Saturday, November 21, 2015

T.E.S.T. Interview: OohLaLaBeadtique

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 89th in our series and is with Kvetka from OohLaLaBeadtique.

How did you get started with jewellery making -- what is the first thing you remember making? 

I was attending OCAD and heavily into a Goth Scene. There was no online shopping in the early 90’s and the only places to find Goth clothing and jewelry were couple of stores on Queen Street W.  Needless to say due to the unique nature of Goth style, price tags attached to clothing and jewelry in the Queen street shops were not meeting my student budget. So I and my girlfriend decided to improvise. We made our own Goth outfits and jewelry. We discovered a small bead shop called Arton on Queen. Today Arton is big, back in the 90’s the selection of beads and jewelry supplies they carried was very limited, so we had to get creative.

One of the first jewelry pieces I made was a black velvet choker with a large Gothic cross. I could only buy a gold cross in Arton, which was not very Goth. So I used silver nail polish to paint over the gold metal. I made a pair of black crystal chandelier earrings to match my necklace.

Do you have any other creative outlets? 

Yes of course. I’ve been nicknamed “Martha Stewart.” I love knitting, sewing, baking, renovating old furniture, designing websites, and the list goes on. My biggest and foremost passion is painting and drawing. I’m always torn between jewelry making and my fine arts. Do you do this full time, or is it a side business? In the past two years my jewelry business has became a full time job.

What would your ideal work day look like? 

I definitely love starting my day with an early morning walk with my dog. Fresh air and a little physical activity right in the morning gets my juices flowing. Once back in my studio, I grab a cup of fresh warm coffee and I work on my crafts. I especially love sunny days. I have big windows in my studio and I’m in complete heaven when I face the windows and I work on my crafts. I shut off my phone and I don’t look at any emails. I like working undisturbed. I prefer catching up on my correspondence, client requests, Etsy teams, social network promotions, etc, in mid-afternoon after my craft work is done. My ideal work day would be conflict free, easy going clients, smooth supply delivery, and no Etsy team conflicts to mediate (I’m a Captain of one Etsy team, and leader of 2 other teams Daily Promotion and Beaders and Beadmakers of Etsy).

How does your design process work? 

It starts with inspiration. That comes sometimes from the oddest places. I’m looking at some metal screws in a surplus store, a carpet pattern in a hallway, or someone with an interesting piece of Jewelry. I snap pictures with my iphone, draw sketches in my journal, and write notes about color combinations and materials. Then I rush to my studio at the earliest opportunity I get, sometimes in the middle of a night. There is no way I can sleep if I have a new project in my mind. Regardless the late hour, I start working on it. I consult my journal notes, look at pictures I took, browse through my supplies and select what fits my project ideas. I lay out my beads and jewelry-making components on the beading board and I shuffle them around. Then I start stringing my beads, or wire wrapping them. Often I restring them to see if another design might work better. There are times when I fight with my work. I put my project aside, take a break, and do something completely unrelated to crafts. I return back to my design in half a day or in 2 days. Usually this works and the final idea comes together nicely. Sometimes I’m so pleased with the final design, that I start making different color or material versions of it.

What is your best seller? 

Rosaries. Initially I intended on making jewelry and accessories for personal adornment purpose. One day I was approached by a friend who requested a custom order, a rosary necklace for her boyfriend. I really enjoyed the project and I thought why not make real authentic rosaries. My concern was if anybody else besides my friend would be interested in buying the rosaries I made. I listed few on Etsy and to my surprise they sold quickly. I’ve decided to make more. Subsequently I started receiving emails from my clients, telling me how much they enjoy using my rosaries. I found this incredibly fulfilling. It’s nice to receive positive feedback from a client who enjoys wearing her necklace, but it is a completely different feeling to receive feedback from a client who enjoys praying with a rosary I’ve hand made. My rosaries are the best seller, and I enjoy making them the most.

How would you like to see your business grow in the future? 

Selling my handmade jewelry I’ve learned the ropes around being a small business owner, and how to sell my own hand made work. Over the years I’ve experimented with different Jewelry making techniques, and materials. At this point I feel I need a change, I need to move on. My aim is to transition my business from jewelry back into Fine Arts where most of my education and professional training lies. I would like to focus more on painting and drawing, and occasionally pick up rosary custom orders. I’d like to set up and run a residency program for artists and craft makers, somewhere in the beautiful Canadian outdoors, and have a variety of creative people attend my residencies - artists, actors, musicians, and crafters. I dream of having a small art gallery where the residency participants can exhibit their work or even put on performances.

How do you compete with all the other jewellery makers, what makes your work stand out? 

I do my research and look for items that are in demand but not many jewelry makers make them. I try to stay on top of current fashion trends, and events. I make pieces that are current. And of course I have my own style, and it reflects in my work. I offer free repairs on the jewelry, and rosaries I make. I do custom orders, and work very closely with my clients. I ask them as many questions and I get the right measurements to ensure proper fit and client satisfaction.

