Grape Witches brought their Education Hour to Assembly last November and we loved how they made wine accessible and interesting to those of us who had no clue. (hand raised!) They host monthly parties and education hours, go check them out!
Morgan Dowler is the owner and designer of Eleventh House Jewellery, and one of Assembly's resident makers. Today we chat with her about all the things!
How did you get started?
Back in 2011 while I was still living in Nova Scotia, I went on a trip to visit Cape Breton Island with a friend of mine. While we were taking a walk along the Atlantic ocean, I noticed some arrowhead shaped rocks that I thought would make nice pendants. That's when I began to teach myself to wire wrap objects to be worn as pendants.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I like to pack my days pretty full with everything and anything. I am finding I am spending more and more time in the studio these past 6 months, which I am grateful for! As much as I like being busy with work I also appreciate the amazing community I have found since moving to Toronto so I will almost always end my days with seeing friends.
You often use crystals in your work. What would be your recommendation for someone wanting to get started with them-what are your top choices for starting a collection?
Rose Quartz! Rose Quartz is known as the "Love Stone" and thought to promote self love, romantic love, platonic love, all kinds of love! I find it to be a very calming stone to have around.
What/who inspires your collection?
100% all of the incredible womyn in my life. I think my friends are the coolest and have the best style. When making something I consider whether or not I could see my friends wearing the piece.
I know Eleventh House is not your only gig, you have many projects on the go! How do you find the balance between these competing priorities?
I thrive off being somewhat overwhelmed with things to do, so having multiple projects on the go is how I usually operate. Balance is something I am working towards haha...
What's one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting a business?
Persist and power through all of the times you think it isn't worth it! You will have many of those times owning a business, but you gotta stay strong and keep in mind what drove you to start your business in the first place.
What's a book or band you are loving right now?
I am currently re-reading "Fall on Your Knees" by Toronto author Ann-Marie MacDonald. Her books are depressing as HELL but so beautifully written. As for music, Soupcans. Soupcans forever.
If there is a craft or skill you want to learn, chances are there's a place to do just that here in Toronto. Below is our ever growing list of spaces offering workshops in the city. Enjoy!
Cool news! We've invited some of our favourite local makers to join us in the studio for a little Holiday Shop. There will be apple cider, sugar cookies and a whole lot of amazing, locally made gifts for all!
Robyn Molnar is the creator of Nightshift Ceramics, and a Maker In Residence at Assembly.
How did you get started making ceramics? Is this the first business you have run?
It was very random. I took a weekend workshop, and really liked working with clay so I continued to take more classes and learn as much as I could. (Still learning today!) I have run a few other “businesses” before. I say that in quotes because they were not successful, nor did they have much direction behind them. I sold vintage online in a shop called Rare Treasure, and had an accessories brand called Heartbeat with my sister in the mid 2000’s.
What is your favourite thing about your workspace?
The cool buds I share it with!
Your designs are so fun and fresh, where do you get your inspiration from?
I am a child of the 80s, and also one raised by TV, haha. (Ask me about any 80s sitcom-I’m sure I can tell you all about it!) But I think that the pop culture of that time has really seeped into my brain and my design sensibility too.
How long does it take to create a ceramic piece? Can you provide a little bit of insight into the process?
There are many steps, including the creation of the piece, drying of clay, firing. It can take more than a week to get to the final product.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Honestly, I don’t even remember! Maybe a fashion designer? I don’t think I had much of a clue, which makes sense considering my actual career trajectory has been pretty clueless too!
What does success look like to you?
The freedom to do what I want, and choose the projects I want to do. Also while making enough money to pay the bills and do things like buy a coffee without having guilt for spending $4 dollars. Not completely there yet, but hoping to get there one day. :)
What are some of your favourite things to do in the city?
Well, my favourite night out is Yacht Rock at The Boat. If you are not familiar with what Yacht Rock is - it’s those smooth, jazzy sounds of the 70s and 80s- things like Phil Collins, Lionel Richie etc. I know a lot of people consider this garbage, but I love it so much! Another favourite thing to do is dine at The Skyline and drink their spicy margarita. The best!
