Meet Designer Charlyn Reyes for VOA Woman

Charlyn Reyes

Toronto and Montreal, Canada.

Trained as a graphic designer, I quickly grew tired of being confined to a screen and during my studies I explored other artistic mediums like darkroom photography, painting, writing, even furniture making.

During breaks I travelled through Canada and abroad by myself, in order to strengthen my spirit as a woman and find connections within and around me (volunteering on organic farms / backpacking). This journey of self and world discovery had brought me to my interest in learning leather craft using merely my hands to create, like the global artisans I long admired.

I revere the work of hands so much in a world so dependent now on machines and mass manufacturing, creating for profit without soul or ethics. And as a woman, I find working with my hands so empowering and sacred. I am proud to continue to practice skills that have been so important in many cultures and our earlier society with traditional craftsmanship.

Concho Bag designed by Charlyn

Each ELKLYN piece has many hours of devoted hand work behind its creation. No machines are used in any process, everything is completely handcrafted, hand-stitched, and hand-dyed. It is a one-woman studio: every creative aspect is produced solely by Charlyn. Handcrafted in Canada.

Photograph by Charlyn from her travels.

VOA: How are your designs and creative process connected to your identity as a woman?

ELKLYN was born out of my personal and creative journey. I have expressed myself through different creative mediums and found that it is most natural for me to work with my hands. I have wandered around quite a bit and my travels and experiences have opened my mind vastly and influenced me greatly, as a woman and a creative. Because I create with my hands, I believe I pass a lot of my energy onto my creations. I like the idea of passing on this energy, as I am so grateful for all the energy I feel has been passed onto me to be inspired to create. I value the kind of woman I aspire to be. The tedious and meticulous nature of my designs and creative process is important to me. I spend so many hours stitching work by hand and minding every detail because that process is sacred. I have so much admiration for women globally who spend months weaving a single basket or a textile, dyeing and sewing cloth by hand, creating with natural foraged materials, and all with so much devotion, creativity, patience, strength, and beauty. I want to honor these artisan women through my craft.

VOA: What does “flight of a woman” mean to you?

To me, “flight of a woman” means having the courage and strength to explore creatively, express ourselves in ways we feel called to, and to be open to discovering ourselves and the world, without holding ourselves back out of fear. It means freeing ourselves from the societal pressures and limitations of what and how a woman should be, while being in tune and trusting to follow our natural instincts and gut feelings. It means that we can go anywhere we are called to go and do anything we are compelled to. Our potentials as women are truly boundless and the gifts we have to offer are profound and need to be released and shared.
Image of a deep diver woman under the sea taken from Charlyn’s blog

Why are you passionate about handmade art and craft?

I am passionate about handmade art and craft because I believe hands are absolutely sacred, and objects made by hand are therefore sacred as well. A connection forms from the world, to the artist’s mind, to the artist’s hands, through to the object, and finally to the person who possesses the object. I just don’t feel that kind of connection or depth with mass produced, machine-made goods. Machines are meant to make things perfect and uniform, while hands allow for unique character and a mark of individuality. So much of our modern society relies on complex technologies and the use of machines for production. It’s all so fast, manufactured, for-profit, lacking soul, and much of it is unethical and unsustainable.

What does wearable art mean to you?

I view the idea of wearable art as something against the fast, for-profit fashion industry. They are pieces created by talented artists/artisans that are made skillfully, meticulously, and mindfully. I believe that a piece can be considered wearable art because it is foremost a creative expression. These pieces can be viewed as being more works of art because I believe the intentions are deeper and more meaningful coming from the artist than just being mere commodities designed for profit and feeding disposable trends.

What feelings do you want women to take away from your brand?

I want my work to connect with people beyond superficiality. I want them to be able to feel my journey, to perhaps even be transported by it and discover new ways of seeing.

Describe how culture and cultural identity inspire your designs?

When I travel, I am fascinated by the arts and crafts I see in the markets, traditional garments, old architecture, and the role of nature in people’s lives. I have looked to artisanal methods of leatherwork to inspire my own creations. Hand techniques have informed my own craft practice of creating without the use of machines. I chose to learn from and expand upon these ancient methods of creation, and to build my hand skills because I greatly revere this kind of work that takes so much patience and mastery. I am very inspired by vintage pieces of different eras and different parts of the world. There is so much artistry and character in those one-of-a-kind works.
SIREN SONG BAG created by Charlyn
Charlyn Reyes and international designers like her will be showcasing their one-of-a-kind handmade fashion and accessories collections in San Francisco on Saturday, November 12th at VOA Woman’s shopping experience event, “Flight of a Woman”.

Register to attend “Flight of a Woman” shopping experience in SF:

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Interested in showcasing with us? We are always looking to meet international designers creating wearable art + handmade collections of clothing, accessories, art, objects or textiles. We’re based in San Francisco, California. Contact us:

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