Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy Spring!

Dear Spring,
Welcome back.

MANY, MANY THANKS to the incredible Nadia TanTyna Kottova, and Rhia Amio for the time, creative genius, and laughter that they put into this lovely video.
Thank you to all of our 140 artist & designers who continue to inspire us.
And thank you, dear supporters, who keep us going!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sparrow Avenue - Made in Canada Series

Quite honestly, we can't imagine Freedom without the presence of Sparrow Avenue pillows, tea towels, cards and mini pockets. Barbara's portrayal of indigenous animal life celebrates Canadian heritage and reminds us of the natural wealth our country has to offer. And here is how it all started.....

There has never been a time when I was not drawing animals. When I was little I would draw horses while watching TV. Later on in school, I would draw flowers and ivy all over my notebooks.

My work has always been influenced by nature and time. There has always a sense of the past in my work. It might be the subject matter, it might be my choice of colours or even the fabric. I am inspired by engravings from vintage text books and illustrated school dictionaries as well as ephemera from both the Edwardian and post-war periods.

After leaving school, my work naturally flowed into magazine and book illustration. I did this for a number of years until I started showing and selling my paintings.

A few years ago a very close friend invited me her studio to learn screen printing. I always wanted to know something about printmaking but little did I know that this was the beginning of a new direction for me. She was (and still is) instrumental in encouraging me in this new endeavor.

In 2009 Sparrow Avenue was established. Small birds were my interest at the time and sparrows seemed to suit my personality, hence the name. But my interest in animals soon re-surfaced and larger Canadian animals have been introduced into Sparrow Avenue's branding.

On the second floor of an 1899 house is a little studio where most of the work for Sparrow Avenue is produced. It all starts with a lot of drawing before an idea begins to emerge and the drawing is finalized. I also print and sew in this upstairs studio. All the sewing is done on my tiny 1947 Singer Featherweight sewing machine. The work piles up and is then packaged and ready to be shipped or delivered. In the basement I have a tiny dark room where the screens are coated with light-sensitive photo-emulsion. After this dries, the screen is ready to be put on my home-made light table and "exposed" to the drawing. When that is completed, the screen is washed. This is the exciting part because the original drawing emerges out of the photo-emulsion that is washed away.

Since the start of Sparrow Avenue I have been on a continuous adventure of learning. Ideas and possibilities are always presenting themselves. For this I would like to thank Freedom Clothing Collective for not only promoting their artisans but for introducing the "Made in Canada Series" which gives a voice to the work we love.

Keep up to date with Barbara's inspirations on her blog: www.sparrowavenue.blogspot.com.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Torched Studio - Made in Canada Series

Freedom has the pleasure of carrying a brilliant selection of enamelled jewellery pieces from Torched Studio. Gazers always ooohh and aaahh at their vibrancy and ask, "what they are made of? .. and how?!" So, we decided to ask the designer to take us into her workshop and share with us her drive and process.

Below, Yvonne Villeneuve of Torched Studio talks a bit about what inspires her and about the process involved in actualising her wonderful and colourful designs.

Yvonne also has a blog where she posts all her wonderful inspirations >> here!

I love colour and I love experimenting…and I love melting things.  So it isn’t surprising that I love enamelling because it allows me to do all of that.

Enamelling involves firing very finely ground glass, or vitreous enamel, onto a metal base at a temperature of around 1500 degrees.  I kiln fire my enamels and I use copper for my base.  My pieces are all about the colour, so I like to keep my shapes simple.  I definitely have a fondness for circles!

I started from making silver jewellery and then experimented with gemstones - but even gemstones didn’t give that hit of colour I craved. Silver also doesn’t allow me to “play” in the way that enamel does. With enamel, I am able to create new colours and patterns with a technique similar to watercolour painting. I build up layers of opaque and transparent enamels, firing each layer separately then carefully over-firing so that the layers bubble and blend. Some of my pieces have taken over forty firings! I also burn out areas to create oxidation patterns and borders. In fact, many of the processes I use in my work, such as over-firing, oxidation and burning are things that you are “not supposed to do” in traditional enamelling. But I’ve never been very good at following the rules.


I also teach other people how to enamel. I hold small, individually tailored classes on a somewhat regular basis. I love seeing how excited people are by what they can create with enamel. Students often do a little “enamel dance” when their first finished piece comes out of the kiln.

Pepe is a rolling mill that I’ve just recently purchased. This is something I’ve been wanting for a long, long time. A rolling mill is a piece of equipment with hard steel rollers that you squish metal between. If you squish the metal with something that has a pattern, that pattern will be imprinted into the metal. Which just creates oodles more possibilities of things to make!
My work is always changing, always evolving. So keep an eye out when you visit Freedom Clothing Collective because there will always be something new!

Like what you see?

You can Like her on Facebook too and offer her feedback.... Pats-on-the-back are welcome too :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Studio METHOD(E) - Made in Canada Series

