OOAK Maker Spotlight: Alexia Bilyk
Canada's largest handmade show is just around the corner and we're getting super excited to meet the makers and browse all the unique goods! This year, Toronto's One of a Kind Christmas Show (OOAK) features the work of 800+ Canadian vendors - many travelling from all corners of the country to be part of the fun!
In anticipation of the show opening next week, we've teamed up with OOAK to present the OOAK Maker Spotlight series - a glimpse at the story, process and preparation of 7 select participating vendors. Take a peek inside the creative life of Alexia Bilyk.
Thanks for chatting with us, Alexia! Can you tell us a little bit about your background in textile art & design?
I’m a graduate from Sheridan College’s Craft and Design Textile Program as well as OCADU’s Material Art and Design Fibre program. I currently am an artist in residence at the Harbourfront Centre in the textile studio and work at OCADU as a class assistant in the fibre department. My main form of textile practice is currently print based.
What have you learned during your time as Artist-in-Residence at The Harbourfront Centre?
The Harbourfront Centre has been a fantastic experience and has helped me transition from graduation to being a self-directed artist and designer. I have met a lot of wonderful people and was able to push myself further then I thought I could at this point in my career. I started my business at the Harbourfront center last September and that was and still is a huge learning experience. I also found the style of my work evolved into the loose, graphic form it is, which became more apparent through the past 3 years of my residency.
We'd love to learn more about your creative process. Where do you pull inspiration and what steps do you take to translate that to print?
I get most of my inspiration from everyday objects, for example, my “arrow” print, is inspired by eyelashes. I also am drawn to aerial views of areas from around the world and all the fantastic man made and organic shapes that fit together.
I break down imagery into simple shapes and cut them out of paper. I create all my patterns and art using an exacto knife and craft paper to start, which I cut my imagery out of, essentially creating a stencil. I then play with size and placement on the computer and transfer my designs to a silk-screen to print on fabric and paper.
At the OOAK show I sell washable paper pouches and containers that I silk-screen my designs onto. This year I will be introducing small washable paper snap pouches and tea towels and pillows made with cotton and linen.
How do you prepare for a show of this scale? When did you start planning and preparing for OOAK?
Making lists and deadlines is a must! Everything gets pretty hectic around this time of year and if you aren’t organized things get forgotten or rushed at the last minute, which still happens time to time. I’m still learning how to prepare for the show as this is my second winter OOAK and I was lucky enough to be a part of the Craft Community of Canada section this past spring. Making starts around September as everything is hand printed which does take some time. Looking at numbers from last year gives me an idea of what to produce, but that can change from show to show depending on what people are interested in. There is a lot of making involved but a huge part of it is business oriented which is not always as much fun but it needs to get done.
Walk us through a bit of the prep work you’ve been doing for the show.
After I have all my material ordered and it arrives I’m ready to work. I prepare my work in large batches, one step at a time. Each show I prepare for I become more efficient and learn what I should and shouldn’t do to speed up the process. I print rolls of washable paper and fabric with pigment and then heat set the pigment so that it does not wash off when it gets wet or put into the washing machine. I print everything by hand and then cut out all my patterns by hand as well. I send my work to a sewer so that it is professionally assembled. While creating all of my products I am also getting packaging ready and my booth design and layout figured out. There is quite a bit of work that goes into getting ready for a show, lots of little details that need to be attended to. I am always making lists. Crossing things out as I go along is so satisfying.
Why is shopping small important to you?
There are so many small businesses out there with fantastic products that they are really passionate about. There is something to be said about a handmade object compared to something mass-produced in a factory. It’s kind of like there is a soul to it and you can see the craftsmanship and slight imperfections that we can all relate to as humans, which I find quite charming. I was once told that cheap is expensive. Spending a bit more for a well-made product is worth it in the long run.
We've got two sets of 2 tickets to give away! Join us Wednesday November 23rd on the @makersmovement Instagram feed for contest details.