Can you share some marketing tactics that have helped you reach out to potential buyers? 

I wear my own Jewelry as often as I can. When I do outdoor shows I make sure to wear solid neutral colors, like black or gray outfits, and I accessorise with my own colourful jewelry pieces letting them stand out. I give my jewelry pieces away to my family or lend them to friends when they are attending larger events like weddings, concerts art openings and so on. When I list my Jewelry pieces online, I tell a story about the materials, colors and so on. I’ve lent my jewelry to a fashion show, and also for a photography shoot. I’ve donated my Jewelry to charity for autism that a friend helped to organize. I’ve donated some rosaries to a parish priest to give away in church. I research my consumers and present appropriate jewelry to appropriate demographic. I use social media to promote my Jewelry. And I always make sure that I have plenty of business cards in my wallet to give away wherever I go.

Do you sell at markets in the GTA? How do you choose which markets to participate in? 

Yes I’ve participated in many markets in GTA and all over South Ontario over the years. I do my research before I sign up for a market. I try to attend it in person the year before. I talk to participating vendors. I read vendor reviews. I talk to organizers and I ask them where they promote their events, how many years they have been hosting the event, how many people they expect to visit their event. I look at the event program. I prefer to select events that don’t have commercial vendors who import products, or events that have a handmade arts and crafts section. I research the demographic and verify if my products will be suitable.

How do you create a booth to attract buyers? 

I use 10 feet x10 feet space or canopy. I set up my table in a U-shape, with me standing inside the U so the traffic of people is walking outside the U. I use my business colors, black and bright pink to keep a uniform look. I create levels on my tables with the highest in the back and the lowest at the front. I keep my set up organized and tidy and I make sure it is aesthetically pleasing. I make sure all my items have prices and are easily accessible. I always have an extra person or two to help me during the whole event so my customers don’t have to wait for service. In the evening I drape Christmas lights around the top of my canopy. I scout the market ahead, and if possible I request a spot for my booth that will get a lot of traffic. To get the best spot on the market, the key is to apply for an event early, and also keep good relations with the event organizers and other vendors.

 Check out the other items available from Kvetka in her Etsy shop.  

You can also find her at:

Interviewed by Natalie of HaversackLeather on November 20, 2015 in Toronto.

T.E.S.T. Interview: HaversackLeather

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 88th in our series and is with Natalie Crittenden of Haversack Leather.

Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your way into the sewing world via a different route? 

I have been sewing since I got my first machine at 11 years old, and I went through formal education at Seneca College in Toronto where I studied Fashion Arts. While I gained the knowledge I needed to get an entry level job in the fashion industry, I was not very interested in the actual industry of disposable fashion. I loved to sew and create unique things so I applied for a job stitching costumes for the Stratford Festival. This was an incredible opportunity to learn traditional tailoring techniques, work on beautiful period costumes and build one of a kind pieces. Since theatre work is generally a seasonal contract I found an opportunity to travel around Canada and work for different companies. I also picked up new techniques as I was working on costumes for ballet, theatre and opera.

I naively thought I would have the same luck if I moved to Australia, so I packed by bags and shipped out for new opportunities abroad. I arrived in the height of the recession only to find major cutbacks at the national theatres, so I started looking for other employment options. I met an auto upholsterer who was satisfied with my level of competence behind a sewing machine and taught me the basics of auto trimming.

After a quick stint working solely on grey vinyl taxi interiors I decided I’d rather live and work by the ocean. Having a knack for being in the right place at the right time I walked into Aussie Boat Covers in Melbourne, just as they were getting into their busy season. I apprenticed under Neil Hancock and learned to pattern, cut, cover and fill awkward 3D shapes, and sew with difficult fabrics. I started to love upholstery, and most importantly, I learned to always be looking for new opportunities for growth in my field.

What type of material do you prefer to use and why?

I love leather. I love the way it smells. I love the way it stretches and marks and gains a beautiful patina. I see leather as an investment - when you take care of it, it gets better with age.

What would you most like to make that you haven't so far? 

I would love to do a full interior in a hot rod!

Which designers influence or inspire you? 

Alexander McQueen was my favourite designer, but I see him as more of an artist. He really understood proper tailoring, but was very playful with silhouettes, patterns and textures. His work was generally a bit dark and kind of romantic and he was always pushing boundaries. The amount of thought put into each collection and detail put into each piece is astonishing. He was so creative and incredibly gifted in his craft. I really respect his work.

What would you describe as the most significant development in contemporary sewing within the last decade? 

The most significant development in garment construction would probably be 3D printing, although that has nothing to do with sewing. You can actually print a wearable garment that requires no assembly. The technology is still in it’s infancy though… I don’t fear redundancy just yet.

