Reclaimed: wood, leather, and local talent

Two weeks, two very different women who share one thing in common: they’re using their skill, time, and creativity, to make new things out of old. The theme this week: reclaimed. (First up, Lisa Morrissey. Scroll down for Willa Murray)

Lisa Morrissey of Dragonfly Handmade:

Lisa Morrissey collects old bits of birch tree, or palettes, and makes handcrafted art & home décor pieces, like a map of the world made of tree rings, or wooden coasters that aren’t afraid of the word ‘fuck’. She’s a no-bullshit kind of woman, with plenty of wisdom to offer. Parenting a younger child with two grown kids makes you a more patient mother, she says, and I believe it. I think it makes you a more patient and understanding human being, too.

Lisa has clearly found peace after life and health stresses tossed her about for years. She’s not ashamed to be exactly who she is. She’s not afraid of learning from scratch, and of starting small. Her business is barely a year old, and promoted mostly through word of mouth and at craft shows. But it’s clear she has a great deal of admiring supporters already: patrons of her business, but also people who have become her friends and who have nothing but kind words to say about Lisa.

I really didn’t know what to expect as I drove in her driveway on a rainy April morning. What I found was someone who - while taking a great deal more pride and craftsmanship than HomeSense in creating, say, a wooden tray - is humble, genuine, and kind. Not that you need to be a great person to have a good strong business, but it certainly makes for a better local community.

'The journey is the destination', a wooden sign reads just outside Lisa's brand new studio. Whether she realizes it or not, Lisa is the embodiment of that message. The journey doesn't end, until it does. Until then, let it bring you happiness and fulfilment.

You can read my original post about Lisa here. Below are some photographs of my day in her Elginburg studio. Read on for Willa Murray's story.


Willa Murray of Willa Murray Design:

Willa represents a rare breed of my generation (and I'm way older than she is): she upholds the lost trades of the world and brings beauty and modernity to them. Her skills as a carpenter - first learned from her father and later honed through years of study at college - mix perfectly with her passion for sewing.

It's a sunny day when I make the drive to meet her, and she's already covered in bits of leather or sawdust or cork when I find her focused over a high-powered machine in her workshop. She wears a dark brown pair of shoes she made and shows me her Maberly studio, which is an upstairs room in her heritage home. She and her husband restored the house themselves, complete with dark blue painted original wide-plank floors and exposed beams. (Outside, it is all colour, too. Yellow columns on the porch, red and green window trim, slate blue paneling, and the odd hula hoop).

A fox fur hangs on a nearby chair: a road kill victim that Willa's friend found and gifted her. While I admire all the stuffings of her workspace - antique cameras and spools of thread - Willa gets right to work cutting and stitching a piece of moose leather into a chisel roll. It's obvious she knows her craft, which is awe-inspiring for me because (1) I haven’t the faintest clue about leather-working and (2) I am forever on the lookout for people who are unabashedly practicing an expert skill they have put blood, sweat, and tears (and many years) into perfecting. I imagine the kind of fluidity with which she works would inspire many others, too, if they could see it. It is where craftsmanship meets artistry.

I have a very good sense that Willa is right where she belongs: in a small and - by the sounds of it - progressive and welcoming community near Perth, where she can do that which she loves, and teach students about it, too, at the local college. She's flying out to BC in two days to meet with other craftspeople and with family. When she returns, she's got plans for a new website, among other things. This particular business might be new to Willa, but she's been in this trade for nearly a decade and there's nothing which is trepidatious about her vision for making local goods. Her quiet wisdom and patience with her materials is pretty damn welcome in a world caught up with screens and social media hype. It reminds me to get back to working with my hands, even if it's just pulling weeds in the garden.

You can read my original post about Willa here. Below are some photographs of my day in her Maberly studio.