The sixth Urban Cozy Project maker profile features Ottawa-based super duper textile crafter and snap-happy photographer, Robyn Paton. Her work has been featured in Venus Zine (winning the magazine’s Holiday Craft-Off contest twice), the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Magazine, the Craft:zine blog and loads of other places. When not sitting in front of her sewing machine making stuff for her shop over at lilybug.ca, she can often be found playing with any one of her army of foster kittens, blogging, or whipping something up in her kitchen.
Here’s what she had to say about her involvement in the WUCP and how travelling and her city of residence has influenced her work.
S&N: Describe your contribution(s) to the Winterlude Urban Cozy Project.
I contributed two cozies to the project – one for both parks! Because I work mainly in textiles, I thought it would be more fitting to sew rather than to knit. You’ll recognize mine if you’re out an about – they look like miniature patchwork modern quilts.
S&N: What inspired you to participate in the Project?
So often we hear that Ottawa is boring, or cold, or uninspiring. And this project takes all of those things and proves them wrong! Art isn’t just for museums – it should be everywhere, and it should make you smile when you stumble upon it. This project is an opportunity for so many people to make that happen, even if it’s just for a few short weeks. During the installation days for this project it seemed to me that everyone who walked by was just unable to keep themselves from grinning – and if we were lucky, stopping to ask questions about what we were up to, too.
S&N: How long have you been making things? Are there other ways you get creative e.g. sewing, felting, other ways?
I think it’s safe to say I’m been making things for as long as I could figure out how to use child-size craft scissors – it’s really been for as long as I can remember. But seriously, my foray into the “business” of crafting started in my mid-twenties. A very basic sewing machine as a christmas gift changed my life. Right now my work is focused on textiles and sewing – making quilts and quirky handcrafts like camera straps, guitar straps, and beautifying other things that can otherwise be fairly ho-hum.
S&N: You’ve travelled to different places. What’s one crafty/arty/culture-related experience that still inspires you today?
For me, especially because I work with textiles, I’m always inspired by my travels – the textures, cultures and history of the places that I’ve visited always inspire me to work with new patterns or look at things in a different way. If I can, I always seek out the textile markets when I travel – giant multi-story buildings in China, monday markets in cities like Amsterdam. All are full of ideas, and even better, other crafty-types to connect with and learn from.
My most memorable experience is probably a visit I paid to a silk-rug-weaving factory on the silk road, in the Chinese desert. The women who do that intricate, detailed work can spend years working on just one rug. It inspired me to think about tackling the big this-is-going-to-take-me-forever projects that always seem so terrifying at the outselt. If these rug-weavers could produce such beautiful results, so could I!
S&N: How does your city inspire you creatively? What would you like to see more of in your city?
I’m originally from Halifax, and it’s still the city I call home, but the longer I live in Ottawa, the more I feel as if I’m connected to the arts and culture in this city in such a good way. Five years ago, you could probably have counted those of us in the “craft scene” on your fingers and toes, really. And now, up-and-coming crafters are everywhere – and people are sharing ideas, teaching each other new skills, and connecting in ways that just didn’t seem possible only a few years ago. Search for Ottawa on etsy.com’s “local” search, and you’ll be astounded at how many amazing things the artisans of this city produce. That’s what inspires me about this city – it is just better and better, all the time. I’d love to see more collaborative spaces where we can share our talents, ideas, and skills on a regular basis.
In addition to her crafty skills, Robyn is a social media and marketing superhero – check out her blog. Twitter feed. and Flickr account for some really beautiful photos. She definitely helped saved the day with her showstopping textile cozy at the Winterlude 2010 press conference. Thanks to Robyn for answering our questions!