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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ask a designer: judy ross (answers)

Q: Do you try to incorporate how your design will ultimately look in a room into your design process? And if so how does this attitude affect your designs?

A:I really start with a blank piece of square paper and put my ideas. I do sometimes try to create a design that would have a good feeling say in a very modern room but mostly I create with my own standards in mind. My design sense is all about a bold graphic with a slight imbalance/dynamics going on…

Q: What about competition? I've seen pieces at West Elm that look a lot like Judy's work and I wonder what her views on copying are. How do you protect your work or do you just try to ignore the copiers?

A: I do protect my work by copy righting all my designs in Washington D.C. In the end the best is to ignore all those copiers and just keep moving forward. I do think West Elm should be taught a lesson…they are one of the worst copiers and it is very unfair what they are doing. They should hire us as designers for them, instead of plagiarizing our work. (Anthropologie also!)

Q:How did you get your business off the ground. I'm a textile designer who recently graduated from FIT and I'm having a hard time getting a loan. How did you make the financial end happen to get things moving? And, how did you find the money to hire a staff and pay people. I need help but can't imagine making enough money to pay someone.

A: At the beginning, I worked freelance with embroidery companies in the garment center and used this money to finance my business.I also had a job in Paris where I designed embroideries for a company and this paid very well and I used those earnings also. The manufacturers who produced my pillows/rugs gave me long periods of time to pay them back, which helped a lot.. In the beginning I did not have an assistant for the first two years, as I grew the business. I am proud to say I never took out a loan and I built up credit. I was lucky to have a style that is mine and a excellent product. That is the key to my success.

Q: I am a designer and I've always been limited by making everything myself. I have started working with other people who are sewing for me, so I can spend more time designing and printing! I'm finding it nearly impossible to get the quality of work I'm looking for, and I feel exhausted from unsuccessfully searching for someone in my city (Buenos Aires) who can work with my quality standards. I am starting to wish I could just go back to making everything myself! So, I wonder if Judi has any advice or words of inspiration about finding and working with subcontractors and negotiating about quality. Also, I'm curious, how often do you add new designs to your line, and how long do you keep each design in your collection?

A: You have to persevere and keep looking until you find the right subcontractors. You cannot go back to making it yourself because you will never grow. There should be people out there who can sew a quality piece. It took me a few manufacturers to get exactly what I wanted and I still have to keep on top of them. So do not give up. I do a new collection twice a year. This is a lot to keep up but it is the part I enjoy the most so I make the effort. Most of my designs stay in the collection, for example Procession that I produced in 1995, I still produce today. Sometimes a design will disappear for a few years but I will bring it back. I think the beauty of my designs is that they are timeless and work in many situations.

Q: I wondering about getting your products out there. How did you in the beginning get the much needed exposure? Was it through press or did you take part in the many shows? If it was through the press how did you get their attention? Do you have any advice for doing it all on a VERY limited budget? Please don't tell me it was luck.

A: My advice on a limited budget is to make beautiful pictures and have them inkjet printed from your computer. Present yourself with a nice logo and packaging. Send this out to all the magazines. If it is something worthy they will answer you. It is their job to find and feature new and interesting projects. My work is very graphic and is very photogenic so it works well when sent out to the press. Also it is helpful to do a trade show because all the press walk them in search of new products. This is hard on a limited budget.

Q: How do you manage your time between raising your children and running a company? I just gave birth to my second and the idea of caring for both kids and trying to find time to create seems impossible. I'd love any tips on time management you have. That and managing the guilt of being away from them!

A: It is very difficult to do both and you have to put limitations to each in order to manage. I have two boys, 5 and 10 and between my company and my children, I am very busy. My tips are to be very organized and surround yourself with good people who can help you with all your responsibilities. I forfeit going out a lot to all these design events to be home with my children most every night. This does hurt my business in a way but you have to make choices as to what is more important. I love my work and I try to balance as best I can being a mother and a woman with a career. The guilt is there many times …but I do think there is something to say for children who see their mother working successfully in her craft. I try to do wonderful things with them and be there as much as I can after a working day of 9 to 6.

Q: I was wondering how you find good production resources? (seems like a scary and ambiguous world). I'm assuming you use several different factories depending on the product(?). do you ever need to travel to oversee the production? Kudos to you for balancing such a great career while raising a child!

