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Plant People: An Afternoon With Windeyer

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Plant People: An Afternoon With Windeyer

Plant People (noun): a group of people who have a shared affinity and love for plants and nature.

At Sharebloom, we’re plant people, and we want to get to know others who share the same love for nature. That’s why we want to start talking to plant people that inspire us in different ways and see what brought them to where they are today. 

Today, we want to introduce you to Windeyer.

Joanna and Isabel Gertler are a mother-daughter team who curate vintage and second-hand silk items and turn them into one-of-a-kind, flower-pressed apparel. How did we meet this dynamic duo? It was a Sunday afternoon at a local market in Toronto, and we were the only two vendors there working with flowers. It was by luck, or serendipity, that we ended up right next to each other. After overhearing that they weren’t just curating vintage apparel, but taking these unique pieces and making them their own, we got to talking. 

Next thing we knew, we were in their luscious conservatory which is attached to their home, to chat with them to learn a bit more about Windeyer (windy-er) and how it came to life. 

Sharebloom: So, Windeyer is an interesting name. How did you come up with it?

Joanna: It was my grandmother's middle name. So, when we were talking about what we'd call ourselves, we were thinking about the fact that we're a mother and daughter, two women working together as a family. Isabel suggested it and said, "Well, what about Windeyer?"

Isabel: Right and when you were younger, you didn't have a middle name.

Joanna: Exactly, I adopted my grandmother's middle name as mine. As we tried a number of other names, we kept coming back to Windeyer, and so chose it.

Isabel: It has a lot of meaning and a strong family connection, so it’s perfect for us. 

Sharebloom: I don't think I've ever heard the last name Windeyer before.

Isabel: Not a lot of people have! I think that's another thing that attracted me to it, it's a little bit unusual. But still has a nice sound. It's funny, a friend of mine pointed out that the end of it looks like “dyer”, which is exactly what we do.

Windeyer Sharebloom Interview Flowers

Sharebloom: How did you get in to flower pressed vintage silk?

Isabel: I first heard about dyeing silk with flowers about three years ago. I think it was on a blog that I first saw it and I just thought, that's amazing. I have to try this. At the time though, I was in New York for the summer and didn't really have the capacity to do it. So, I filed it away as something I'd like to try, and then forgot about. It wasn’t until about a year and a half or two years ago, I was reminded about it. I was seeing someone else working with flowers online and this time, I said to myself, “Oh I'm not going to forget about it this time, I'm doing it right now”.

I was going up to our family cottage and was talking with Joanna and said "I need you to bring some flowers from the garden because we're going to try something new together.”

Joanna: And she also mentioned to bring some clothes....

Isabel: ...It was more a focus on bringing some old clothes, things that you have but you don’t really use. 

Joanna: It wasn't just silk, but to bring any sort of clothing.

Isabel: Exactly, we were curious to see how it would go with silk and cotton. So, we tried a variety of things and had an experimental afternoon and had a lot of fun over the course of the afternoon.

Sharebloom: I’m curious, it sounds like the cotton didn't turn out?

Isabel: When it comes to cotton, it takes the color differently, it’s not as bright as the silk. If you look at the chemistry, silk is a protein-based fiber like wool and is made by an animal, while cotton is a cellulose material. The dye simply binds better to protein-based fabric compared to a cellulose-based fabric. You can still get color on cotton, but it doesn't adhere to the fabric the same way, and thus the colours are not as bright.

In the silk you can sometimes see the shape of the flower, while with cotton it's much more watercolor-esque with more blotches of color - it's a different effect.  We love the vibrancy that we get from working with silk, so we tend to concentrate on working with silk. 

Sharebloom: You’re almost like a flower scientist, would you say you are to some degree?

Joanna: No I wouldn’t say that, but the gardening course I'm taking at George Brown College in conjunction with the Toronto Botanical Garden is really informative in terms of how to go about planning and planting a dye garden and it's provided me with lots of information to support what we're doing.

Clothes Windeyer Sharebloom Flowers

Sharebloom: It seems like it went from a fun afternoon full of dyeing, to a full-fledged business. How did that come about?

