compass & hatchet

On the road to fortitude

Month: January, 2015

Wendy Stok, Creative Crush

I don’t think there is anything that this super woman can’t do. The Talent behind Thistle Handmade has  precise sewing skills, an eye for details, a trained  back ground in wood working, is an accomplished chicken herder, and has a fresh take on turning metals into cleanly styled jewellery and ornaments.

Her beautiful and functional pieces borrow from flora and fauna, from artifacts and vintage motifs. Her training and practice in silversmithing with the accomplished Nina Turczyn of Paprika Design, has influenced Wendy’s work, giving her the ability to create well made, clean, utilitarian jewellery but with an originally and uniqueness all her own.

Wendy so graciously lent me some of her time, to answer my burning questions about her creative process, where her inspiration comes from, and as she puts, it the importance to having dialogue about art and creativity.


Who are you and what is your star sign?

Wendy Stok, and very much a Pisces.

Where are you from OR where do you live?

I’m originally from Montreal, but am firmly planted on Gabriola Island, BC. I’ve been here for nearly 8 years and the longer I’m here the more I feel like I belong to this place. 

What do you do?

These days, I mostly play with metal. I’ve been apprenticing in Nina Turczyn’s studio, learning silversmithing and having a ridiculously good time. Jewellery design occupies most of my headspace at the moment, although decorative arts in general are never far from my thoughts. 

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What Inspires your work? 

Right now, mostly a need to explore. I’m at the beginning of what I recognize will be a long relationship with metalworking, and that’s pretty exciting. As much as I’m looking forward to mastering certain techniques and having a really holistic understanding of my medium, I’m really enjoying the sense of discovery that is especially acute at the beginning of getting to know something. That’s really what’s leading me right now.

What/who are your artistic influences? 

I’m a total texture freak, and so I get a lot of inspiration from nature. I spend a lot of time walking around outside and the minutiae of the natural world is so fascinating. 



What would be your dream project?

I would love, love, love to design and build my own home.  I have a deep appreciation for things that are both functional and beautiful, and the best houses are the ones that achieve both of those things.  It’s a project that has existed in my head for as long as I can remember, and if I ever have the chance to do it it’s gonna be bonkers. It will drive my partner, Chris, crazy because he sees a house as a material thing, but for me a house in more of an extention of one’s interior. Some people just take up more space than others. 🙂 

What is the best advice you have been given?

Breathe by the nose. I’m getting better at remembering this. 

Do you have any vices? 

Nothing scandalous, sorry.

Name something that you love and why? 

Hmm…so hard to choose! Right now I’m in love with the fog. I’m surrounded by it and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s hard to beat fog for atmospheric beauty; it makes the outside feel so intimate and inviting. I love the headspace it puts me in.

Why do you create?

Because if I don’t then something essential is missing from my day. The whole process of creating, from the conceptions that begin in ones head to the physical act of transforming materials and finally to the contentment of having completed something just feel integral to my being. It sounds a bit lofty, but it actually works on a pretty modest scale as well. On a slow day, I’m still pretty happy having made a Lego helicopter-house with my daughter. It’s just a process that I enjoy deeply. 

What Super Power would you have? 

Would immortality be considered a super power? If so, I’ll take it. If not, I’d like some go go gadget arms. 

How do you know when a work is finished? 

That’s a tough question to answer. With what I’m working on lately, I rarely actually feel like anything is ‘finished’. Because silversmithing is pretty new to me, I mostly feel like I’m exploring and discovering with most of the importance being in the process. In general, though, there’s a certain balance that is instantly recognizable when it’s been achieved. I can’t describe it to a tee, but with jewellery it involves movement, weight and texture along with other things. When something is ‘right’ it’s instantly recognizable, and if it doesn’t happen instantly then it needs more work.


Do you ever experience times of being uninspired, and if you do, is there any thing that you do that gets you back into the groove? 

I haven’t felt this in a while, but i certainly have in the past. I’ve come to realize that, in general, I fare better when I have an imposed structure that I’m beholden too. I kind of lose my moorings when I have to much freedom because I don’t have the self-discipline to structure my time. 

Do you have any daily routines? 

My morning routine is the most consistent part of my day. If I do it right, then the day is usually golden. It starts with 10 or 15 minutes of silly stuff with my daughter and then my coffee. I’ve become increasingly ritualistic about my morning coffee, actually. 