A: Finding production can be a difficult task. I was lucky to meet people on one of my trips to India in 1989, and I have worked with some of them since. It did take a number of years of training as to what the quality had to be. Now that there is the internet, it is quite easy to research manufacturers and get in touch. It does take a trip to really organize and be sure that the work is being done properly. Since I have had my two boys, I have not had to travel since I have set up the production properly at the start. When the boys are older, I hope to take them on a wonderful trip to India to see how it all gets done. They are very aware and proud of my work and it will be fun for them to meet all the manufacturers who they have heard me speak to all these years (and yell at a bit from time to time).

Q: My question for Judy is if she has any advice for someone who is thinking about doing to school for textile arts. Did she know exactly what she wanted to do right from the start? What was her vision for her future when she was starting out? Thanks very much.

A: I actually went to school for painting. I took textile courses as a backup , since I knew I could make money doing designs, repeats and colorings. The boundaries of my painting and textile design training meshed into one and I began painting on fabric. My vision became clear when I took a job in India and fell in love with the embroideries which I came upon during my visits. You have to start with something you enjoy and see where life leads you.

Q: How do you choose colors? Do you watch for up coming trends, or just go with your instincts?

A: I like to do a little of both.. I have my own color sense which I always draw upon when I am designing. But having worked in the Fashion world, I do enjoy looking at their color trends. I find it helps to key into some of the trends in color, especially when you are selling to very fashionable trendy stores.

Friday, May 11, 2007

toronto design guide!

i've really enjoyed being able to add some reader generated, d*s edited city guides to the site. it's rare that i get to work with local experts and i find that their input is priceless when it comes to capturing the real feeling of an area. for the toronto design guide writers meaghan clark and waheeda harris put together a list of their favorite, must-visit shops in the toronto area. as always this will be a guide that grows and changes as we go along so feel free to leave suggestions below if you think we've missed one of your favorite toronto shops. thanks meaghan and waheeda!


Queen Street East has become Queen Street West so to speak, and is now where the cool kids go to shop, wander, eat and indulge. The area bordering Broadview Avenue at it’s western border and Woodbine Avenue in the east is home to vintage furnishing stores, antique haunts and junk shops, affordable eats with rising–star chefs, emerging fashion artists, with an occasional curiosity spot here and there. Included in this section are the galleries and studios on Carlaw Avenue, between Gerrard and Queen. Cruise this hood and look for new and almost daily posted signs for “coming soon” in abandoned shop windows or watch shopkeepers switch and swap spaces as their businesses grow.

Hardware: Rustic, hand and custom made dining tables from salvaged woods are a staple. The owners partner woods-y furniture with modern light fixtures and gorgeous accessories such as mercury glass, feathers, and woven baskets.

Pazo: Mid-century classics, modern contemporary and offbeat accessories make their way to this chic spot.

Handmade Cabinets: Custom made cabinetry with a refined, rustic look; also refurbish and restore.

Machine Age Modern: Another haunt for retro pieces and recognizable names like Eames, Knoll and more.

Ethel: Storefront window always features one or two unique pieces of mid- century superstar furniture; the store has nothing but.

Festoon: Recently moved to a bigger space down the street, a testament to their success; unique gifts, accessories, affordable reproductions and local artists represented.

Winkel: Prop buyer and store owner Kari Measham has a soft spot for the unusual and quirky; a haven for off the wall cards from Canadian artists, affordable accessories and custom lampshades too.

Eyespy: refurbished finds with an emphasis on teak; gifts and cards for young and old; oddities and cheeky accessories make it a must-see.

Zig Zag: the website says it all; modern finds for those who are more daring; check for latest inventory online as well

Uppity: fun and funky décor and antiques that are preserved, not necessarily restored.

Flik and Company: Twist to modern country; have sister store across the street Forest and Co, that offers more cottage-y finds.

Up To You: For the ultra hipster looking for that one of a kind, original and cutting edge gadget.

Green Tea Design: Asian inspired contemporary furniture, including kitchen units; ship anywhere in the world.

Dragon Heir: Antique and reproduction Asian furnishings and accessories; mandarin club for those who want to learn more about culture and language.

Other noteworthy stores to check out include: Bronze (antiques), Mugsy’s (retro), Waddle & Daub (accessories)


Eastern Front Gallery: member of the Toronto East End Gallery Association

Hang Man Gallery: gallery face of this association

Toronto Free Gallery: also a TEEGA member

Parts Gallery: my personal favorite in the hood

Six Shooter Records: part gallery, part indie rock store, part Canadian retail phenomenon


Edward Levesque’s Kitchen: thoughtful fare, local suppliers, fair prices.

