I had the opportunity to catch up with Cheryl Arkison this week for a quick Q + A. We’re so thrilled to be hosting her as a guest instructor next week in the studio.
Cheryl is a writer, quilter, and mom. She writes and teaches on quilting, craft, creativity, food, and family. And it all comes from her dining room empire in her crowded, colourful house. From this space she wrote Sunday Morning Quilts (co-authored with Amanda Jean Nyberg), A Month of Sundays, and You Inspire Me to Quilt. She teaches quilting around the country and online via Craftsy and Creative Live. A proud first generation Ukrainian, she is committed to not letting the artistry of food and craft from her heritage pass by unnoticed in the modern age. Cheryl is the mother of three kidlets, and awesome wife to her entrepreneur husband. www.cherylarkison.com
Q - I’m always so enticed to make when I see quilts, firstly because I understand the effort it takes to get to the end of a big project and secondly because every one of them is so unique. How did you come to quilting and why?
A - I’d always sewn - my mom taught me as a kid and I was lucky enough to take Home Ec in Junior High. Quilting came later though, while I was in grad school. I would walk by this quilt shop near my apartment and go in to pet the fabric. But I was only 23 and I thought, “Who the heck quilts at 23? That’s for old ladies.” Then my now sister-in-law announced she was expecting her first baby. I figured no one could fault me for learning the craft if it meant making a baby quilt. I took a weekend class, made the quilt, and became completely hooked! It was a compulsion right from the beginning. At first it was more about being an amazing stress relief. You have to pay attention to what you are doing or else you can hurt yourself. That means you tune out everything else. Totally in the present. As you get more comfortable with the skill then the desire to create more and more grows. And, for me, it hasn’t stopped.
Q - I need to make more time to explore quilting and can’t wait to take your class! As a mother of one busy three-year-old to another mother of three kids I feel incredibly inspired by your focus. How do you design fabric collections, make quilts, write books, teach and manage a family life – what is your secret?
A - There is no secret, sorry. Just a lot of hard work. I’m also the kind of person who does better when I am busy. That being said, The things that keep me sane and productive are this: A) I wake up before the kids. On a good day I can get 2 hours in before they are out of bed. This includes taking time, first thing, for my Morning Make. That is 10-20 minutes of creating before I consume. Pure creative time just for me. Then I am focused and ready to get some work done. B) Playdate swaps save my life! I live in an amazing community where we all help each other out with childcare and friendships. When deadlines are looming I know I have friends to call on. Then they can call on me when they need it. C) I don’t watch that much TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love some trashy shows and late night, but I can go days without watching anything. Those are the days I get a lot done in the evening. D) Speaking of TV I’ve become very adept at working to the soundtrack of PBS Kids. E) I embraced meal planning and a visible family calendar. Truth be told, I don’t always feel like I am managing it. Some days I am cranky that I can’t work more, other days I wish I could just play at the park or work out without thinking about how the schedule for after school looks. But I take it one day, one week at a time.
Q - While my family comes first and I know it’s so important to have balance in life, I sometimes forget that in my own artistic practise. I could easily get lost in printing yardage and developing my collection that I forget to make time for creative freedom. At the moment I’m really excited about natural dyes and although it’s not part of my day-to-day studio practise I’m making time to explore it purely for the joy of discovery. Is there something outside of your practise that you’d love to explore further and why?
A - People used to ask me if I scrapbooked - back when it was really popular - and I had the same answer: I already have one expensive and time consuming hobby! Now that my hobby is my business, however, it is a different story. You’re right, it is absolutely important to make time for creative freedom. I do this two ways. One, my Morning Make is no obligation sewing/writing. I just do it for the sake of doing. In these daily snippets I can explore, play, and actually make some good progress on projects. Two, if there is something outside of sewing I want to try I bring my kids into it. We all experiment together! It means some quality time together and creative freedom for all of us.
Q - Do you have any tips for new mums on how to make time for the studio and how to stay true to your creative self?
A - Well, if you are a brand new mom, I say to embrace that for a little bit. At least until you are out of the sheer survival phase. After that, sleep training earlier rather than later so you can find a little bit of predictability in your routine. For me, I truly became my most creative self when I became a mother for the first time. It was about being honest with who I really was to model that for my girl (then the other two kids) and the fact that she slept a lot. I had mat leave and a good napper (thanks to our hard work), which meant I had time. That’s when I truly began exploring quilting and returned to writing.
Q - Lastly what tool in your studio can you not do without - why?
A - The obvious answer is my sewing machine! After that, I would say my design wall. For a long time I sewed in the dining room. The same space where we ran a business, ate, and even all three of our kids slept at the beginning of their lives. So if I wanted to lay out a quilt I used the floor or our bed. But it meant there wasn’t a lot of exploration and play. Sewing, yes, but not experimentation. Everything had to be packed up when someone woke from a nap or I wanted to go to bed. Having a design wall now means I can play a lot more, ruminate on a design, and truly embrace improvised quilting. It’s a total game changer.