It is hard to know where to begin this story. I will spend some time in the coming months putting to words the process of arriving at the decision to buy 25 acres of vacant land and live off-grid, because there is one thing I can promise you, it was a real process. One that took many years filled with lots of self doubt and fear but also of tremendous discovery, connection and support. It is a story of baby steps, of making incremental improvements and constantly challenging myself to learn new things.
The dream is to build on the community that we are creating here in the city with Assembly. To transform the property into a playground of permaculture gardens, hardwood forest trails, and integrated food forests which we will use to create alternative off-grid experiences, host a series of homesteading and traditional craft-based workshops and provide artist residencies for those that are interested in exploring the intersection of art, farming and rural life.
The property had nothing when I bought it, no services (electricity, water) and not even an entrance.
The climb up the steep learning curve started with the need to put in a driveway. Who to use, what permits are required, how much was this going to cost and where on earth should I put it? With each and every thing that has been done to the land, there have been so many factors to consider, research to be done and things to learn. Did I mention that I have absolutely no previous experience with any of this? I am saying all of this because navigating the new is always associated with elevated anxiety for me but my advice to you is don’t use that as an excuse, just do it, find your dreams, follow them, stumble along the way and then just make sure to laugh your ass off as it all plays out.
For now, here are some pics of the initial steps and structures that have been built. There is so much more I will share about this journey and I am so excited for when I get to see your beautiful faces up on the land.
Gillian Johnson is the founder of Assembly, as well as the owner and designer of jewellery brand Hawkly. Her new collection and website just launched, see more here.
How did you get started?
I first started making jewelry when I was on a University exchange program in Thailand. I was visiting a small island near Bangkok when I saw someone making jewelry and was overcome with envy. I started nosing around, asking questions and the artist was kind enough to share some tips on where I could source materials. Next thing I knew I was bartering for strands of stones in Bangkok’s Chinatown and making “jewelry” with fishing line. I was cleaning out some things at my parent’s house a few months back and found some of my original pieces. Pretty funny and a little bit embarrassing to see the craftsmanship from the early days but I guess you have to start somewhere!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I think I may be stumped on this one :) There isn’t a lot of routine in my life as a result of living between the city and my yurt, travelling and juggling a variety of projects, but one constant is starting the day off with one of my great loves of life…coffee! I always drink too much of it no matter where I am. I usually like to write emails and take care of computer work while I drink that second cup of coffee. After coffee, a good day in the city starts with a bike ride and in the country with a hike in the forest. And I just love working away at my jewellers bench late into the night.
Your pieces are very textured & organic. What are some of your inspirations when creating a piece?
I find inspiration for jewelry pieces just about everywhere. Whether I am out on a hike and the intricate pattern on leaf catches my eye or am wandering around the city and have to stop to take a picture of the textured wall or ornate door knob, the inspiration just jumps out to me and I can’t wait to incorporate it into a miniature wax sculpture. So much beauty in the world to be interpreted, explored and shared.
You also founded Assembly, and are working on a farm project in the country. What motivated you to start these very different projects?
After over 10 years of entrepreneurship I realized the things that brought me the most joy, outside of making jewelry, were working collaboratively with inspiring people and being in nature. Though these projects seem unrelated at first, the common goals for all projects are building community, enabling continuous learning, creating beautiful things and sharing connection and joy with other people. Currently, Assembly is an incubator for other upcoming Toronto based brands and a workshop space where we have had the chance to collaborate with so many amazing makers and entrepreneurs. The plan is to build on that model by creating a permaculture farm and rural artist residency where people will be able to come to explore their craft and be inspired by nature. I am beyond excited for the type of collaborations and play that can be explored in this setting.
What do you do to stay grounded when you are feeling the pressure from your business and life in general?
When I am in the city, I love to have chill evenings with dearest friends. We call them “floor hangs” and the ingredients of those nights usually include some stretching and ball massages, bottles of wine and lots of laughs. In the country, a lengthy hike on an unknown trail or laying in the meadow observing the complexity of the plant and insect life that usually goes unseen will usually do the trick for me.
