Posts tagged studio tour
Artist Series : Ospre Studio
Artist Series :  Ospre Studio
My heart is in taking all the things that I like, that make me who I am and turning them into images. There is an inherent nostalgia attached to that and it comes through in my work.

Shortly before graduating from Sheridan Institute's Interpretive Illustration program, Elissa Barber packed her bags and headed out with two friends on a road trip.  "We based ourselves in Belfast for a summer and toured Ireland in a rental car," she says from her studio in Hamilton. The car, they crashed into a rock near Limerick. "But I fell in love, was offered a full time job and ended up staying for almost five years," she says.

During her time in Northern Ireland, Elissa dabbled in different creative pursuits. She worked as a fashion buyer, styled shows for Belfast Fashion Week and launched a fashion editorial for a local music magazine, spending chunks of time travelling to Spain, Italy and Egypt. "A stark contrast to my life now!" she says of her experience. She continued to sketch all throughout her time there. "I was trying new things, figuring out where I fit in the world. But I was not really making any art and at this point," she says, "And I started to feel it." 

In her last year in Belfast, Elissa started illustrating for a magazine. Shortly after she returned to Hamilton, and to Sheridan Institute, to finish her degree.  Right out of school, Elissa worked on images for the book, A Circus Mind, with American poet and journalist Ryan Cox. "I was particularly honoured to have my work alongside other great illustrators like Dushan Milic and Jackie Oakley," she says of the project, "I was also given a lot of freedom there so it was a dream." 

Elissa Barber's bold, fluid drawings first caught my eye my eye on Instagram. So much so, that I decided to commission an original piece from her. I caught up with Elissa at her light filled studio on Ottawa Street. We instantly connected over mid century modern furniture and her latest finds from Mizener's Antique Market. When she framed my painting, I was so over the moon that we exchanged hugs. 

Working on a commission and delivering final artwork that wows the client is a dream and I couldn’t be happier.
Artist Series : Ospre Studio

Q&A

You currently live and create in Hamilton. What is your perception of Hamilton as an artist? 

As an artist... even saying it feels weird. It's only recently that I've started to feel part of the city and wider creative community because I was never really around it. But I love it. It's a special place and I've grown into it. I'm putting down roots now. I'm almost ready to face my experiences and channel them into my practice.  My husband and I bought a house on Ottawa Street North. I have a home studio filled with natural light and for the first time in a long time things feel comfortable.

How do you approach projects and what influences your process?

I've been gradually getting back into the idea of 'personal work. My background in illustration makes visual problem solving through art very comfortable. Whereas connecting with who I am and what I have to say is extremely uncomfortable. Technically in my approach, I keep some degree of gesture (looseness and immediacy) in my work. I like when things feel a bit unfinished. It's a challenge for me to force myself to step back and be done.

Artist Series : Ospre Studio
Artist Series : Ospre Studio

Are there artists that have influenced you personally?

Growing up I loved looking at the pictures by illustrators like Eric Carle and Charlie Harper.  I've always been drawn to work that has a sense of urgency and a more graphic, defined shape. Though I've moved away from it for now, I love life drawing and figurative work. Alice Neel was my biggest inspiration. Her work feels of its time, yet completely fresh. I also have an affinity for drawings and printmaking done by famous artists like Picasso and Matisse, as well as their pattern and surface design. There have been so many but these are the most notable. 

Speaking of influence, where do you draw inspiration from? 

I love things from the past and how cyclical trends are.  I don't have much interest in creating anything entirely new or innovative. There are artists out there who do an amazing job of that but it's just not natural to me.  I'm inspired by my travels, family and friends. I love antiques and flea markets. Living on Ottawa Street is a dream. I walk the dog through Gage Park every morning. I weave and cook in my spare time. I've always been into fashion and have diverse taste in music. I think all of these things start to come through in my images. I've also been obsessed with interior design since we bought our house and can't leave Houzz or Apartment Therapy alone. 

What is your advice to young artists?

Don't put pressure on yourself to be something you're not. Figure out what you love and what comes naturally, Continue to challenge yourself and try new things and you'll feel much more satisfaction in what you do. Above all don't give up. You'll find your tribe.


Elissa has an upcoming show titled 2x5 Monoprints - Bouquets and Budgies at Centre 3 in January. The opening reception is friday January 8, 7-1opm. The show runs until january 31, where she'll be displaying two different series of monoprints created from lithographs she printed at Centre 3.  You can currently purchase her work at Pretty Grit or on her etsy shop!

Gattina Swimwear
Gattina Swimwear recently opened a studio in the Empire Times at the corner of King Wiliam and Hughson. The building dates back to 1890 and formerly housed the Hamilton Times newspaper which lasted until 1920. King William has seen a transformation over the years, emerging as a cultural artery that connects to the James North arts community.

Occupying a studio space on the second floor, designer Natasha Gatto has created a cozy workspace for Gattina Swimwear, taking advantage of the high ceilings and natural light. Natasha graduated from the Fashion Techniques and Design program at George Brown College. "It was a vigorous program that taught you how to design, draft and sew in today's fashion industry," Natasha explains, "Though it barely touched on activewear and swimwear, I was always interested in designing swimwear." After working at Niko Apparel, a sportswear manufacturer in Hamilton, Natasha founded her own label in the spring of 2013. I visited her to talk about her new studio, swimwear collection and sunny vacation destinations.

What are the main influences behind your brand and its designs?
I don't like to use the words vintage and retro. But I do admire many styles and patterns from past eras, especially the 60s and 70s, though my styles do not represent them exactly. I try to convey a sense of delicateness and simplicity in my swimwear. And I love to show off a woman's body and highlight her best attributes. 

What is your creative process like in preparing for a collection?
I usually start to think of some styles I want to experiment with and when I draw one or two that I love, the rest start to follow. One idea inspires the next and before I know it I have a collection. Drafting and sewing follow -- I start to see my drawings come to life. It's a very gratifying feeling.

Your studio space is amazing. What made you choose Empire Times for your studio?
I looked at a few spaces in downtown Hamilton but the space at Empire Times just spoke to me. The moment I saw it, I envisioned myself working there. The other spaces I looked at just didn't give me the same vibe. It's truly in the centre of downtown and within walking distance to anywhere I need to go. The area is also seeing tons of unique and creative businesses and it's great to be among them all.

While at the studio you showed me the dresses you were working on. Do you have plans to expand into other design categories? What lied ahead for your label?
I am looking to release a knit line consisting of soft knits, sheer fabrics and very simple, minimalistic styles in dresses, shirts and skirts. The line will be out very soon for Fall/Winter 2014.

Who are some of your favourite Canadian fashion designers?
Rudsak is one of my favourite Canadian designers/stores because they have that rock and roll feel. I also love Pink Tartan and Mikael Kale, who I used to work for. 

Describe your perfect swim suit.
The perfect swimsuit to me is something simple and minimalist, but also striking. I love a strong solid colour, with a cut that reveals whatever part of your body you love most. 

Where would your dream vacation be?
Travelling across the south of France or the Amalfi coast.

You can order swim suits from Gattina Swimwear through Natasha's Etsy shop. Or you can reach out to her for a custom consultation.