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Claire Sparling: How a Textile Artist Used a Challenge in her Life to Pay it Forward



Claire Sparling has always felt a need to learn how things are put together. Throughout her life, she has followed this instinct by developing skills in everything relating to textiles. From a very young age, Claire has been sewing, knitting, spinning and weaving, never missing a chance to add new skills to her repertoire.But it’s not just the sewing, knitting, spinning and weaving that keeps Claire busy. In addition to designing and creating costumes for professional actors, both in the theatre and in movies, Claire is also a puppy raiser for the CNIB. Claire was given her puppy, Yuki when she was ten weeks old. Claire will be “socializing” Yuki for the next 12 to 18 months.

The art of “socializing” means that Yuki is presented with numerous everyday events. Taking the bus to work, going into a busy coffee shop are but just two examples of how Claire and Yuki send their time together, socializing. Once Yuki has achieved her basic training, she will then graduate to be trained professionally as a CNIB guide dog for someone who has visibility issues. Claire admits it means the world to her knowing the life changing ability a guide dog brings to a human being.

Claire is somewhat reluctant to talk about her dyslexia. As she explained in our conversation, she dealt with it at an early age and rather than dwell on her diagnosis, she would rather use it as way to pay it forward. Which is why, on a sunny day in Winnipeg, as I was waiting to order my coffee, I met this CNIB puppy trainer who takes great pride knowing that through her training Yuki, she is positively changing the lives of another human being.


Episode Transcript:


Stuart Murray 0:00

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One Territory, their traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis nation.


Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 0:19

This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.


Stuart Murray 0:32

One of the things I love about Winnipeg is there are so many local coffee shops, and I love to visit a few of them for two reasons. One is, you get to know the people that are working there and they always have an interesting story to tell as they're making your whatever drink it is, I happen to like lattes with soy milk. And the other part of it is that you get a chance to meet some of the interesting people that do come in to get coffee. And last week in one of the local coffee shops here in Winnipeg, when this woman came in with a dog, and the dog had on a vest, and as I was ordering, she was actually there before me. And so I basically asked, 'Did I step in your way to get my coffee?' and she responded by saying 'no, I am here I am training a puppy for CNIB and my dog's name is Yuki and I'm trying to socialize Yuki in this particular environment.' In other words, she wasn't necessarily there for coffee. She was trying to bring in this puppy that she's training to make sure that as the puppy graduates, we'll find out all about that, that this puppy is prepared. And so I left the coffee shop, took two steps, turned on my heels and went back and said, you know, this is such a great story that I'm going to ask this incredible person if they will appear on my podcast and so Claire Sparling is on my podcast today. Claire, there's a lot to talk about because the the in depth that you have, and I purposely didn't read your resume, because we're going to get to what you do as a professional, which is fascinating. But what you do as a volunteer is I think if I use the right term, you are a puppy trainer for CNIB and I want to just pause one second to remind the listeners as Claire has said, and she may say many times, Claire Sparling is a volunteer, she is not a spokesperson for CNIB and I think it's important for listeners to understand that. So Claire, over to you.


Claire Sparling 2:35

Hi, Stuart. So I guess that the better term would be puppy raiser, training her in the sense that I'm giving her basic manners, basic house training, basic socialization and the idea is that these puppies come in from either Australia or the States or there's some Canadian breeders and they can't be taught how to guide until they grow up. You can't send a kid to med school until they've gone through primary school and high school. So basically, that's what I'm doing with Yuki is I'm giving her the tools she needs in order to go to guiding school. And she's almost almost going to leave soon.


Stuart Murray 3:20

So Claire, just you know, how what is it that you knew about this program? How did you how did you approach cniv about puppy raising? And I'm just saying that in the basis that if somebody's listening to this and saying hey, that might be something that I might be interested in. Did you have to take some training?


Claire Sparling 3:36

I signed up online I had been talking about wanting a puppy and a friend of mine said hey, the CNIB is looking for volunteers and she sent me the link so I filled out the form I didn't get a whole lot of training however, I would say I have had a lot of training working with the training supervisor who has been a text away a phone call away who has checked in with me every week for the first couple of weeks and then every two weeks and every month to teach me what to teach Yuki to kind of check in on my progress on her progress and tell me like when to bring her to the vet and when to get her shots and when to do this and mostly I am advocating for what she needs letting the trainer know oh she's went in heat and then the trainer's like at here's what you do. Actually, she told me a couple of weeks before what to look for and what to be prepared for, but it's really been a very supervised. I felt very very supported lots of check ins and a whole community of other puppy raisers in Winnipeg that have been very generous with their own tips and the guidance and just general support.


