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Category: Made in Canada

Meet the Maker – Blue Lake & Rocky Shore

Looking for comfy cozy home decor? Look no further than the nearest “Blue Lake & Rocky Shore” 😉 Read on to learn all about Jillian and her company…

Please tell us a bit about yourself and one interesting fact.

I live in Richmond Hill, Ontario with my husband, two kids and two dogs. Before I had my children, I worked in the IT field in downtown Toronto. After becoming a mother, I decided that I really didn’t want to return to that career, with the commute and the long hours. I started really getting into sewing many years ago, and decided that I’d like to try and make a living doing what I love. I initially started doing alterations for people in my neighbourhood, but soon decided that I needed a better creative outlet. After coming up with many design ideas for decor products, I decided to take the plunge and start making my own designs to sell to others.

I grew up on a lake in Northern Ontario, and as a result, am continually inspired by the landscape of the Great Canadian Shield. I love creating items that remind of me the outdoors and of being at the cottage (or “camp” for us Sudburians!) I’ve lived in Southern Ontario for many years now, but I still like creating items that remind me of home.

How do you balance parenthood with your business?

Working out of my home has been great in allowing me to be available to my kids when they’re not in school. I can set my own hours and work when it’s convenient for me. My kids are older now – 18 and 14, so it’s not the kind of hands-on parenting that younger children require, but I still want to be here for them. Before my daughter got her driver’s license, it was great to be able to chauffeur her and my son to all of their after school activities. If I’d been working a typical 9-5 job, that wouldn’t have been possible. This business has allowed me a lot of flexibility, for which I’m grateful.

My daughter is set to move away for school in September, but my son will still be here and I feel very lucky that I can be around when he gets home from school every day.

Do you have a favourite item in your store?

I think my favourite item would have to be the Lumberjack Pillow Cover. It’s red and black buffalo plaid flannel, and it’s made to look like a buttoned-up flannel shirt. The buttons have moose on them, for an even more outdoorsy look. I called it the Lumberjack because the flannel shirt look reminded me of what a lumberjack might wear to chop down trees. Because it’s flannel, it’s soft and cozy, just like a good flannel shirt should be.

What is the story behind your business name?

My business name, Blue Lake & Rocky Shore, comes from a line in an old Canadian classic song, called, “Land of the Silver Birch.”

The song goes as follows:

Land of the silver birch

Home of the beaver

Where still the mighty moose wanders at will

Blue lake and rocky shore

I will return once more…

Can you describe your process and how long it takes to produce a piece?

I keep a sketch book handy and I am constantly drawing pictures of the ideas that pop into my head. Usually when I get a new idea, I’ll spend some time drawing different versions of it, until I find one that I think will work. Then I make a prototype. Sometimes I’ll have fabric already that works for what I want to make. Otherwise I’ll get what I need and start cutting and sewing. Sometimes I think I’ll be making one thing, and then during the process, I change it into something else. Maybe I was going to make a 14″ x 14″ square pillow, but then I decide to make a bolster instead. How long it takes entirely depends of how intricate the design is. Products with appliqués take much longer than those without. Once I’ve finished sewing, I’ll decide if it needs anything else – trim or buttons or some other detail. Once I’m satisfied with how it looks, I make note of the design elements and keep all of these in a pattern file on my computer.

Describe your work-space and your top tools are.

My work space used to be a combination of my kitchen and dining room. I used to keep all of my materials upstairs in my master bedroom and my current projects spread out on my dining room table. I would haul my sewing machine into my kitchen each day to work. Needless to say, this was not very convenient!

Last fall, we had our basement finished and I now have a whole big section of it as a dedicated work space. I turned the unused space under the stairs into a closet where I store pillow forms and shelves of fabrics. It’s great to be able to close the door and not have all of that clutter out in the open. I have a sewing table, and big storage hutch and a nice, big cutting table. Most days I’m down in my studio working, listening to music or podcasts (true crime are my faves!) It’s such a pleasure to have this space to work in.

My top tool is of course my sewing machine! I also love my rotary cutter and mat. They make straight cuts a breeze.

Do you receive many custom orders and if so, how much input do clients have?

I receive many custom orders and clients typically have as much input as they’d like. I recently made new couch cushions for someone’s cottage, and she chose the fabric herself. Sometimes people will ask me to make a personalized blanket for a baby or child, and other than telling me the child’s name, they leave the design up to me. Or sometimes they’ll give me an idea as to the room’s theme, or something the child really likes, and then I’ll take it from there.

I’ve also made a few memory quilts. In those cases, the clients handed over their items and didn’t see them again until the quilt was complete. I think they liked the surprise.

Do you ever make anything for yourself?

