question! 

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

We love a variety of other hot sauce companies. Too many to reference really so lets just say we love our competition instead of hate them!

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

Increasing our presence both locally and abroad. It's very competitive and challenging in this business but we keep ourselves focused and determined to make waves!

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

The Dawson's favourite thing is Boxing Day. Every year we get together for a huge family dinner and we all eat drink and laugh. It's the one day of the year that we all get together and it's very special.