Working in my messy studio in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada

My story

My interest in textiles started with the Feminist Movement in the 70's, where attention was being paid to what was disparagingly called "Women's Work", which was anything to do with textiles - needlepoint, quilting, sewing, knitting.  Generally, if a woman did it, it wasn't worth much. 

This turned my eye towards these things, and, knowing that one of my Grandmothers was a tailor, and the other a quilter and embroiderer, I wanted to learn about the techniques and skill that went into the textiles that we used day to day.  It was about respect for the work and honouring the traditions of making, handed down through the generations.

When my two boys were young, I started a business designing and manufacturing children's clothing, with sizes based on today's healthy children.  In addition to a working studio downtown in the Fashion District of Toronto, I had a retail store on the Danforth, also in Toronto, and sold to wholesale clients across Canada.

Not content with what I already knew about clothing construction, I returned to school at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, where I graduated from the Textile Studio in the School of Craft and Design.  Two and three dimensional design, surface design and dye chemistry were just some of the fascinating things we studied there, with amazing teachers such as Susan Warner-Keene and Lyn Carter.

After graduation in 2000, I set up a weaving studio in Uxbridge, Ontario where I wove silk scarves, shawls and kimonos on a 16 harness computer driven dobby loom.

Today my studio is home to 3 industrial sewing machines, rolls of natural fibre fabrics, a dye kitchen, lots of print blocks and silk screens, and a variety of eco-friendly dyes. 

The waxed canvas I use for my purses comes from a company in New Jersey that has been run by the same family since the 1920’s. The 100% cotton is imbued with a food-grade paraffin wax that makes it waterproof, and gives it a patina similar to aged leather.

I’ve put a great deal of thought into the textiles I choose to use in making my purses. There are no synthetic fabrics and I choose to use real leather instead of ‘Vegan Leather’, which is actually poly urethane, or plastic. It is a petroleum by product and when it ends in the landfill, takes 400 years to decompose. Yes, an animal died for the leather in my purses, but how many died in oil spills or will die as a result of plastic pollution? It is a difficult question and one I grapple with regularly, but the decision to use only cotton and leather is a conscious one on my part.

If, in my own small way, I can draw attention to the beauty and skill of traditional methods, perhaps they won't be lost forever to quick and cheap, industrially made textiles and fashion. 

I take great pride in my work, and believe that straight seams, even stitching and sturdy construction are really important to creating a finished product that not only looks good, but will last. My work is about ‘slow fashion’ where you can feel the hand of the maker, and know that each purse was created one at a time, with meticulous attention to detail.

 

The garden outside my studio in Uxbridge, Ontario

The garden outside my studio in Uxbridge, Ontario