In summer of 2008, I met Gabe at Art in the Park (a terrific outdoor arts festival with over 200 vendors). More specifically, I fell in love with her raccoons and other urban wildlife, made from recycled materials.
Gabe is especially busy these days, and if you’re in Toronto, Ottawa or Halifax, you can find her at:
- One of A Kind Craft Show and Sale (Toronto), Direct Energy Centre, November 26th to December 6th — booth s53
- Play, Fine Art for Kids at Cube Gallery in Ottawa, December 3rd to 24th — family reception December 6th, 2 to 5 p.m.
- Ladyfest Tarts ‘n’ Crafts Holiday Sale in Ottawa, where Fabricawakuwaku will be selling Gabe’s puppet politicians — December 5th, 10 to 5 p.m., Jack Purcell Community Centre
- PLUS… Puppet Politicians are available at Workshop Studio Boutique on Dalhousie in Ottawa, the Love, Me Boutique on Birmingham in Halifax, and the C1 Artspace on Ossington in Toronto.
Amidst all this, Gabe kindly agreed to be in the hotseat! Without further ado…
1. When and how did you learn all your mad creative skills — painting, sewing, drawing, etc?
My dad is an artist and an art teacher. While other kids were learning to throw a football, we were learning the basics of drawing, printmaking, dyeing, sculpture, etc…
2. How was Fish on Fridays born and how did you decide on the name?
Fish on Fridays actually started with Jesus comics. You know those horrible Jesus comics that get handed out? The ones that tell you what a horrible person you are and why you are going to hell? Well, I started by making my own but with a loving, accepting Jesus instead. I was a religious studies student, into Liberation Theology and Feminist interpretations of the Gospels, so had lots of material to work with. The name just sort of fit.
3. Early riser or night owl?
I have a kid so, early to bed and early to rise.
4. Ideal lazy Sunday?
Again, I have a kid, so sleep-ins don’t exist. But an ideal Sunday would involve newspapers, something fat like the New York Times, and coffee. Then checking out the birds and turtles at the Arboretum.
5.You’re a fellow Ottawan (woot woot!)… what’s your favourite thing about living here?
6. What is your kryptonite?
As in what makes me weak? Dirt in my house drives me insane! I can’t focus on anything if the floor needs to be swept.
7. How did the Politician puppets come about?
We moved to Ottawa from Toronto. I started making and selling textile creations. The the hijinks of our Federal Politicians were just so compelling. So things just sort of fell together. I started making the puppets earlier this year, happened to make some MPs and a mayor just as they were embroiled in scandal and they really took off!
8. What was the first concert you ever went to?
I saw Buffy St. Marie as a kid at a Families for Peace event.
9. What would you be doing if you weren’t doing FOF?
10. Happiest kid memory?
Playing in the alleyway with the neighbourhood kids.
11. When/where/how do you get your best ideas?
I’m motivated by my politics. The puppet politicians are not just meant to be funny. I’m also trying to engage people in Canadian politics, albeit in a playful way. Voter turnout in this country is appallingly low and our politicians are not accountable to us. I want to give people power to engage their political representatives and to feel that they can change things. And I start by sticking Stephen Harper on their finger and and asking “What would you like him to say about Climate Change?”
12. Your family seems super involved and supportive — can you tell us a little about them?
My family is great! We are a proud Queer family, two moms, one kid.
13. You have such a wide array of products; on a given day, how do you decide what to work on?
Whatever stock is low and whatever is still fun to make. Sometimes I just a stop making a product because I get bored.
14. Worst job you ever had?
Do I have to talk about it?
15. What’s your most popular item?
The John Baird puppet, followed closely by Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, as a set of course. Least popular item is the Jim Flaherty puppet. I’ve only ever sold 1.
16. Any suggestions or words of advice to other Mom’s who wish they could turn their hobby/craft into a business?
Teach your child to work while you work. My workspace has a table for my kid so he works on his own craft projects while I sew.
17. What do you like best and least about running your own business?
The best part is that I have had the luxury of spending time with my kid. Nothing really sucks about it, except that I don’t make the same amount of money as Damien Hirst.
18. What’s your go-to karaoke song?
My partner’s Chilean cousins are the only people who make us do karaoke, so I guess Aqui by La Ley.
19. What are you most proud of right now?
My kid and his transportation plans. He has designed rail lines, high speed trains, flower subways and more! to get people moving in our cities and between them.
20. Finish this sentence: “I am…”
I am a news junkie, a neat freak, a proud mom, a queer woman and a maker of finger puppet politicians!
I have a feeling the next month will be a blur, Gabe. I hope you kick its butt and that you have continued and deserved success. Thanks for inspiring me to give extra thought to all things creative.