When Amanda West Lewis was a child, her mother, who worked as a book designer at the University of Toronto Press, invited her to take a calligraphy class with a group of designers. This spurred her love for the shape of letters.
Now, as a calligrapher, she works with letters and words to create visual meaning. “With the English alphabet’s 26 elegant shapes, we can express everything that the human mind is capable of thinking and feeling”.
Amanda went on to teach calligraphy at the University of Waterloo. She was particularly interested in letterform and the development of writing styles. In her personal body of work she plays with colour, texture and form to interpret words and meaning.
Her love for letters and words is at the heart of everything she does. She currently spends her time between working as a calligrapher, a theatre director, a writer, and an instructor.
Lene Rasmussen of Lakeshore Willows grows basketry willows that she uses to create unique, beautifully-woven pieces.
Inspired by the willow fences and hedges in her native Denmark, it was during a visit home in 2005 that Lene says she got the idea to pursue a career selling willows and baskets from her current home in Wainfleet, ON.
Lene now grows 30 varieties of cultured willow without the use of chemicals or pesticides, and sells willow cuttings, dormant willow rods for planting, and dried willow for basketry. She also offers workshops and regular classes in willow weaving and basketry.
Lene is committed to promoting and reintroducing this ancient craft to southern Ontario and parts of the US, and to developing interest in willow and its many uses. She has been privileged to study with some of the finest basket makers around and continues to seek opportunities to learn new techniques. As she incorporates these into her own body of work, she is happy to share her knowledge, experience, and expanding repertoire of skills with her students.
“Since willow basketry has not yet enjoyed the renewed popularity in North America as it has in Europe, I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to connect with willow basket makers in Denmark,” she says. “Rekindling interest in this time-honored craft and carrying on its traditions inspired me to to establish Lakeshore Willows.”
Zoë Lianga, owner and founder of The Cordwood Studio, began working as a felt maker and instructor in 2014. Since starting her career, she has dedicated her days to refining her skills and to deepening her understanding of the unique styles and ways of making felt.
Earlier, Zoe completed a two-year program in fashion design and moved to New Zealand to study the ancient art and techniques of wet felting. The methods she learned there have enabled her to design and construct her work from single fibres to finished piece. The nature and characteristics of the individual fibres fascinates Zoe, as does the felt making process itself —a process that dates back to 400 BC.
For the past two years Zoë has worked to connect with local sheep, alpaca, and goat farmers, and with local fibre mills, so that she can integrate more ethical and sustainable practices into her business. Zoe’s choice to be part of of her local ‘fibre shed’ means she does not support unethical animal husbandry practices and poor working conditions for factory workers. It also means the environmental impact of worldwide shipping is lessened. “The hard working individuals within my own fibre shed have become my working family. It’s a lovely family to be a part of,” she says.
Zoë continues to make strong community connections and to derive inspiration for her work from The Cordwood Studio, where she lives with her partner, Ben Hendry.
Bastou Bacharach was introduced to Islam in his teens. At the time, he was living in Paris where he dabbled in graffiti art. Then, in 2007, he moved to Perth, ON and started to work with a compass and with drawing mandalas.
In 2015, while working as a web designer, Bastou began to paint and to study Islamic geometry. It quickly became a passion that eventually led him to London, England to the Art of Islamic Pattern School, where he enrolled in the Summer Intensive Course in Islamic Geometry.
Islamic geometry dates back hundreds of years. Its traditional patterns can be rendered in an infinite number of ways and through various media such as mosaic tile, wood, plaster, stone carving, gold leaf illumination, and painting. They are used in architecture, furniture, home décor, and more.
Bastou strives to create Islamic geometric patterns that honour traditional techniques while bringing his own interpretations to light. He enjoys working with watercolour, marquetry, and chip carving, and continues to experiment with new media. “I appreciate bringing my Islamic geometric work to Lanark County, where I now live, and where Islam, with its rich artistic traditions, is little-known,” he says.
Willa Murray has spent nearly a decade designing and making handmade leather products. She began her career in Toronto as owner of Mariclaro, where she fashioned bags made from recycled materials. That year-long small business venture soon transformed into an eight-year journey and life passion, and Willa has since broadened her craft to include shoemaking, custom work, and teaching. In 2014, she enrolled at the Chicago School of Shoemaking. Making shoes, she says,is an art that offers limitless opportunities for growth.
She recently returned to her carpenter roots to make leather tool rolls for carpenters and masons and is currently renovating her home and workshop in Westport, ON.
Sharing her knowledge and passion for making things with her hands, Willa’s work reflects her deep appreciation of the process, and her desire for high quality, beautiful, and functional pieces that can be used every day. Her commitment to ecological and social sustainability is also evident in her work. Each of her creations, whether chisel rolls, aprons, belts, shoes, or household items, offers an alternative to a disposable culture.
“Even after working with leather all these years, the beauty of the material continues to inspire me,” she says. Willa is particularly proud to offer leather from hides of moose and deer hunted by subsistence hunters in Ontario.
Bridget O’Flaherty is inspired by nature, passionate about the environment, and deeply connected to the landscapes and wildlife of Canada. She has worked in textile arts for over 25 years and is drawn to fibre for its tactile nature.
She uses a sewing machine to build up layers of multi-coloured thread, ‘drawing’ with needle and thread to design images.
An innovator in the quilting world, Bridget depicts Canadian landscapes and wildlife with eco-friendly materials. She approaches fibre arts from a historic perspective as a ‘traditionally, woman’s expression of art’ while employing modern sewing machines, embellishment, and thread-play.
Recently, Bridget has begun working with local wool from a neighbouring sheep farm. The wool is processed to create felted fabric that she uses in her detailed wildlife and landscape embroideries. Every piece uses combinations of: local recycled materials, organic threads, and botanical dyes.
“The world of fibre arts, quilting and thread painting are wonderful to explore,” she says. “I love teaching and working with others to share my experiences, promote knowledge of the craft, and help others tap into their own creativity.”