I try to sneak in a few projects for myself once in awhile. I used to make clothes for myself pretty regularly, but I’m too busy for that now. Being tall, it was great for me to be able to make things that actually fit me properly. Usually if I have a little time for a personal project, it’ll end up being something for one of my children. One tradition we have is that I make them pyjamas every year for Christmas.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’m a swimmer and have been swimming with the Richmond Hill Masters for the past 14 years. Not only is it a great workout, but we’re a very social group and I’ve made amazing friendships with my fellow swimmers. I am also an avid reader and have belonged to a book club for the past 13 years. As much as I love reading, it’s really the other women in the book club that make it so much fun. My favourite thing to do on a Friday night is to binge watch whatever series I’m currently into on Netflix. I especially like the Nordic noir shows from countries like Sweden and Denmark. I also love British mysteries – whether in television or book form.

And of course spending time with my family is number one!

Trail hike or lake swim?

Definitely lake swim! I had the wonderful privilege of growing up on a beautiful lake in the city of Sudbury, called Long Lake. Every day in the summer I was in the lake, swimming with friends. We had a peddle boat that my best friend and I would take on adventures down the lake. In winter, my father would shovel a huge rink on it and flood it with the hose to make it smooth for skating. We’d also snowmobile and cross-country ski on Long Lake. My bedroom faced the lake and at night, I’d fall asleep to the sounds of the water. I can’t imagine a better place to live than on a lake. Trail hikes are nice, but lake swims are the best!

Come meet Jillian at our Made in Canada Market on September 23, or check her out online at

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/BlueLakeRockyShore
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Blue-Lake-Rocky-Shore-552639408267681/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blue_lake_and_rocky_shore/

Meet the Maker – Amanda Brittin

If you’re in the market for an inspiring and beautiful piece of jewellery, Amanda Brittin is your go-to! Read on to find out more about Amanda and how she comes up with her creations..

Please tell us a bit about yourself and one interesting fact.

I work with hammer and torch to create hand-forged rustic sterling silver, bronze and gemstone jewelry. With a background in Anthropology and Archaeology, I am very influenced by the jewelry pieces that have been excavated from ancient Roman and Viking sites and this has been the source of inspiration for my recent “Unearthed” series of bronze and silver work.

Although I no longer work in Archaeology, I still occasionally design and install museum exhibitions!

How Does your work reflect your personality and overall approach to life?

Form and function are very important to me! When I go about my day to day life, the pieces of art that I enjoy the most are the things that I “use”, the functional things that are handmade and beautiful and I can enjoy as more than just a piece of art on the wall. I love my visual art too, but I get the most pleasure out of things that I can actually use; things like my hand-thrown tea pot, my funky mosaic toothbrush holder and my lovely hand-made bird feeders. Over my years as an artisan making a big variety of artwork, from floorcloths to mosaics, concrete sculpture to jewelry, this has always been the thing that informed my work – make stuff that is useful and beautiful, whether it is personal adornment or a mat in front of a kitchen sink.

What would you say has been your biggest learning curve since beginning your business?

One of the more challenging aspects of business is to keep on top of business development. I may make beautiful jewelry, but unless I can get it out there in the public eye, no one will appreciate it and sales will not happen. Keeping up with daily activity in social media and maintaining frequent contact with clients has been something that I have had to become quite disciplined with. I have noticed that when I am really busy with other things and don’t keep up with my Etsy listings, Instagram and Facebook feeds, my business can really lag. I have developed a pattern now, where I choose a certain time of day and make sure to post or be active at that time!

How long does the average item take for you to create?

The average sterling silver and gemstone ring will take me several hours to design, but once I know what I want to create, the actual time to make it is usually 2-3 hours. I find that the sketching and mulling over of a design idea is a time consuming part. Once I have solved the problem or come up with creative idea, then execution of that idea comes together fairly fast. Of course, there are always a few pieces that can take a whole day!

Describe your work-space and your top tools are.

I have a very small and joyful studio space that is connected to my house. It is only 9×11 feet in size and I pack a lot in there! I have two work benches set a different heights so that I sit at one and stand at the other. All my electrical equipment and my torch for jewelry-making are attached to these two benches. A floor to ceiling set of shelving lines one wall for shipping and packaging and my music system. My products are nicely set up in a little alcove to the side for clients to shop. I still manage to bring in a couple of lovely plants and have some great artwork on my colourful walls. My favourite aspect of my studio is that I have set up several bird feeders outside my big studio window and I have a pond out beyond those – what a view! How could this not bring joy to me as I work away creating jewelry?

Do you receive many custom orders and if so, how much input do clients have?

I think that the biggest reason for my success is my willingness to work on custom jewelry, largely driven by clients’ special requests. Even an Etsy inquiry as general as, “I saw this rounded triangular ring on my last trip to Latvia…could you make something like that?” will get my creativity flowing and I will try it out for a client with no expectation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it is not quite right, but the times that it is perfect and the client is thrilled, that makes it all worthwhile. I love to experiment and have no interest in mass production work, even though it is more financially feasible, so customized orders are my main business! I would say that customized and made-to-order account for half my business!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am an avid bird-watcher and traveler with a passion for hiking in the American southwest. If I have a bit of free time during the week, I love to enjoy the wonderful forest tracts in York Region and will head out with a friend for a hike! I usually take my camera as there are almost always birds to see and capturing one or two on a hike makes the outing just perfect!

