An interview with Christina Pupo – Designer, maker and instructor

“You’re building something that will last and that you’ve created a bond with.”

Christina with her cork planter.

Christina with her cork planter.

Christina Pupo is the new fearless leader of Junction Workshop (JW). Since taking over the reins from Heidi and Carey in September, it’s hard to imagine a better person to entrust with strengthening and growing our unique community.

Christina works by day as a technician and instructor in the Faculty of Design at OCAD U, the rest of the time she leads JW, runs a side business selling cork planters, and attends craft schools where she learns how to work with all kinds of different materials. She’s also mom to Siri the geriatric pup and Butters the cat. Christina is a busy lady.

While Christina’s a wood worker first, she’s bringing a broad skill-set to JW that includes ceramics, bronze casting, and cork explorations.

I spoke to Christina about her decision to take over JW, where she sees it heading, and why she loves cork so much!

What made you decide to join JW?

This is something I’ve always wanted to do and I always admired how Heidi and Carey grew and ran JW. I’ve been going to these craft schools in the States, the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado, where you can take classes for a week or two on a variety of mediums, from bookmaking to ceramics and metal work. You end up spending day and night with a group of creative people in a studio making things. It’s like art camp for adults. I’ve always enjoyed and admired these craft schools, which is why being part of JW is great. My dream is to eventually have a property outside of the city with a variety of studios where we can host retreats.

One of your favourite materials to work with is cork, why?

It’s a really interesting material. Cork is rot resistant, a natural fire retardant, and water resistant, it’s used in so many things you would never think of like as a leather alternative in bags and in heat shields on spaceships.

The way it’s harvested is also really fascinating. It’s the outer bark of the cork oak tree and most of it comes from Portugal. It takes 9 years to get to the right thickness for harvesting and there is a certain time of year when the humidity is right and you can just peel it right off the tree, it sounds like Velcro. Once harvested, they punch out all the wine bottle stoppers. Then the rest is mulched and turned into different products like sheet materials of different densities, fabrics, or flooring. All the leftovers from that are broken down and used again. That’s what’s so amazing about cork, there’s absolutely no waste. It’s sustainable and renewable.

How did you get into wood working?

I’ve always been creative and had a desire to take things apart and put them back together, or not... I always wanted to do something with my hands. When I was younger I would refurnish all my furniture and change it as much as my skills would allow.  I just loved the idea of working with wood. It was something I wanted to learn because it was a skill I could really see myself using.

So, when I stumbled across Sheridan College’s furniture program, I absolutely fell in love with it and applied. The program is great in that it’s so hands on, they get you on the table saw right away so you dive right in and start making things. I liked that everyone had really different backgrounds. There were a lot of mature students who had previous careers and I found that everyone was really focused and knew exactly what they wanted from the program.

Why do you think there’s so much enthusiasm for JW’s classes?

It gives people who are interested in getting into wood working a great starting point because you don’t have to enroll in school or buy a bunch of expensive equipment and machinery. Taking a class is great to get a sense of what it’s like and see if it’s really something you’re into. You’re not investing too much time or money and you get to learn from experienced and established wood workers. It’s also just something you can do for fun, you can take a class and proudly walk away with something you made. 

What do you think is a common misconception about wood working?

That a career in wood working will make you a ton of money. People do it because they love it. A lot of people think it’s easy and you can build something fast, but it’s challenging and it’s time consuming. That’s exactly what I enjoy about it, so much time and effort goes into a piece and you appreciate it more. When people commission a piece from you it’s a whole process where you work with them to make something that you both love and that will last. The people I know who work with wood are always in the shop and they are so dedicated to what they do. You need to have that drive because it does consume you, you’re always thinking about it.