Pulp Kitchen: great vegetarian menu, snacks to go; just don’t engage them in “politics of organic” conversations.

Pop Bistro: newer to the east end offering rural French bistro.

Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant: delicious, modern take on Italian cuisine and affordable too./p>

Kubo Radio: fusion Asian, worthwhile brunch and red velvet baby cakes!

Le Café Vert: giving Pulp Kitchen a run for their money

Tomi-kro: Asian flair, a la carte

Real Jerk: Caribbean flavors a mainstay in this hood

Bonjour Brioche: another staple but for breads and pastries

Altitude Bakery: known for amazing pies

It’s the Icing on the Cake: you name it, they’ll make it; outrageously detailed cakes for any occasion

Cajun Corner: all things Louisiana; small kitchen with daily specials

Leslieville Cheese Shop: artisan cheeses from home and around the world; classes and workshops held periodically


A slice of Europe in the downtown core, this recently refurbished neighborhood of galleries, fine restaurants, specialty shops and cutting edge design continues its renaissance with more shops, more residences to come. There’s talk of a boutique hotel, major music venue, community park and gardens in 2008.

DOM toronto: Exclusive rep for Valcucine, high-end Italian kitchens; great for ogling

Fluid Living: contemporary Canadian furnishings, imported accessories, brand names

Found Objects: more contemporary furnishings, some Canadian faces, great gifts

Bergo Designs: contemporary, award-winning artisans in accessories, jewelry, and home décor

Akroyd Furniture: bespoke furniture from gorgeous woods, hand-crafted in studio.

Artifex: Canadian made products from furniture to ceramics to glass art

Sound Designs: home entertainment centre with latest technology and brands.

Fawn Ceramics and Gallery: beautiful tiles, ceramics, textiles; my favorite place of all.

Elizabeth Munro Design: gorgeous arrangements at reasonable prices


Blue Dot Gallery: contemporary pieces from local artists

Channel Gallery: affordable, Canadian art

Corkin Gallery: national and international, photo-based artists

Distill: different mediums all from emerging artists

Red Eye Studio Gallery: all local painters, variety of styles

Sandra Ainsley Gallery: major contemporary artists from around the world with all glass exhibits; worth seeing but don’t take kids!

Thompson Landry Gallery: strictly French Canadian artists; wide/wild variety of styles


Boilerhouse Restaurant: chop house with varied menu; best jazz brunch in the city;`contemporary Euro design, 22 ft wine rack, worth seeing.

Archeo: updated Italian food; innovative design, perfect hideaway patio.

Pure Spirits: Oyster bar and restaurant; huge selection of oysters, nice range menu.

Mill Street Brew Pub: attached to the brewery; worthy artisan beers; upscale pub grub

Perigee: based on Japanese concept of Omakase (trust me); open dining layout; major splurge, but worth every penny.

Balzacs: in-house roasted coffees, great desserts, romantic setting

Soma: the place to worship chocolate; Mayan hot chocolate is best in town.

Brick Street Bakery: British style bakery with pot pies, interesting sandwiches, daily stews and specials, gorgeous pastries.


As the name suggests, this meticulously maintained former warehouse is located on Richmond St West, in the fashion district. Home to a wide variety of artists, galleries, indie media companies, theatre companies, collectives and more, the 401 is an absolute buzz of creative activity. Regular tours, sample sales, shows and gallery openings, mean it should be on every Torontonian’s radar. Take a break and sip a tea on the green roof with its fantastic view of the downtown skyline. www.401richmond.net


A small strip in the heart of the Portugese area of the city, Portugal Village’s street cred has lured many galleries, restaurants and artists to the pre-war buildings and unique mix of grad students and locals who want family-owned groceries and bakeries and the city’s design secrets.

