Joy in Labour
HIDDEN ON THE SECOND FLOOR OF AN UNASSUMING STOREFRONT IN HAMILTON lies a sun-filled studio backing onto a rooftop oasis. This is where Roisin Fagan works on her textile line, Bespoke Uprising. Illustrating a joy for meticulous labour and a dedication to preserving the historical aspects of craft, Roisin has been a practicing craft artist for nine years, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Growing up in London, Ontario, Roisin had young ambitions to become a welder. She was encouraged to apply to the Bealart program; an extraordinary arts program for high school students which provides “critical, contemporary art making experiences” taught by working artists. Upon acceptance she moved away from brazing and welding, and instead chose to concentrate on Textiles and Ceramics. Roisin continued to pursue craft and attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, double Majoring in Textiles and Ceramics. Halifax became her home for eight years, and she grew attached to the East Coast. As an ode to her former home, she illustrates a print for tea towels with anchors, fiddles, galoshes and donairs.
In May 2011 Roisin and her partner Ted made their way to Hamilton. Enamoured by the growing arts community, they were invited by fellow textile artist and friend Jenna Rose to explore the area. Immediately seeing similarities to Halifax, Roisin and Ted quickly settled into a grand apartment situated in the home of a former Postmaster General. In the same month, Roisin moved into the studio in which she still works out of in downtown Hamilton, a building built in 1886.
Her line of screenprinted tea towels, napkins, and pouches start with a hand drawn design, which she then develops into a pattern repeat. She works with both natural, plant-based dyes and non-toxic, eco-friendly textile inks for printing, many of the former which she grows on her studio's back deck. It is the atypical urban rooftop. It backs onto a factory wall, with faded brick and old windows. The building has changed hands over the years, but it is home to a small textile mill, producing men's suits since 1929. The bright marigolds, coreopsis, Queen Anne's lace, tansy, dyer's broom, chamomile, and cosmos, are a striking juxtaposition. In the same outdoor space sits a natural fermentation indigo vat, as Roisin often uses traditional Japanese shibori methods to dye her fabric. In 2011 she receieved a grant from the Ontario Art Council to study in Japan. Here, she experienced a lifestyle where textiles and craft played a predominant role in society, one which she tries hard to emulate back at home.
These days Roisin is working on a line of bedding, as well as drafting some clothing pieces. Because of her dedication to using natural dyes and fibres – linen, hemp, cotton, ramie, and silk – she has always kept her product line small to remain accessible for people. But she is looking forward to expanding as using natural materials continues to grow in popularity. When asked if a rural life was something she was working towards, she responded that she preferred the amenities of city life, the convenience and the community. She has been thinking about re-branding to drop Bespoke Uprising altogether and instead label her goods under her given name, Roisin. Either way, hers is work that warrants admiration.