Farida Talaat had her eye on this High Park studio last year, while still residing in Dubai. “I think it’s a sign that I came to Toronto and still found it available, given the hotness of the market,” she says. “It’s good for me and I’m destined for it.” But the auspicious find came with a few functional challenges for the multidisciplinary artist, who uses the one-room “cuboid” for both living and working.
“Sometimes the place becomes very messy because, as an artist, I tend to have bouts of inspiration and work on multiple projects at the same time. Then I’m hungry and need to eat,” she says. For the painter, self-taught fashion designer and cross-stitch enthusiast – Talaat has taken to embroidering iconic Canadian brands, sights and personalities for her latest project, called A Cross Stitch Across Canada – that’s just fine. “I’d rather keep the messiness and the proverbial creative juices flowing as opposed to stifling my creativity,” she says.
Even so, Talaat maintains a semblance of order through smart layout decisions and dual-function furnishings. An open bookcase from IKEA separates the bed from the living space, defined by a sofa and area rug. It also holds her art supplies – buttons, thread and more – tucked neatly into banker’s boxes. Her vanity doubles as a sewing table that’s always at the ready, since “I only spend two minutes a day looking at myself in the mirror,” she says. An easel is perched at the foot of the bed – though sometimes Talaat opts to work on the floor – and an adjacent wall serves as a mini-gallery for her cross-stitch hoops.
"I want this place to be more of a studio where I feel creative than to have a place that’s always ready to host people,” Talaat says. When friends do come over, she feels as though she’s invited them into her art studio. “I’m exposing myself, my art and creativity to them,” she says, “but I’m also cognizant that this is my home.”
Talaat benefits from the fact that she doesn’t have a particularly noisy or obtrusive creative practice – the neighbours aren’t awoken by her cross-stitching feverishly into the night, for example. Nevertheless, she tries to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
A light-coloured palette and predominantly white furnishings help reflect light and create an aura of openness. Talaat was slow to decorate the space, shopping for the right pieces at antique markets and big-box stores alike. “I spent a lot of time. It’s not like I went on a spree to furnish the place,” she says. Taking care to choose the right pieces meant no wasted space – and no wasted materials. “It’s a small space, but I’m in control of how I furnish it," she says. "I want it to look nice but also be functional at the same time.”
Talaat is currently working on a piece for a Toronto art fair. Her cross-stitching remains a relaxing hobby. “The reason I took it up in the first place is because it’s very therapeutic. You tend to forget everything else once you’re fixated on that circle and the monotonous activity of the needle going up and down.”
Turns out the artist enjoys a bit of order with her creative chaos.
“Ever since I moved into this space, I’ve been met with a great deal of freedom. While that’s a good thing – to have every single freedom afforded – do I really want to exercise it? I also need to be disciplined, for the sake of being a disciplined human being and not allowing my art to overtake my life such that I don’t eat or sleep or live properly,” she says.