If you could collaborate with any artist, designer, craftsperson, or even company who would it be and what would your dream project be? 

Duane Ballard is a Leather Worker based in California. He creates really incredible tooled leather art. I would love to be a fly on his wall for a day, just to observe his technique. He does everything from wallets to custom motorcycle seats. I guess my dream project would be a collaboration on a really flashy Hot Rod with Duane.

What is the structure of your studio and your use of it -- are you in a shared space, are you in the studio every day?

I’m lucky to work from home. I have a studio space with a large cutting table, an industrial walking foot sewing machine for leather and an antique Singer sewing machine for lighter fabrics and linings. I’ve pretty much maxed out the space with shelving and racks to hold leather, and patterns. I’ve got a couple of half-finished upholstery projects stashed in there too. I try to force myself to take a day off every week, but when you love what you do and you work for yourself, it’s hard to turn your brain off.

Do you outsource certain aspects of your work due to machine/space restrictions? 

At this point I’m still a one woman show. I do all the designing, cutting and sewing for my leather bags and accessories. I also sculpt foam and cover motorcycle seats and take on small upholstery projects.

What is your personal philosophy about what you do, and about handmade? 

To me, handmade means buying quality at a fair price. I think we should put more thought into the things we purchase and buy things that are built to last. The values we are fed through social media and marketing encourage people to buy the latest model and the newest technology. We spend so much money on things that are engineered to fail, or have a very limited lifespan. We buy clothes that go out of fashion before we can wear them out. We are importing stuff from China that is filling up our landfills here. I think if we put more thought into our everyday purchases, and shopped locally we would spend less and pollute less.

Can you explain a bit about your making/sewing process?

When I work with a client for a custom piece I start with a discussion about what they are looking for and ask for photo references. I will draw up a rough sketch, and present leather samples for approval. Then I draft a pattern and cut a sample out of vinyl or canvas, using the actual hardware for the piece and present it to the client. Once I’m given the go ahead I cut the project from leather and either machine or hand sew the finished product. If I’m not working with a client I will test out the product for a week or so before I produce more for retail sale.

What’s your favourite part of the process? 

This probably sounds cheesy, but my favourite part is presenting the final product to a client. I know how special it feels to have something that is one of a kind, and uniquely yours. I get incredible satisfaction from releasing a finished product to a happy new owner.

What’s the best thing about hand-making for a living? 

Making my own schedule! I don’t sit in rush hour traffic. I don’t get up before 7am. I’m a night owl so I work the hours that suit me best.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about selling their handmade work? 

Start now. Stop making excuses that you’re not ready. Experiment a lot and take lots of risks.


Check out the other items available from Natalie in her Etsy Shop!   You can also find her here:
Instagram: @haversack_leather
Facebook: haversack
Upcoming Markets: Natalie will be at the Pop Up Flea Market at the Thornhill Community Centre Sunday November 29, 2015 from 11-5.

Interviewed by Kvetka of  OohLaLaBeadtique, November 20, 2015 in Toronto. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vendor call: Humbercrest Holiday Craft Fair


Are you a crafter, artist, or designer? Be a part of the festive season at Humbercrest Public School (14 St. Mark's Road) and market your hand-crafted creations to holiday shoppers.  Almost 500 families attend this 100 year-old school that is situated in the west end of the city neighbouring the Baby Point, Bloor West Village and Junction communities.

All vendors welcome! Please email for an application.

Tables (6 ft) are available for rent at $30 each. All products must be made by you. You may not sell other people’s work. Please submit product description with application via email.

You are guaranteed a space once full payment has been received.

All interested vendors must fill out a brief application form and submit by November 30, 2015.

All vendors welcome! Please email for an application or click here to register online

For additional vendor information, please contact:
Irene Papadimitriou 647-879-1177
Kristen Juschkewitsch 416-561-6479

Vendor Call: Leslieville Market


What: Leslieville Christmas Pop-up Market (2nd Annual)

When: Sat - Sun Dec 12-13 (11am - 6pm)

Where: 25 Booth Ave (Free Parking)

For artisans, clothing designers, craft-folk, food vendors. We have 10
spaces left in the largest Christmas market on the Eastside.

Please apply at  Email:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Vendor Call: Fort York Frost Fair Christas Market!

Fort York is looking for vendors for our annual Frost Fair Christmas Market! We are looking for vendors selling jewellery, Christmas ornaments, soap, candles, tea, cards, etc. There is no vendor fee. A very limited number of tables are available, and we encourage you to bring your own. For more information, please email Alice Flahive at

Event information:

Frost Fair: Christmas Market Past & Present

December 5 & 6, 10 am – 4 pm
Fort York National Historic Site
250 Fort York Blvd.