Made: source for up and coming furniture, lighting and home accessories

Cindiloowhoo & Jaiden Flowers: country-style antiques and unique ephemera while Jaiden displays simply arranged fresh flowers, oversized glass vases and vintage accessories

Virginia Johnson: textile designer influenced by Mother Nature’s shapes and bright colours


Gallery 129

AWOL Gallery

Gallery TPW

Lennox Contemporary

C1 Art Space: gallery, shop, studios and classes


Get Real!: veggie friendly cafe

The Dakota Tavern: country, bluegrass and folk music nightly and bluegrass brunch every Sunday

The Sparrow: casual brunch & dinner spot/lounge w/dj on weekends

Sweaty Betty’s: friendly wee bar w/backyard patio & occasional writers’ rant afternoons


Queen Street is a major shopping area of the city, but changes its spots – from Yonge to Spadina, the combination of government, high culture and brand name high street shops have pushed galleries and independent retailers farther west. Textile shops dominate the strip on the edge of the Fashion District, but it’s beyond Bathurst where design gets interesting. Galleries, designers and vintage shops have staked their claim in the Trinity Bellwoods area, named for the enormous park which is a restful spot after shopping and a dog’s delight for meeting other four-legged friends.

Leigh & James: A combination of new furniture and antiques from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, designers Nicky & Dean intersperse their showroom with cool Asian accessories and lighting.

Morba : A treasure trove of mid-century to modern furniture and accessories: a source for film crews and stylish locals.

MacFab: MacDonald Faber Fabrics is the source of funky faux furs to elegant embroidered silks. Now offering custom curtains, ottomans, headboards and upholstery items.

Urban Mode: Created by an artist and interior designer, a great source for Canadian and international furniture and home accessories and one of the oldest contemporary stores in Toronto

Commute Home: original wood and metal designed furniture, lighting and accessories mixed with vintage pieces such as medical and photography equipment

Fluf: pillows of all shapes and sizes from felt to silk

The Paper Place: the source for handmade paper to make love notes, décor and craft projects

Token: a gift shop for the stationery-obsessed with distinct selection of letterpress cards for all occasions.

Style Garage: sleek modern lighting, furniture and accessories with emphasis on glass, wood and Earthy neutrals

Planet Kid: For all things kid – from clothes to toys and furniture.


Ontario Crafts Council

Clint Roenisch Gallery


Edward Day Gallery

Casuccio Gallery: Canadian and Cuban artists


Clafouti: French patisserie

Fresh: vegan and veggie local chain.

Bar One: casual Italian and best cappuccino in T.O.

Sugar Café: brunch hotspot with homespun ambience

Queen Street West- Parkdale

An area that has transformed in the past years, the edge of Parkdale has seen it’s long ago glamour found again. A neighbourhood that had been a crown jewel of the city at the beginning of the 20th century, Parkdale lost its lustre in the 1970s. Its resurgence has been predicted for awhile, but the wheels are turning with the re-established hotels of the area into art havens, and a gentrification that isn’t cookie cutter.

Studio Brillantine: edgy, unusual, whimsical modern design objet from Alessi, Phillipe Starck, Barbapapa, Georg Jensen and Isamu Noguchi.

In Abstracto: a mix of Canadian, Italian and Scandi mid-century furniture and accessories

Koma Designs: part vintage furniture, part furniture design gallery, this Parkdale store combines 60s/70s style and is supportive of T.O. eco-conscious designers Brothers Dressler and new design troupe The Vest Collective.


Stephen Bulger Gallery: photography gallery with classic and contemporary images is partnered with Camera Bar- a lounge and screening gallery programmed by owner/director Atom Egoyan.

Katherine Mulherin Contemporary Art Gallery

Spin Gallery

Engine Gallery


Café Bernate: stylish fair-trade coffee and sandwich shop with plethora of veggie options

The Beaconsfield: French style snacks and dinner with infusions of global ingredients


The Drake: Not just a hotel, café, restaurant, roof top bar, lounge, exhibition or performance space, The Drake’s unique mix of accommodation, food, drinks and art has helped revitalize the way west strip of Queen Street. With monthly artists-in-residence, art exhibitions and the site of music, comedy and fashion shows, The Drake was just chosen as one of the top 500 hotels by Travel & Leisure Magazine.

The Gladstone Hotel: A restored Victorian hotel which has gone full circle from elegant accommodation for travellers run by a single parent & 13 kids to an artist-designed hotel rooms run by the Zeidler family 115 years later. A venue for all forms of art from displayed to performance, The Gladstone Hotel acts as a gateway to Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, providing short-term artist studio spaces, exhibition space, and overnight accommodations for travellers seeking more than a chain hotel.

Meaghan Clark is a freelance writer in Toronto who covers design, fashion, health and eco lifestyle issues. Waheeda Harris is a freelance writer and columnist in Toronto who writes about fashion, design, music and travel.

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