May 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
Visual and Creative Arts Diploma Graduate Hilliary Dunford has launched her business, HilliaryCustomLiving, on Etsy and recently spoke with HSTA about her starting her business and how her experience at HSTA has helped her.
Custom wedding cake toppers, delightful pet sculptures and remarkable house ornaments are just a few of the whimsical treasures offered by HilliaryCustomLiving. Hilliary has built a unique home and keepsake décor business that has captured the imaginations of her customers. Her artistically designed custom keepsake sculptures and ornaments are available exclusively in her Etsy shop. Each one of her creations is painstakingly handcrafted to perfection and makes a memorable keepsake to celebrate life.
While here at Fleming College’s Haliburton School of the Arts, Hilliary studied a wide array of artistic mediums and explored self-expression. She also learned about various artistic techniques from master artisans like Brian Smith and Adrienne Alison. For Hilliary, there is nothing more rewarding than having the ability to touch another person’s life with her artwork. She enjoys all aspects of the creative process from sketching the design, to sculpting it and then finishing it off to perfection.
You completed your Visual and Creative Arts Diploma with the generalist option (completing 14 varied credit courses in the semester immediately after the foundation year), how was that experience?
For sure! I did do the generalist option for VCAD, I personally loved it! It was just enough time for each course to get a small experience of that medium or style of art. I liked how many options you had and all the different types of art I could explore, not to mention how beautiful Haliburton is during the summer months, it’s almost like Mother Nature is giving you inspiration on a silver platter! While doing the summer option I loved meeting all the artistic people from around the world and being taught by amazing self-made artists. It makes your working environment much more relaxed and open, everyone’s ideas just kept feeding off one another till we all we’re proud of our different works.
What are some things that you learned from the VCA diploma program that have stayed with you while you have started your business?
Something that has stayed with me since I started my business was something Dar [Darleen Bolahood, faculty and VCAD coordinator] once said in the beginning of our course “Know whether you’re working for someone or yourself”, now my works are mainly craft, I am creating pieces for others, but I believe I’m doing it for myself more than them. I still work on other art mediums while creating custom pieces for my customers but I get artist block and have a break in between large paintings or sculptures that seem to last months sometimes, so working on my customers pieces keeps me fresh and ready for when inspiration strikes again. Don’t get me wrong, making custom pieces also brings me great joy, I love hearing my customers tell me how much they love their keepsakes because I know it’s something they can treasure for a lifetime with proper care.
How did you happen upon the idea for your shop and your main keepsakes?
My idea for my shop started with being tight on money, we were getting closer to Christmas and I had just gotten engaged, so we were also saving for a wedding at the time. My in-laws were also doing an extension to their home that they had been dreaming of, and my parents had just bought their second home in 15 years! So I wanted to make something for them that would mark these special occasions and started sketching. The idea sort of just came to me and next thing I know I was experimenting with some old clay from VCAD and made my first house ornament. It wasn’t much, but I still have it. Since then I just started making them for houses on the internet that I didn’t even know and was encouraged by my fiancé and family to try and touch others with these keepsakes. I opened my shop on November 12th and made my first sale on November 14th, the satisfaction of knowing someone I never met before wanted something made by my hands has been the inspiration that keeps me working in my studio from sunrise to sundown and I really wouldn’t want it any other way.
My process in creating my keepsakes starts with a sketch of each home so I can catch any angles or small detailing in the image before I start carving. Once I’m done sketching, I start sketching on a rolled out piece of clay the same image then cut it out. From there I carve till I feel I’ve created a slightly 3 dimensional feeling with depth. Once carved I bake them then paint each one by hand, once painted I add their ribbon and they’re ready to ship! In the VCAD program I did explore clay and one of my exhibitions was of 3 dimensional women inside large boxes with only one view point. I did not however explore polymer clay while at VCAD, which is my main material and a little harder to manipulate then the clay I used in the VCAD program.
Is there any advice that you’d like to give other artists/artisans about starting an online business and using Etsy?
If I was to give anyone advice it would be take your time. Don’t rush you artistic process in trying to find an idea to sell. And don’t get discouraged to fast; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Etsy is a wonderful place to even just get your name out there for cheap advertising on your artworks. Even if you don’t want to sell on Etsy, go there to shop for gifts! Support fellow artists over large box companies. You will find unique handmade items that you won’t find anywhere else.
