We love our members, so every month we'll be featuring one of them on the site and in the newsletter. This month, our featured member is Kristy Woudstra of Gezellig Studio (@gezelligstudiocanada) in Hamilton, Ont., who gamely answered 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.
Kristy Woudstra: I design and make minimalist, modern quilts and eco-friendly felt animals.
W: What was the first product you sold?
KW: One of the first products I sold was also one of the first quilts that I designed. After George Floyd’s murder, when Black Lives Matter demonstrations finally got everyone’s attention, I was listening to a lot of podcasts about anti-Black racism here in Canada and in the U.S. Maya Angelou’s poem “Human Family” kept popping into my head, particularly the line: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
While this is true, we are born into societies, systems, circumstances, religions and countries in which not all things are equal. We are taught to “other,” and worse, judge and devalue, anyone seemingly different than us. As I thought about this, I designed a quilt called “Deconstruct” to reflect Angelou’s sentiments and the work we need to do to deconstruct and defund all the systems that are so clearly broken. Only then can we rebuild a society that better reflects our values of love, acceptance, equality and kindness.
I made the quilt as a gift for friends, but then an artist (and friend of mine) in the U.S. saw the quilt when I posted it to Instagram. She immediately asked if she could buy one. I was floored. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to pay for one of my quilts. At that point, I was just making them as gifts. I didn't even know what to charge!
W: What’s your latest innovation?
KW: Quilt label pockets! I love the tradition of quilt labels, which record where and when a quilt was made and by whom. Mine were just the standard rectangle on the back of the quilt. But I recently started sewing them into a corner of the quilt to create a pocket. It’s actually a faster process and people can use them to hang their quilts on a hook. Also, who doesn't love pockets?!?!? (I’m probably far too excited about this than I should be.)
W: What’s something you’ve done in the past year that you’re proud of?
KW: Learn to use a sewing machine! I've always been able to do basic hand sewing. But before the pandemic hit, I decided it was high time I learned to use a sewing machine. I took a class at a local fabric store (shout-out to Needlework in Hamilton) and made a pillow cover. I made it entirely inside out and had to take it all apart and remake it. I was the last person in the class to finish, but I was determined. I rented the machine again and made a few more covers (guess what everyone got for Christmas?!?!). Then I decided to try making a baby quilt for friends in Ireland who were expecting. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to figure out the process and got to work. I was immediately hooked. Who knew a year later, I'd be starting a business to sell my quilts?
W: What’s something new that you’ve learned lately?
KW: Quilters’ glue is a game changer for sewing perfect circles. My quilts are very minimalist and I use geometric shapes to express my thoughts. Circles are not easy for me. I want them to be perfect, no puckers or wobbles. A few quilters on Instagram suggested using glue to maintain the shape as you sew, so I decided to give it a whirl. I ended up sewing my absolute best circles to date, which was a real high for this quilt nerd.
W: What’s the most recent thing you’ve bought from another Canadian maker?
KW: A gorgeous ceramic pot by Toronto artist Enas Satir (@enas.satir). It's from her collection that celebrates Sudanese women singers. The one that I have includes lyrics about a girl deciding to make her own decisions rather than be married off at a young age. I worked at non-profit organizations for more than a decade and I travelled to several African countries to cover stories (I'm a magazine editor and writer). While I've never been to Sudan, I interviewed many girls and women whose strength and determination forever changed me. Whenever I look at this little pot, I'm reminded of those women and the importance of pursuing my own dreams even if they're not what society expects of me.
W: Where’s your dream studio?
KW: I honestly can’t imagine a better studio than where I currently work. I'm in a space called The Showroom 218 in Hamilton, Ont. It’s half store, half studio and all sorts of amazing. The Showroom sells handmade textiles and goods from local makers, so I struggle not to buy everything around me. And I get to work beside designer Ashley Bullock and artist Mosa McNeilly. It’s truly an inspiring space creatively and I love being able to talk shop with other textile types.
Even better, The Showroom is located in The Cotton Factory, an industrial building where sails for ships were made in the 1900s. The factory has been converted into studios for cabinet makers, musicians, landscape designers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and every type of artist you can imagine.
W: What’s one book, movie, TV show, magazine, podcast or album that you’re loving right now?
KW: I’m obsessed with podcasts. Sometimes I think I started sewing just so I’d have an excuse to listen to more podcasts! I love the classics (This American Life, The Moth, 99% Invisible, Criminal, Radiolab) but a new one that I’m enjoying is Welcome to Your Fantasy. It's about the Chippendales (I'm an ’80s kid) and I’m learning so much about their history — there's even a Canadian connection. Sex, drugs, murder and fascinating commentary about gender politics... what's not to love?!?!?