It's time to celebrate Frost Fair at Fort York!

Stroll through the historic 1812 buildings of Fort York, where merchants will be selling their heritage inspired reproductions, regency fashions and holiday greenery. Experience military demonstrations, children's drill workshops, games and crafts. Enjoy heritage cuisine, try on historic costumes and print a Frost Fair souvenir on the Mackenzie House proof press. Visit with the Fort York Volunteer Historic Cooks in the Officer's Mess Kitchen as they prepare late 18th and early 19th century recipes.

In the new Visitor Centre, shop for unique Christmas gifts for friends and family from local artisans and Etsy sellers. Visit a Sugar Plum demonstration and talk by the Culinary Historians of Canada, sample historic negus ice and ginger ice cream during your visit. Savour gourmet pretzels, handmade shortbread, heritage chocolate and more. Enjoy dance performances and Christmas carolers all weekend long.

Regular admission applies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Vendor call: Pink Xmas Market

Are you an artist, writer, crafter or designer? Want to market your creations to holiday shoppers while helping to fund the 519's programming? The 519 creates space for change, contributing to the advancement of LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Toronto and beyond through vital programs and services. Apply now for PINK XMAS, a holiday market at the 519 Community Centre in Toronto's Church-Wellesley Village, December 12-13, 11 am to 5 pm.
Secure your own table for $150 (which includes a $75 tax-deductible donation to the 519). If you've just got a few products (greeting cards, zines, or jewelry), stock them in the Marketplace area staffed by volunteers for $50.
We'll be bringing the festive atmosphere with live performances, holiday treats, and more! 
Visit to apply!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fall's is a favorite fashion season for many.  It's time to break out the jackets, layer up and load up on chunky socks and boots.  Keep your eyes peeled for oversized silhouettes, luxurious plaids and touches of fuzz.  Below are some great Toronto trends from your TEST Members to inspire you to get cozy with your wardrobe this Fall:

Plaid is having a moment on the runway.  Designers are partial to a tartan print because it adds an interesting dose of color to a classic print.  Since us Torontonians are all are guilty of overdoing black in the winter, it's nice to see some colors to brighten up the mood.
Plaid Wool Wrap - $184.22 USD - VespertineCA
Vespertine's plaid wrap embraces the chill.  The quality will warm your heart and the color will warm up your wardrobes.

The waist is making a climb far up past the belly button for a look that is super slimming and very sexy.
High Waist Plaid Pants - $46.50 USD - Wild Thing Vintage
Don't just try out any old high waist this season.  Look for exaggerated, supersonic high waist silhouettes that create the look of long, lean legs and a teeny tiny mid-section.  Check out these stylish high waist plaid pants from Wild Thing Vintage.  (Fall Fashion just doesn't get better than that folks.)  Also, be sure to check out Wild Thing's shop, as she has many more dramatically high waisted treasures!

From fur stoles to pastel furry coats, designers are using fur accents, whether real or faux, to give everything an added ooph of luxury.  This season, clothing with a "touch of fuzz" is guaranteed to get you noticed and keep you warm.
Fur Hat - $45.00 USD - Juliesinden
We've been seeing hints of fur on gloves, boots, collars, hats and even on handbags.  It's clear that a fur accessory is the ultimate embellishment.

The fringe trend is still going strong, with virtually every designer including frayed fabrics in their collections. Those more daring can opt for a fringed jacket or top like this beauty from Copious Fashions.  This fringe crop top can be easily dressed down with jeans or dressed up with a skirt.  No matter how it is paired it will never be boring.
Fringe Two
Fringe Top - $73.54 USD - Copious Fashions

If you're a newbie to the this playful trend, a fringed bag is perfect for you!  We are absolutely loving the quality of this clutch from Heather Hird Designs.
Step aside statement necklaces! Oversized, exaggerated, embellished, bold earrings are officially the “it bling" for Fall 2015. Fall looks to have an obsession with the oversized style. We've seen oversized duster jackets, extra-high platform creeper boots and super-large buttons.
These large black feather earrings by Love At First Blush are perfect for the Fall season.  We love the exaggerated bright gold on the black.  We imagine they are so much fun to wear!

Last (but not least) on the home decor front, textile wall hangings are having quite a decor moment.  The look is a little bit Bohemian, a little bit classed-up 70's and span from macramé to weavings to simple yarn hangings.
Found in a huge array of colors and styles (sometimes macramé, sometimes tufted yarn), these fibrous fixtures have found their way onto the walls many a stylish home. Take a look at local shop, Roving Textiles to find some of our favorite works of tapestry textile art.

Show your fellow TEST Members some love by shopping local this Fall.  By shifting just a portion of your spending, you can help create more jobs, a stronger economy and build a better community here in Toronto.  Happy shopping and happy warm 'n' wooly wardrobes!
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