What are some surprising things you've learned from starting a business?
In my experience, it takes WAY longer than expected or desired for everything to come to fruition so above all perseverance is key. And I am still so pleasantly surprised with how supportive my friends and family always are.
What's on your best of Toronto list?
A meal at Union never disappoints, the smoothies and salads at The Goods are the best, love the down to earth vibes at the Tampered Press and the back patio at The Walton. And fav shops are The Wanderly and Subrosa Vintage.
Making time for adventures in nature, taking pleasure in the simple things in life, and sharing them with others. These are some of the main approaches to Hygge. In case you haven’t heard, Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish concept which loosely translates to cosiness. More than simple ‘cosiness’, this term encompasses enjoyment of nature, simplicity and healthy hedonism. As Signe Johansen, author of How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life explains, hygge is “The magic of everyday life, choosing hope and a can-do attitude over fear and despair, and making time to be kind both to yourself and others”
Sounds amazing, right? Shouldn’t we all be practicing hygge all the time? Perhaps easier said than done in our world of stress and work and general busy-ness! Johansen shows us the essential elements of incorporating hygge in your life with an informative book of recipes, home decor recommendations, and general ideas.
Here are some pro tips from the book on how to hygge:
•spending time in nature calms you. It allows you to step back and reflect on the very essence of what living is about.
•being active at all ages is essential. Find a sport or activity you enjoy and remember: it’s about feeling great, not looking a certain way.
•keep food simple and focus on naturally nourishing foods that will sustain you. Slow down to eat: savour those moments during the day when you can enjoy a delicious meal.
•Inebriation is decidedly not the end goal, but alcohol is a great ‘attitude adjuster’ when consumed in moderation.
•Being kind isn’t just about the self, and those moments of quiet solitude. It’s also about spending time with others, about being sociable and taking pleasure in simple things together.
Liz Worth is an astrologer, tarot reader and author living and working in Toronto. She is an original collaborator with Assembly and we are so happy to have her back in studio November 4th with her workshop, Tarot 101.
1. How did you get started?
My journey into tarot had a false start when I was younger. I was really interested in tarot and the occult as a teenager, but didn't have the patience to learn tarot at the time. Looking back, I probably didn't quite have the life experience, either. I got a deck back then, but expected it to all come together right away and when it didn't, I got discouraged.
I didn't come back to tarot until much later, when I was in my 20s. By then I was very career focused, but was missing something. I had put aside my occult interests in the process. But I needed a spiritual connection to something and needed to focus my energy on something more than work. But I didn't know what. I went to an astrologer for a reading and after learning a lot about myself through my natal chart, I got inspired to get back to my long-forgotten interests in things like tarot and the esoteric. Especially because this astrologer had told me I had the right energies for this kind of thing.
I picked up another tarot deck and it became an entry point back into the spiritual path I'd been seeking. I started to get into astrology, too, and began to learn how to work with both. I didn't set out to read professionally, though, and resisted that path for a long, long time. I took classes, read books, and did a lot of practice readings. Eventually, friends started asking me to read at parties and things, and then friends' of friends would ask me for readings. And then people started to say, "You should charge money for this." And then people would ask, "Do you think you will ever start a business for this?"
But I kept thinking no, because I had another career planned out. But one day I realized I could do this, and that I wanted to, and the more I thought about it, the more right it felt. Years had gone by and I felt very confident as a reader by then, too, which helped. Practice is important.
2. What has surprised you the most about starting a business?
The power of saying no.
When I first got started, I had to say no to myself a lot. I would start to believe that I needed to do all the things, all the time: That I had to be on every social media platform, that I had use every bit of business advice I could find, that I had to take a million business courses and try to market it myself in thirty different ways.
And the reality is, the more focused you are, the better things become. Because you can't do it all anyway, and honestly, you only need to find a few things that stick and stay consistent with them. If Instagram gives you lots of visibility, then great. Stay with Instagram. Don't feel pressured to spread yourself so thin across other platforms, or to jump on the next tech bandwagon just because. Building business takes time and it's best to pay attention to the things that work for you.
