A Textile Artist's Icelandic Dream

Blönduós, Iceland

Blönduós, Iceland

We’re now in the dead of winter in Canada and like many of you, I am getting away on a winter adventure! Tara has asked me to share a little bit about what I have been up to since many of you might find this interesting. Some people go to Mexico in winter, I choose to escape to, well…Iceland. A country covered in rock and snow, with a very small population and even fewer trees. As I write this I am sheltered in a building near the ocean that is over 100 years old as the winds whip noisily and ferociously around us creating a whiteout in the night. As it is February the days are short with roughly 7 hours of light a day, and due to the position of the sun in the sky the contrast is high and the light has an otherworldly hue. I can see the mountains around me as I nestle into the tiny town named Blönduós. A town of approximately 850 people. I am here for one month as an artist in residence at the Textilesetur Islands, or Icelandic Textile Centre. I have access to a dye room exclusively for the use of natural dyes, a weaving studio with many historic looms and a long table in the sewing/felting studio. There are a total of 7 artists in residence this month and each month a new set of artists settle in, to a maximum of 10.

Icelandic Textile Centre
Garments constructed from handmade lace and embroidery,

Garments constructed from handmade lace and embroidery,

The residency started at Kvennaskolinn in 2015 and exists in what was previously a women’s school until the 1970s. The school is an important part of the history of the region considering many people living nearby would have either gone to the school or have had relatives go through the school. The Textile Centre serves as a museum of the school, an artist residency and a research centre for all things related to Icelandic textiles.

Next door to the residency is The Icelandic Textile Museum. The museum is open to the public in the summer months and is certainly worth a visit for any craft and fibre enthusiast visiting Iceland. As Artists in Residence we were able to spend an afternoon at the museum in its off season closure. There is an incredibly rich tradition of textile work in Icelandic culture dating farther back, before the familiar sweater design that we associate with Iceland. I am learning so much about a culture through their relationship to wool and textiles. It is absolutely fascinating!

Hand made wool insoles.

Hand made wool insoles.

In addition to the residency and museum, the Textile Centre is home to the Vatnsdaela Tapestry. This tapestry is essentially an incredibly long embroidered cloth which will be over 46 meters long when it is complete. It is an ambitious project started by Johanna E. Palmadottir in a similar fashion to the Bayeux Tapestry in France. The project is a community-based effort to embroider the family saga of the people of Hof in the region near Blönduós which takes place from the 9-11th century. The story tells of fate, love, and honour, and of the struggle against dangerous enemies. The story is set between Norway and Vatnsdalur in Iceland and it is believed that the saga was written ca 1270.

Vatnsdaela Tapestry at The Icelandic Textile Centre

Vatnsdaela Tapestry at The Icelandic Textile Centre

The sewing/felting studio before we made a big mess with all of our projects.

The sewing/felting studio before we made a big mess with all of our projects.

Author in Wonderla…the wool washing facility!

Author in Wonderla…the wool washing facility!

We’ve been on a couple of excursions learning about the wool and the sheep that are unique to Iceland. Icelandic sheep have two types of wool in their fleece. The outer layer is long and not unlike hair, while the interior layer is shorter and very soft. There is a wool washing facility in town that washes all the fleeces sent by sheep farmers in the region. We were able to get our hands on a few fleeces and have all been working with the wool separating these two layers, spinning, dyeing, knitting, weaving and felting like mad.

So far this has been a dream and I am so happy for the opportunity to be here. In my next post I’ll expand more on the project I am working on but in the meantime, read more about the Icelandic Textile Centre here.

Written by Kelly Ruth

Displaced Pegger, now learning to navigate inclines in her new home of Edmonton, AB

Happy Holidays!

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Alright, folks, this is the last few days before many of us get a chance to spend time with our families, eat many treats and home cooked feasts. Some of you may be scrambling to figure out a few last minute gifts to bring to your family gatherings. Tara Davis has got your back, with some sweet gift ideas. Tara Davis Studio Boutique and any of the shops in the Exchange District are going to be a lot less insane than the more commercial stores one can head to.

For a wonderful consumable gift idea new to the shop, check out these delicious chocolate truffles made by Chocohappy in Whistler B.C.! Mmmm…chewy caramels dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. These treats are made in Canada with imported Belgian chocolate. Irresistible!!!

Back this season in the shop are the recycled sweater mittens, by Woolen For Ewe. Be sure to stop in and pick out a pair before they are all gone. If you are like me you will lose at least one pair of mittens this winter. Mittens are always a useful and appreciated gift idea!

