Vancouver's Mini Maker Faire is coming up on June 10th and 11th at the PNE Forum and after signing up to participate in the textile village I realized that I know very little about the event. I figured, surely I'm not the only one. So, naturally I wanted to find out more and share with you. Vancouver Mini Maker Faire co-founder Emily Smith agreed to answer a few questions! Lucky us! Read on for a mini-interview...
JANNA: Hey Emily, Thanks for sharing about Maker Faire. Can you explain what it is and how have you been involved?
EMILY: Maker Faire was born in San Mateo and is a merging together of projects and subcultures. From Burning Man enthusiasts, to Silicon valley innovators, computer hackers, urban farmers, tiny house builders, art cars, and more - it's where people share their passion projects and wild feats of imagination. It's a celebration of DIY advocacy, and a place where failure is celebrated, and making "for the fun of it" is encouraged.
Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is an offshoot of Maker Faire, and was founded back in 2011 as a result of a wild idea thrown out at a "Super Happy Hacker House" at the Vancouver Hacker Space. A few of us got together with no previous event management experience, and with a lot of hard work and a community effort, made it happen. The faire is all about learning by doing, risk-taking, and bringing together community. I was involved as a lead organizer for the first 3 years and have since served on the board, and am now community ambassador, building the textile village stitch & bitch area and helping out where I can!
JANNA: Is this the first year you're having a textile village? What will that look like?
EMILY: Nope! I've been organizing the textile village for about the past 3 years or so. So far, there will be some looms, knitting machines, spinning, and more! There are about 26 or so people signed up to craft together. We're still accepting more applications!
JANNA: Oh, cool! Yeah, I'm signed up for a 4-hour block on the Saturday. I'm bringing my 16" Mirrix tapestry loom. It'll be my first time at the Vancouver Maker Faire. I've actually only ever been to the Mini Maker Faire briefly last year in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, so I'm stoked to finally attend and participate in Vancouver.
I love this idea of people in the community coming together to share their skills. In my own art practice, I've done a lot of crafting and sharing textile skills in public. I'm not very familiar with your personal practice, but from what I've seen online it seems like Maker Faire has influenced your art practice... or perhaps vice versa. Can you tell me a bit about what you do and which came first?
EMILY: Yes, absolutely! I learned to knit when I was a kid, and it wasn't until a few years before Maker Faire (around 2008) that I picked it up again. Reading Make magazine really inspired me! And showed me that knitting and handicrafts are relevant and can even be critical.
Once I started knitting again - with an adult brain - I became curious about the fibres that made up the yarn. I guess it all really came as a reaction against fast fashion and the negative impacts of fashion overall. That curiosity motivated me learn more about the various fibres, their impacts, and study more closely how those fibres were manufactured. I was spending time with hackers at the time, whose ethos was, "If you can't open it you don't own it" - and in many ways, I was looking at textiles in the same way. What would it mean to 'hack' your clothes?
I find knitting to be a very social activity - and I found that I definitely wasn't alone in my curiosity about how to work with cloth. Immediately I started hosting craft nights everywhere. My house, the park, the hackspace, etc. I really fell in love with the idea of connecting with others over making.
In terms of what influenced what, I would say that Maker Faire and my own art process emerged concurrently. As soon as I was making for the love of it and sharing it with others, it became clear that my art practice was about empowering communities to take part and discover and share with one another. I share what I learned; they share what they know. In many ways, I'm more interested in the culture, conversation and performative aspect of making, than of having a specific art piece. I've made lots of different pieces that I'm proud of, but I choose to highlight the patterns of connection and discovery with others.
JANNA: There are more and more artists highlighting meaningful connections with others in their work these days. It's great! The craft and the do-it-yourself world are so prevalent online, but that space can be very alienating as each person independently navigates how to actually connect with people there. I'm still figuring out how to make the internet work for me in that way. I love that Maker Faire merges technology and actual socializing. It looks like an interactive science faire for the whole family. I was going to get a babysitter for the day but after looking through all your photos I think I would spend the day wishing my four-year-old could be there, too. I think I'll bring him and see what happens (maybe I'll bring a g-ma for back up)
Last week I got to peek into a few of the lectures and workshops that were taking place in Pender Harbour as part of the 17th International Fungi & Fibre Symposium. People from 15 countries gathered to study the magical art of mushroom dyeing. I met participants from Denmark, Norway, the United States and Australia, many of whom have been attending the biennial around the world for years. Some of them came with friends and others were pleasantly surprised to be bunking with people from their country, whom they'd never met. It was clear that everyone was in their element and soaking up the rare opportunity to geek out with others who share this rare interest.