Inspired by the handmade movement, Hilliary enjoys offering her clients the opportunity to preserve their most precious memories with a custom keepsake. Whether it is celebrating a new marriage or the signing of the mortgage on a new home, HilliaryCustomLiving has something for everyone.
Hilliary has found a very comfortable selling niche online. Commitment to customer service and around the clock accessibility are two traits that Hilliary prides herself upon the most. As she continues to build a steady customer base, Hilliary seeks to expand the availability of her line to stores and designer boutiques. For interested buyers and store managers, please use the below contact details to discuss availability with Hilliary personally.
Hilliary Iaiana Elizabeth Dunford
Tel: 705 957 6785
April 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
How do you define achievement?
Is it by grabbing the nearest yardstick? Collecting the most “Likes” on facebook? Perhaps graduating Magna cum laude from Harvard?
How about the moment when you actually hear someone else call you an artist? That is what it took for this week’s artist, Alec Morrison, to finally title himself “artist”.
Raised in the bilingual – English & French – and multi-cultural town of Haileybury, Morrison was introduced to both French-Canadian and Native American influences at a very young age. Born and raised in this picturesque area just north of the Temagami, he grew up with a profound appreciation for hand-made and hand-crafted goods.
His colourful musical career began early as well. From the tender age of seven he has played piano; a few years later, at age thirteen, he picked up his first guitar. His upbringing consisted primarily of Blues music, but with the advent of his budding guitar talents, his tastes shifted to punk bands like the Sex Pistols, NoFX, and Operation Ivy.
“Nowadays,” he admits, “I’ve moved into an extremely eclectic mix of stuff, and also Celtic rhythms.” As an afterthought he adds, “And also old country music.” He smiles at his own taste. (For a taste of his music, head here => http://itunes.apple.com/au/album/already-been-where-i-was-goin…/id442130024 )
The ushering-in of the new millenium not only marked an important calendar-change, but also a turning point for Morrison’s own path: he left high school to play in the punk band Bayl out of London, Ontario. When the band broke up, his itchy feet took him to the western reaches of the country where he spent nearly four years off and on, moving between Port Alberni, B.C. and Canmore, Banff, and Calgary, Alberta. “The mountains are beautiful,” recalls Morrison, “and the river water is a crazy hue of blue. [My] first time there, I kept looking over my shoulder to look at the view of the mountains. It was a great vibe.”
Unfortunately, during his adventures out West, Alec’s mental health broke down and he was diagnosed as bi-polar. Unstable for a long period of time, paranoid and delusional, it was some time before he got help. Admitted to the psychiatric ward, Morrison came to terms with his illness and was released, only to be institutionalized again several months later. He spent close to four years in and out of mental health care facilities as he grappled with his own demons.
“Manias are incredibly dangerous – if severe enough – it’s an incredibly complicated, and underrated, sometimes ignored, illness… I’ve gotten to a point where I can manage it, thankfully… and I can reflect on the experience, and create with that energy. But it’s a forever kind of thing, I have lots of people helping me.”
Morrison proudly shares that he’s been both healthy and stable now for seven years; a milestone for anyone who spent more than half that time in and out of hospitals.
But it wasn’t until after this point in Alec’s life that he developed an interest in visual art. During a search for an artist capable of drawing a loon for a tattoo, he came across renown Native Artist Hugh Mackenzie of Bear Island. During the five months of lessons, he learned a great variety of techniques from stencil to sponge, but most importantly he learned a great deal about life.
With a renewed passion in music and art, he started the band Crank Radio in 2005, which lasted up until 2009. His interest in blacksmithing grew out of his drive for self-sufficiency. Intent on pursuing a craft that he could work on during the day when not making music, Morrison was first intrigued by the concept that he could create his own tools with nothing but a hammer, tongs, anvil and forge fire. That Christmas, he asked for a couple of books on blacksmithing. The pages of these books did nothing but whet his whistle, and, rather than sating his curiosity, served only to pique it. “I got into the subject really deep. I found the science behind metallurgy fascinating and the method too…” he tells us. “A couple years after that, my dad told me that a course was being offered at Fleming, so I enrolled.” Nearly through the course, he was forced to withdraw due to a health scare. “Unfortunately, my health wasn’t great, and I missed a lot of school; I might try it a second time in the future.” Lucky for us, he stayed in the program long enough to create some beautiful works of art.