And of course, saying no can be extremely important when you are looking at which opportunities to take. At the end of the day, you're going to be putting time and energy into whatever you are working on, so make sure it's the right thing. Don't feel that you have to say yes to everything, especially if it's not going to move your vision forward.
3. What's one trait you think a small business owner needs to be successful?
It's hard to pick just one. I think patience is important, because without it, any vision - business or otherwise - has little chance of becoming a reality.
When I started my business on a full-time basis, I would have whole months go by where I didn't have a single client. That's scary for someone who is running a service-based business model. But I really believed in what I was doing and I gave it time.
I was also consistent in the effort I put into my business, which I think goes in hand with patience. Patience helps you say, "Give it another day," which helps you to show up consistently to work, even when the money has yet to appear.
4. Any advice you would give to a new creative entrepreneur/business owner?
Take your business seriously and treat it as such. Invest the time, the energy, the money, whatever you need, and give it enough time to actually become something.
If you want your business to be full-time, you will eventually have to work on it full-time. It might not happen without you taking the leap first, so be ready to quit your full-time gig (if you have one) to turn your business into a reality.
And know when to stop working at the end of the day. This can be really hard early on because there will be times when you need to be working on your business enough so that you can get all the pieces together. But breaks are important, too. Self-care matters. Don't work yourself sick. Don't deprive yourself of sleep. Don't forget that you are a whole person, mind, body, and soul, and that you will be better for taking the time to rest, relax, and recharge.
5. What is a little known fact about you?
I won a public speaking award in Grade 4 for a speech I gave where I spoke from the point of view of a cat. I wore a cat mask and everything. My mom still has the plaque somewhere.
“ We are all Born Explorers”
A showcase of artists, creatives, entrepreneurs all with the common inspiration of outdoor adventure. “Because an adventurer is not something that you become, it is something you are when you are born.” This book is a celebration of people of that have never stopped wondering or wandering and are creating art, products and projects that share this magic with others. The following is a list of some our favs from the book but check it out because there are loads of inspiring brands, bloggers and artists featured (feeling proud to see so many Canadians featured)
Yamatomichi - an outdoor gear brand focusing on the production of lightweight backpacks and related essentials for mountain-go-ers.
Tree Tents - a spherical treehouse that offers year round, above-ground shelter for up to two adults.
Norquay - a Canadian brand dedicated to the art of camping, applying new design ideas to traditional items. They offer handcrafted, handpainted canoe paddles whose colors and patterns are inspired by the beauty and heritage of Northern Canada.
Sitka - a Canadian Lifestyle brand with signature product the Hobo Knife, a multitool that honours the adventure of life on the road and made in collaboration with Case XX.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Michelle Ross is a Toronto based jewellery designer that masterfully combines vintage and new components in a sophisticated and totally modern way. We are so inspired by this jewelry, and the combination of old and new to create an unconventional style that is truly unique.
Find out more at mnross.com
Written by Ashoka Kanungo
Don’t call Lindsay LeBlanc, an expert. She doesn’t think she’s any better at taking care of herself then you do. She’s not looking to preach about wellness from atop her high horse. “One of my strengths is I’m relatable. I’m able to empathize with what people are going through.” A departure from most wellness brands or diets, Lindsay wants to target ordinary people, living their lives. “I want my brand to appeal to real people; who eat crap and feel like shit because they have anxiety. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.” In other words, you can eat cake and have candida too.
Launched this past February, Symptomolgie aims to get to the route of our symptoms. What is causing them? Their approach is 3 fold. Visit symptomolgie.com and you’ll find a comprehensive questionnaire to help target what your symptoms are saying about you. After reviewing your answers, they present you with key remedies to treat these symptoms. If desired, they will put together a healing program based on your, “budget, lifestyle and bio individuality.” Specifically, they want to target “hurdles.” What gets in the way of your wellbeing? For instance, someone might have candida overgrowth but doesn’t want to give up sugar forever. How can you realistically treat these ailments?
