Part bow tie enthusiast, part dinosaur obsessed, Elija Montgomery is an imaginative and dedicated maker to the core. He recently received some much deserved attention from George Stroumboulopoulos over his installation I AM A MONSTER, which is on display in Xpace Gallery until August 29th. We sat down with Elija to hear more about what inspired him to create his furry monster friend and get his personal take on his own making history.

Hi Elija! Can you tell me a bit about your background as a maker?

This was not something I came to right away, but at the same time it is something I was meant to do. I’ve been sewing and creating things for a really long time. My mother taught my brother and I how to hand sew when we were really little and we used to make punk jackets for our teddy bears. Because making was just a hobby, I didn’t think of it as a career until my first year of OCADU when I got a tour of the fibre studios and I recognized so much of the equipment and tools. The possibilities kind of exploded in my brain on what you can do and make and create. That’s when my life changed. It seems strange to think that this wasn’t always the plan because I’ve been making stuff and designing things for forever. To think that I’ve been sewing by machine for a decade, and hand sewing for 20 years… it’s bizarre!

So from what you can remember, you’re Mum was what first inspired you to be creative?

My mum’s side of the family is more artistically inclined. My grandma wanted to go to art school but then WWII broke out and she had to go to work instead. My grandmother’s great aunts were four sewing sisters that ran a business out of their house in the 1880’s. They were well known in Australia and my grandmother still has their sewing paraphernalia, thimbles and stuff. When I told my grandma I taught myself how to sew on a machine, she said ‘Well, it’s in your blood’.

You have a show on at Window Space Gallery called I AM A MONSTER. Can you tell me more about what the experience of conceptualizing Wat?

I made Wat from scratch, I did a lot of prototyping, testing and pattern making. I had to decide, drawing from my years of making experience, what the functionality of him needed to be and how to achieve it. Because I had so much experience to draw from, I was able to complete it in 6-8 weeks. I went to the ROM and looked at animal skulls and thought about how antlers, beaks and horns attached to the skull, then I looked at musculature, skin, fur and feathers. I researched a lot of different things in construction but they weren’t all applicable. Wat is not a mascot, or a puppet, or a full suit costume but he is components of all of those things. I still sometimes look at him and wonder ‘where did this come from?’ and then I realized I made him with my brain, hands, blood, sweat and tears.

Elija2

I know you’ve been into dinosaurs in the past and that’s extended to a monsters obsession! What excites you about those kinds of creatures?

I was looking into exploring monsters as a narrative device. Growing up as a strange child and feeling misunderstood, there was a magical allure of the misunderstood monster and craving to be accepted, if not understood. The childhood excitement over these strange, weird, magical ideas of monsters and dinosaurs really draws in your imagination. Even though we know dinosaurs existed, there’s still so much we don’t now and are discovering and theorizing, but with monsters you can create their whole realm.  There was one book that I loved that was a great inspiration called Harry and the Terrible Whatzit. It was about this little kid who had this weird monster in the basement. He confronted the monster one day and the more confident he got, the more it began to disappear. It’s an interesting narrative of the more we understand things, the less afraid we are of them and even these scary things can have deep emotions and can be scared themselves.

You were working at Site Bee recently. How was your experience there?

I’ve experienced selling stuff and helping with pop-up shops before, but never anything that ambitious, so that was kind of challenging. It was also rewarding and amazing to work with the people from Site 3 Collaborative Space. It was very busy! Hopefully it will continue to have life. We’ve had some interest from someone in moving the store and the artists and setting up a store of their own, so we’ll see how that progresses.

So collaborating and being involved in that way really inspires you?

I really like being involved in the artists/maker gallery communities, making connections and working collaboratively. My friends just opened up a gallery in this neighbourhood called 8Eleven and I want to do programming with them, maybe workshops. The great thing about not being in school and collaborating with individuals is that it’s a much different scenario, you get out what you put in. The philosophy that I take is if I just keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll get employed eventually because I’m just going to keep getting better at what I’m doing.

What inspires you to create?

Just the idea of making is inspiration enough on its own. It’s this need that I have to fill, so I don’t always think about it. I don’t want to say making things is what defines me but I don’t know who I would be without creating. It feels like its what I exist to do; that is how I exist, by making things. It’s cliché but I feel like I’m making myself as much as I’m making things. I started making bowties because my Dad likes bowties and has always asked for really cool ones, but we could never find any. So I started making bowties, and then I started wearing them and fell in love with them too. That’s one form of inspiration, I want something to exist and it doesn’t yet. The fact that I have the power to create the things I want to create that in and of itself is a great inspiration, to know that I’ve built up skills and abilities to influence my world and shape things around me. To make awesome stuff exist for my own enjoyment is amazing, to wear something from your brain and show it off. I still marvel at that, and it’s overwhelming sometimes as much as it is inspiring.

BOWTIES

What are you envisioning to make for the future?

Such a good question! I’ll continue with commissions and with making things. I still work at OCADU as a class assistant for the continuing studies wearable technology class. I’m doing a CanZine and the Toronto Queer Zine Faire so I’m going to be fixing up some zines for those. I’m part of a zine race kind of event at Word on the Street in September. Continuing to support and develop a maker community, that’s what’s really exciting about it. I want to continue to do that kind of work and developing makerspaces and communities.

Find out more about Elija through the following links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/elijasaurus

Bow Ties: http://callmecornelius.com/

Tumblrs:

http://madebyelija.tumblr.com/

http://elijasaurus.tumblr.com/