Art & Long Distance: An Interview with One of a Kind Vendor Calica Studio

WORDS: Samantha Shaw

ARTIST: Calica Studio

PHOTOS: Naomi Hill

SPONSORED BY: One of a Kind

One of a Kind is a marketplace and community of like-minded individuals that shape the culture of craft here in Canada through the exchange of ideas, stories, and objects. Shop One of a Kind’s winter show Nov. 22nd to Dec. 2nd at Toronto’s Enercare Centre. *You’ll find Calica Studio there for the second half of the show, Nov 27 to Dec. 2.

Rebecca Horwitz and Meghan Macdonald, the creative duo behind Calica Studio

We share in One of a Kind’s belief that craft can enrich our lives, and that human creativity and self-expression are worth celebrating. We’re proud to continue supporting them as they champion creativity and further the culture of craft here in Canada.

In anticipation of the One of a Kind winter event kicking off this week, we’re showcasing some of the incredible vendors you’ll find at the show. Browse last week’s Gift Guide, read yesterday’s interview with Tony Taylor, and join us today for our interview with Rebecca Horwitz and Meghan Macdonald, the creative duo behind Calica Studio.

Oh hey - I grew up in Oakville! I know some really talented artists to rise out of Sheridan. How did you enjoy your time there?

Attending art school in Oakville was a really bizarre and special experience. We were both quite young and found ourselves living for the first time in a sometimes isolating suburban environment, but attending this wonderful program that felt so different from the landscape we were in. The Craft and Design program at the time was made up of four disciplines: Textiles, Ceramics, Furniture and Glass. Students practically lived in the studios, spending tens of hours each week with each other. The environment was intimate and warm, the class sizes were small and that building and the people in it became our world.

Any favourite local hangouts?

We often ended up at Dixie and Dundas in Mississauga, an intersection boasting four major second-hand clothing stores. It allowed us to live large on a student budget. Otherwise, most of the time we were either in our studio at school or jumping between friend’s places in the surrounding high rises where most of our classmates lived.

What was it like studying textiles with just 10 other women? As I think back on my massive lecture halls full of unfamiliar faces, I imagine that would be a pretty unique and intimate learning environment.

It was so wonderful!  We both look back very fondly to those days - the people in our class, our instructors and the way we were taught to create and think about craft. By the end of three years with the same classmates, we were all able to give honest feedback and were open to receiving it. Critiques are one of the most valuable parts of the art school experience. We knew each other’s work so well and had the opportunity to challenge and cheer each other on. It helped us all become better.

Rebecca Horwitz and Meghan Macdonald of Calica Studio

I love meet-cute stories, especially the becoming of friendships and creative partnerships! How did the two of you meet? Can you recall the memory for us?

Rebecca: We met in class, we actually have both since admitted that on day one we had ‘liked the look’ of the other, which I think just means we each thought the other was a friendly face on the other side of the table. Even though everyone was close and friendly, we all paired off quickly. It was a funny separation that happened quite organically and Meghan and I weren’t in the same pair. We became closer friends in our third year and ended the program by going to New York with others from the department. After graduation, Meghan moved to Halifax to go to NSCAD and I would go visit often as my sister lives there. When Meghan moved back to Toronto we started meeting up to practice what we had learned in school together. After some late nights making silk scarves and dreaming about what was next, Calica was born.

How has your relationship evolved since that day? With one of you now in Toronto and the other in Halifax, how has distance challenged and transformed your creative partnership?

Our friendship and creative collaboration has developed so much since we started to make things together in those years after college. We’re now living 1,793 km apart (give or take) and see each other every couple of months. We talk frequently, chatting about our business and our lives. Our relationship with each other has been so core to what we do. When we’re working on a design we both start painting, drawing, collaging or embroidering on our own. Then we photograph our ideas and send them to each other. We’re always open to what the other has to say and it’s easy to agree on what direction feels right. Then we begin the process of refining our initial concepts into surface designs for our various soft goods. Distance has presented challenges and we certainly miss being able to just drop in to each other’s homes, but we’re still drinking tea and listening to podcasts and sharing ideas, we’re just not always in the same room.

Soft Studies Collection by Calica Studio

Talk to us about Calica Studio. What does this collaborative duo stand for? What do you hope your work contributes to the world?

We care about materials and process. We’re interested in designing using hand techniques, digital technology and working with talented people to translate our surface designs onto cloth. A quote from the head curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton, in the exhibition book Manus × Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology has stuck with us. It reads “The mediator between the hand and the machine must be the heart.” We’re constantly looking for ways to embrace the buy less, buy better philosophy while making things that we find useful and beautiful, and keeping our hands and hearts deeply involved in the process.

Soft Studies Collection by Calica Studio

Photographer Naomi Hill captured your Soft Studies collection with such a natural and effortless sense of flow. What inspired this collection?

Meghan: My home in Halifax looked straight out of Mad Men when my partner and I moved in. Think wood grain printed paneling, vintage furniture, terrazzo surfaces and a seafoam green bathtub. We’ve slowly made changes while embracing the house’s history, including the fantastic tilework found in a few rooms. Soft Studies is about home and comfort and began as paintings made while looking at the mid century tile of my kitchen backsplash.

What sort of narrative do you hope Soft Studies will share?

It’s been fun to see people connect with the collection through the colours we’ve chosen or the organic shapes that make up each scarf’s composition. Textiles are so tactile, you just have to touch them, and that’s been an important consideration, too. We want Soft Studies to bring people comfort, whether that’s by providing a warm barrier against the elements, a way to stay cosy on an airplane or by being hung as artwork in a home.

Talk to us about Long Distance. What is your mission, and why did you create this space?

Our online shop Long Distance was named as a reference to the geographical space between us. It was created as a place to sell the work that we make as Calica Studio alongside objects from creative people that we admire including hand carved wooden spoons from New Brunswick, patinaed jewellery from Nova Scotia, and blown glass from Vancouver. It’s our way to share the things that we like to wear and have in our homes with other people who might like them too.

It looks like you’ll be back at One of a Kind this winter! Will some pieces from the Soft Studies collection be accompanying you? What else can attendees expect to find at your booth?

Meghan: We’re really looking forward to being back at OOAK after a few years away. Our booth will have cashmere and wool scarves from our Soft Studies collection along with woven throw pillows and cosy blankets. Designing the layout and structure of a booth is always a challenge and we plan to channel the feeling we created in the Naomi Hill photographs, so wish us luck. Rebecca is pregnant and due around the time of the show, so it’s a doubly exciting time!

Picnic Blanket by Calica Studio
Throw Pillows by Calica Studio

What’s your favourite thing about the whole One of a Kind experience?

OOAK is like a reunion for us! We’re excited to catch up with creatives in the community who will also be taking part in the show and customers who we’ve gotten to know. It’s great to meet the people who connect with what we make. When we get to meet someone face to face who has chosen our work to become a part of their wardrobe or a thoughtful gift for a loved one, that’s just the best.

Any plans for the two of you to reunite? What does the average reunion look like? Wine? Beyonce? Blankets? A creative night in? A crazy night out?

Rebecca: When we get together in Toronto or Halifax we like to get cosy on the sofa, drink tea (or wine) and maybe watch cheesy MTV shows. Sometimes our work brings us to other cities where we make the most of our time away visiting art galleries, special shops, and the best burger joints. Meghan is a serious Beyoncé fan and once frantically bought too many tickets to a show and basically had to become a ticket scalper, but that’s another story…

Soft Studies Collection by Calica Studio
One of a Kind Show & Sale, Nov 22 to Dec 2