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Nicole Tarasick's ironic and patriotic throw pillows

joanne ratajczak The Globe and Mail

In an age when so many emerging designers are frantic to expand their brands, Toronto's Nicole Tarasick remains a cool anomaly. Paying no mind to the trend of cross-industrializing a creative name, she concentrates her efforts on a single product: throw pillows. Her little poufs of comfort are designed just as smartly as they look. She buys the feathers, cotton twill and linen for the cases locally and uses non-toxic inks for printing.

The creative thesis behind the 28-year-old's product is also just as simple and smart: play up Canadiana for all its worth. Each of her pieces incorporates Tarasick's "partially ironic, partially patriotic" design scheme, including screen-printed images of everything from national maps and maple leafs to moose and Canadian airport codes. Her quasi-kitschy Cancon aesthetic has proved to be so popular that Tarasick had to quit her job as a salesperson at Queen Street West design haven StyleGarage (where she first sold her work) and open up her own company in 2008 to keep up with the demand. Labelling her newest pieces a take on Canadian coats of arms," Tarasick plans to unveil her latest collection at the Interior Design Show's Studsio North exhibition.

"As Canadians, we are always looking outside of our borders for inspiration, but the more I travel and study, the more I find how diverse and rich our own culture is," Tarasick says. "My pillows draw on our own humorous stereotypes. I want to get away from the [notion]of what Canadian design is. I don't want to just regurgitate Canadian design that everyone knows."

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Although Tarasick's work is heavily influenced by Canadian iconography, her roots in Toronto's art and music scene make an impact on her work as well. A student at OCAD University, Tarasick is part of an art collective called AKIN (other members include fashion designer Heidi Ackerman and photographer Oliver Pauk). At home, Tarasick's boyfriend, Michael Dellios, a member of the band Make Your Exit, also spurs her creativity, as she designs posters and disc sleeves for the group. Tarasick insists that being a part of both underground scenes gives her an upper hand when it comes to making new work.

"I want to add a modern viewpoint to Canadian design, hearing stories and getting feedback from a part of Canada most people don't see," Tarasick says. "With pillows, I can be a bit cheeky and make a bold statement."

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