I first met Kalpna (aka Ghost Face Knittah) when she attended a Church of Craft gathering and spent the afternoon crocheting one of her little bears. This was one of the first times I had witnessed the wonders that were possible with crochet. My next encounter was when she participated in the Spring Thing Trunk Show last year. Kalpna opened up her trunk and proceeded to set up a charming display on birch logs of woodland-inspired jewelry. (She had me at birch logs!) There was just no way I could resist one of her acorn necklaces. I’m excited to see what other wonders appear when her trunk pops open this Sunday at the Love & Rummage Trunk Show!
How did you start down the road to craft?
KALPNA : Starting to make things myself was a direct by-product of being an accessories-obsessed but pathetically poor teenager in Toronto. Weekends were spent pressing my nose up against the glass of all the great shops on Queen West, ogling the jewellery and bags and fun clothes. Sometimes I’d have the courage to go in and actually fondle something, marvel at all the components and details, but always left empty-handed. Everything changed when I discovered how accessible and affordable jewellery-making supplies were, and I started to hit the bead shops instead. As any crafty person can attest, making things is highly habit-forming, and I just kept looking for interesting things to string up and wear around my neck. Three or four years ago I decided to step up my game and took a beginner’s metalsmithing class with Tosca Teran at her studio. Besides teaching me the basics, Tosca made me realize how possible everything is, and I’ve been consulting her (and using her soldering station!) ever since. I’m excited that I no longer make things just because I’m too broke to buy them, but because the process of putting things together and selecting all the right bits has become so much more rewarding that just the mere acquisition of stuff.
What does the name Old Weston mean to you? Is there a story behind it?
KALPNA : Old Weston Road is my street, I’ve lived there for over twenty years. While I love it dearly and can’t imagine living anywhere else in the city, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not a particularly pretty street. It’s busy and noisy with traffic all day and most of the night, and there’s no green space. Growing up on Old Weston Road meant no ball-hockey in the street (too many cars) or jump-rope on the sidewalk (too narrow) so as kids, my sister and I would wait until the liquor store directly behind our house closed for the day so we could play frisbee and badminton in its parking lot! Across the street is a Roman Catholic Church that shines brilliantly at Christmas, and six doors to the right is a gas station that gets held up about twice a month. When we first moved here in ’86, the house attached to mine was a record store/recording studio called “Classic Sound” owned by a serious Rootsman named Ozzy, which provided a killer reggae soundtrack to my intensely urban childhood – I swear it was straight out of an Ezra Jack Keats storybook!
All this to say that finding beauty and inspiration on the block was (and is) no easy feat, and also to explain what I feel is a hypersensitivity to the natural world and small, natural wonders (like acorns!). As a kid (and even now) my only interaction with anything other than a concrete landscape is an hour or two spent in High Park (which is luckily just a twelve-minute bus ride away) or in my small backyard, where stumbling upon a tiny mushroom, a magical clump of moss, or a strange little flower (more likely a weed) is a momentous event. I will never forget the awe of finding these “rare” treasures, and how I would bring them indoors and desperately hope for them to last forever, turn them into something I could grow, take care of, or even wear (I distinctly remember my sister calling me a moron after catching me trying to shellac the crap out of a daisy – an eight-year-old’s attempt at turning it into a pendant). I have Old Weston Road to thank for my fascination and appreciation for all things natural, and for reminding me that there are wonders hiding everywhere, in even the most drab environments. Also, I make everything in my bedroom (and in the dining room, kitchen, and basement), and so life on Old Weston Road assures me that it’s okay not to have a studio or fancy workspace – it’s proof that if you want it bad enough, a creative, crafty life can be maintained and enjoyed any old place. Old Weston is my ‘hood; it’s why I make the things I make; I hope to enhance it’s charm, one silver acorn at a time.
What/Who is inspiring you these days?
KALPNA : In keeping with my unofficial mandate of trying to fabricate portions of the natural world that I don’t experience enough of (or sadly, that I may never see at all), I am utterly beguiled by Helle Jorgensen’s blog – “gooseflesh” – which the lovely Angelune Deslauriers directed me to. Her crocheted sea creatures and coral are breathtaking, and I hope to crochet some sea urchins for my windowsill soon (I destroyed a small collection of them in a dusting incident over the summer). And, since I spend almost every waking moment of my life surrounded by books, I’ve become increasingly drawn to children’s book illustration (ha! Get it? Drawn?!) – all the OG illustrators like Leo Lionni, Richard Scarry, and Gyo Fujikawa, and contemporaries like Marc Boutavant and Sara Varon. I think it may be time to sharpen them coloured pencils!
What was the last book you read?
KALPNA : I actually haven’t finished a book in quite a while. I’ve gotten into the really bad habit of getting into too many books at once (just like craft projects, I think I’ve currently got about eight on the go) and working full-time at the bookshop only encourages this kind of non-committal reading since people expect me to know a little something about everything on the shelf. I think the last book I read in its entirety was Jeremiah, Ohio – a novel in poems by Toronto’s own Adam Sol. It’s about Jeremiah (you know, like the prophet from the Bible?) and a truck driver named Bruce who go on a road trip across America and deliver prophecies in strip-mall parking lots as they make their way to the promised land of New York City. It’s a great read – beautiful, funny, tragic, a little bad-ass. I’ve never read poetry with such plot development before. I like it!
Are you going to be selling some rummage at the sale? If yes, what??!
KALPNA : Oh, I’ve got rummage. I’m hoping to share my “Bombay stash” – crafts, supplies and mementos that I’ve collected during two visits to that city – particularly some handmade, Indian paper gift boxes and envelopes scored from Chimanlals (an incredible “paper culture” shop), some glass and wooden beads, as well as some wonderfully tacky brooches and accessories that have some serious Bollywood flava.
What Valentine gift would melt your heart?
KALPNA : It wouldn’t take much to make my heart melt – a couple cupcakes from The Cupcakery, a well-chosen book (no one ever gives me books), or a snowy romp through High Park. Oh, and there’s a new Morrissey album coming out soon, that would be a perfect Valentine’s gift.