Stuart Murray 4:49

So when you get Yuki do you have does Yuki have a name or do they say you know Claire, you can name this puppy whatever you want.


Claire Sparling 4:57

Yuki was named so if people are interested in signing up to be a volunteer, I recommend they go to the CNIB website and look at their puppy program where you can sign up to view a volunteer. There's also a really good series that the CNIB has put together called Blind Trust. Currently, they're on episode 5 and it kind of goes through the the life and process of a puppy. If people are interested in what it's a really well made documentary.


Stuart Murray 5:22

And sorry, Claire to interrupt. Is that on there on the CNIB website, the documentary?


Claire Sparling 5:27

yeah, you can access it through their website.


Stuart Murray 5:29

Okay.


Claire Sparling 5:29

And I can send you the direct link if you want to-


Stuart Murray 5:32

Yeah, please. I'll put it into the show notes yeah for sure.


Claire Sparling 5:35

You can add that, it's a it's a really good eyes view of not only what the work involved of getting a dog ready to be a guide but also what it means to the handlers that then get a dog a guide dog to then help them navigate their life and yeah, the world around them.


Stuart Murray 5:55

Totally. So how, let me ask you, Claire, how old was Yuki when you were given custody of as becoming a puppy raiser for for Yuki?


Claire Sparling 6:05

Yuki was 10 weeks old when she came to me. She had been placed with somebody else for two weeks and then came to meet there's two ways that dogs get named either there's a sponsor that will donate enough money to see the dog throughout their learning career in which case they also get naming rights if they are funded by other things then I think there's a name names go in a pot and and names get drawn out so no, I did not get to name her. She She came with a name Yuki her namesake is a goalball player, which is a Paralympic sport where you you have to be blind or partially sighted you play blindfold and there it's a mix of Belgian bowling and handball. And so you've got this, this ball with two bells in it and you throw it hopefully towards the net of the other team. The audience has to be silent and the other team throws themselves at the ball to keep it from making a point.


Stuart Murray 7:00

Right, right. And they would be hearing the bells, right? I mean, that's how they could navigate.


Claire Sparling 7:05

Yeah they'd be hearing the bells to know where the ball is. So Yuki is a gold medalist Japanese goalball player.


Stuart Murray 7:13

Amazing. Like what like okay, that in itself is is incredible, right? I mean.


Claire Sparling 7:19

And if anyone wants to look up on YouTube go ball. It's it's an interesting looking sport.


Stuart Murray 7:24

I am going to I am going to do so. I mean, the you describe it extremely well, but I gotta check it out. Like it's incredible, right. And I think the part of it honestly, Claire when you think about the audience understanding and being respectful, but I mean, if your team actually gets a point to be, you know, you want to be quiet, you know, you gotta be quiet. There's no sort of-


Claire Sparling 7:42

Your, there's signs saying when you're allowed to applaud.


Stuart Murray 7:45

Okay, okay.


Claire Sparling 7:46

While the ball is in game there's all these signs saying silence please.


Stuart Murray 7:50

Yeah, right, yeah, yeah, interesting. So, So Claire, walk us through what would be a typical day, again, that you're not a professional puppy rate. Well, maybe you are, but you're volunteering is the point. You have a profession, which we're going to talk about, but as a puppy raiser, what is a typical day for Claire Sparling and Yuki.


Claire Sparling 8:11

Our typical day usually involves getting up in the morning, and then it's a bit of a race to go out and relieve the CNIB dogs are trained to relieve on command, which makes it easier to explain to them that we're going inside for a long time. This is your pee portunity as I like to call it, go now or ever hold it and followed by feeding then I'll usually do a walk or a little bit of obedience training and then depending on whether I'm working from home or I'm working in a shop will either take the bus to get to work or we'll do a walk around the block and a little into work work means that she is to be quiet in a corner and not bother me even if there are clients coming through. Even if there's the sewing machine going or construction happening. She needs to be quiet in her corner she can move around she can chew her toy but she can't be bothering me and then we'll take a lunch break we'll go outside have another potty break do about the same thing in the afternoon and then the commute home again if I'm working from home we'll go for a walk around the block or we'll take the bus and then in the evening she likes to go to bed at 8:30. She starts complaining and really good.


Stuart Murray 9:32

Yeah so, so Claire, if you take the bus you obviously again because you are socializing Yuki how was that experience for you? And or do you get cooperation from people to understand I should say this, that you key words of vest? And I think on the vest does it say dog and training it says something?