The field of mushroom dyeing is vast, and from what I can gather even specialists are continuously learning from each dye pot and 'experiment' - a word I heard a lot last week. With pH levels and water quality playing keys roles, not to mention the endless (millions, really) species of mushrooms to study around the world, there is no shortage of experiments to be had.
Enjoy the video! Below you can find links to all the people and places I mention in it.
Fungi & Fibre Symposium 2016
Fibreworks Studio & Gallery
Caitlin Ffrench - instructor of Ecoprinting with Mushroom Dust
Ursula Bentz - instructor of nuno felting
Sunshine Coast Fibreshed
PS The 18th Fungi & Fibre Symposium will be just outside Oslo, Norway in 2018
Sasha and I met in the textile art program that was unfortunately cut from Capilano University and have since enjoyed a lot of memorable adventures together including one where, pre-kids, I crashed at her pad in Inuvik NWT for a week to decompress before going back to BC after teaching textiles for Aurora College's Ulukhaktok Handicraft Program. She and Patrick threw a Janna-themed party (whatever that is, lol), fed me amazing food and filled me with the best coffee ever. At the time Sasha was executive director of the Great Northern Arts Festival, an annual art festival featuring all northern artists. She and her family have since moved back down south to Victoria, BC where she is running the Metchosin Summer School of the Arts, a summer camp for adults (!!)
Sasha's art practice has long inspired me; her aesthetic choices are always spot on, and she is always challenging herself. She was a resident at the Sointula Art Shed Artist Residency where she naturally dyed something like 90 yards of silk, and was also one of the luckies who got into the Gees Bend Quilting workshop in the Maiwa Symposium this past fall. Sasha is a master embroider and quilter. Her gorgeous quilts are made with natural fabrics like silk and organic cotton, and some vintage and vintage repos, too. Most of her work is made with fibre she hand-dyes with natural dyes and she is an incredible hand-stitcher. Just look these perfect stitches!
Lucky for us Sasha sells her work on Etsy and there happens to be a sale right now for 25% off everything until her birthday on winter solstice. Visit her shop here and use the discount code WINTERSOLSTICE
NOTES: I found it super hard to edit the amount of pics in this post since Sasha's Instagram feed is FULL of goodies, and I HAD to include at least one embroidery piece. Her quilt backs are too good not to show, so note that all of the quilt fronts are followed by a photo of the back of that quilt, with the exception of the wonderful hand-quilted, natural dyed silk one directly below, which I highly recommend as a baby gift. Sam has one and he is such Lionel with it.
Enjoy the interview!
VY: It's obvious from your beautifully detailed and labour intensive work that handwork is a true passion of yours. If I remember correctly your quilting endeavors started at a vacation in Hawaii in the early 2000s where you took a quilting workshop. To this day you are making Hawaiian inspired quilts. What is unique about Hawaiian quilting traditions that inspired you so much?
SG: l crave demanding handwork, and hand turned applique demands your attention in every moment. I love the textile traditions from our hideous colonial past: such beauty created from destruction. Hawaiians took their traditional bark cloth patterns and created a venue for them in woven cloth. I love Hawaiian applique because it is portable and difficult. My heart lies with large scale quilts, but reality of being a working mom who is often on the road requires that I have a lot of small hand work on the go to keep me sane and productive.
VY: I love that attitude, and I completely share that love for slow textiles which, as you know from our days in textile art school, wasn't always the case. You however were on that track back then with printing with natural dyes, quilting and that crazy curlytooth woven yardage you did that had something like 800 warp ends.
