Hey hi hello to the second Ladies Who Launch – a guide to the “it” women of Ottawa - the women making a difference in the city we love and changing the way we live at the same time.
And who better to kick off our summer introductions than local art guru Rachel Stone.
It is impossible to pin down the one thing that makes Rachel a unique and important member of the Ottawa community. Can we say co-founder of the non-profit arts workshop series Les Ateliers? Yes. Can we weave amateur DJ and Girlfriends member into the equation? You must. Throw into the personal quilt her love for photography, talent for creative arts and maybe even her obsession for cats and we may be getting somewhere.
So wrap yourself up in her creativity and enjoy the web she spins – Rachel shows you don’t need formal training to be an artist at mind and soul.
Milk: So what makes you, well, YOU?
Rachel: I’m from Ottawa, born and raised; I don’t have any sort of formal arts background - I studied philosophy in undergrad at Carleton. I am cat-obsessed. I have two cats at home and I spend way too much of my free time cooing over them. I even have an embarrassing new blog to prove it. I love board games, especially Scrabble & other word games like Boggle and Bananagrams; but I’m also addicted to a game called Set. And I’m always on the hunt for weird vintage ones, especially when they focus on spacial relations. I love thrifting and flea-marketeering - especially when there are mid-century treasures to be found. I am a bibliophile and a craft enthusiast, and I nearly always have a few different books and projects on the go. Right now I’m about to embark upon a book-making collab with my friend Saara of Sapling\Seedling, and I think I’ve been enjoying the justification to stockpile pretty antique books “in preparation” a little too thoroughly. Biking and picnicking are also favourite pastimes, as is collecting records - spiritual jazz, spacey folk and anything with weird cover songs especially.
M: Tell us about Les Ateliers
R: Les Ateliers is a unique non-profit monthly workshop series in Ottawa. We promote DIY, arts and handmade movements in our city by offering affordable workshops where local artists and artisans share their skills with the community. We believe in living, learning, and passing it on. I founded Les Ateliers a little over 3 years ago with Linzy Bonham, who moved away shortly thereafter. Since then, Lauren Potosky and I have been co-producing Les Ats together and enjoying it every step of the way - it’s a lot of organizing, but it’s also very rewarding. We are constantly meeting lovely and talented people and learning new and exciting things. We usually organize one workshop a month. Most of our workshops are food or art related, but they really do range – most recently we had an ice cream workshop with Pascale’s All Natural Ice Cream; we’ve made clocks and camembert cheese; we’ve heard creative biz start-up tips from local pros like Nadia Kharyati of Raw Sugar Cafe and Krista Leben of Urban Craft; we even made our own experimental animated short film with IFCO! Because we want our workshops to be as accessible as possible, we only charge for supply costs and basic upkeep. We volunteer our time, so we’re able to keep fees very low (usually around $10 - $15). Coming up this month we’ll be hosting two free workshops in Minto Park as part of Ravenswing DIY Fair on the 27th: yoga with Edith Pariñas (Yoga with Edith) and zine making with Chris Landry (Kiss Off zine).
M: Do you believe marrying more than one art form together is important?
R: When you work in a variety of mediums, you’re constantly applying multiple sensibilities to your work, which (hopefully!) adds depth to the final product. I know that I appreciate a good film all the more if it’s accompanied by a really great soundtrack.
M: Does the collaboration make something unique and more personal?
R: If anything, collaborations make projects less personal, but combining individual approaches can lead to the creation of surprising work. I like working with people who have an entirely different skill set from me - I get to learn so much, there’s no toe-stepping, and it’s inspiring to see how other people envision things and rise to challenges in ways that would never occur to me. Plus sometimes, working on creative projects with friends can be much more enjoyable than doing everything solo. I don’t think that do-it-yourself has to mean do-it-by-yourself. To me, a big part of DIY is community, and collaborations embody that.
M: What projects can Ottawa expect from you in the near future?
R: Well, Les Ateliers is here to stay, of course! We’re in it for the long run! And I already mentioned that we’re presenting Ravenswing DIY Fair’s workshops, but I’ve also been really involved with the overall fair this year and I can tell you that it’s going to be super amazing! On top of the Les Ats workshops, we’ll have 50+ crafters and zinesters; live music from the likes of local faves Silkken Laumann, Andrea Simms-Karp, Josef Pollock, The Johnnies, and Django Libre; and the Ceremony DJs will keep the park bumping throughout the day with good tunes. Plus I’m launching some musical projects of my own. My friend Gary Franks (who’s also one of the Ceremony DJs) and I are collaborating on a sci-fi synth radio drama of an old western novel called Tiger Man. It’ll be kind of like the intro to Dune meets Broadcast meets the Wild West. At least that’s what I’m hoping. And some pals and I have a DJ night happening at Raw Sugar on Saturday night. We’re called The Girlfriends. Get ready.
M: Tell us more!
R: The Girlfriends started out as a bit of an inside joke but has snowballed into a full-fledged night. There are four of us altogether: myself, Melanie Yugo, Tara Dwivedi and Michael Caffrey (we’re pretty honoured that he’s proudly accepted the title of Girlfriend). All of us have sweethearts who have their own famed nights around town, like TimeKode, Stars on Vinyl, Spins & Needles and Ceremony. But we’ll be taking things up a notch with our own night this Saturday, May 12th at Raw Sugar starting at 9 pm. Expect all sorts of jams – from garage to sweet soul to Bollywood to organ to kids to old school hip hop and R&B… Uh huh girlfriend. It’s gonna be fun.
*** If you’d like to hear a little more insider information about The Girlfriends, they will be taking over the airwaves on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning show Friday at 8:15 AM. Tune in for some serious girl gab!