You can find Amanda’s gorgeous creations at our Made in Canada Market on September 23rd or you can follow her online!

Etsy: www.etsy.com/ca/shop/amandabrittin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amandajanebrittin
Instagram: @amandabrittin

Meet the Maker – Wildgrove Apothecary

Did you know that soap starts out as oil and water? The science behind soap making is fascinating and one that I love dearly (I used to be a soap maker..) I love how simple Elizabeth’s creations are – tapping into the goodness that mother nature has to offer! Read on to find out how Elizabeth started out!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and one interesting fact.

I am fairly simple. I love being outdoors, dogs, and knitting.

Where did your business idea come from?

Like many people, my business developed from personal need. My skin is extremely sensitive to all the chemicals in modern skin care products. Even some well known ‘natural’ products would cause it to break out or became red and irritated. So I created my first products–the Lavender and Frankincense moisturizer and cleanser–out of pure desperation. When I saw the changes to my skin after using them for a few weeks, I started making it for family and friends. And, my business grew from there.

How does your work reflect your personality and overall approach to life?

I am a nature-loving, simple, organic type of person and my products reflect that fully. They are 100% natural, organic and made with simple and pure ingredients.

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What would you say has been your biggest learning curve since beginning your business?

My biggest learning curve since starting my business has been social media. Being visible on social media does not come naturally for me, so learning what and where to post has been a deep learning experience.

Where do you get inspiration for developing new products?

My inspiration comes from two places; family and friends, and the plants themselves. When a friend or family member approaches me with some kind of health or skin issue, I start playing around in the kitchen trying to come up with an effective remedy or recipe. My friends call it “Kitchen Witching”, because it usually involves a lot of herbs, a mortar and pestle and great smelling essential oils. For example, I formulated my Hot Flush products after a friend approached me because she wanted relief from the discomfort of hot flashes. My Healing Skin Balm was devised for a friend suffering from eczema. My Honey, Lavender and Frankincense Cleanser and Moisturizer duo were designed for me, who has hyper sensitive, aging, yet prone-to-breakout skin. The second way I receive inspiration is from the plants themselves. As I discover more and more about their amazing healing gifts, I devise products designed to showcase these medicinal uses. For example, I’m working on a soap made from nettles, which is amazing for inflamed, irritated skin so it would be great for people with rashes, eczema, or psoriasis.

How long does the average item take for you to create?

It depends on the product. Soap can take a few hours to make, but then takes 4-6 weeks to cure. My lotions and balms can me made in an hour or two.

Do you have a favourite item in your store?

My faves change depending on my needs. Right now I’m having trouble sleeping, so I am in love with my Dream Cream. It’s a body butter that has been formulated using essential oils renowned for their relaxing and sedating qualities. Using it just before bed helps me sleep soundly.

What is the story behind your business name?

That is a good question. I wanted something that represented what I did and what I valued, so it had to be a name that made reference to the woods or forest as so many of my materials come from trees and plants. The apothecary part came from what I was doing with these plants–taking them from nature and formulating them into products that nourish and heal.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love getting out of the city and heading to the cottage. A walk in the forest or swim in the lake, always rejuvenates me. At home, when I can’t get away for any extended period, I love walking my dogs in the wooded ravine by my house.

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Any advice for a new Handcrafted Maker who is setting up a shop?

Just keep going, one step at a time. It will definitely seem daunting and feel overwhelming at times, but just keep moving forward one task at a time. Oh….and make sure you use tags…

What is your bestselling item? Why do you think it is the most popular?

My Healing Skin Balm is my best selling item. It’s popular because it works. It’s rich and creamy, smells great and helps ease the discomfort of eczema or psoriasis. I love to put it on my feet at night. When I wake up in the morning, my feet feel fantastic!

Do you do this full time? If not, how do you balance your day?

No, I am a full time high school teacher. I balance my day by taking advantage of my evenings and weekends, as well as any time off. Summer vacation, Christmas and March Break are all times I work crazily on my business. During the school year, it’s weekends and evenings.

What has been the most challenging aspect of being a creative business owner?

For me, the most challenging aspects of being a creative business owner has been social media. I am fairly shy and introverted by nature, so being visible on social media has been a struggle. I am learning though.

Did you take classes to learn the skills you utilize or are these self taught practices of trial and error?

Both. I take lot of classes on herbalism and plant medicine making, as well as aromatherapy, but my products themselves are often trial and error. Even though I might have the right formulation of plant and herbs, I sometimes have to experiment with the best way to get it onto the skin, whether it should be a lotion, salve, cleanser, balm, etc.

Find all of Elizabeth’s concoctions at our Made in Canada Market on September 23rd, or follow her online channels!

Website: www.wildgroveapothecary.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/wildgroveapothecary

Instagram: @wildgrove_apothecary