Here we are with number three of our newly-named Made in Canada Series where we ask our artists, designers and makers to share with us, and you, their stories. We hope this series will let us take a peek into their creative worlds, workshops and processes.
So with no further ado, it gives us great pleasure to let you take a look at the wonderful creations of Studio METHOD(E), a jewellery studio in Quebec City, owned and run by Marie-Hélène Bélanger and Emily Lewis.
Large one of a kind necklace, as shown in our Répétitions show at La Café Bohème
We met while studying at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, both completing our BFAs and majors in jewellery design and metal-smithing. We realised through several shared projects that aside from being close friends we have a strong affinity for working together, our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other.
Emily’s bench pin, and Marie-Hélène’s bench pin.
One of the advantages we have is that Marie-Hélène is a francophone and Emily is an anglophone (Marie is from Quebec, Emily is originally from Nova Scotia), though we are both essentially bilingual. Being a business based in Quebec City we operate locally in French, but we sell online and in boutiques like Freedom Clothing Collective throughout primarily English speaking Canada.
Emily’s bench and Marie-Hélène’s bench.
Studio METHOD(E) offers workshops, rental spaces and jewellery lines. We specialise in what we call ‘alternative techniques', which are techniques that are generally not included in ‘traditional' metal-smithing. Some are from industry, like basic acid etching and electro-etching, electro-forming and powder-coating. Others are very old, like cuttlefish bone casting and a variety of gravity casting techniques we cover in our garage casting workshop.
Cuttlefish bones, preparing for casting, metal is cast showing the button.
We try to encourage a lot of freedom and exploration in our workshops, which is exactly what we both find so exciting about exploring new techniques. For us, giving workshops isn't just about other people learning from us, but about us all learning from each other and having a good time doing it.
Our rectifier for electro-forming, crucibles & other casting materials, heating metal in a crucible.
Our first line, Circus, uses powder coating. The forms are based off of traditional jewellery, mainly from the Victorian era. We use repetitive shapes and a variety of colours to create fun and lively pieces.
Teardrop stacking earrings in orange and violet.
Large round posts in emerald.
All of the pieces are made from recuperated copper electrical wires which were heading to the garbage. We skin the wire, clean it, draw it down, form and then solder.
Copper jump rings, electrical wire, powder coating powders.
The use of recuperated metals is important to us, the mining industry has a heavy environmental impact and, even though we use some new metals in our limited edition lines, we like to reduce the use of new metal whenever possible.
Bird cage pendants in silver from one of our limited edition lines.
The pieces in Circus are all powder coated. Powder coating is an industrial technique, seen often in the automotive industry. We charge the piece, then shoot it with a fine plastic powder. The piece is then cured in an oven creating a durable plastic layer that can take far more abuse than paint. It also means that our copper pieces do not cause allergic reactions or green stains when worn on the skin.
Teardrop drop earrings in grey and matte black.
We’d like to give a huge thank you to Freedom Clothing Collective for carrying our Circus line, as well as giving us a chance to share our story.


Make sure to like their facebook page to keep up-to-date with all the new goings on at Studio METHOD(E).
 Jump ring rings in a variety of colours.

The Woodlot - Made in Canada Series

The Woodlot is a creative Canadian duo that focuses on turning fallen and found wood into unique accessories and home decor accents. Each piece has so much character and is inherently precious. Well, turns out, so are the people behind them. We wanted you to hear directly from Darren and Jessie about the passion and process that go into The Woodlot. Enjoy!
We (Darren and Jessie) have always dreamed of one day living in the woods. Darren and I met when we were in high school (20 years ago - eek that makes us seem old) and ever since then we spent most of our holiday weekends and vacation up near Owen Sound where his family has a cabin. We loved the area so much and we started looking for property, and a few years back we bought a 25 acre bush lot, our little bit of heaven...
The Woodlot all began with a button. Two Summers ago, Ani, a great friend, asked me if I could make her a button. She is an avid knitter and said it was nearly impossible to find nice wood buttons. She knew we had loads of wood from our woodlot to work with. I figured I'd give it a whirl. We've always done our own renos - Darren is pretty handy (kind of an understatement) and he has always encouraged me to tackle any project I'd like. So he set me up with the saw, drill press, sanders... and so it began.
I have a degree in psychology and two small kids, so to sort of fall into woodworking was a happy surprise. I had no idea I would like working with wood so much. I started slowly, unsure of some of the bigger machines, but now I am pretty comfy in the workshop.
We make everything by hand (even though we do use power tools). Whenever we are at the woodlot we roam around and look for fallen trees and branches. There are 25 acres, so never a shortage.
Darren does most of the big cutting - he is a chainsaw pro. We had one maple that fell 5 years ago and we wanted to take it out, but it was in the middle of the bush with no real path out. So, Darren cut it into slabs with the chainsaw and we carried it out board by board. No need for a gym membership! It turned out to be really pretty wood.
One of the things I LOVE about what we do is that there is all this fallen wood just waiting to be turned into something. There is so much pretty wood out there and it is really enjoyable to work with it. It is relaxing, interesting and it teaches you. It is amazing how much you get out for working with your hands. It is fabulous and the bonus is that we get to create something pretty.
Something that was really important to us  when we started was keeping things all natural. No chemical finishes, no varnishes or poly. We wanted to make items that are safe for kids (we also make toys) and pose no damage to your health. As a result we use only two finishes: pure tung oil (a nut oil) and all natural beeswax polish. I was lucky enough to meet Priya last year (Priya Means Love). As we were talking about her rockin' skin care products (which I use all the time! They are also conveniently sold at Freedom Clothing Collective), we started chatting about wood finish. We now get our beeswax polish from Priya; it is handmade with love and it smells divine. Most things we make are finished with beeswax; some things, like coasters and buttons, we finish with tung oil for an extra seal.
Our kids are still pretty little and it is funny to see them get involved. They are always wanting to help with anything that we are doing in the house. Nessa loves to sort - when we make ABC blocks she LOVES to sit and organize them. Lochaln is all about buttons.  It is funny to hear him say, "You makin' buttons mommy?" He is two and adorable. Nessa started school this year and she is becoming more aware of the world around us. The other day she said, "When I grow up I'm going to make buttons just like you, or maybe I'll be a rock star!" Ah... and so the story goes....
It has been a fabulous year and we are looking forward to learning and growing with our little business. Thank you Freedom Clothing Collective for taking us in.