I've been a great admirer of Cadence Hays' (@thewhiitehouse) light, airy and inspiring photos on Instagram for months now. The mid century pieces she restores are breathtaking, and they're always staged with impeccable taste and care. So after months of covetously scanning through her images, I finally reached out to her for an interview and photo session. We spent a few hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon snapping photos, sipping coffee and chatting about life and work.
Cadence got into woodworking through her father. "He was a master carpenter. I grew up with the sights, sounds and smells of his workshop. That was kind of how I spent time with him, because he was always out there. So I knew how to do the basics."
She was also influenced by the design aesthetic in her childhood home. "My house growing up had quite a few mid century pieces, and I never appreciated them back then. My mom's nursing chair for me was a Tapiovaara rocking chair. We had a lot of vintage wall hangings, and beautiful pieces that I never appreciated, and would die to have now."
But that penchant for woodworking and the appreciation for mid century resurfaced in Cadence's life. She'd been working as a free-lance editor while taking some time to raise her two children, and "I knew as soon as my kids were two and up, I had to fight to get creativity and a hobby back into my life." She started slowly. She spent an entire summer experimenting with different oils and stains to see their effects on the wood, and sold her work through Kijiji for a long time, just keeping her pieces at home. And "eventually my husband was like, 'Okay, the garage is for cars, so you're really going to need to find a different space to work.'" So last spring she found a studio in the Exchange District through Kijiji. "There were a lot of responses [for this space] so I added a note that I would supply homemade apple crisp, and I got a call back."
Her studio lies on the third floor of the Glengarry Block on McDermott. After we took the elevator up, we cross through what she affectionately calls "no man's land," a huge, warehouse space with support beams everywhere that used to be a sewing factory. This is where Cadence does a lot of her dirty work, like sanding or applying oils and stains to her pieces. Her studio, on the other hand, is white and airy and full of plants. She has dozens of pottery pieces culled during trips to Palm Springs and various bits of furniture in different states of her process. The space is shared with other artists, painters, potters and has a large studio space for taking pictures. Cadence says they've been toying with the idea of opening up the space on First Fridays to exhibit their work. It used to be a large gallery, mostly for painting and photography exhibits, and she'd like to see it get more use again.
Once she had the space, Cadence created an Instagram account. Although she'd sold a number of pieces through Kijiji previously, she didn't feel like she'd been tapping into the right crowd for her furniture. "Instagram is that 20s, 30s, 40s hip crowd, that are looking for these pieces. They have great taste, these people, but they don't always have the budget for a twelve hundred dollar credenza." Cadence puts a lot of work into her photos. She loves how Instagram is "quick and visual" and she also believes that "You're creating an emotion when you post an Instagram pic." It's a great venue for her to sell her pieces, and currently the only one she uses to sell her furniture.
Another way Cadence has been adding depth to her photos and accessing a larger market is by collaborating with other local artists, makers and entrepreneurs. I first saw her work when Tiny Feast re-grammed a photo she'd taken, staging a beautifully restored and reupholstered chair together with a print they sold. Additionally, she's collaborated with people: like painter Ryan Loeppky; Chelsea Maier of In Plan View (now based mostly out of Vancouver); Jaclyn Peters of Pavilion Decor (her sister-in-law); and Kal Barteski, a script artist who's responsible for all that beautiful flowing writing on the ice at the Forks. Cadence has also started bringing her upholstery jobs to Justin Dueck of Top Stitch (he works just upstairs), and hopes to include some of Haven Design's new geometric work in her photos. She feels that "you have to collaborate in Winnipeg. It's way more fun that way, and Winnipeg's too small not to. Being competitive would be way too energy sucking." She adds that she hopes to find more collaborations, as it's "what makes Winnipeg go 'round."
Although Cadence keeps only a few of the pieces that she restores, you can see her passion for woodworking and mid century design come through in the way she talks. She tells me that she "love[s] seeing an old piece of wood come back," and she enjoys using mid century design to add character to her home. "I think my rule with mid century is kind of how you dress yourself. If you're more casual on the bottom, dress it up on top and vice versa. And with mid century, I don't like all mid century. ... It has to have more of a modern piece with it. If I'm doing all mid century, it's too retro for me."
Lately, she's been able to spend more and more time at the studio, and her pieces have been selling well. Cadence tells me, "It is a hobby. A lot of the pieces that I started with years ago were from my family." (She now gets her stuff from an elderly dealer who's no longer able to refinish.) "It's a hobby that I'd love to grow, but it's kind of uncharted territory." For now, she's happy working away in her studio, collaborating with other Winnipeggers, staging her work and posting it on Instagram, and having customers come down to see their piece at her studio and buying directly. I for one, am excited to see where she's headed.