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Another fantastic gift idea is made by Winnipeg artist Elaine Dilay. Elaine is an painter who paints large canvases and has been using resin in her work lately. Through her process she became inspired to make a collection of cheese boards and serving trays. Using a glossy resin applied to the wood, she is creating abstractly textured homewares. Tara has a collection at the shop and is pretty excited about this boldly coloured work.

Heading into a new year is often a time of stressful busy making for people. While the new year brings with it a spirit of reflection and a will to commit to new regimens, I hope that we all can find time to make this season what we most authentically need it to be. My holiday traditions changed dramatically over a decade ago after experiencing the loss of my mother who was the one who made Christmas happen. It took a few years for me to be able to “do” Christmas again. When I thought about what traditions were most important to me, I realized a big part was the big British style dinner that she made, with at least seven vegetable dishes, and two types of stuffing. I began to very much look forward to cooking for some of my closest friends each year, and have some wonderful new memories from these dinners. This year in my new home of Edmonton, my husband and I have invited a group of his historian colleagues for dinner who all have come to Canada to work on their PhD's from countries around the world. Most of these new friends either do not have Christmas in their respective cultures or if they do, for them it happens in January. My holiday time may not look conventional, but I am so thankful for the ever inspiring life I lead regardless of expectations.

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I thought I might share a bit of my story for those who may be experiencing changes in their life and for whom this time of year has some challenges. May we all live sincerely and authentically through all seasons and belong to the communities we are living amongst.


Written by Kelly Ruth

Displaced Pegger, now learning to navigate inclines in her new home of Edmonton, AB

Letting Craft Find Me In Saskatoon

Taking myself on a much-needed art adventure I decided to drive to Saskatoon from Edmonton to take in the Sounds Like festival of audio art. Experimental music and sound art is my main obsession these days. However, since I had plans to spend a full day exploring the new Remai Modern art gallery and visiting the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, I had set myself a mission to make note of Craft as I found it. Not surprising to me, Craft was literally everywhere! Starting my art gallery day, I began my journey at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada where they have a collection of items brought to Canada from Ukrainians during the first wave of immigration in the late 1800’s. My morning was spent marvelling over the many samples of embroidery and weaving. The woven rugs were of particular interest to me because I was not familiar with these designs in Ukrainian rug weaving. I am more familiar with the utilitarian rag rugs, but these were stunning! Folks visiting the gallery before February first can also catch a solo exhibit of work by contemporary embroiderer Monika Kinner-Whalen. More on her incredible work here.

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Walter Scott -  Betazoid In A Fog  Installation at Remai Modern

Walter Scott - Betazoid In A Fog Installation at Remai Modern

Once at the Remai Modern I started my exploring on the first level. An artist named Walter Scott had on exhibit a series of sculptures entitled Betazoid In a Fog. Working with pieces and parts of representations of the artist’s own body, the work shows ways in which a self can be divided and compartmentalized. To my delight, much of the work employed textiles and dyes. One particular piece had an impact on me as I had been actively involved in a debate through text messaging with friends that day. Tucked under a foot in a hard to reach corner of the installation were two cookie fortunes. On the first was written, “Develop some flexibility in your point of view.” On the second was written, you are contemplative and analytical by nature.”


My next stop was the Remai Modern which is a modern art museum having opened just last year. I journeyed on foot to the gallery and enjoyed a lovely walk along the river where I witnessed a leggy model being photographed by two photographers amidst the autumnal river walk. I thought, "perhaps this was an indie clothing maker documenting their work?" Moments later as I glanced at a park bench I saw two knitted hats resting on the bench. Each had a handwritten tag attached to them which read, “I am not lost. If you are cold or feeling blue, take this gift handmade for you!!”

Walter Scott Detail

Walter Scott- Detail of Betazoid In A Fog 

On the third floor, I discovered an artist named Zachari Logan using clay to sculpt depictions of picked flowers displayed under glass representing the suspension of a moment between life and decay. Another discovery of craft found in an incredible room filled with the work of Elaine Cameron-Weir’s who is using themes of corsetry and garment making in her sculptural work.


Zachari Logan - Detail of  Cut Flowers, After Mary Delany  at Remai Modern

Zachari Logan - Detail of Cut Flowers, After Mary Delany at Remai Modern

Elaine Cameron-Weir - Detail of Installation at Remai Modern

Elaine Cameron-Weir - Detail of Installation at Remai Modern

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My final craft happening during the weekend landed on the last day that I was in town for the Sounds Like festival. In a wonderful craft moment, I was given a gift by one of my musician friends, Jeff Morton who played at the festival this year. He had also stumbled across one of the knitted hats in his urban exploration and took one to bring to me as a gift! Craft is community!

