Inaugural Windsor Essex Fiber Shō Showcased Comfort and Innovation

(Stray Sheep Co. displaying their mascot, a plush toy lamb named Louie, at their vendor booth at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)

In a sort of serendipitous way, a stuffed toy lamb was left on Anissa Noakes doorstep some fifteen years ago. He quickly became her beloved mascot and has traveled with her up and down the Great Wall of China and many other places. He is, in fact, a darn good icon for her business of hand-crafted knitted woolen items of apparel.

Noakes tells Eyes on Windsor about a little girl leaving the unnamed sheep at her table during her first craft show. At the time she didn’t have a name for her business nor one for the huggable character. Once Louie was given his moniker it seemed just about right to name her venture Stray Sheep Co.

Anissa Noakes

Anissa Noakes of Stray Sheep Co. at her vendor booth at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Louie, she says, now travels with her in search of that little girl, but, so far no reunion. He could be, you might say a good luck symbol. Since that first presentation of her work, which includes scarves, booties and hats, her company has grown as often companies like hers do.

She has added two bricks and mortar retail stores. Urban Art Market is in Walkerville and has a twin in Kingsville. The Walkerville unit has been voted Windsor’s #1 handmade goods store.

Noakes was one of 40 fiber artists participating in the first Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Walkerville’s Shō Art, Spirit & Performance. The event adds to the outfit’s mounting fame generated largely from the productions in its intimate live theatres. Beside the theatres the facility also houses various artisans including those creating wearable and wallable fiber art.

Some of the event’s vendors have been making hand-crafted items for decades. Louise Warren Dougall falls into such a category practicing her art for some 35 years. Her products are lovingly-made baskets meticulously hand crafted from reeds sourced in China. Some are in their nature reed colour. Others feature hand-dyed reeds which add certain artistic flair.

Louise Warren Dougall

Basket weaver Louise Warren Dougall working on one of her baskets at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Reed Baskets

A collection of reed baskets made by Louise Warren Dougall on display at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

She also wraps her reeds around Lake Erie small rocks she finds near her rented summer home on Pelee Island. This gives personality to a product she dubs spirit rocks.

Others showing their work are relative newcomers. Felted Art by Maria has been in the comfortable felt slipper, and related products business, for less than a year. Judging by the steady customers at her table, it would seem Windsorites are indeed looking for comfort in the right places at Fiber Shō.

Felted Art by Maria at the Windsor Essex Fiber Sho

New artist Maria of Felted Art by Maria busy with customers at her vendor booth at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Some of the providers are not from here. The Leo and Roxy Yarn Co., with its tongue in cheek branding, “from flock to ewe,” came down from St. Thomas. Its two owners, Kerri Masseo and Jolyn Gardner are what is known as indie dyers. Raw yarn direct from the mills is hand-dyed by the pair. Leo is actually a one-year old Rambouillet while Roxy, the outfit’s colour mascot, is a one-year old Green Cheek Conure.

Leo & Roxy Yarn Co

Indie yarn dyers Jolyn Gardner (left) and Kerri Masseo of Leo & Roxy Yarn Co sitting at their vendor booth at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

And while most of the products on offer were for humans, Jen Drew had a whole table of assorted crochet offerings for pets. One of her most popular creations sort of looks like a toque without a top. It is used to keep dog’s head warm in the winter and, for those with long droopy ears, like Basset Hounds, provides a way to keep the ears from dragging in the snow.

Jen Drew of Canine Crochet

Fiber artist Jen Drew holding one of her hand-made pet donuts from her Canine Crochet booth at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Some of the vendors were at the event to showcase some new products necessitated by changes in the outside world. Jo Taylor’s Forbidden Colours was showing a solution pulled from the headlines, for metal straws. With plastic straws no longer being appreciated as environmentally friendly, folks are using their own metal straws. But where to put them? Taylor offers a perfect solution, a washable straw caddy.

Jo Taylor of Forbidden Colors

Jo Taylor artist in residence at Forbidden Colors showing her metal straw caddy at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

There was also innovation on display at another front. Robert Caruso was giving visitors a sneak peek into a new development at Shō, a separate Makers’ area. Meta Makers Cooperative was founded in January to bring local electronics, wood and metalworking and computer aficionados together in a soon to be separate section. More on this will be coming shortly along with a grand opening.

Robert Caruso

Robert Caruso standing in the new Makers section at the inaugural Windsor-Essex Fiber Shō at Shō Art, Spirit & Performance in Windsor, Ontario, on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

The event was hosted by Fusion Fiber Arts, Shō Studios and The Hook Pusher to showcase fiber artists, fashion designers, supply and finished products companies representing many types of fiber art and needlework.

Sho Art Studios is the permanent home to a number of businesses such as Bike Windsor/Essex, Floyjoy Studios, Soiree Event Extraordinaire, The Hook Pusher and Fusion Fiber Arts.

For more information about Shō Art, Spirit & Performance visit https://shoartstudios.com

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.