Is there anything you are obsessed with? That you think about more than anything else?

There’s a large portion of my headspace that seems to be reserved for making things and dissecting how things are made. It’s always chugging away. I usually have a dozen or projects in a bit of a feedback loop. Lately it’s mostly jewellery but it still includes some woodworking and sewing, among other things.

What is your most prized possession?

Probably my tools.



What’s the first thing you would do if you won 1 million dollars? 

I love this game! I’d take a long road trip with my family and take in a bunch of landscapes that I’ve never seen before. Then I’d come back, buy a small acreage and design my dream house. Complete with my dream studio.  Which I would likely never leave. 

Are you happy? 

Obnoxiously so, yes. It’s a crazy feeling knowing you have everything you need. I feel incredibly fortunate. 


You can find Wendy’s work at
Also work by Nina Turczyn at

Sunday’s Photos

I know it’s Monday. But I also know that no one is keeping track. These pictures aren’t even from a Sunday, they are from last Wednesday when I was still being warmed by the Sun in California. Now I am cold, and surrounded by melting snow and mud, so here are some moments from a walk we took in Thousand Palms.










Water Melon Necklaces

My little water melon painting episode ventured into jewellery making, in an attempt to use up scraps of wood from some other things I was working on. Thus I present to you The Water Melon necklaces. ( and a fun photo shoot with some family members.)

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Sunday’s Photos

I can’t believe its Sunday again. Time flies when you are retired. There has been an incredible amount of relaxing around here. Some art, but mostly books and pool side laying, excursions to street markets, sleeping in, and afternoon coffees. I am not complaining at all.


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Sunday’s Photos

Taking some time out, and relaxing in Palm Springs. I love the colours here, the green of the Aloes, and the pinks, greys and beige in the landscaping. I also really love fruit. Like a lot. The fruit scene back on the farm was of the canned and dried variety, and it’s really satisfying to be picking off the trees here.

I also love coffee.



Dream Machine

I’ve been day dreaming about writing in my journal, whilst sitting in the bath tub and drinking a coffee.

It donned in me yesterday that this could be done so simply, by putting a board across the tub sides. Why didn’t I do this sooner?



It made me think about how I often have these ideas, or dreams, but I don’t do anything about them because I am missing certain parts ( A fancy bathtub table thing that someone somewhere made..?? )  Sometimes I miss stuff I’ve asked for because it doesn’t look the way it looked in my mind.

Now I can sit happily in a hot bath, and write to my hearts content. Dream Machine.

My Mother as my Creative Influence.

I am very grateful for my Mother, and her creative influence in my life.  I  would not be who I am if it weren’t for her. Sue Artuso has always been making. She is the original DIY Maven for me. From clothing, to gift ideas, home decor and garden grown edibles. She instilled a great respect for Re-use, Re-duce, Re-cycle in my sister and I, and it’s her attention to detail that has inspired my own.

I turned to my mother with some of my “Creative Crush”  Questions, as some insight into what drives her in her own creative pursuits

Who are you and what is your star sign?

Sue Artuso…Mom…Capricorn on the edge of Sagittarius

Where are you from OR where do you live?

I was born on a farm in rural Ontario…..raised my family on the west coast

What do you do?

I love to sew, quilting mostly, but my days are my own. I enjoy lawn bowling

What Inspires your work?

Whatever scraps come to my hand and what I think I can make them into

What is the best advice you have been given?

Finish every project..but that doesn’t mean you can’t start more first

Do you have any vices? 


Do you ever experience times of being uninspired, and if you do, is there any thing that you do that gets you back into the groove? 

I clean my sewing room and refold material, look into bins and baskets and get projects lined up again

Do you have any daily routines?

Swim, hot tub, and walk around the park to get my hair dry

Why do you create? What is behind your Drive to make things? 

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without…is sort of the motto I was brought up with…nothing was wasted and everything could be used for something. I never had much money so everything was home made.

Where did you learn to sew? 

My mother taught me to sew on her singer sewing machine at home and on the treadle machine at the cottage. I learned needle work from Brownies, but mom helped me practice.

Who in your life inspired/inspires you to sew and quilt? 

I quilted with my Gramma and great aunts. They would get together once a year with quilt tops done and sit together around a quilt frame under a large tree and quilt, gab, gossip, and plan. I was 5-6 yrs old then.

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Sunday’s Photos.