Monday, February 2, 2009

Shop Local Series: OffTheHooks of Edmonton, Alberta

Ashley Markus is the artist behind OffTheHooks fiber art. She has lived in Edmonton, Alberta for about 4 years, and grew up in Southern Alberta. She says "growing up on the prairies has really affected my aesthetic; I love the vast expanse of sky and land, and often notice & appreciate the parallels between textiles and landscape". Moving to Edmonton and the noticeably colder winters also helped in the formation of her love of all things fiber. Ashley says "There's nothing cosier than curling up on a winter's night with a ball of yarn or fleece, and creating something soft, warm, fuzzy and colourful! I always think I would like to live in a warmer climate, but then I wonder "what would I make?"

The view of Downtown Edmonton in early January near Ashley’s home. The hill is where the Edmonton Folk Fest takes place in the summer.

Edmonton is known as "festival city" for a reason - there are many festivals throughout the year. Luckily for Ashley, she lives right up the hill from where the Edmonton Folk Fest takes place. She also enjoys the Street Performers Festival, and the numerous cultural & historical sites such as the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Her favourite thing to do in Alberta is to take random drives out of the city to see the beautiful countryside.

Sunset in Central Alberta

Ashley has been doing various forms of art for as long as she can remember- sketching, painting, clay & sculpture, jewelry-making, lampworking, and now, fiber. She got her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Lethbridge in 2005. Ashley says she loved the program because of its multidisciplinary nature. It wasn’t until she finished university, though, that she got into fiber- having participated in a number of projects focused on women's history, she was drawn to fiber & textiles. She also liked that she didn’t need a separate studio space to create. One of the most paramount motivations behind her work is the idea of "craftivism"; she does not simply work to make functional or pretty things, but creates craft as a form of resistance to mass-production, exploitation of labour, and the degradation of the environment.

Harvest Fingerless Gloves with hand-dyed, upcycled yarn

Using local materials is also important to Ashley- she believes in encouraging local economies as a way to counter some of the negative aspects of globalization. She is always looking for local suppliers, and has found quite a few- in the fall she visited an alpaca farm and got some fiber which she spun into this yarn:

Little Rainbows Handspun Local Alpaca Yarn

Edmonton is a pretty "crafty" city - there are many arts & crafts fairs, stores, and farmers markets where people sell their wares. Ashley began crocheting during gatherings with friends also known as "Stitch 'n Bitches". She was introduced to spinning via a visit to the Edmonton Weaver's Guild open house. After trying spinning she was instantly addicted. A few of the women involved with the guild mentored her, and she soon purchased a second hand wheel:

Ashley’s Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel

Thank-you Ashley for allowing us a peek into your life!
Please visit Ashley's shop on Etsy here:
and her blog here:


minouette said...

Lovely, evocative photos! I'm sure I will enjoy this series and learning more about team Canada members!

Congrats OffTheHooks on the feature!

Morgen said...

This is such an awesome series - thanks Ashley for your idea for this. I loved hearing about your interest in 'craftvism and how being a 'maker' is a form of resistance to mass production - Hear hear! I feel the same way.

laurabucci said...

Very nice to read. It's nice seeing a bit where our artisans are from. Those fingerless gloves look great. I love the colours.

PrairiePeasant said...

Great feature! I love the little peak into the window of fellow artisans' lives. And I am developing a real strong desire to knit handspun yarn!!

EterKnity said...

Excellent feature! It's great getting to know fellow Canadian artists. I love the harvest fingerless gloves and the picture concept is brilliant!!

Carol said...

Fantastic feature article, and wonderful photos too.

O C Baby said...

Great article, Morgen!!

How lucky you were to have someone take the time to share their talents with you, Ashley... Your work is beautiful!

Melanie L said...

Great post! I love the Harvest Fingerless Gloves! As a new crochetier (?), I'm attracted to these kinds of things now. Edmonton looks like a cool city, too! All that sky!

the rikrak studio said...

wonderful series - and i just love hearing these great stories! so wonderful to learn more about fabulous you, offthehooks!! love that spinning wheel, too!