I think I met an angel. In her eyes, you can see all of the passion, beauty, and wisdom that Irene Stickney has to offer. She is the founder of an amazing sewing school called The Make Den. A year ago, the school moved to a unique location with a great 1950s vibe, on Bloor Street West. It is there that creativity and discovery are at their best.
Stickney’s first client was PACT (Participation, Acknowledgement, Commitment, Transformation), a charity that works to support and empower underprivileged and at risk youth. Irene claims it was “good luck” that she found out about PACT, just when the founder, David Lockett, was looking for someone to partner with them to create a fashion program. David caught wind of Irene while she was teaching at 69 Vintage. Once hired, she taught them how to sew, how to explore their creative side, and most importantly, how to present a skill set in which they could be confident. Her ability to talk about her passion and engage with youth is simply noteworthy. By dedicating a lot of her time to working with the youth of this program, she has sent them on a journey to achieving their goals and perfecting their projects, both on a physical and a mental level. It isn’t often that we are given second chances and new opportunities, but Irene has provided this group with an abundance of encouragement to make for a brighter future. “Creative people are more creative when they are around more creative people,” says Irene.
Besides a relationship with PACT, The Make Den is also a great school for anyone who would like to learn basic sewing skills, how to alter or modify a piece of clothing, and for anyone looking to hone their skills with other creatives. At The Make Den, there is always something to learn. Irene and her team have stitched themselves seamlessly into the world of sewing and are eager to share their knowledge with you. From beginner to expert classes, it is easy to realize any creative goal with their help. They are well-equipped with quality machines and their professionalism is a major factor in the success of The Make Den.
“You cannot just teach without working and visualizing other accomplishments. You need to learn about something new every day…”explains Irene when asked what she does when she isn’t teaching at The Make Den. Irene is also the initiator and an active member of The Nightly Shades, a group of seven amazing women from various industries – each talented in her own respect. Together, they work to mesh bikes and fashion, with the creation of fantastical bike lights that exceed imagination. Bike fanatics and fashion lovers can finally unite over this gem and cruise around our city in a completely new way.
There are only so many ways to describe how humbling and remarkable it is to see how fashion can impact and give back to the community. The Make Den is an art studio where this connection is realized. Irene and her staff help make this connection everyday and have made this a career. Heavenly, don’t you think?
WORDS: ISABELLE SAVARD
PHOTOS: MAX POWER
LOCATION: THE MAKE DEN