I’m a mom to 4 wonderful kids who are all grown up now. I have a grandson who is 6. We have amazing fun together and I get to be the kind of Gramma that I always wanted to have. He’s the reason I started sewing again. I’m an Indigenous person, Upper Cayuga, and I grew up in a small town close to the reserve that my Dad came from. We were a large family so my own toys and new clothes were a rarity. I can remember making my own clothes for paper dolls and barbie when I was in grade 2. With scraps of fabric and glue, I also learned that I could make barbie furniture from milk cartons. I was the “odd” kid. I didn’t want to play dolls, I wanted to dress them and decorate their rooms 😀
What inspired you to start Stoney Lake Textiles?
I make organic textile homewares and clothing.
I’ve always loved and appreciated handmade items. Three years ago I got sick. I had to leave the work that I loved and I was home on my own by myself all day for the first time ever in my life. I really didn’t know what to do with my days. Even though I needed to rest and focus on my wellness, I needed something to keep my hands and mind occupied. Even reading became monotonous. I was at the One of A Kind show and saw a little play tent and a huge quilt made from reclaimed cashmere sweaters. I thought, wow, those would make great gifts for my grandson and kids. I made a colourful circus style Teepee for my grandson and reclaimed sweater and t-shirt quilts for my kids that Christmas. It was such a breakthrough to focus on creating something that was useful and beautiful and fun. I Started sewing and making items for my family and friends and it took off from there.
When did you learn your craft?
I’d love to say from my grandma or something equally endearing, but I learned to sew through sheer desperation! I was interested in making my own clothes when I was young but you couldn’t take Home Economics until grade 7. No one in my family sewed and my first skirt was a piece of fabric cut in a long rectangle and hand sewn together at the side seam. I sewed myself into the skirt and I wore it with pride, outside even, until it I had to take if off and couldn’t. I learned that the pattern said to cut two pieces of material and sew them both together. Haha! I graduated to making jean skirts from old blue jeans and calico floral fabric for my sisters, it was the height of fashion in 70’s.
In my teens I babysat for a woman who was a seamstress with the most amazing fabric collection. She showed me how to make pants and tops without using a pattern, I was blown away. Together we made a pair of pants that I wore for roller skating. They made with were super shiny silver fabric and I loved them to pieces. I learned to sew through reverse engineering, by looking at it how it’s made originally, estimating and measuring. This was a significant influencer for me. Even though I chose a non-creative academic path and ended up working in academia, I continued to take textile, design, and crafting courses when I could. I think that life long learning of any craft lets you incorporate your own experiences into your craft, not just what you learned but all those years of thinking and feeling layered into your craft only makes it richer.
Tell us your favourite thing to make!
Wow, that’s a tough one. I have two answers for this one. My favourite thing to make is when I make something for my grandson. He’s got a great imagination and is the best at looking at ideas with me and figuring out how to make it special or different. We made my Shine Bright T-Rex Print together last year. After visiting the ROM and seeing the T-Rex up close we were taking about why everyone thinks T-Rex is a boy and then wondering what a girl T-Rex might like. I said she’d like painted fingernails, he said she’d wear a crown. So a shiny gold T-Rex with painted fingernails and a crown was born. I love that we can take things from our imagination and create them in the real world, make them functional and still a little wild and out there. I also love when a customer gets the little details like the gold painted claws and laughs. The joy found in simple things is a gift.
My second favourite thing to make is my little play tent Teepees. They are an easier make. All straight seams. But when I sell them I get to talk about what I’ve learned about Teepees. I had the great honour of working with Indigenous women from the Ontario and Quebec shores of James Bay. The Cree women I worked with came to the university to show us how they use their Teepees in contemporary ways but still keeping tradition, culture and language intact in their everyday lives. It wasn’t until I went to their communities that I learned first hand the ways everyday life happens in the Teepee. They taught me that Teepees aren’t artifacts and while they can be ceremonial spaces, primarily they are for living, cooking, gathering, socializing, playing, sharing and community. It’s the reason I love making little play Teepees for children. Children in Canada don’t often know our history or that Indigenous people are still alive and living in Canada. It’s a shame. So I look forward to talking with parents and kids who ask me about the Teepees I make. It’s one of the best opportunities to have a positive good conversation about being Indigenous in the world today, and they’re fun to play in.
What is one thing you would love to learn?
hmm. I’m one of those people who looks at something and wonders if “I can do that”. It’s always how things start with me. “how hard can it be” has led to some starling discoveries, some successes but even bigger failures. Handmade skills are just that…skills and they are often HARD to learn and harder to do! I’m a constant learner. A few degrees later and I still take courses, cooking courses, a preserving and canning course, woodworking courses, textile dying courses, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop courses. I still have lots to learn related to my craft and everyday life, but I have a lot of time and opportunity to learn.
If I were to choose something to learn it would be to play an instrument. Piano or guitar, heck even a ukulele would be amazing. I love listening to live music and am absolutely blown away by people who make music. I have a record player but don’t think I can fit a piano in my studio though, so it would have to be something simple that won’t take up too much fabric space.
Tell us a random fact about you that most people don’t know!
I’m totally hilarious according to my 6 year old grandson. Even though I have this well developed serious professional persona, I’m a deeply silly person who only acts like an adult when people are looking. I sing disco songs when i’m alone sewing in my studio recalling days of rollerskating in my shiny silver handmade disco pants. Abba and Donna Summers are my favourites to sing and sew with. My grandson loves that we sing and dance in the studio, i’m hoping he’s learning that work can be fun but at the end of the day it just makes me happy.
My absolute favourite thing about following Stoney Lake Textiles on Instagram, is seeing her screen-printing in action. It’s so incredible to see the fabric go from plain, to print to beautiful 3D creation!
You can see more Stoney Lake Textiles online here:
Thank you Emerance letting us get to know you a little bit more! Who else is in awe with her textiles? I can’t wait to see what she makes with them next!
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