I have to say I am flabbergasted by your productivity since having your wee one two years ago. By my count you've made around 20 baby/lap quilts and 8 large quilts since she was born, and that's not counting the Hawaiian applique you work on, too! How the heck do you get so much done?
SG: Wow! Thanks for counting! That is awesome!
I get up early and stay up late! And keep my hands busy at all times. Most of my making is done while Gemma is sleeping, or in May 2015 when I had three afternoons a week of childcare after I finished working a big contract. I am very strict when it comes to her bedtime: she sleeps from 6.30pm until sometime between 7:30-9 each day. I have a whole second day after she's down. It is so important to my sanity that I have uninterrupted studio time! Makes me a better mother and wife.
Before I had Gemma I was working full time at a super demanding job that I loved: but didn't leave me a lot of room energy for creativity at the end of the day. Since having Gemma I have worked part time and have a little more left at the end of the day for my own projects. Starting a quilting business has always been my dream, and I was lucky to have some time in the spring to really get the ball rolling. It's still in the early stages though, but each sale or quilting connection I make online/in person is a thrill.
I am about to start work again, part time for another awesome arts organization. I will have two days of childcare that will be taken up with work for them, and then a few more hours during the rest of the week. I am hoping to schedule in one afternoon where my mother in law comes to watch Gemz and I can workout/get some studio time. As all mom's know you have to schedule your life completely if you want any alone time! I am thankful for my supportive husband, champion sleeper and helpful family members.
VY: Yeah, I'm really learning how important it is as a primary caregiver to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like, or you will go insane. I am relishing in the idea of having family around starting next summer when we move back to BC. We've been away since before Sam was born, so part of me doesn't even know what I'm going to do with that kind of support, or how it will feel to live in a small city or town again. You're having a similar experience but different in that you moved back to BC in the spring from a small town in the Northwest Territories. How has that transition been? Also what kinds mukluks, mitts and quiviut goods do you have the great honor of wearing now?
SG: The transition has been rough! We knew it would be, but it's harder than I thought. Life in Inuvik was beautiful and simple: the town is so tiny that you can run six errands in 20 mins and see a few friends in the process. I became a mother up there with some fantastic women, and I miss them (and their babies) everyday. Victoria is a new community for me entirely and I've only been here for 2 month: 1.5 of which I was on the road working and travelling. We've had many come to visit (thankfully we have a great guestroom), but most of my southern soul sisters are on the mainland. The salaries are tiny, jobs are hard to come by...but our main reason for moving was to be closer to family and closer to good food and water. The wild game up north was fabulous, but the water and produce were not ideal. We knew it wouldn't be easy, and it will take time to make friends here.
My new job as the ED for Metchosin International Summer School for the Arts (missa.ca) should help me make some friends and contacts down here. But at the moment, I feel like my heart is still up north. Inuvik had a wonderful creative community, the quilting guild of my dreams, a great economy and so many rad babes.
And the outfits!!! I miss northern winter wear so much. My mukluks are "retired" for the moment, hanging on a wall so I can witness their beauty on the daily. My qiviut is perfect for coastal weather, thank goodness, and incognito! No one knows what it is, which is fun. I found extreme northern style much more straightforward to achieve: coastal rain makes for distinctly unglamourous outfits. And it's cold down here! And grey! I got way more sun up north than I ever have on the coast.
But hitting up the beach on the regular, enjoying our 3 hens, picking chard from our garden in the dead of winter is pretty sweet. And Gemmi and I can take dance classes. My life is charmed from all angles. Time to join the quilting guild!
This summer when Homecraft Importers on 4th ave closed their doors after 60 years, one of their employees, Glenda, saw an opportunity to fill the gap and opened her own shop at 2923 west 4th.
Glenda says "Owning a yarn store was something I've wanted to do for a long time, but never really thought seriously about it until recently. Up until about two years ago, I was planning to be a professor. I've always loved the idea of being able to make a career out of learning as much as you can about something, and then sharing that knowledge with other people - especially when its a subject that you're really interested in to begin with. I eventually decided against the academic career, but now I get to spend my days sharing knitting knowledge with others! :) "
I love a gal who follows her heart!
