Yassine Touati attended our March 2022 workshop and expressed his appreciation for the knowledge we were able to provide him in the pursuit of fur excellence. This is his story:
My interest in fur grew exponentially since my arrival to Canada about 18 months ago. I learned about the FurCanada workshop on the website “The Truth About Fur” at the occasion of my participation at the Canadian Fur Council Design Competition for which I was a finalist (I was lately able to attend their amazing Fur workshop which was delayed because of Covid). I was very eager to learn more about fur and working with it as soon as possible. Consequently, I reached out and I got to communicate directly with Calvin who was approachable and welcoming. I kept following the updates and as soon as I got the chance to come to Nanaimo for the workshop, I rushed to book my trip from Montréal to the Canada’s West Coast to attend two Fur design workshop sessions after saving for several months to be able to afford it. Following the footsteps of Canadian Explorers, in pursuit of furs, I embarked on this exciting journey to discover a new territory/part of Canada, the stunning nature and the rich cultural heritage. After a long Montreal winter, I was striving to learn new skills and fuel my inspiration and creativity.
At FurCanada, the charismatic Panos supervised and directed the workshop. He is a very knowledgeable teacher/instructor who I had the pleasure to get to know and connect with him partially due to Mediterranean shared culture and around the passion for fur. Every morning, Panos gathered the participants to discuss our questions and warm up the session. On the other side, Calvin played the role of maestro coordinating all aspects of the workshop. Even though, he was in the background, I got the chance to discuss with him and listen to his stories, his entrepreneurial vision, and his experience in the realm of Taxidermy and fur trapping which goes along with his passion to preserve traditions and trades fundamental to Canadian identity and embedded in its history as a nation. The workshop was an amazing experience where Panos brought his expertise from Kastoria, the Greek fur Capital, from the Old World to the New World all the way to the Pacific coast of Canada. Panos introduced his approach and demonstrated the fundamentals of that every furrier must master. He taught us how to examine the anatomy of skins/pelts while considering the individuality of each animal. We learned how to recognize and determine the features as well as any visible defects, scars… This observational step is crucial to making the necessary corrections using well defined classical techniques. We spent a considerable amount of time blocking several skins of different sizes such as Canadian sable, Fox, and Canadian beaver. I realized the importance of blocking and shaping the skin to define the dimensions required to fit our patterns/designs. As a leather designer working with leather, these techniques were a revelation and new knowledge. A pelt is more shapable and allows the furrier and fur designer more flexibility than leather. On the other hand, the animal skin in its natural format and color must be considered as an individual and therefore assembling skins from the same animal specie should involve another set of skills and the expertise related to colour grading (another technique Panos was eager for us to practice extensively).
During the workshop, I was able to meet and interact with other students each from a different walk of life. We all shared our knowledge and a common passion for fur. The classroom environment encouraged interactions, open discussions, and lot of questions, all in a general atmosphere of hospitality and generosity. Panos was generous with all the information he shared and motivating us to ask the most questions. I personally enjoyed learning the techniques of blocking and stretching the skins which involved dexterity and manual skills. Working with my hands and touching the materials was a great source of satisfaction.
I am very happy that I was able to meet and learn from both Calvin and Panos. It is a pleasure for me to be part of this community and to do my best as a designer to promote fur designs and contribute to it through my personal vision. My dream is to see the Canadian fur industry once again thriving and celebrating tradition, innovation, technology, and excellence as a gratitude for the wealth of natural resources and a connecting point with the cultural heritage of Canada’s first nations.