Katharine Of The Island
It seems that lately more and more people strive to complete the perfect aesthetic for their Instagram pages, but for Katharine MacDonald, her social media is effortlessly put together to compile the bits and pieces of her outings and findings. Originally, Katharine is from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, hence her Instagram handle ‘@katharineoftheisland’. On her page, she showcases an array of local spots that might not be on everyone’s radar and creates stunning felt and embroideries inspired by her local surroundings.
After Here & There Magazine’s Halifax City Series release in September, we caught up with Katharine to discuss some of her favourite highlights, what makes her neighbourhood so special and the inspiration behind her art.
You’re originally from PEI, when did you move to Halifax? What attracted you to the city?
I am from Charlottetown but grew up in Savage Harbour, on the North Shore. Though I have always lived in the Maritimes, I was born in Toronto and some Islanders won’t let me forget it! I moved to Halifax in 2018 to be in the same place as my partner, now husband. I think every Islander contemplates a move to Halifax when they grow up, but I never thought I would actually do it until I met Chad. I’m glad I did!
What would you say is truly unique about Halifax and the community here?
There’s a certain process of ‘Maritimization’ for anyone who moves here. Most of the folks I know here aren’t from Halifax, or even the East Coast, but you can tell being here has a certain effect on them. The pace of life is sort of mellow but there’s also so much happening around us - it’s a kind of dualistic thing where it feels like a big city and small town at the same time.
You’re always looking for new findings. What are some of your favourite spots/creators in Halifax?
There is so much creativity here in every sector, and such a strong crafting heritage. I served on the board of Halifax Crafters for a couple of years and discovered a ton of artists and craftspeople that way. Currently I’m aching for a hand-hooked rug from Crystal Rugs, and I love the drippy motifs on Slightly Irregular pottery. In a more general way I just appreciate seeing people pursuing their passions and if that means traversing the city for a good loaf of bread – like to Birdies in Woodside or Dinah’s in the deep North End of Halifax or some bubble tea at Holy Moly Milk Tea in the Woodlawn area of Dartmouth, I’m happy to do it. I’m also happy to share it. It’s kind of presumptuous of me to act like some sort of ambassador but in small places we all share a responsibility for the continued success and presence of small local and independent businesses.
Following you on Instagram, you have a very tight community on the street where you live in the North End. How would you describe your neighbourhood to someone who has never been there?
We call our neighbourhood Sesame Street! It’s an eclectic mix of folks, of different backgrounds, ages, incomes, races, etc. We all help each other out, socialize regularly, introduce new neighbours and try to include everyone. It’s a feeling of trust and friendship that I didn’t realize I’d be able to cultivate in such a short time.
After looking through Here & There’s Halifax City Series, which features or highlights were you most drawn to? Why?
Definitely Out to Sea! My MA is in Island Studies. I don’t know how islands so close to the city can still feel so mysterious. I visited George’s Island for the first time this fall and loved it.
Your embroidery work is stunning. How did you get into your colourful, East Coast home pieces?
Atlantic Canadian vernacular and heritage architecture is so special, it deserves to be a motif. I just want to capture the cheerful resilience of it all.
What inspires your art?
My sense of place, first and foremost. I’m always jealous when people say “travel” inspires their art, but I think every small Maritime town I’ve been to has had an effect on me. I would also say humility and small joys are things I like to capture; lately I’ve been exclusively embroidering sticks of butter, because it’s just a simple pleasure.
Do you think you will ever return to PEI to settle, or will you stay in Halifax, or go somewhere else?
We are planning on moving to PEI in 2022. I’m just ready to have a bit more space, physically and otherwise. I’ve cherished my experience of living in Halifax and grown in a lot of ways here, but we see our next chapters playing out in a rural space. My thesis is about Islanders returning to PEI, and I’m ready to do it myself.