In addition to a carrying a bunch of the essential brands like Noro, Cascade and Diamond Luxury Collection, Glenda includes many locally-made lines in the shop including Indigo Moon Yarns, Drama Llama, RainCityKnits and Bully Wooly. Also, since they offer online shopping, nearly all their yarns are available to browse from their website.
WET COAST WOOL LINKS:
I said it before, The Window is my new fave Vancity gift shop. But I haven't shared photos yet. So here they are. They have everything: soaps, snacks, candy, textiles, ceramics, jewelry, art, and the list goes on. AND it's all locally made. I bought a few things during my last visit including a couple of their in-house made aprons as wedding gifts, one cotton and one linen (The linen ones are so gorgeous I wouldn't be surprised if my friend wore it as a dress - lol).
Not too long ago I visted Wool Is Not Enough in Gastown and was pleasantly surprised at its size. Shoshanna's been calling it 'wee' all this time, but it's definitely not lacking on the selection front. They even have quiviut, which you may know is my favourite fibre! I've already began wearing my quiviut hat this season. It's so nice on cold mornings.
I left WINE with a beautiful hank of Malabrigo Rasta which I'm pretty sure I'll be making these mittens with.
Also, FYI there is a great write up on WINE here on the Fraser Valley Knitting Guild website. The FVKG has visited and blogged about nearly all the yarn shops in the lower mainland (I think their post on WINE is the only one sans photos), so if you're ever curious about the local LYS selection check out their reviews.
Cara Birkeland, the third generation owner of the well loved Vancouver wool and yarn company which has been running for over 70 years, has recently announced their upcoming closure. I know the community is very sad about this, as am I. Thank you Birkeland family for your legacy of beautiful, quality products, hospitality and camaraderie.
Below is Cara Birkeland's message to the community, taken from their website.
February 2, 2012
To all our Valued Customers,
Birkeland Bros. Wool will be closing as of March 1, 2012.
Birkeland Bros. Wool would like to thank you for your patronage over the last 73 years. We have enjoyed helping, laughing, and sharing your wool dreams. You are not only our customers - many of you have also become our friends.
This decision has not come easily. My grandfather founded the business, and my father took over until his retirement due to illness. About 15 years ago, parallel to a nursing career, I started to expand Birkeland Bros. Wool into its current format of supplying a wide variety of products for crafts and fibre arts.
A wonderful community has formed around our business, and it has been much fun, and you as customers have contributed to 2011 being one of the most successful years in the history of Birkeland Bros. Wool.
Nevertheless, health reasons have forced me to re-assess my options and consider drastic changes. With pride about what my family, our staff, and you as a community have achieved, and with sadness that all good things will have to transform at some point in time, I have decided to close the doors of Birkeland Bros Wool, and focus on new horizons.
Help us to celebrate the wonderful and woolly things shared, of decades past and new decades to come, in this month of February. We will be having several sales events, and it will be a good occasion to re-stock your coffers and drop by and say hello.
We wish you continued happiness in knitting, spinning, weaving, felting and many other wool dreams.
We have loved being part of your life.
3rd Generation Owner,
Birkeland Bros. Wool Ltd.
Wool Is Not Enough is a wee yarn shop that recently opened up in the International Village Mall. The proprietor Shoshana was kind enough to answer some questions about her shop right in the middle of the holiday season AND amidst moving the shop. Read the interview below:
Janna: First off, I'm really curious if there is some inside joke to the acronym of the name of your shop, WINE?
Shoshana: No the acronym means nothing it was an accident that I didn't even realize until someone pointed it out. The name is just a play on the expression "once is not enough." Wool is not enough means you need lessons, needles, other yarn, friends to knit with etc. because a knitter cannot live on wool alone.
J: Which products that you offer are you most excited about?
S: I try to offer quality products in an affordable price range. I think that the Berroco line can't be beat for this and I will be carrying more of it all the time. I also carry the old stand by Sirdar, not just quality but their pattern library is unmatched and timeless. I also love the Mirasol line because it supports a school in the highlands of Peru for the children who raise the animals and it is also very good value for the money with excellent quality.
I also believe that I carry more Katia yarn than any other store in the GVA. The one ball scarves
are great fun. people love them. Katia is also a very good company that supports their product with patterns and videos. I don't think any other company does these scarves better.