If you weren’t able to sign up for her improv quilting class – not to worry! It was so popular that we decided to run it again and we have a couple spots available on the 4th of April! Find out more here!
See you there!
I was introduced to Caroline Forde's work through the New Craft Coalition when she applied for the sponsored Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD) emerging artist booth in 2015.
When we met in person prior to the show I was immediately inspired by her confidence and knowledge of materials. I quickly signed up for a workshop she was teaching in natural dyes at ACAD and was blown away.
My journey in textiles started as a plan to go into fashion design. This took me from ACAD to study further in London, England where I focused on pattern cutting. I then developed a repurposed materials accessory and outerwear collection which took me across Canada. Yet it was on a trip back to my home town of Durban, in South Africa, that I felt inspired to focus on surface pattern design and printed cloth.
This coming March you’ll find Caroline Forde at my new space teaching workshops in natural and indigo dyeing as well as eco printing. You can find out more about the upcoming workshop series in surface pattern design here…
Caroline was born in Hamilton, Ontario and graduated from Sheridan College's Craft and Design Textile Program in 2015. She has traveled out west to Calgary to complete her BFA in Fibre at the Alberta College of Art + Design.
While pursuing her craft education Caroline has been the recipient of two textile residencies at Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey and at Harbourfront Center in Toronto, Ontario.
In the studio Caroline creates hand printed textiles that focus on surface design for interiors and apparel. She celebrates how she sees the world through drawing and then translates these drawings into patterns. Currently her work has been focused on experimenting with natural dyes and pigments through dying and printing techniques. The patterns she creates are hand drawn and screen printed onto natural fabrics.Caroline’s practice is highly influenced by sustainability, she strives to create products that are friendly for the environment and customer. Through her work she hopes to show the world just how much handmade objects and Canadian design has to offer. You can view her work at www.carolinefordedesigns.com.
Leading up to the New Year, and holiday season, December seems to be the month that I take to reflect both on the year that’s passed and the one to come. So in the spirit of looking forward to 2017, it seems like a good time to announce that the studio will be moving on January 1st 2017 to the King Edward Creative Hub & Arts Incubator.
I am excited about being a part of this new creative community and I will be expanding my studio practice at the same time to provide workshops focused on surface design and textile discovery. So for those of you who are curious about my process and would perhaps like to give it a try please join my new workshops mailing list here.
Classes will be starting in the new year and early registration opens soon! Not only will you be able to explore the process of silkscreen printing but I will also be hosting several special guest artists to explore a wider variety of surface design methods. Join us for an introduction to block printing, natural dyeing, indigo dyeing, quilting and more! Stay tuned…
cSPACE is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting communities of artists, nonprofits and entrepreneurs working in the culture and creative sector. Through a unique partnership between Calgary Arts Development and The Calgary Foundation, cSPACE was established in 2011 to own, build and operate large-scale, multi-tenant facilities that deliver affordable space, shared resources, networking opportunities and specialized programming through a self-sustaining business model. For more details, visit cspaceprojects.com.
About cSPACE King Edward
The cSPACE King Edward project is the transformation of a vacant 100 year-old school and 3 acre site in Marda Loop into an innovation hub for the cultural and creative sector. At the heart of the development is the repurposing of a designated heritage building and public space into a multi-disciplinary arts, culture and community facility. The LEED Gold Certified project will provide 41,000 s.f. of sustainable creation, production, exhibition, rehearsal and performance space in Phase I. Phase II provides 6,500 s.f. of theatre, flexible co-working office and shared meeting spaces. Collectively, these facilities will provide a diversity of spaces for non-profits, artists and cultural entrepreneurs to amplify their missions, practices and enterprises. Construction on Phase I began in April 2015 and full project completion is anticipated for June 2017.
cSPACE Social media Information
When we were kids my mother, like so many others, hand-craft stockings for my brother and I. Last year she passed mine onto me when she came by it in her holiday decorations box.
I had an instant flash back to my childhood and that excitement of Christmas morning. Our Durban, South Africa, home had a long hallway leading from our bedrooms through to the dining room, living room and kitchen. The bedrooms were separated from the living area by a door that was A-L-W-A-Y-S locked on Christmas eve after we went to bed!
I don’t remember exactly when Mom introduced our stockings but it was a very clever way of distracting us from sneaking peeks at our gifts before dad got up – which always seemed like forever!
Last year my daughter got her first hand-crafted stocking and this year I’ve decided to add a limited edition of stockings to the online shop. So it seemed only fitting that I should know a little more about this Christmas tradition.
It seems that the most popular legend goes something like this:
“A recently widowed man and father of three girls was having a tough time making ends meet. Even though his daughters were beautiful, he worried that their impoverished status would make it impossible for them to marry.