Education is key in the process, which is why Symptomologie offers counsel over the web and also in the form of workshops. If you happen to live in the greater Toronto area, you can sign up for a variety of interactive workshops including, ‘Everyday Herbalism,’ aimed to enhance your knowledge of herbs. You can also host a gathering in your house or backyard, a perfect event for Mother’s Day and beyond.
Also on the website, you can purchase playfully named remedies or teas, to help with conditions from anxiety to insomnia. For example, the appropriately named, Not Flash, combines black cohosh, sage, black haw, licorice and star anise to prevent hot flashes. Buy it in travel size for easy accessibility or they stock larger sizes or ‘stock ups’ for certain products.
Tea’s take a therapeutic approach, putting the focus on treating specific symptoms instead of flavor. You’ll be reaping the benefits with blends such as Get your Grow On, which boasts thick hair and strong nails using a blend of rosemary, nettle and horsetail.
One thing that Lindsay isn’t short of is knowledge. A self taught herbalist, Lindsay has acquired a wide breadth of education through several jobs and work environments. She first knew she wanted to treat ailments through herbs, after a train ride from Shanghai to Beijing left her with a vicious case of food poisoning. For months she felt the effects, frequenting clinics to determine what the lingering symptoms were about. When they were finally able to diagnose her with e.coli, she had to take 8 antibotics a day. Her body was so depleted, Lindsay sought solace from an energy healer who advised her: “your health is in your hands.” This hit home for Lindsay and from there her passion for natural medicine formed. She got a job at a health food store where she learned the benefits of vitamins and through interacting with customers, got a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Though it felt like a paid education, Lindsay wanted to find a community, so she moved to Victoria. After some shitty jobs, she found a home at ‘Ingredients Café and Community Market.’ She managed their social media and merged her other strength of video development to program films on natural healing. Here she was given freedom to elevate her skills. She planned talks, full day healing symposiums and used her imagination to plan interactive parties and events.
When she made her way back to Toronto, she didn’t find a comparable community. She took a job making videos for a health magazine but the corporate lifestyle left her disconnected from like-minded individuals. She moved on to apprentice at an herbal clinic that housed over 200 herbs. She became proficient in the Latin names of herbs and began mixing herbs. She was able to connect to the neighborhood and learn from customer’s life experiences. A place where clientele can blend herbs on the spot, Lindsay found people felt more connected to the product if they were helping create it and very open about the pros and cons.
Lindsay still works with them and the knowledge she’s acquired has come through in her brand. ‘If you don’t (blend herbs) properly, it might not be effective and there’s a danger to that.’ Her focus is on common, symptomatic problems. “If you have gallstones, go to the doctor.’ She also encourages anyone interested in herbs, to play. ‘Have 5 herbs in the cupboard and play around with them. Learn what they do and don’t take it too seriously. There are wrong combinations but you have to figure it out for yourself.”
We had the opportunity to host our first weekend event with old friends and new in a very special space. This is just the beginning....
This gorgeous book can be appreciated exclusively for its imagery, but even better is the range of DIY projects and old world skills they highlight throughout. Giving readers valuable knowledge on how they can simultaneously explore their creativity and interact with the outdoors.
This book was born out of the Wilder Magazine which began in 2011, “a publication with a goal of connecting the dots between twenty-first century living and the slow pace of the outdoors.” It takes the reader through each season, exploring categories of growing, cooking, home + self-reliance, beauty + healing and wilderness and contains recipes, DIY’s, skills and quotes that they consider as crucial foundational elements for an incredible natural experience.
We plan to be visiting this book as much as we possibly can this coming year, in fact have considered quitting everything just so we can do all the projects, all the time. We will start with making natural dyes, our own household cleaners and then head out into the woods and practice building our own outdoor shelter. Stay tuned, we will share our projects with you all here and on instagram.
“All we have, it seems to me, is the beauty of art and nature and life, and the love which that beauty inspires.” Edward Abbey