Skye Oleson-Cormack is a multi-disciplinary designer based in Montreal, QC. She currently runs Fingers Crossed Press and is available for freelance opportunities.
When I was a kid, my mother gifted journals to my brother and I and encouraged us to draw out moments from our days as much as possible. The process of learning to visually express my thoughts and emotions at an early age was an incredibly formative experience for my design career.
It wasn’t until high school that I learnt that the work I loved creating and indulging in was considered design. As a teenager, I was really into my local music scene, and that interest led me to my first meaningful interaction with what I would define as traditional design and advertising. Plastered all around town, fighting for space and attention, show posters became my obsession. I started collecting them and studied them thoroughly, trying to figure out what made some stand out better than the others. My favourite posters were for punk shows because they often were hand drawn, and for a kid who couldn’t afford photoshop, the accessibility of that DIY culture really spoke to me.
Before I knew any local promoters, I would create my own posters for the shows I was planning on going to and put them up around town, trying to bring attention to my favourite bands and my new design hobby. I also started working on event posters for my high school, and that’s when my art teacher noticed the direction I was taking with my work; she helped me start turning my passion into a career path.
For years I had been searching for a local print shop that owned and operated a risograph. A lot of my favourite designers and artists were using the risograph to create some really unique and beautiful work, and it became something I was dying to try out myself. It’s also an extremely easy and cheap machine to use and operate (and therefore a very accessible tool for creatives at different skill levels, which is the most appealing aspect for me).
While scrolling through twitter, I spotted an ad for an old risograph in Vancouver, so I decided to take the plunge and planned a trip around picking it up with two fellow creatives, Ashley Huot and Jenna-Katheryn Heinemann. Ever since, I’ve been in the printing business and have started a risograph press called Fingers Crossed. The name points to both the unpredictable nature of the risograph as well as the blind enthusiasm I take in my creative practice.
A lot of my work revolves around the celebration of life. I enjoy creating things that make myself and others happy. I’m into making fun of myself and trying to keep a pretty light hearted approach to most of my work. I am currently obsessed with smiley faces, simply for the fact that they are such a wonderful and ubiquitous symbol of happiness. Their main purpose is to spread joy, and I am completely enamoured by that goal. I try to keep it in mind when I’m designing.
I’m also inspired by queer feelings and a lot of my more personal work revolves around self-care and love. Queer representation is very important so I try to infuse my own experiences with my queer identity into my self-directed projects. The outcome is a lot of mushy feelings about my relationships with myself and my loved ones. Being honest and open in my work has allowed me to grow more quickly as a person and as an artist, and it has allowed me to realize how universal and important these feelings and narratives can be.
I’m most proud of Carepackage, which is a multidisciplinary collective I created with Artist Anna Olaes Parker and Producer/DJ, Sarah Ahmad (Hood Joplin). Carepackage aimed to create and celebrate safe spaces within underrepresented communities in Edmonton by showcasing local talent. We invited artists, designers, DJs, and producers to collaborate in our themed events.
To give you a bit of background, Carepackage came to be when we saw the need for a platform that would showcase a more diverse range of creative individuals, including those that might not have yet had the opportunity to be seen or heard, regardless of their previous experiences, backgrounds, or identities. At the same time, we felt there was a huge lack of events that really fused together music and art/design, so we knew it was important to create a collective that revolved around collaboration and the celebration of different talents.
Within Carepackage, I took the lead in art direction and design, as well as the curation of artists and their work. Although it was short-lived, I learnt a lot about collaborative projects and working with a multitude of different individuals. It gave me a lot of insight on how I can better facilitate and give back to my community. I hope to create a similar project in the near future that amplifies and celebrates underrepresented voices in my community.
Having a positive impact on another individual’s life is really important to me, and if that can happen through the work I create, I’d define that as the ultimate success. Witnessing someone have an honest emotional connection with my work is the best feeling ever. For example, I love hearing about people interacting with some of the heartfelt zines I’ve created and realizing that the emotions we are often ashamed of are totally normal and universal, and that we need to embrace them along with the ‘good’ feelings.
That, or having my heart explode when a parent buys gay-themed merchandise for their child because they love and support their identity.
I also find success in teaching and passing on my skills. There are far too many gatekeepers in design, trying to maintain a power structure which is built on classism and privilege, so nothing makes me happier than being able to spread my knowledge with others. Creativity should always be accessible, and being able to help people with the tools they require to reach their creative potential is truly a gift.
Women are finally starting to take up a more substantial role in the design industry, but we still see a lack of women, especially POC & LGBTQ+ women, in leadership roles, which is obviously a major problem. Visibility and representation are extremely important in this industry in order for people with various backgrounds to understand there’s space for them.
I’m very proud to be a queer woman in the design field, allowing others with similar backgrounds to see that it’s possible. Celebrating our differences is the only way we can encourage more diversity and start hearing from more voices, truly enriching the design community as a result. I am happy that I can take up space in this industry and show that there is room for people from underrepresented backgrounds. I hope that with the comfort I feel in this community, I can use my privilege to help create space for those who aren’t as represented.
Interact with people outside of the art/design world. Making an effort to surround yourself and work with people from different backgrounds is a must. Diversity is important to both our personal and professional growth. Collaborating is the best way to enrich the work you are creating and to help you open up to new ideas and perspectives. It’s also one step towards seeing a more inclusive industry.
My greatest mentor is my former art director, Rian Eygenraam, who is currently based out of Vancouver. She was the first woman I worked with who held a senior position, and I am forever grateful for her being apart of my life and creative career.
Rian allowed people to feel comfortable in their skin and really created an honest and open work environment. She respected her team, was a clear communicator, and she was flexible with her ideas and assignments. Rian always was nurturing my potential and helping me realize my worth. It’s easy to get discouraged in this industry and to feel like an imposter, but she truly and selflessly encourages others to push pass those feelings and challenges people to aim higher.
I’ve worked with individuals in leadership roles that are afraid of others succeeding or surpassing them, but she was always rooting for you no matter what and always giving credit where credit is due. She is truly the most supportive individual I’ve met in my career, and I am so thankful that she continues to be in my life.
I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I’d like to start giving back. At the moment, I am usually printing my own work and a few commissions with the risograph, but I’d like to delve into the publishing industry so I can start focusing on creating a platform for other voices to be heard and seen. I’m starting to also put in some very preliminary work for creating a community space that would primarily focus on giving LGBTQ+ identifying folk a space to work and explore their creativity.
Two really influential illustrators for me are Ed Emberley & Adrian Tomine.
Ed Emberley demystifies drawing in a very nice way. When I was a kid, his drawing books really helped me learn how to visually break down a problem and turn it into something simple and manageable. The way he turns complex subjects into just a few simple shapes is unreal. He really helps reinforce the idea that everyone can be creative; it’s just a matter of finding the right process.
Adrian Tomine was very important to my teenage artistic development. His work opened me up to an incredible world of alternative comics and inspired me to incorporate personal narratives into my work. One of his most successful projects, Optic Nerve, was originally self-published, and knowing that really gave me the confidence and motivation I needed to start producing and sharing my own zines and comics. The offbeat nature of his work made it clear that there was room in the industry for different voices.