Arts & CultureCampus & City

Two U of A alumni chosen as vendors for Butterdome Craft Sale

Natalie Chan, co-founder of Tulip + Oink, and Leah Kudel, founder of Suspended Studio, are part of the 110-plus artisans featured at this spring craft market.

From May 3-5, the Butterdome Craft Sale at the University of Alberta will host over 110 artisans from across Canada. This year, two U of A alumni were jury-selected to participate in the market: artist Natalie Chan and glassblower Leah Kudel.

Chan and her mother co-founded Tulip + Oink, through which they sell adorable dog accessories, stickers, totebags, and more. Kudel runs Suspended Studio, a glassblowing studio and gallery space in Edmonton.

“I just want to spread my very positive, cute agenda” Chan says

Chan graduated from the U of A with a Bachelor’s of Arts in East Asian studies. During her degree, she studied abroad in Taiwan. She described how most businesses were locally owned, which she admired.

Christine and Natalie Chan

“I got to meet so many people that made me want to know more about East Asia and enjoy the pop culture,” Chan recalled. The designs that she creates for Tulip + Oink are inspired by the anime and “cutesy art” that is popular in East Asia.

The mother-daughter duo founded Tulip + Oink in July, 2022. While Chan creates the designs, her mother sews everything they make. The business began by selling hand-painted dog bandanas, but has since branched out to creating various cute accessories.

When Tulip + Oink first came together, Chan said she didn’t have plans to take the business outside of Edmonton. But now, they have plans to attend anime conventions in Toronto and Vancouver this year, and are planning trips to the United States.

“I just want to spread my very positive, cute agenda,” Chan explained. She said that although Tulip + Oink is a “slow-fashion” brand — meaning everything is handmade — she wants products to continue being accessible.

Chan also emphasized the importance of connecting with the community and speaking out on social justice issues.

“I get flack, occasionally, about not separating the social justice things [we] care about from the business. But I think overall — especially with being at the U of A and getting to talk to students — it’s totally worth it.”

Chan explained how she never planned to use the business to support issues that are important to her, but “it’s been a really beautiful thing that has come out of it.”

“You never get bored with glass,” Kudel says

Kudel has been a glassblower for 14 years. She received her Bachelor’s of Education in fine arts from the U of A, and went on to receive her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in glass at the Alberta University of the Arts.

Kudel has worked in various countries, including New Zealand, where she said many studios are run by women. She was inspired to start making art for herself, rather than for other people.

“Glass is very physical,” Kudel explained. “You get to a point of, do I want to run my body down making my art or making other people’s art?”

leah kudel glass
Leah Kudel

Kudel decided to move back to Edmonton, where she founded Suspended Studio. She mainly enjoys creating beautifully designed and crafted homeware.

Through her studio, Kudel sells a variety of houseware, including bowls, sun-catchers, and olive oil bottles. For those interested in trying their hand at glassblowing and creating a special figurine, Kudel teaches classes as well. But one of the especially unique things that Kudel creates in her studio is memorial pieces.

“I embed ashes into the glass. You can do any kind of shape, as long as the glass isn’t too thin,” she explained. “It becomes a really special keepsake.”

According to Kudel, glass is infinite in that there is a never-ending amount of techniques to discover.

“You’re always learning, pushing your skills, and trying new things. It’s really great — you never get bored.”

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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