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Designer Files: Britt Olauson

This is the Tri bag. It was one of the items I featured in Variety magazine. I noticed this gem while researching for the article at Distill Gallery. I was surprised to discover that the designer is a furniture maker. Britt Olauson is a graduate of Sheridan College and a resident of the Living Arts Centre. She took some time from her busy schedule to answer some of my questions.

You are a furniture designer. How did you get started in accessory design?
Fashion and accessories have always been of interest to me, and so it only made sense to make some pieces out of wood, so that the natural beauty of the material could be incorporated into items to be worn daily.

Why did you choose Sheridan's furniture design program?
When I began looking for schools to further my education I was actually looking into interior design programs, and so I went to Sheridan to check it out. While I was there I passed by the wood studio, and decided to go in. From that moment I knew that was the program for me, and it turned out that Sheridan was one of the only programs of it's kind in Canada.

When did you create your first piece of furniture?
My first piece of furniture was created in my first year...a children's chair.

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Do you have a specialty in your field or are you interested in making all types of things?
At the moment I do try to make anything that passes through my mind, that seems like an interesting idea. I realize that woodworking is an endless journey of learning, and so I don't like to limit my ideas by my skills. More often than not you can figure out how to make the ideas a reality.

How did you decide that furniture design was your calling?
Once I started at Sheridan and I began working with the material, and I enjoyed the process of making so much, and the satisfaction upon completion of a piece was so gratifying. The instructors I had there were such mentors, and all of the classes in the program were really interesting. Designing and making just seemed right for me.

I dream about the Tri and boxi bags, they are so beautiful. To me, only someone who truly loves handbags could come up with things so stunning. Do you have a handbag fetish?
Thank you. Well yes, actually I do.

What inspires you?
Inspiration is all around us. I am most often inspired by nature, as I walk through the woods or along a beach I admire the beautiful shapes and forms that surround me. I also find inspiration in well designed objects, that stand the test of time.

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You participate in a few exhibitions are year. Do you feel drawn to the artistic side of your craft more than the commercial?
Yes I am definitely drawn to the artistic side of my craft. Exhibitions push one to create new work and explore ideas that can not always be used when making pieces for commission.

Is it hard to take a concept and make it a reality?
It can be very hard. There are so many techniques in woodworking, to achieve different results, and it can be intimidating to try new things at times. It takes confidence and a clear mind to take a concept and make it a reality.

Do you have a favourite tool?
I really enjoy using the spoke shave. I have two little japanese spoke shaves that have wooden handles and it is so satisfying to peel off thin shavings of wood with them. It is quiet and so effective in creating lovely organic shapes.

What are your favourite materials to work with?
Walnut is very beautiful. The colour is so rich naturally and the grain is very strong and flowing.

Where can people purchase your designs?
My smaller items are available at a few galleries across the country. In Toronto, at Distill, a great little gallery in the distillery district. There is a shop in old Montreal called Espace Pepin, a rep in Vancouver called Collective Vision, through the gift shop at the Living Arts Centre, and this year my rings are available through Soos. And the best way is directly through me, via my website www.brittolauson.com.

What are you plans for the future?
The future is very exciting to me. I have many dreams that I would love to make realities. Some of which are more aimed at making items out of wood for fashion, and having big shows in wide outdoor spaces. With my furniture I would like to design a line of functional furniture that can be enjoyed in every day life.

What are your favourite shops in Toronto?
There are so many amazing shops in Toronto it is hard to have a favourite.

What is your favourite period style?
Danish Modern is my favorite furniture style.

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