Magpie Goods is an independent homemade fabric and art business that has thrived throughout the last year in isolation. The store is run by Ruth June, the creator, product designer and owner.
The name ‘Magpie Goods’ comes from a personal love of the black and white corvid.
“I just think they’re so clever and so interesting. I’m working hard for people who are like me and different from me in a space that’s kind of hard to be in, and I relate to magpies a lot because they’re so community-oriented. They get a lot of bad rep for themselves even though they’re just thriving,” said June.
While sewing is the job now, June has not always pursued the concept.
“I guess I’m primarily a seamstress right now,” said June.
“I actually only started sewing really seriously right at the start of the pandemic. I did not go to school for sewing or art. I have a double major in anthropology and sociology, and a minor in gender studies,” said June.
The degrees that June has have in no way been left to the wayside. Before launching Magpie Goods, June worked in the human rights industry for six years.
“I would go into peoples’ homes to make sure they were receiving proper support, and that didn’t end when the pandemic started. I had to take the bus and go into peoples’ homes. They were all severely immunocompromised, so I was worried that I was gonna be like, the main mode of contamination for them potentially catching COVID,” recalled June.
“There were no masks, so I started sewing them, and then I kept sewing them. I have a full business now. I still sew masks, but now I’m making fanny packs and hats, eventually with the goal of working more markets.”
June identifies as queer and uses they/them pronouns. This is very prominent in each aspect of their life, including their work. This has engaged the LGBTQIA2S+ community as their most passionate clientele.
“When you’re a queer person in a place like this, the relationships you make with other queer people are really, really important. It’s been the same for my business. Most of the people supporting me are queer or know that I am,” said June.
“It’s a business I built around serving people who also get it, and also know what being a queer person is like here and what that means, and what kind of support that takes. I think there’s been a lot of effort in Edmonton to make spaces for artists who are specifically queer. Those spaces are very comfortable and very, very nice to be in.”
The support Magpie Goods has received from the queer community has led to the continuation and growth of the business. Unfortunately, though it is few and far between, June has experienced some intolerance.
“A few years ago, I was working a market by Whyte Ave., and there was a pretty wide variety of people there. I had a lot of patches and embroidery hoops that were obviously politically charged. I was just working this little market, and I had this guy filming me as if I was doing something wrong or committing violence just by being there,” said June.
Considering the recent provincial announcement that mask mandates are to be restricted as of July 1, June is concerned for public health.
“I worked with people with really severe disabilities for six years and saw first-hand the absolute hell this pandemic tore through their lives. To see really able-bodied people who haven’t been affected by the pandemic, in the same way, being so quick to move forward, and not really thinking what that would mean for other people is kind of disheartening,” said June.
These concerns go beyond the possibility of reduced mask sales for Magpie Goods. June is moving away from mask-making and is moving into making fanny packs and hats.
“Putting the business aside, I would absolutely still encourage people to wear masks. There are so many people with immunocompromised issues and the fact that children under twelve don’t even qualify for immunization yet is really scary. A lot of marginalized groups of people are just further put at risk and don’t get to enjoy the little tidbits of freedom that everyone else does,” said June.
“I think it’s really, really distressing that so many people in our community are just willing to throw away these restrictions that have actually made a really, really big difference in the lives of people that are working really hard.”
June and Magpie Goods continue to thrive as an independent business in Edmonton. Moving from masks to other wearables and beyond offers Edmontonians hand-made goods at an affordable price.