Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Today we continue our spotlight on Manitoba with Janice Charko of Flights of Fibre. Janice‘s Manitoba home is Lac du Bonnet. Her company is named for the way she met her husband, a chance meeting while waiting for a flight that led to her moving to Winnipeg five months later.
The creative life is a new venture for Janice who worked in the oil industry in Calgary and for McCain Foods. This change of focus came about in 2009 after Janice was diagnosed with breast cancer. During a long winter of chemo, she began exploring her creativity. She’d always enjoyed working with her hands. Her first pieces were hats. Colourful and fun, she used them to hide her baldness, during her treatment.
From there, she decided she wanted to focus on making beautiful items for women. These days she primarily works with both wet felting and silk fusion. In 2013 she won both 1st and 3rd places in the fibre category of the Eastman Judged Art Exhibition and 2nd place in Judged Art Exhibition in 2015.
We are thrilled that Janice agreed to take part in our interview. We are sure you’ll enjoy what she has to say about living the creative life in Manitoba.
How does where you live influence your work? I live on a lake in Manitoba for 7 months of the year and have just begun to spend winters at a waterfront place in Qualicum Beach, BC. Water, birds, otters, deer – are all part of my days. My binoculars and camera are never more than a few feet from where I am. My studio at home used to be our sunroom and has windows on 3 sides so I don’t miss much.
I love to photograph my scarves, hats and shawls outside with the lake as the backdrop and the Manitoba mystique has led to purses with northern lights, polar bears and wolves incorporated into the front design. But as far as the inspiration for my work – it comes from more than my environment. I bought a pair of Venetian glass bead earrings a number of years ago and my line of Starry Night silk fusion clutch purses evolved from the design on those earrings. A chance encounter with some Chantilly lace in Mitchell’s
Fabrics on north Main Street in Winnipeg resulted in a felt and lace shawl. The strong Ukrainian community in Winnipeg coupled with my Ukrainian heritage generated a whole line of poppy themed shawls and scarves, for sale in the Kalyna Ukrainian Coop store on Main Street.
you belong to a community of felt artists & how does this influence you? Until quite recently, I was the only felter in the area. I am self taught from books and magazines. My first workshop with other felters was with Laurie Steffler of Salt Spring Island only a few years ago when I was able to see and hear how others create their felt.
Subsequently I’ve taken online tutorials from Fiona Duthie and Judith Dios. Living in a secluded location means less interaction with other felters but my membership in Pinawa Art211 and the Pinawa Art Gallery has exposed me to artists in all mediums and their dedication and love of art continually inspires me to colour outside the lines.
Who are your favourite suppliers in Manitoba? I love to spend some time in Wolseley Wool (https://www.wolseleywool.com) in the city but my favourite visit was to Sleepless in the Interlake where I was introduced to “the girls” whose fleece I was buying. The Manitoba Fibre Festival is a magnificent addition to the fibre world in Manitoba and many fibres found there are treasures in my “stash”.
What are you working on now? This last winter I collaborated with a multi talented Manitoba artist, Jennifer Hildebrand, from Roland, MB. She bought a hat from me at the last Fibre Festival , we became Facebook friends and subsequently I realized she is a spinner and a knitter. I felted panels for the bodies of a coat for each of us and Jennifer spun the same fibre into yarn, which we then knitted into sleeves and collars. This led to me buying my own spinning wheel as I now intend to have a line of garments for the fall shows this year with felted bodies and knitted sleeves. The first two are underway now…
Do you have any upcoming shows? The most exciting show this year will be the first annual Boreal Shores Art Tour in Eastern Manitoba, a driving tour of artist studios and group locations (www.BorealShoresArtTour.ca). I am leading the committee to produce this show on Aug 19 & 20, 2017 with 32 artists and my work will be found in a Lac du Bonnet group location.
I’ll also have my work for sale in the Merry Makers sale in Victoria Beach on July 29th, the Manitoba Fibre Festival in Winnipeg on Sept 15 & 16 and the University Women’s Club sale in Winnipeg in November 2017.
To learn more about this lovely artist, visit her website: www.flightsoffibre.com