So I'm, excited about carrying some Canadian yarns. I am sourcing these now. I am also excited about carrying the Knit Pick needles, which aren't available in any other Vancouver yarn stores as I know of. I love the rainbows. I also carry milk cassein needles which are made of milk plastic. They are soft and pliable absorbing the oils from skin and yarns as well as warmth to create a lovely slick but pliable silent needle to knit with, my favorites.
J: Part of the reason I wanted to interview you was because of your recent fundraising to buy a herd of goats for villages in Uganda. How is that going so far? Can you tell us more about the program?
S: The kid mohair for kid goats promotion continues until Jan 15th. I need to make a sample from the yarn to promote it, and maybe find a good free pattern i can give people with it. I just wanted to give something back for the success of my business.
Plan Canada is a great charity that provides tools for success in underdeveloped communities, such as goats, chickens, trees, learning kits etc. Instead of just food aid. The dollars are also matched by governments to increase the donation. Actually one of my main yarn suppliers Diamond Yarn decided to give 20 chickens 15 goats and 10 donkeys to underdeveloped communities through OXFAM rather than give us all pens. That's way better than pens. I think the more businesses give back the better all our communities become.
J: So, you shared with me in an email earlier that you're changing the location of your shop. What's the reason for the move so soon after opening?
S: Each yarn store needs to get a feel for it's clientele. My customers will be different in Gastown than they are in Chinatown where I am currently located, even though it is only 2 blocks away. I'm moving because it is time. I began teaching lessons, then opened a pop up shop in my friends front window, for the summer, then I opened a yarn kiosk in a mall in Chinatown because there is no yarn store in downtown Vancouver. Now I am moving to Gastown and opening my own store. The mall has been great for exposure and my business has done very well far surpassing my expectations for the first quarter, but it is challenging to be in the hallway. So it is time too move upwards and onwards. I will be building my collection over the coming year, adding new lines every month or so, or as finances allow.
J: You mentioned something about a yarn parade or something awesome like this in one our past convos. Can you elaborate on said awesomeness?
S: I am having a yarn parade because it (moving the shop two blocks) really isn't far enough away to rent a truck to take over a rolling slat wall and a rolling shelf unit. So I thought why not have a parade and march the yarn over. Following the parade there I will be having a New year's Grand Opening Reception until midnight with food and entertainment. Lots of fun.
J: So anyone is welcome to join in the yarn parade then?
S:Yes of course everyone is welcome for the yarn parade. We are marching the yarn to the new store with live musicians, and we need hands to help push the rolling shelves.
J: When and where will it be occurring?
5 pm beginning at the International Village location (88 West Pender) on December 31st, new years eve
J: And where will your new location be?
S: 77 E Cordova St.
J: Anything else you want to share about Wool Is Not Enough?
S: That's about it for now. I'm a bit nervous about my new venture into Gastown but I just need to let people know where to find me and they will come I think. Check back next year and we'll see.
J: Thanks so much Shoshana! I wish you the best of luck in your move and with the future of the shop :)
Wool Is Not Enough links
I've always loved the Vancouver based clothing line Adhesif by Montreal-born designer Melissa Ferreira. I remember visiting her booth at Portabello West years ago and shamelessly hinting to her that I wanted the Adhesif vest SHE was wearing. Did I actually ask for the shirt off her back? How embarrassing.
Actually that's the thing about Adhesif, every piece is one-of-a-kind since everything is made from recycled cloth. So if you fall in love with a piece, be sure to get it there and then - unless the designer is wearing it!
Above are some designs from the Fall 2011 line. Isn't that outfit cute?
Did you know that Adhesive has a shop on Main Street? It's a super cute shop: 2202 Main Street, Vancouver
Isn't this scarf gorgeous? My dear friend Ana Isabel hand-wove and naturally dyed it. It's 100% organic cotton, 10 feet long and oh so yummy.
This week Ana is participating in the Poppytalk Handmade Marketplace for their back-to-school market. Check out her goods here.
Ana's Fall 2011 line of neckwear
Ana's Etsy shop