“Home” in Finnish is KOTI, the name that Kaarina Talvila chose for her company. For her, it is a fitting name linked to memories of her mother who first taught her how to sew. KOTI Designs is also evocative of the fact that Kaarina is very settled in her adopted city of Vancouver, a place where she has lived since 1980, and the fact that she is at home (literally and spiritually) in her studio.
We were curious about the KOTI Designs story; from geology to silk handbag design. Kaarina Talvila achieved a major in geology from the University of Toronto and subsequently worked for a Fortune 500 company in computer support for mining exploration – mapping and data analysis. Now, she creates geometric patterns for silk evening bags and finishes them on a 35-year old on Viking sewing machine.
When did you start KOTI Designs?
I started KOTI Designs on a very part-time basis about twelve years ago (2004), when my children were in elementary school, but I didn’t turn it into a full-time undertaking until about five years ago.
Why did you start KOTI Designs?
Despite the early career in a science-based field, I’ve always been a creator – right from childhood. In fact, I took time off from my software work to go back to school to do a crafts program, but I never thought it was a viable career choice. When I was a stay-at-home mom, though, with children in school all day, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to pursue, finally, the creative life I’d been wanting for as long as I could remember.
Can you tell us about the crafts program?
I already knew how to sew, thanks to my mother, as well as high school Home Economics classes and years of sewing my clothes. Before starting my new venture in earnest, I took a two-year hiatus from my software career and attended Capilano University for their craft program, which encompassed weaving and surface design, as well as drawing, design and art history.
How did you learn to work with silk?
When I was at Capilano University, we got a good grounding in working with all natural fibres, both for weaving and surface design.
Why do chose to you work with silk?
When I was doing table linens, I was using natural linen because of its durability, but for my evening bags, silk was the only choice. Silk is elegant and lustrous. It represents refined quality and still has an aura of the exotic. And, most importantly for me, silk is unmatched for rich and vibrant colours.
Your designs are inspired by Art Deco and the Japanese aesthetic – what is it about bold, precise patterns that speak to you?
Art Deco is very geometric, and that’s me with my math and science background. My designs are very controlled and precise, but also minimalist, and that’s where the Japanese aesthetic comes in. I love the balance and apparent simplicity of Japanese design.
Can you describe your workshop (atelier)?
I have a lovely studio space. It’s on the second floor of my home in West Vancouver, with windows that look out over Burrard Inlet and a walk-out deck. I’m a bit cramped for space, but the beauty and serenity more than make up for that.
How long does it typically take to make a bag?
I usually make the purses in batches of four or five – do all the cutting, then all the sewing, etc. It’s much more efficient than doing them one at a time, but if I were to work it out per purse, it would be about 3.5 to 4.5 hours, depending on the style.
The beautiful KOTI Design bags are made from fine silk cloth and fabricated with an exacting eye.
Image credits: Photos provided by and published with the permission of KOTI Designs