Home Decor

Flora & Fauna: Featuring Kaitlyn Brennan

 
Kaitlyn Brennan
 

In her northern city with what seem like months of never ending snow, slush and grey days, Kaitlyn Brennan battles the Canadian weather in her studio through her colourful pottery. Brennan dreams of the end of winter (and battles the return of winter during the few short summer months), channeling that lust for warmer sunnier days into her work with the goal of brightening the day of anyone using her pottery (as well as her own in the process). Whether it be handbuilt or a wheel thrown form Brennan strives to add as much fun and cheer into her work as possible with her drawings, colours, texture and unexpected details like a banana shaped handle. Anything goes for subject matter, the only requirement is that it is fun and will make someone smile when they use it. Brennan takes an idea like pineapples as a theme and challenges herself to use it in a variety of different ways; foam cutouts rolled into the slab, drawn into the slab, more appliqué style added on top, a pineapple shaped knob and finally sgraffito pineapples drawn into the slip. In Kaitlyn Brennan’s studio more is always better.

Kaitlyn is one of nine Canadian artists invited for our Spring Exhibition Flora & Fauna. . Exhibition runs April 12 - 26, 2019

Floral Mug

Floral Mug

Floral Plate

Floral Plate

Kaitlyn Brennan lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with her wife and son. She completed a BFA in Ceramics at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and a Post- Baccalaureate in ceramics at the University of Florida. Kaitlyn has completed residencies at Medalta in Medicine Hat Alberta, Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge Montana and participated in Pentaculum at Arrowmont School of Art and Crafts in 2019. Kaitlyn is currently organizing the New Clay Conference to be held in Ottawa spring 2019. Learn more about Kaitlyn and her work at kaitlynbrennan.com and on Instagram @kaitlynabrennan

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.

Ali Harrison of Light and Paper

 
 

"It was a fateful day one December when, in search of a unique Christmas gift, Ali decided to try a new craft. Using a borrowed box cutter and her kitchen cutting board, Ali created her first papercutting. After falling in love with cutting paper, Ali armed herself with a sharper blade and an actual cutting mat, and Light & Paper was born. At first, all Light & Paper items were handcut originals - but when it was near impossible to keep up with orders, Ali decided to begin lasercutting her designs.

Preferring a blade to a pen, Ali first creates her designs by cutting paper by hand. These intricate, unique patterns are then transformed into a variety of fun lasercut housewares."

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

I first tried out papercutting when I was looking for a unique Christmas gift to make for my aunt. I fell in love with the craft and a few months later started Light & Paper.

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

Podcasts! My favourites are This American Life, 2 Dope Queens, and NPR Politics.

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

Lately I've been so inspired and amazed by embroidery artists and the gorgeous work they are creating!

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

Something with animals - full time puppy cuddler? 

Ali in her studio.

Ali in her studio.

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

My studio is located in Toronto's West end. My favourite part of my city is Chinatown and Kensington market - it's right around the corner from my home, and I love walking through on Sunday mornings for dim sum, fresh produce and coffee.

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

Amsterdam! My family is from Holland, and Amsterdam is the most lovely city in the world.

What do you love most about Canada?

The weather! I know we all like to complain about our winters, but I love having four very different seasons. I can't wait for the first snow of the season (but I'm sure I'll be regretting saying that in March).

Advent Ornament Calendar

Advent Ornament Calendar

Favourite thing to do with your “down time”.

During the busy holiday season it's spending time with my partner, my dog, and my television.

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

Gertrude Stein! (In Paris of course)

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

I love the new items this season from our friends at Gotamago! Can't wait to get my hands on one of their new calendars!

What’s one thing you hope makes it big?

Our new ornament advent calendar! It was one of the toughest products to conceptualize, and seeing it come together has made me uncontrollably happy. 

 
Merry Christmas Wreath - Lasercut Wood

Merry Christmas Wreath - Lasercut Wood

 


Do you have a favourite book?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and On Beauty by Zadie Smith

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

Surviving the holiday season ;)

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

Drinking eggnog and watching Love Actually on Christmas Eve - our family tradition!

 

Dan Shannon from Bellowing Timber

 
 

"There's a profound satisfaction in starting with a raw piece of wood - something that grew right out of the earth - and cutting, milling, shaping, sanding, and finishing it into something beautiful.

The whole process is important. Skip a step or make a wrong assumption, and you will be lucky to have things not end in compromise, or maybe even heartbreak.  But if you take the time and energy required, if you give it all of your heart, and your mind, and your body, you can end up with something special.  Something that reveals all the previously hidden beauty of the material itself. Something that brings the user pleasure to touch, manipulate, and look at. Something useful that will outlive its maker.

Working away in my little shop, what drives me is the hope that these things that I make will speak to people in some way that makes their lives a little simpler and more beautiful. I hope that these objects allow people at least a fleeting moment of peace and pleasure when they run their hands across them.  I hope they will become the 'little treasures of the past' of the future - and provide a personal, human connection from maker to user, right through to another generation"

INTERVIEW:

How did you get into your art/craft?