“It was only a couple of months ago that I realized I was an artist. I asked my girlfriend what she told people I did for a living, and she said “that you’re an artist”.” Calling himself an artist offers him the freedom to be his own boss and to constantly create whether writing poetry, sculpting in plaster, or shaping hot metal with a hammer…
His parting random fact was admitting that he wears kilts. “It’s a Scottish heritage thing, and if Ashley MacIsaac can get away with it, so can I. The way I see it is: if you can’t wear a kilt at a punk show in Canada, then the terrorists have already won.” He offers up a brief chuckle. But the kilt stays on…
Make sure you come to HSTA’s I Made It! Spring Show ‘n Sale. Alec has graciously offered to provide musical entertainment: Saturday, April 21st, 10am – 2pm at the Haliburton Campus.
To view his mini-documentary titled “Already Been Where I Was Going”, filmed at the old North Bay Psychiatric Hospital, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vNRluaMOv0&feature=related
For more information on mental health, visit http://www.cmha.ca/bins/index.asp
To learn more about any of the programs at the Haliburton School of The Arts, please go to www.hsta.ca
April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
There’s no denying that this week’s Artist of the Week, Natasha Torunsky, is a powerhouse packed into a tiny frame. Her petite figure, however, is no reflection of her exuberant energy and optimistic outlook; both of which she brings in copious amounts into her studio.
Never having taken photography in high school – only visual art – she had lucked out with a part-time job at Black’s. Wanting to gain more exposure and knowledge about photography, she came to the Haliburton School of The Arts. “It’s remote and surrounded by forest, which makes it nice and peaceful,” she explains, “I adore the location.”
Specializing in weddings, engagements, family portraits, model portfolios and maternity shots, Natasha also likes to explore nature. She reveals that she’s a bit of a fair-weather sailor though, and shoots outside primarily only in the summer.
She has a remarkable ability to bring out the best in her client’s portraits. Better still, she succeeds in capturing the innate beauty of her subjects. Her distinct knack for exposing the real smiles – not the frigid, frozen poses of department store portraits – sets her work apart.
Her business, Natasha Torunsky Photography, has been running since 2008 and has been gaining ground ever since. To see more of her work, please visit her site at www.wix.com/natasha_torunsky/natasha
Natasha can be contacted via phone at 705-344-3955 or by email at Natasha_torunsky@hotmail.com
March 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
Link by link, and stone by stone are the pieces of Susan Watson Ellis created. Not unlike the great Cathedrals, her works are epic undertakings of exquisite taste and design.
After moving to the “big city” for university, Ellis first developed her interest in jewellery after crossing paths with various street-vendors peddling handmade items to the denizens of Toronto. She worked with a self-taught jewellery-maker, learning his craft and becoming more and more intrigued with the art. Upon graduation from her degree (no connection to jewellery whatsoever!), Susan, with the help of a government employment program, created an apprenticeship for herself with a German goldsmith. This master-jeweller imparted a vast array of knowledge and gave her the skills she needed to continue on in her craft.
Over the years, Ellis has constantly been refining her technique, adding to her repertoire of skills, and attending various courses and workshops throughout North America. From chainmail halter-top to gem-encrusted evening purse, the sterling silver pieces that she creates are without peer. Her expertise in chain-making lends itself uncommonly well with the natural stones that imbue her work with colour: sparkling druzes, iridescent moonstone and labradorite, apatite, amethyst, and agate, to name but a few.
“I collect many awe inspiring gemstones,” she regales, “and spend endless hours arranging and contemplating them as finished pieces of body adornment. I try to design a range of sizes of finished works each season, in various colour groups, to enhance a range of personal styles.”
Susan’s fascination early-on with natural stones has shaped her work into a distinct and signature style. The asymmetry and uniqueness of many of the precious- and semi-precious gems breathe life into the otherwise inorganic pieces, adding both soul and character to the creations. Best of all, while diamonds may abound in identical sizes, no two druzes are alike. She carefully hand selects each stone for every piece. Occasionally, the gem inspires the art, sometimes the art determines the gem, and of course, for custom pieces, any patron can make a request.
As a well-established artist in the industry, Ellis gladly imparts her advice to those dreaming of their own jewellery studios one day: “[…] work as much as possible in your newly acquired craft. If you can’t afford to start your own business, find work in an established one where you can hone your skills. Also, join organizations like the Ontario Crafts Council and the Metal Arts Guild where you can volunteer and forge valuable connections in your chosen field.”
