Rita Van Tassel Studio
Creativity and entrepreneurship are two elements that have been modelled for me throughout my life. My parents have run a cobbler and leather goods and repair shop in a local town for over 35 years, a skill which they were taught by my grandfather. Mom stayed home with my siblings and I as pre-school age children and I have memories of playing in the living room while she stitched purses on the large Singer machine behind us. As I got a bit older I would “help” Mom at craft shows and I had a little basket at the corner of her table where I would sell knotted friendship bracelets. While I was hardly turning a profit the idea that people would pay money for things that I made was empowering.
As an artistic child in the 1980s fantasy movies like The NeverEnding Story and Return to Oz played huge roles in fueling my imagination, but nothing had quite the impact as the works of Jim Henson. The unique worlds and stories that he and his team created such as Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Muppet Show theatre have an influence on most projects I do. I continue to be a bit of a sci-fi and supernatural movie nut and have a collection of vintage Muppet Show memorabilia that I display throughout my house!
Having earned my BFA as well as BEd has allowed me to deliver Art and Craft instruction in both private and public institutions over the past 15 years. My biggest take-away from all that is realizing just how much everyone wants to create. They want to MAKE things. The biggest hurdle is knowing where, or how, to start. Kits are such a perfect way to enable a person to sample a new skill in a small project form. Felt is the ideal medium to use for starter sewing kits as it feels so soft in your hands, is strong, comes in wide range of colours and is already familiar to so many people.
I have never been a minimalist and my little home-based studio is always filled with fabric, felt, notions, toys and any other bits that I find inspirational. My two black cats - Gonzo and Mokey - always have soft spots in which to curl up nearby. I’m so privileged to live in such a beautiful and artistically-minded area as Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, within a province that I’ve lived in my whole life. The kits and sewing patterns that I’ve produced so far are just the start of an ever-growing collection of animal creations that I hope will both educate and entertain people!