A little about me:
I’m Amy, mother of three two in my arms, one in my heart, wife to an Australian Geologist living in northern Ontario where I’ve lived for my whole life near the north shore of Lake Superior. We live with our four dogs on a hill facing the Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay, Ontario. My daughter is currently away at university studying political science and law with an interest in human rights; and I am so very proud of the woman she’s growing into. I’m a work from home mom chasing my busy rainbow baby boy, now two years old and into everything. He’s got the energy of two boys, I think perhaps because he’s got a little bit of his brother in him. Our life is full, but always empty without our son Finn. Losing Finn (just four months after losing my mother to breast cancer in 2013) made time stand still for a while. What’s evolving out of it is Olives and Bananas.
I grew up on property along the Current River adjacent to Wishart Conservation Forest, spending most of my childhood wandering fearlessly in the beautiful boreal wilderness. Tall trees and wild flowers still bring me peace. My parents were both educators: my mother an art historian, researcher and writer, who studied trees in her spare time and became an advocate for heritage architecture through her appreciation for history and what it means to our human experience. She taught me to sew, bake, and encouraged all creative endeavors. My father grew up during World War II in the Netherlands, and witnessed horrific defeat and felt utter despair as a child, from which he developed a deep respect for equality and cared more deeply for human rights and freedom than anyone I’ve ever known. He was an eccentric mathematician and professor who raised chickens, ducks, and geese on our country property – all of which I adored. He taught me a lot about biology and botany, and the scientific view.
Childhood food sensitivities helped me develop an interest in gardening and growing my own food from a young age. I’ve studied horticulture for as long as I can remember, and am a slowly progressing student though the University of Guelph’s open education program – something I doubt I’ll ever finish but will continue to do forever because it’s endlessly interesting. After learning and experiencing Old Fort William’s heritage garden I have found immense joy working at local greenhouses. The work itself isn’t always fun, it’s physically challenging, the knowledge requirement is full and complicated, and yet anyone who walks into a greenhouse will immediately say, “gosh it would be so relaxing to work here…”, and somehow, with all that, it still is. It is comfortable being with plants (and the air is better too).
At university I studied anthropology first but found myself delving into religious studies and philosophy constantly. I became a single mother at 24 and continued school studying English literature and again philosophy. I remember when I set off I wanted to learn “why people do what they do, what are they thinking, what makes them tick” but not from the sociology or psychology perspective, I wasn’t quite sure what perspective I was after at the time, I was just after something. Anthropology seemed like a good start since it seemed to start at the start…, um… , (does that make sense?). I’m firmly agnostic but believe you can’t study human nature without understanding religious studies and philosophy. I think people are interesting, and what they do and create is noteworthy, but understanding why they do it is what intrigues me. I found the answers when I studied English literature. The history, politics, and matters of life all spill out in the writing; writing from the heart, writing with purpose, …it is what matters most and is what tells the most. Everything comes out in stories, poems, art, because comes from the heart of the people – it tells the real story.
Gardeners are a great study which makes working in greenhouses a source for understanding human nature, learning, compiling, sourcing, sharing information, whether it’s creating beauty of fending off disease it’s all a part of renewal. I’m discovering crafters are very much the same. It seems many of us turn to creating as a source for healing. Craft as therapy, much like gardening therapy, is all about the process: design, colour, texture, senses, creating, time, patience, the final product and all the enjoyment it brings – even if as brief as a peony bloom in the rain.
When my mother became ill she renewed an interest in knitting as a a way to combat the neuropathy brought on by chemotherapy. I tried to knit. I was taught by countless expert knitters, but never caught on. Instead I sat in the chair beside my mother’s bed and balled yarn and enjoyed hours of conversation with her and friends who joined us about the fibre arts.
After the loss of Finn I found needle felting had a healing effect through the quiet creative process.What developed was a love for wool, and a deeper respect for the animals who provide us with beautiful workable fibre. Through that, a quirky art I think I’ve always fostered started to take centre stage. It began with making thank you gifts for the people who helped us the most and grew into an outlet to provide handmade, thoughtfully made keepsakes for all kinds of people. I quickly fell in love with how wool is like clay – colourful clay, and can be molded in endless ways to create anything. It made so much sense to me, Since then I’ve studied a lot more about sheep and wool than I have about needle felting. I enjoy discovering for myself how the tools work, and how they work with different fibres. My techniques are an ever evolving experiment.
My retail wool (the wool I sell by weight, and in kits) is sourced from Ashland Bay. It is a beautiful 21.5 micron merino top wool, super soft, easy to felt and results in a smooth soft sculptures and other fibre art. It’s the best I’ve worked with. I do also use wool from other sources in my work. The more I learn about the art of yarn the more I’m drawn to wool from thoughtful animal carers. More and more I’m buying from sheep, goat, and alpaca rescues which is then dyed and painted in small batches. Not only is this the nicest yarn to work with, but it feels like the next step in the creative process.
I learned to crochet about a year after Finn lived and died. My thoughtful friend Sheri taught me a few simple stitches and sent me off with the confidence that I would know what to do next…, and I did. Combining crochet with my needle felted projects resulted in the development of Olives and Bananas, this small ‘made by me’ business named in honour of my three children: Oliver and Hannah are held together in my logo with a small dragonfly representing my little Finn, who inspired it all 💙 always nearby, always magical.