Isabel: I think the thing that kind of made us realize this could be more was when I shared some of the photos of the first batch of things we'd made. The woman who was the florist for my wedding wrote and said that she thought the pieces were lovely. She was just opening a shop and expressed interest in carrying some of what we were making at her shop. That moment gave us validation and made us realise that someone was interested in purchasing our clothes. Other people were also interested, and since Joanna had just recently retired, she was able to dedicate more time to growing and expanding our line.

Joanna: So between August and November, we started the website, settled on our name and  started our Instagram account. We had our launch in November [2018]. It was really successful, even though Toronto got four inches of snow that day!

Isabel: I think, it was the first snowstorm of the year.

Johanna: Yes,it was awful, absolutely terrible weather.

Isabel: Despite all that, we had the event right in the conservatory here.

Johanna: It went really well, we sold lots of garments, scarves and scrunchies and people were really enthusiastic about it. I think that's the other thing that keeps us going; when people see it, they say, "All these things are so beautiful." So, we keep dyeing and we keep producing more.

Sharebloom: Definitely agree. When did your passion for flowers start?

Isabel: I've always admired and enjoyed them. Spring is my favorite season because that's when there's so many of my favorites blooming, like lilacs. I have happy memories of our old house, because we had a lilac growing in the backyard. 

Sharebloom: So there wasn’t a particular moment in time, or memory you have where you truly fell in love with flowers?

Isabel: There’s specific ties I have to certain flowers, especially spring flowers. I love peonies and others. It's hard to pinpoint a specific time when I started liking them. It was just... always. 

Clothing Sharebloom Windeyer Flowers

Sharebloom: It's all so beautiful. Joanna, do you have a favorite flower, maybe one you use in dyeing as well?

Joanna: The flowers that appeal to me most are ones that have a strong scent. They may not be the ones that are best for dyeing, but ones with great perfume include lily of the valley and gardenias. But in terms of a favorite flower for dyeing, that's a hard one. I guess the other plant I really like that we have used and need to do more with is eucalyptus because they have magical properties when it comes to dyeing.

Sharebloom: Really? Can you expand on that a little bit?

Isabel: Certain varieties of eucalyptus will give an orange print, which is really unexpected. It actually took us a while to crack that. We were seeing a community of people online who are also natural dyeing with plants and flowers. And we were seeing people achieve a beautiful orange color with eucalyptus. So we started asking them how they were doing it since we were using it too but not achieving the same depth of colour. What's amazing is that a lot of the people out there are really friendly and willing to share their experiences with others.

Joanna: It is a great community.

Isabel: So, I reached out to a woman in Australia who ended up giving me tons of advice. The trick is that you wrap your fabric with the eucalyptus around a copper pipe, and then boil it instead of steaming it, which is our usual practice . She told us to boil it for one or two hours to get the orange we were looking for.

Clothes Windeyer Flowers Sharebloom

Sharebloom: And because you’re originally from Australia, I’m sure there’s some ties there as eucalyptus is a native Australian tree, yes?

Joanna: Absolutely, and it has a great smell too.

Sharebloom: Do you guys know if it has ties to any ancient practices?

Joanna: Definitely, there's a couple of blogs that we follow, one of them is by a woman in the UK who dyes out in the woods and finds all of her plant materials through foraging. It's exactly how people used to do it and it’s fascinating that she’s continuing to follow that tradition.

Currently you're based in Toronto, do you fulfill orders outside of Toronto?

Isabel: Certainly,  if anybody wants to get in touch through Instagram, or through email, and say, "Hey, I'm interested in this" then we'll make it happen.

How do people order your apparel?

Isabel: It’s very informal right now, just a quick DM on Instagram!

Windeyer Clothes Sharebloom Flowers

Follow @windeyer_studio for updates from this dynamic mother-daughter duo!

Want to see how amazing they are for yourself? They'll be at the Mistletoe Market (Royal St. Georges College School) on Monday, November 18th from 10:00am until 5:00pm.

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