Written by Kelly Ruth

Displaced Pegger, now learning to navigate inclines in her new home of Edmonton, AB

Dreaming Trees

These days, Julie Epp the maker behind Dreaming Tree Paper Company has been getting almost all her vintage hardcover books from the volunteers who sort for the Children’s Hospital book sale. Rescuing books that otherwise couldn’t sell and would end up in a recycling bin. The books are then upcycled into one-of-a-kind journals. All journals have 60 pages of unlined 24lb paper interwoven with original book pages and treasures like library cards, inscriptions, and illustrations. All of the products are lovingly made by hand in Winnipeg. The books really are delightful, as many of them are familiar tales from our youth. A great home for your creative idea compiling, far more interesting than picking up a notepad from a big box store!

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But that’s not all Julie has been up to…

In your travels have you ever come across a sweet message written on a stone, signed with a heart? I have!! While researching Julie, I have learned that she is in a large way responsible for these encouraging messages written on stones and left in random corners of the urban landscape. Stone Stories is Julie’s experiment in serendipity. In her words, “Stones with hidden meaning are placed out in the world for people to find – hidden in plain sight – and I trust they end up exactly where there are meant to.” Having started the project in 2013 as a way to spread more love out in the world, now thousands of stones have been placed by many people who have joined the movement.  Check out the project at www.stonestories.org!

Julie has also been a part of producing award-winning films! When Tara had asked me to write a feature on Julie, she very excitedly told me about having gone to the Gimli Film Festival this summer where she saw one of the projects Julie has worked on screened as part of the 48 Hour Film Contest. The past three years the films she has worked on which were screened at the 48 Hour Film Contest have won awards.  This year their film entitled Deeper Shades Of Blue (2018) won Best Actress. ( Marti Sarbit) This is most exciting because Marti had never acted before! The film also won an audience favourite award for Best Score (Marti Sarbit with Lanakai) at a follow-up screening. 

With such a dynamic practice, I was curious if there is something in the creative realm that Julie hasn’t done yet but hopes to get a chance to do. She responded, “I am constantly learning and evolving in my creative practice, dabbling in this and that. I am really focused on film these days, and looking for opportunities to make more films that will make a difference in the world.” Currently, Julie is working on the post-production of her first documentary film that was shot in Rwanda in April. It is called A New Rwanda and focuses on inspiring stories from Rwanda’s young people.  Folks who are familiar with Tara’s shop may remember photographs taken by Rwandan youth exhibited in the space a couple of years ago. The photos exhibited were curated by Julie on one of her many trips to Rwanda meeting with the youth there. Such engaging work! Find out more about the project here. www.anewrwanda.com


If you have been inspired by Julie, you may feel that you could benefit from her insight. She has much to give and she provides a coaching service which you can find more info about at www.julieeppcoaching.com

We are big fans of Julie! Maybe you are too?

Written by Kelly Ruth

Displaced Pegger, now learning to navigate inclines in her new home of Edmonton, AB

Winnipeg North of Fargo

Roy Liang was one of the first artists to work with Tara Davis in her shop. She had met Roy at the many Craft shows he had been a part of putting on over the years. Anyone who has met Roy knows that he is Too. Much. Fun! You may know him as an infectious DJ, or like me you may have one of his coin purses. My well used coin purse has depicted on it, a historic image of what appears to be a group of men in the 1940’s gathering around a billboard sign that says “Welcome To Transcona, The Hub Of Eastern Manitoba.”

Vintage Winnipeg inspired coin purses.

Vintage Winnipeg inspired coin purses.

I love when I pull out the purse in my new home of Edmonton, and someone squeals with knowing delight, remarking, “I’m from Winnipeg! I lived in Transcona as a kid!” I have been thinking I need an upgrade lately, and the other day I was super excited to see a post on social media of Roy’s new coin purse designs featuring the short lived Garbage Hill sign that took the city by storm recently. The large letters spelling G-A-R-B-A-G-E H-I-L-L were mysteriously planted on the side of the hill-turned park in Winnipeg, in the same manner as the famous well known Hollywood letters. The sign was removed days later just as mysteriously, and now this fleeting moment has been added to the cannon of “Winnipegisms” that flavour the mythological qualities of this fair city.


Much of Roy’s work features prints of images of Winnipeg history and culture, with a nostalgia and a healthy bit of tongue in cheek. When asked what keeps him going through his years of making, Roy explains that he loves showing his work at craft markets and meeting people. “Watching their expressions when they see something I made that is sometimes strange and unusual. It's usually a good expression!” Some of what he loves to do is revisit things that he made a long time ago and has been really excited lately about silk screening on leather. It’s a tricky thing to do!