Susan’s exceptional talent has long since come full circle: once a student, now a teacher, and forever learning. At the Haliburton School of The Arts, we’re thrilled to have her.
For more information about Susan’s jewellery, please visit her website at www.paradigmdesignswe.com . She can be reached via phone or email at
(705) 457-3759, and firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on attending the Jewellery Arts program with Susan Watson Ellis and other renown instructors, please see our website at www.hsta.ca
March 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Are you involved in ceramics and clay art?
Are you looking for a fantastic way to explore your medium?
Make sure you check out these great opportunities (yes, they have more than one!) in Medicine Hat, Alberta!
March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
Good afternoon all!
We’ve just received word about this fantastic opportunity for an Artist in Residence.Great for grads and emerging artists…
Straight from the source:
“Artist in Residence Program
The Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild (BHSG), with the encouragement of the Burlington Art Centre (BAC), invites applications to an Artist in Residence opportunity for the fall of 2012.
Our goal with this residency is to share our studio and our collective knowledge with an emerging artist who wants to grow and develop the art form we care so much about. It will enable and assist a recent textile art graduate wishing to incorporate weaving and/or spinning in his/her work. The combination of studio space, equipment, support and mentorship will allow the successful candidate to develop and build a body of work.”
For more information, please go to their website at
March 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
She’s an artist, a student, an entrepreneur, and exceptionally talented. Not only has Mary Kroetsch graduated from the Fibre Arts program at HSTA in 2004, but she has also expanded her horizons with courses from George Brown, the New Brunswick Arts & Crafts College, and the Stratford Festival of the Arts. Her work is displayed internationally.
Better than anyone, Mary can tell you how important story-telling is to her; it inspires her, it shapes her artwork, it pulls people closer together and weaves a grand tapestry of nostalgia.
And so her story begins, not with “once-upon-a-time” as so many stories do, but with a sewing class. Yes, that’s right, a sewing class. At the tender age of ten years-old, Kroetsch’s mother enrolled her in a sewing class, never dreaming that it would become a life-long passion for her daughter. Her father, an amateur photographer, has also greatly influenced Mary’s work. “It is the 100 plus years of forgotten family life in the albums and shoe boxes I have in my possession, that spurs me on to reclaim forgotten memories,” Kroetsch shares. “By bringing memories out of the box and incorporating them into a contemporary art piece, I give the viewer permission to reach out and touch.”
And Please touch! No white gloves required! could be her war cry… She explains that textile art is often seen as fragile and precious; viewers are afraid to interact with the pieces. She urges viewers, however, to interact with her work. She carefully pulls us once more to the shoebox of inspiration: “Our memories are fragile and precious, too. If we don’t constantly, and lovingly, fondle memories, they soon become forgotten in an old shoebox.” She wants viewers to know that art is both friendly and accessible; it can result in an amazing experience for all involved, from artist to gallery-goer.
Over the past few years, Kroetsch has had the privilege of installing some exceptional and interactive pieces. One of them, The Fractoral Heart project, allowed people to spend time walking the emotional labyrinth she created – contemplating and remembering the emotions that made them smile and hurt. Another, titled the Take a Memory – Leave a Memory project, required that visitors be gifted with a photographic memory in exchange for a letter sharing a personal remembrance, inspired by the photograph.
She reveals that her glorious plan to “make it big” in the Art World within five years of graduating at the college, didn’t quite work out. Priorities have changed, experimental directions were taken and now she quite simply says, “I make art – full stop. I [don’t] want my work to be categorized as Fine Craft or Textile Art.” And in such a competitive industry, labels are a dime a dozen.
Her parting thoughts to us are, in fact, advice for any art student: aspiring, current, or graduated:
“Don’t waste the education you are getting with HSTA. It is easy to be disillusioned by a teacher you don’t care for or even distracted by a topic you feel has no value to your art form. Everything that is being shared with you has value – if not now – then later. And ask questions. Your teachers are working Artists. Try and coax their secrets for their success out of them. It might save you some time if you are looking to make art your life.”
To see more about the Big Art Book, go to http://scarborougharts.com/2012/03/big-art-book/
For more information about the artist, please visit Mary’s website at www.textile_mixedmedia_artist.cachelan.com/
She can also be reached via phone at 519-265-0666, as well as by email at email@example.com