Kind of on a whim!  I had always wanted to try it; always enjoyed doing art, design, and music projects, but hadn't actually even taken shop class in high school; back then I had always figured I'd end up in a science-related field. Eventually, after dropping out of university and doing all sorts of jobs, including a few years as a line cook, I took the plunge and enrolled at Conestoga in Kitchener.  When I started, I didn't even know the names of most of the machines and tools.  But I loved it and just kept going.  I find it really fulfilling in a lot of ways.

What do you listen to while you are working?

Lots of podcasts about fascinating things, like Canadaland and Radiolab, or comedy shows like Hollywood Handbook or Comedy Bang Bang.  Just whipped through the whole season of Mystery Show a couple days ago.  For work music, I usually gravitate to the stuff in my collection that's got real emotional power, so stuff like Father John Misty, Tallest Man on Earth, Ellen McIlwaine's funkier stuff- or Fela Kuti if I feel like dancing while I'm sanding.

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

Music and visual art.

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

Maybe a columnist, or an audio engineer.

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

I live in Hamilton, and my small shop space is in my basement.  I love Hamilton's progressive and working-class identity, and the art, music, and restaurant scene is really starting to take off.  Hopefully the inevitable gentrification that comes with that will bring positive things like better transit and affordable housing initiatives, instead of pushing people out as it often tends to do. I'm optimistic about that though, there's a lot of really active and socially conscious folks around.

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

I fall in love with just about everywhere I travel.  But Iceland might edge out the rest.  I got a sense that folks there need to have a really good understanding of both their built and natural environment, probably due to the sparse population and the long, cold, dark winters. There's also a real sense of camaraderie. I guess self-reliance and community support aren't mutually exclusive. Everyone we met was really interesting and very kind.

What do you love most about Canada?

I mostly shy away from anything approaching nationalism, but I will say: We are so lucky to be where we are, when you look at all the places we could find ourselves.  For the most part we live freely and without fear.  And you can go an hour or two in almost any direction and end up in wilderness.  We often have an overly-rosy view of ourselves, our role in the world, and our collective social conscience, but there's a lot of great things about Canada as well.

What is your favourite thing to do with your "down time"?

Writing and recording music that no one ever hears.  Usually a lot of it is electronic, since I can do that late at night on headphones, but I still have a bunch of instruments, and it's fun to use found sounds too.  I'm a terrible lyricist though, so that's usually why no one but me ends up hearing any of it!

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

A couple of people that come to mind are Amy Goodman and Ed Snowden. I really admire people like them.

What brand/artist can you not get enough of?

I have trouble picking one thing!  Everything that I've heard from David Byrne is amazing.  Try to listen to his song "Glass, Concrete and Stone" or the Talking Heads track "Heaven" and not be moved to your core. Both tracks are best when you play them at a high volume!  And then for woodworking, there's a guy named Luke Hope in the UK that posts on Instagram as @hopeinthewoods - it's literally just wooden spoons, but taken to this exquisite, sublime level. I swear my heart skips a beat every time I see his work. They are really pricey, but someday I will own one and display it prominently in a humidity-controlled glass case or something.

What is one thing you hope makes it big?

I'm pretty sure this isn't the type of answer you're looking for - but I am going to say "the craft movement as a whole."  Here we are in this age of increasing automation, where it seems like more and more 'work' is either becoming machine-monitoring and button-pushing, or else it's manipulating algorithms for market trend forecasting so the next quarterly earnings report looks good for shareholders, or whatever, you know?  The craft movement is a big old wrench in that machine because it's something incredibly human and personal and caring.  It makes labour an art, not a resource. Which, to me, is so necessary and so valuable right now.

Do you have a favourite book?

One of my most prized possessions is my (later edition, but still somewhat rare) copy of the Codex Seraphinianus - if you don't know it, it's like a technicolor visual encyclopedia of an alternate-universe Earth, written in an imaginary language that no-one has yet been able to decode -- if it's even possible to. Even the page numbering is in "a variant of base 17", according to a geeky website devoted to the book.  It's so weird and wonderful, and somehow manages to comment really insightfully on our world and the way we perceive it. For fiction, 'Dune' was a really good recent read that comes to mind, and for non-fiction, Rousseau's 'The Social Contract' is maybe my favourite poli sci reading from my university days.

What's one goal you are working towards right now?

I mean, other than getting to the point where I can pay myself a living wage?  I'm still really trying to find my own personal voice as a craftsperson, to find ways to have a particular worldview come through in the work I do. It's a sort of ephemeral thing, and I don't know if there's a point when I will ever reach that goal.  But it's really important to consider and work toward.

What is your favourite thing to do over the holidays?

Every year my family will pull out the globe & mail's massive 2-page crossword and set it on the breakfast table, so while some people are cooking or doing dishes we call out clues and gradually chug through the whole thing. Just don't be the person with the pencil, since whoever's over your shoulder will be calling out answers faster than you can read clues.

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?

canadianism-tumblers-940x1050px.jpg

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!