St. Nicholas was wandering through the town where the man lived and heard villagers discussing that family’s plight. He wanted to help but knew the man would refuse any kind of charity directly. Instead, one night, he slid down the chimney of the family’s house and filled the girls’ recently laundered stockings, which happened to be drying by the fire, with gold coins. And then he disappeared.
The girls awoke in the morning, overjoyed upon discovering the bounty. Because of St. Nick’s generosity, the daughters were now eligible to wed and their father could rest easy that they wouldn’t fall into lonely despair.” Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com
To find out more about our new hand-craft Christmas stockings please visit the online store here...
Much of my creative process starts with making marks. In the spirit of Valentine’s day I’ve had a little fun in the studio.
To start I have my ‘speedy-cut’ carving block by Speed ball and a carving tool. These can be purchased at your local art supply store and if they don’t carry Speed Ball products there are many alternatives out there. You could even use an eraser or a potato to carve a block or stamp from.
I’ve cut out three shapes and carved different patterns into each of them. The final collage will have layers of colour and texture so the shapes need to stand out from each other. An easy way to do that is by changing the patterns on each shape.
Next I applied some acrylic paint with a brush onto the blocks. Flip them over and pressed down firmly onto the paper surface. I make sure to smooth out the paint on the block with my brush in order to keep the image as crisp as I can when it get’s printed. I also ran the point of the brush through the areas that were carved away to pull the paint out of those areas, which further helps with getting that crisp image. There are tools out there like rollers that can make this process cleaner but there’s something to be said for getting your hands dirty every once in a while.
I really like introducing colour and texture through various papers. So I went through a box of scrap cards and collage papers that I've collected over the years. After selecting a variety of papers I started to think about the composition. I cut out the printed circle and fixed it onto the turquoise paper using a glue stick. Then I layered the next print crossing over both the circle and onto the turquoise paper. From here on out it really is just about layering and adding to the collage until you feel it's finished.
It’s hard not to obsess over getting a perfect print but the important thing is to enjoy the creative process and the unexpected outcomes. I remember hearing Karl Lagerfeld say that some of his best work came out of mistakes that he made and I embrace that in my own work.
Stay tuned! I think that this little bit of fun might be leading to something bigger…
January is a month of reflection, planning and organizing. In that spirit I took some time this week to go through photos from a recent trip.
Last summer our family visited Begur in the northeastern coastal region of Costa Brava, Spain. Most of our time was spend on the beautiful beaches soaking in the sun and playing in the sand with a very happy 1 year old.
This was our first trip with a little person in tow and it had its challenges, despite that, we did manage to get out and explore. My primary ‘art / design’ focus was to take in some Dali, Picasso and Gaudi sites. Working around nap times meant that we had to stick to a plan in order to see as much as possible while still getting a chance to relax and enjoy our vacation.
I’ve learnt that traveling with a small person means you don’t always have the luxury of time in order to soak it all in and process what you’re seeing. Your time limit is based on the patience, stomach and mood your little person might be in at that particular moment. Our daughter was a trooper and, for the most part, flexible. Thank-you to Spain and their great family values! It seemed there was always someone around the corner able to help or just being so accommodating.
We managed to take in quite a bit while in the Costa Brava area which is part of the province of Girona, Catalonia. There are many Salvador Dali related sites in and around this region as the artist was born and lived here most his life. What was most memorable though was our visit to his home in Portlligat.
We were late on getting tickets to enter the actual home but did explore the property. The heat and views were delicious, the olive groves were beautiful and the home was a labyrinth of corridors and courtyards. It was so worth it! Just being in the place where such an iconic artist lived and worked was inspiring and I could really see how the landscape influenced his work.
Dali purchased his first fisherman’s hut in 1930 and then the surrounding ones. Over a period of 40 years he built onto the home joining the huts together by beautiful white washed corridors, passageways and courtyards. I would strongly recommend a visit to the Portlligat home just remember to get your tickets ahead of time.
We had a wonderful trip to Spain, visited with family and saw some amazing sites. We felt as if we only had a taste and left feeling we would love to go back for seconds.
I'm getting ready this week to send some work off to Ontario for the Toronto Design Offsite Festival. I'm very excited to be participating in this and along with some amazing artists from my fair city of Calgary.
'Shipped across the country in Bankers boxes, TO DO unpacks, installs, and presents three distinct national showcases in Toronto. ‘Outside the Box’ exhibits design from across Canada by partnering with design correspondents in selected cities. This year’s cities are Montreal (It’s themagain), Calgary (aftermodernlab.com), and Vancouver (Dear Human).
Calgary 'Outside the Box' features Katrina Chaytor, Mackenzie Kelly-Frère, Natalie Gerber, and Natali Rodrigues.' Find out more by following this link...
For you great folks in Toronto make sure to check out the window. Don't forget to check the website because there are going to be some great things to see, visit and participate in through out the festival.
I wish I was going to be there myself! For more details on the festival visit TO DO here...