Hello! I'm Carmen.
I started Ply Studio because I wanted to share my passion for creative wellness with others.
My creative journey and getting to this moment has been a life’s worth of curiosity and ‘what if?’ moments.
I remember the moment when I didn't get accepted into Education at the University of Saskatchewan, and thought I would take some time off to 'just live and work'. That didn't fly with my Dad. So, even though he would have had me go into engineering or something technical, I decided on an Arts & Science degree. I had also tested the waters with my parents around taking a fine arts program to become an artist. As you can imagine, that was an even bigger 'NO'.
So, on I went to receive not one, but 2 degrees in Regional & Urban Development and Urban Planning. This felt like a proper career path - one that would land me a job. And it did.
I lived and worked in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Bruno (Saskatchewan), Harare (Zimbabwe), and Calgary (Alberta) before following love to Ottawa (Ontario). It was here in Ottawa (where I still live) that I got a job with an organization working with municipalities across Canada and the world - and it was good.
I worked and worked and worked. I was ALWAYS working and there were NEVER enough hours in the day. I was consumed by meetings, business travel and an overflowing inbox that I could never get a handle on.
My then boyfriend/now husband was also establishing his own business in those years. AND we were renovating old homes and starting to build new LEED-certified/passive homes 'on the side'. There was no such thing as downtime. Except when I was knitting.
Here's where my tale starts to come full circle, back to that wish to be an educator and artist. Watch for it ...
So, knitting. I first opened my arms to all things fibre after being forced to knit (truly!) by a dear friend around Christmas in 2005. I was resistant. I didn't like knitting AT ALL at first. But I kept at it and after a few weeks I couldn't put it down.
A few years later, I inherited a spinning wheel that I didn’t want by another dear friend. He promised me wine if I came to get the wheel and so I agreed. For the wine. Little did I know that picking up that spinning wheel would change my artistic path (and, indeed, career path) forever.
I kept at my exploration of fibre and textiles as I became a mother, first to my oldest daughter in 2012, and then to my younger one in 2014. And all the while, I kept trudging back and forth to my office where I would literally take off my artist/emerging business owner hat and put on my high heels and head into a boardroom to run a series of meetings I couldn't wait to adjourn.
Eventually, I decided that if I was to ever wake up with a smile on my face and tell my daughters that I truly enjoyed and was passionate about what I do for a living, I would need to take that leap.
So, I embraced all my courage and quit my day job of 15 years in January 2021. I needed to follow my passion.
My passion (as I alluded to earlier in this story) is to teach and share all types of creative adventures with others in order to encourage wellness. Funny thing. Artist. Educator. It just took me 25 years to get back to what my heart knew in my early 20's.
Today, I’m on a mission to inspire, connect and make people happy by getting them to pick up something - ANYTHING - and start making stuff.
I’m also driven to connect artists and makers in order to experiment, to see if we can come up with art that is better than the sum of our individual parts and really create community.
So, these days I describe myself like this:
I’m a modern fibre artist focused on my own handspun yarn that I use to create woven tapestries and freeform crocheted and knit objects. And I am the founder and CYO (chief yarn officer) of Ply Studio - a creative arts space in Ottawa.
If someone ELSE was describing me (or perhaps reading out my bio), they might say this:
Carmen has a lifelong passion for creating weird and wonderful things with paper, paint, yarn, textiles, markers, and anything else that might be lying around. Match this with a solid background in designing and facilitating learning experiences, she is a dynamic and personable force creating memorable and meaningful workshops, retreats and arts programming through her personal fibre brand, In The Ply, and in her non-denominational arts space called Ply Studio.
Carmen leads individuals and groups in finding their creative spirit and learning to make stuff by hand. She is a spirited, life-long learner always looking for the next thing to add to her bag of tricks. Though she is happiest if she has a ball of yarn in her hands, she also facilitates a variety of workshops that may or may not have anything to do with fibre. She has a deep love and respect for the power of creative arts programming for overcoming a lot of the things that ail us and is dedicated to providing both a space and the connections between those that instruct and those that want to be instructed.
Some other fun facts about Carmen:
- Her favourite podcasts are NPR’s How I Built This and The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish.
- She usually reads about 5 books at one time (in that many different genres). ‘Big Magic’ by Liz Gilbert never leaves her bedside table.
- She has run 2 full marathons and expects to run her 3rd sometime before she turns 50.
- She has travelled, worked, studied and played in rural and urban Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. She will tell the story of that time her tent was surrounded by hyenas in Zimbabwe if you buy her a (local, craft) beer.
- She will always call herself a ‘prairie girl’ even though she has lived in Ontario for the last 15 years. She still checks the weather and the gas prices in Saskatchewan at least once a week.
- She spends a good portion of her time (when she isn’t at her day job or creating any number of side businesses) with her inspired husband, Chris, and her giggling girls, Everleigh and Maeven. Usually on a ski hill in the winter or near a body of water in the summer.
Her interest in her fibre art is to reclaim and upcycle textiles and household waste that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. She spins yarn and creates woven tapestries and freeform crocheted and knitted objects out of a lot of things that might be considered past their useful life. Creating fibre art with a textural and colourful message is her heart’s passion. She is currently working on a series of larger tapestries, which she will showcase in her studio in 2021/22.
Thanks for taking interest in my story and in the things I'm doing through Ply Studio. I hope you'll come be part of it.