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)
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!
Hi, I'm Janna. I'm a tapestry weaver, longtime knitter, 2013 graduate of Concordia University's Fibres and Material Practices program, and co-founder of Everlea Textiles. In my art practice I combine textiles and socially engaged media. Here on the VY blog I mostly share my knits, local events and about other local artists and crafters.