An Inside Look at What Goes Into Handmade Design Pieces

We often don’t stop to think of all the work that goes into making an item by hand and the artistry behind it.

When you look at a item that is handmade, you might notice that it comes with a higher price tag than an item that is mass produced. We often don’t stop to think of all the work that goes into making an item by hand and the artistry behind it. When you are buying handmade, you are buying a story, and all the hours that have gone into making that thing so beautiful. There is real artistry and history involved in making it. There’s a saying that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, which is why this work can look so effortless. When you’re buying a handmade piece, you’re also investing into all the blood sweat and tears that it took to learn the skill, as well as make the piece you can hold in your hand!

Prairie Breeze Folk Arts Brooms

Thanks to the likes of Marie Kondo, the art of homekeeping has seen a revival, as have traditional crafts as well. These handmade brooms are made by Amina Haswelll of Prairie Breeze Folk Arts in Manitoba. Yes, they really do look almost too good to use so I love the idea of hanging these up as an art object. And holding this, you really get to see the work that goes into it. This type of broom is called Broomcorn, and is grown by Amina on her acreage, as well as imported in for her work. It’s a hardy plant, but takes work to cultivate, and is similar to growing regular corn. When it’s mature it’ll get up to 10ft or more, and it’s the tips, or fronds, that will be dried and used to make brooms.

Amina started learning the craft of broom making back in 2011, and since then has been honing her craft. She now travels around North America to collaborate with other broom makers and keep on learning, plus she also offers classes and kits as well. It’s so important to keep crafts like this going. She has more than 30 different models in her collection, from small handheld brushes all the way up to large wooden handled brooms, all of which are bound by hand. I really love the colour palette she uses, since it really elevates what is an everyday object into something really special.

Casa Cubista Jug

Our niece sweetly calls us ‘jug makers’ which is pretty true, considering that for Casa Cubista, the jugs are the bestselling part of the collection. The collection got started while David and I were on sabbatical in Portugal. Now, 6 years on, the collection is in over 100 stores around the world. All the terracotta pieces in our collection are thrown on the wheel by Rui, our potter. It’s a family tradition that goes back 200 years, and he started learning to throw at the age of 8. Now he’s in his forties he makes it look so easy. He can even throw a piece blindfolded and I can personally attest to how difficult it is.

Casa Cubista, available at Saudade Toronto

As with all of these crafts, it’s a multiple step process when making a jug. First, the body gets made on the wheel, and is allowed to dry until it’s firm to the touch. Next the spout and handle are attached. Isn’t that crazy how it comes together? It’s all down to muscle memory.

After a stint drying in the hot sun, it’s dipped in liquid white clay and fired at around 1000 °C for the first time. Unloading a kiln is not for the faint of heart! I’ve helped in the past and have to be careful my glasses don’t melt! Then it’s off to be painted. Rui’s aunt Regina paints most of the jugs we sell, and it takes a sure eye and a steady hand to do the job well. Finally it’s dipped in glaze and fired for a second time.

Rox Creative Quilts

The talent behind the work is Naila Janzen of Winnipeg, who views fabric and colour the way a painter uses canvas and paint. After a first failed attempt, Naila was inspired to really get into quilting during her recovery from breast cancer. For me, quilting almost feels like an even division between art, craft and mathematics, not to mention attention to detail. The added special ingredient for Rox Creative is the story behind each capsule collection that Naila creates. These pieces are from her Interconnected series, where she plays with a tonal palette to represent the power of humanity. That storytelling also happens through reinterpreting quilt history, and continuing traditions, and Naila has been inspired recently by quilt patterns used during the Underground Railroad to signify ‘safe haven.’

You have the background, and the history, and then there’s all of the work that goes into making a piece. It’s the careful selection of fabrics that will sew together well, followed by meticulously cutting the pieces, pressing and stitching them together, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Here it’s all about the points! A nice sharp triangle shape is one of the signs of an ace quilter. After the front face is sewn, it’s layered with batting and backing fabric, edged and then stitched together. This is when a long-arm sewing machine comes in handy, so you can crate intricate repeat patterns in stitching right over top of the quilt to layer all of the pieces together. It’s kind of pattern on top of pattern!