canadian makers

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

Jennifer Wanless-Craig from ARTECH Studios

 
 

"In the time of the Renaissance, artists had to be practical and versatile.  They had to make things people really used.  That’s what we do here at Artech Studios.  We make art that people can really use.  Funny, practical and all made by hand.  From us to you.

We are a traditional glassblowing studio nestled in the Highlands of Ontario, Canada.   We produce great upcycled glass tableware and handmade barware.  We are known for our recycled beer glasses, a repurposed beer bottle that still holds a full beer!

Terry Craig and Jennifer Wanless-Craig are the designers, makers, owners and (honestly) the chief bottle washers."

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft? 

Took glassblowing as an elective at OCAD (when they had glassblowing) and then went to Sheridan College in Oakville, ON

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

Podcasts, CBC or Netflix

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

Drawing, painting, sculpture, installation art

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

A lounge singer

 
 

Where is your studio located?

We live in an old church in Tory Hill, On (Haliburton County).  Our studio is in our backyard.

What’s your favourite thing about your city?  

It isn't a city!  Our town is in the middle of nowhere.  We get a lot done and enjoy the quiet.

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

Anywhere in Europe...maybe France.

What do you love most about Canada?

The seasons

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

What down time?

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

My daughter and husband. On the couch watching a movie.  

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

I love anything handmade.  We have lots of friends who are crafters and I love seeing their new work.

What’s one thing you hope makes it big?  

lol. Anything we make!

Do you have a favourite book?

Anything I have time to read.  Tom Robbins, John Irving, Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman are some favourites.

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

Making sure we get work made for 5 retail shows and all our wholesale buyers!

Lastly, what’s your favourite thing to do over the holidays?

Chill in pjs and watch all the Harry Potters, Lord of the rings and Star wars!

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.

Leanne Rhem from Gold & Ginger

 
 


"In 2013 Leanne Shea Rhem returned to Toronto from a whirlwind tour around the world learning traditional textile techniques and studying various forms of art. This is when Leanne founded Gold & Ginger and began developing patterns and surface designs for accessories, fashion and stationery. These designs were inspired by an ongoing collaborative watercolour and pen and ink illustration series with her partner, Zac Kenny. Coming from a textiles background Leanne has been sewing, designing and drawing for as long as she can remember. She now serves as owner, creative director and maker at Gold & Ginger. Her product line is a labour of love combining her interests in animals, colour, pattern and urban environments. Leanne has a commitment to bring well made, thoughtfully designed, quality items to the market place and practices a collaborative approach to design where she enlists the help of artist Zac Kenny.

Everything is designed and sewn by hand in Picton, Prince Edward County where the couple now lives."


INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

Ever since I was a little kid I played dress up and was creating things out of fabric and paper, I just never stopped.

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

I love music but I love movies more, I find that while I’m working if I have a favourite movie on - it’s a way for me to gauge how long a certain part of my process has taken and if I’m on track for a productive studio day. BBC nature shows and Disney movies are favourites of mine.

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

My husband and collaborator Zac Kenny is and abstract oil painter, a medium and style I never really appreciated until I saw his work. The colours he uses are vibrant and inspiring, he has this magical way of telling a story and conveying emotion with strokes of colour that I’m sure I’ll never truly understand.

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

An heiress that got to travel to work and look at art in the museums and galleries of the world. That or a mermaid.. I’m not sure haha.

Leanne Rhem's workspace in Picton ON.

Leanne Rhem's workspace in Picton ON.

What’s your favourite thing about your city?

We are so lucky to be surrounded by so many creative people doing and making such awesome things from the creative menus and fresh food available to the artists and designers we have as friends.

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

I’m tempted to say Florence, Italy because it’s my favourite city to visit but I think I’d miss Canada too much.

What do you love most about Canada?

Too many things. As a maker deeply inspired by nature I love the seasons and the range of landscapes we get to explore most of all.

Do you have a favourite book?

I haven’t had time to sit down and read anything in such a long time it’s embarrassing but one of my favourites is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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

Down time hardly exists for me anymore but when I can carve out some time away from the studio it usually consists of travelling to a beach and napping in the sunshine.

Pillows and bags by Gold & Ginger

Pillows and bags by Gold & Ginger

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

Frida Kahlo, the authenticity, colour and autobiographical nature of her work are a constant inspiration to me reminding me to be honest with the work I want to make. I’d love to be able to speak to her and practice my Spanish.

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

Helena of Here and Now Shop is one of my favourite makers to do shows with and to buy from. Her work stained glass jewellery is gorgeous and she’s just about one of my favourite smiley people

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

I’m currently pregnant and a business owner so I’m doing about 100 things at once while growing a human, if that wasn’t enough I decided to add 3 new patterns to the product line for the holidays! Our new patterns will be ready to launch mid-November, I can’t wait to show you.

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

In my family we have a tradition that on boxing day we all stay in our pajamas, eat leftovers and have a movie marathon. It’s pretty much the best time ever.