We love our members, so every month we feature one of them on the site and in the newsletter. This month, our featured member is Cheryl Rutherford in Toronto, who’s got a bunch of pans on the fire including Birds with Words cards and calendars (@birdswithwords), Bird in the Hand embroidery and reusable gift packaging Encorewrap (@encorewrap). Here, Cheryl gamely answers all our questions about her work and her life.
(P.S., not a member yet? What are you waiting for?)
Workshop: Describe your business in 10 words or less.
Cheryl Rutherford: Eclectic, multidisciplinary, whimsical, sassy, kind of exploratory and environmentally conscious.
W: What was the first product you sold?
CR: Looking way back, I was designing stuffed toys and I designed this little toy called a Belly Beast. It's basically a soft sculpture gargoyle. They've got little pockets in their bellies, hence their name, and I would tuck a coin or a little something in them. I made small ones and large ones. I actually still have one. It's got a little jean jacket. So the first thing I sold was a Belly Beast.
W: What’s your latest innovation?
CR: My latest innovation would be what I'm doing with Encorewrap, the reusable gift wrap. I've got two lines with that currently, and another one in the works. I'm doing the fabric gift bags and the wrapping square. My innovation is what I like to call “the bag with the built-in bow.” The gift bags that I do feature a bow, which is what a big part of a wrapped present is. You pull the ribbons and it automatically creates this bow.
W: What’s something you’ve done in the past year that you’re proud of?
CR: That would be my market. [Encorewrap participated in the #summerincanary Front Street Festival held in Toronto’s Canary District in July.] I got the go-ahead like five weeks prior to the weekend that it was being held. At that point I didn't have any product for the show, I didn't have my booth, I had nothing. I went from zero to full-on full booth in five weeks. I was pretty chuffed with that. I even had people go, “This is your first market? Oh my goodness, it looks so good.”
W: What’s something new that you’ve learned lately?
CR: That ties in with the most recent thing that I bought. I've started looking into the Anishinaabe clan system. I've learned that there are seven main clans and within each of those clans, there's one or two characterizing jobs or traits, if you will. And as a whole, they all work together.
Right where I live, there is a mural by an Indigenous artist named Philip Cote. I watched it get painted over the last two years or so. It's absolutely stunning. It features birds and figures and the turtle for Turtle Island. And with researching the clans, I'm now able to look at the mural with a much greater understanding, because I recognize the different clans that he's painted within this piece.
W: What’s the most recent thing you’ve bought from another Canadian maker?
CR: I purchased two things at the #summerincanary market. One is a beautiful ink drawing by a Colombian artist named Sandra Gonzalez. She also does really fabulous lino cuts, and she did one in support of Ukraine.
The other thing that I bought was a pair of hand-painted note cards from an Indigenous artist named Mishiikenh Kwe. I had asked about another piece with a painting of a crane on it. Its wings were spread out, and under these wings were all these little birds. She was explaining that it represented the story of the spring, and the crane was protecting them. One of the note cards I bought has one of these little spring birds on it, and I absolutely love it. The other card I have is a pike, and that is one of the clans. I just love her style. So we were talking about that and she told me that she was part of the caribou clan. And that was what led me into looking into the clan systems.
W: Describe your dream studio.
CR: My dream studio has space and storage. I'll say that right off. Because currently I have a desk, and my desk is in our office that also has my husband's desk. So space and storage and I'd also like to have natural light and old oak floors that creak and have 100 years’ worth of footsteps, and a view of trees where I've put a lot of bird feeders, so I can sit here and look out the window and watch the birds.
W: What’s one book, movie, TV show, magazine, podcast or album that you’re loving right now?
CR: I am currently rewatching Treme in preparation for our trip to New Orleans. It came out about 10 years ago. It is a four-season series that follows a number of people in the Tremé neighbourhood of New Orleans. It starts three months after Hurricane Katrina. The writing is spectacular. The acting is fantastic. And the music is mind blowing. Being in New Orleans, the the musicians are just out of this world. One of the trumpet players is Kermit Ruffins. He is still around and one of the places we're hoping to go is where he plays with his group, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers.