It seems almost silly to try to introduce you to Becky Johnson for a couple reasons.
1. She is omnipresent in the craft scene here in Toronto and across the entire continent, actually. In addition to being my co-conspirator/organizer of the Trunk Shows at the workroom (it was her clever idea), she is also a part of City of Craft and Toronto’s Church of Craft. Plus, Becky is the talented lady behind Sweetie Pie Press, famous for one inch buttons galore, crochet neck warmers & hats and mystery loot bags. (and more and more)
3. You should really meet her in person. So I hope you’ll stop by the Hunt & Gather Trunk Show on Sunday.
What were you interested in as a kid? What were your favourite games to play?
BECKY : I know I had an interest in art and drawing as a child but my anti-specialist leanings were already emerging. I liked to tromp around in mud, watch things grow, catch frogs, hatch tadpoles, spin around… I guess I liked to play alone. Not much has changed. My parents also told me that I made up two games when I was little: ‘hot the mouse’ and ‘gun starvation.’ I would never explain to them how these games were played but I think that gun starvation had something to do with lying on the floor and pretending I was dying in the desert – again, alone.
Do you have any hidden talents we might not already know about?
BECKY : Hmmm… I have lots of talents! and I don’t know who knows about what. My non-craft life (and all my training and experience) is in performance. Apparently, I was pretty good at that once upon a time. Possibly I still am (if you ever see ‘Iron Cobra’ listed on a comedy bill, that is me and my comedy partner, Graham Wagner). I can also clean a salmon. I am passable in the identification of plants and also know a few useful knots.
One of your current projects – the security envelope project – centres around identifying and cataloguing patterns from around the world. Can you talk about your fascination with data collection? Also, what is the next step with this project?
BECKY : I don’t really understand my compulsion to keep track of things. The big secret is that I amass data but don’t do anything with it. I have a tally of every button I have ever made. I also tally sales at craft fairs and then input them into correlating spreadsheets. But that’s as far as that process goes. It feels like someday I will just have to do a big installation of all my lists, collections and files.
When it comes to the security envelope project, I think that kind of collecting stems from both my love of design and interest in stuff. With the internet ever present in our lives, the possibility of throwing something out into the ether (like: “will you send me your used envelopes?) and having your request granted is boggling to me. Although the security envelope project started as a personal search for design and pattern in the mundane, the collectivism into which it bloomed was a welcome evolutionary step. The project has now been out of my hands for a few months, with one complete collection at the Ontario Crafts Council and one steadily sun-bleaching in the workroom windows. It has been a nice fallow time but I am looking forward to having everything back. It is time. A few late contributions have come in, there is some sorting and counting to do and I want to get the project moving again. Right now, there are two areas in which it has to grow: (a) I have to scan all the patterns I have in order to put the images online and launch collection phase two (at a scant 300 patterns i am far from having enough collected) and (b) I would like to get the collections into more public displays and galleries. If you are a gallery and think this project has to tour to your space, let me know. Also, if you want to hand me a book deal…I’m listening…
What is one thing you’ve been hunting for, but have yet to find?
BECKY : It feels like there are so many things (if we are talking about the realm of objects). I have a big list of things I look for at thrift stores – old binders covered in blue fabric, green tupperware, orange glass bowls. In collecting similar items from thrift stores, I feel like I am reuniting families of objects. Since i work best with an integrated work/life space, I think what I really want to find is a way to have all the supplies I need for my art and craft while also having a clean and useful living space. I do, however, suspect that this might be an impossible lie perpetrated by design blogs, magazines and catalogues. But it’s a lie I dream of living.
What sorts of rummage will you be hawking at the upcoming trunk show?
BECKY : There is so much to choose from. I think I had the idea for rummage shows based on my own need to purge stuff. I amass things because I want them to be used/saved/rescued but am often happy to pass them along to good new homes. I have been trying to figure out a rummage focus for this show and after some literal rummaging through my supplies and collections, I think I have found a few areas to focus on. First, I am going to get tough with my collection of vintage pinback buttons and put a bunch of them out for the masses. I also might have stemware. And, naturally, some craft supplies – sewing buttons, yarns, fabrics…who knows what else I will unearth! my live/work dystopia is like a fun house of weird stuff.