Roy has a keen interest in fashion and design so I decided to ask him the hypothetical question, “If your two little dogs were fashion designers, what would their style be?” He replied,  “They would definitely be vintage inspired designers.” I was delighted to discover that he has acquired some vintage puffy nylon jackets that he is converting into winter vests for Duchess and Boo! (Tara… is Princess Snuggle Bunny going to be that stylish this winter?) One is a 70’s vintage jacket and one is an 80’s vintage style jacket! How adorable! Does anyone else want to see a line of doggo accessories made by Roy??!!


Look for his work under the label Winnipeg North of Fargo, at Tara Davis Studio Boutique and at Craft markets around the city! Be sure to follow him on Instagram @winnipegnorthoffargo

*Side note* If you want to send a little something to a dear pal who has moved away from Winnipeg, I can let you know first hand that Roy’s work is the perfect little something to show love to those of us who will always have Winnipeg in our hearts!

Written by Kelly Ruth

Displaced Pegger, now learning to navigate inclines in her new home of Edmonton, AB


Real Swanky

I’m not keen on writing, but i sure do love to share our makers stories and the goings on in and around the shop so i think starting a blog makes sense. But how do i get started? i knew i wanted the first post to be a “meet a maker" because it’s the makers that make the studio boutique what it is. Good grief, how was i going to choose the first maker to feature out of the 117 makers currently represented at the shop. I felt our first meet our maker post should be with Caitlin of Real Swanky because her work is some the most talked about in the shop! she’s been so great at sharing self care tips, including introducing me to tea,  and she was such a delight when she helped out at the shop last christmas season. Caitlin is someone i enjoy hanging out with and i looked forward to having a chat with her about her work.

ps. we’re currently texting warm wishes back and forth between her bunnies Frank and Henry and my cat princess snuggle bunny.

This is what Caitlin had to share when we sat down for a chat.

How did you get started making? 

I've had the tendency to create, since I was a child, while sporting my first - but not my last - pair of too-short bangs. Growing up, creating had always helped me stay grounded and well-focused in what felt like a world of nervous jitters. To this day, I try to set aside time daily to make at least one thing that helps me feel even a bit glad. A sketch of my next embroidery idea, a postcard to a friend, a nice meal, or a little photograph that I know I'll look forward to seeing again and again. 


It’s been such a treat to get to watch you grow and flourish as a maker. You started out selling your work at craft sales, followed by consignment and then wholesale. How did you navigate these changes in your business? Do you have any advice for makers that are considering making the move to wholesale their work?

I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to have my work across my absolute favourite brick + mortars and galleries across Canada and America! It was an eye opening experience when you welcomed me with open arms to your lovely boutique; I felt terribly lucky, valued and appreciated as the day is long. I learned how to comfortably price my work accordingly both in and out of boutiques/galleries. I found myself not giving myself enough credit and undervaluing my work -- this is something I see quite often at markets! Makers, please don't forget: your time, your skills, your raw materials, and your efforts are worth oh-so much. Our skillsets feel like a second skin, something you simply do, with great ease. It took me a a hot minute to realize, not everyone can go on auto-pilot and stitch up an intricate piece of wall art. Similarly, I do not know how to create beautiful pottery, I cannot for the life of me sort out watercolours, and I sure as sugar can't make jewelry. To me, it comes with no second thought to seek out makers that can, and give them every dang nickel they deserve for their hard work and dedication. Certainly, y'all should be exercising the same with your makes and wares! xo


I recently tucked three of your hoops away because all we had left was “fuck off”, “eat shit”, and "nasty". I felt that wasn’t quite the way I wanted to welcome people to the shop! You’re work tends to be a little less salty when there’s a larger collection of images and words. Have you had any notable reactions to your salty work at craft sales?

I'm relieved (#blessed?) to be in a sea of double-takes, giggles, goose-honks, and finger-pointing when my work is up for grabs at markets. Often, folks will assume the embroidery has very quaint, traditional sayings. When I catch the gears turning, it takes a split second to receive the habitual response 'Real Swanky' receives, more often than not. Only a few times have I gotten a side-eye at, perhaps someone expecting a more Anne-Geddes style of work. Luckily, my vintage candy dish full of sweets saved the day and I let the  dame know I am always happy to do custom orders.  Phew! 


What inspires you? 

 I’m very much drawn to magazines of the 50’s-70’s, and pull a lot of my colour palettes and lettering styles from advertisements, ice cream, or the full spreads showcasing a “ ream bungalow”, with gold curtains, burnt orange carpet, and a set of avacado/navy/mustard furniture you best not put a candle ANYWHERE near. 


All of these hoops just arrived at the shop! come see for yourself!