Claire Sparling 9:52

Yeah. So it says Future Guide Dog on it. So it's a big yellow vest with the CNIB branding on it and basically yeah, so it says Future Chien de Guide. What I've been training her teaching her is that when she's wearing the vest, we have a certain amount of expectations of her that are different when she's off vest. So I'm always expecting her not to jump on people, but when she's on vest, I'm expecting her to not say hello to people, and not to ever relieve while she's on vest. Even if we're outside, she's, she can't do that on vest. And it also, I will only take her into a space, if she's on vest. It also helps to identify her to the public that they shouldn't come up and try and say hi, because she's learning how to ignore. But she can't really learn how to ignore someone if you're waving at her because in dog language is quite rude to ignore somebody who's coming up to you and saying hi. So the best way she can learn how to ignore people's by having people ignore her. So on the bus, that means we come on and the bus drivers have been very good, either treating me like I'm blind, announcing the bus number and all that. And we will always sit in the accessibility seating because the dog goes under the those benches. And then she lives under my feet works very hard and not saying hello to the toddler in the stroller who's throwing goldfish at her trying hard not to eat the garbage under the seat. And we'll take our bus ride and get up and leave by the front door. There'll be different reactions, some people will be like, puppy and some people will avoid looking at me as well. Because they they can't resist saying hi to the dog. So if they don't look at the dog, it's okay.


Stuart Murray 11:45

Right and I you know, I would just have to say, Claire that my experience when I met you in the coffee shop, I mean, you were you know, obviously excellent with Yuki. And I could see the challenge. I mean, you see this I mean, you know, they're gorgeous dogs, they're gorgeous. And so you know, of course you want to, you know, acknowledge in there, they look like they're friendly, and they're smiling at you, and they're giving you all sorts of indications come over and pat me and, and so, you know, I think one of the challenges is and I you know, my wife and I have had dogs in our family. And you know, we learned one thing, Claire that that typically if you take a dog for training, it's really not the dog they're training, they're training the human to make sure that you know it's that's where the training is. And so how have you found that experience with Yuki in terms of you're the one that is really in training, if you will, with Yuki.


Claire Sparling 12:37

I have learned so much from her. We will get into these conversations where she's telling me that she's tired or she's telling me that she's hungry, or she's telling me I'm bored tell me what to do next. And I have to tell her yeah, I agree this is boring. I am asking you to sit still, when there's a really interesting stick over there and yeah, that's not fair. I totally agree. But this is what we're doing and to be able to acknowledge she ate a sandal. She was doing really good not eating winter boots. She was amazing at not eating winter boots, I spent a lot of time with her explaining, don't eat this boot. Don't eat the left one either. Actually, let's not eat the slipper. Note you can't eat my husband's slippers either. And just really identifying and she was doing really great not eating shoes and then June came I took out the sandals and I forgot to tell her sandals a shoe and so acknowledging that that's on me. And also I left her alone unsupervised without unacceptable toy. Both chew toys were outside she was inside she has a need to chew. So this unserved sure object which happens to be a sandal, but isn't a shoe which you know, she's not supposed to chew and she's no she's not supposed to chew the pillows on the couch or the table legs or the recycling bin. So she goes for this other objects and I have to acknowledge like that that's on me.


Stuart Murray 14:09

Right.


Claire Sparling 14:10

And then make sure she never does it again. Or that I never make that mistake again.


Stuart Murray 14:16

For sure yeah, no. And I mean, that is all part of this incredible experience that you're involved in with puppy raising. And so, so Claire, what is the typical time, I mean, you got Yuki did you say at 10 weeks? Yeah so what is the if there is such a thing, maybe there's more of an average, but how long would you anticipate the Yuki would be with you and then maybe walk us through what when that time is up or how it's decided when Yuki graduates to go to the next step?


Claire Sparling 14:46

Usually by the time they're a year to 15 months old is when the training supervisor says, oh, good, she's ready to move on to the college. And it's usually when you start going It sounds really nice. She's doing all the good things, she's not eating anything she's not supposed to I can relax, I'm not kind of worried, oh, what is she doing? That's when that's when they're ready to move on.


Stuart Murray 15:17

So after sort of about a year and a half, roughly, and then what I mean, just, I mean, you're not there yet, it's coming. But how do you how like, I mean, this is emotional, right? Like, how do you say goodbye to Yuki?


Claire Sparling 15:29

I remember that, well, this is what I signed up for. I remember that I'm very, very proud of her and her accomplishments and that she's going to allow somebody to independently go to the post office, she's going to allow somebody to independently go to work, go to the grocery store, walk their kids home from school, because they will have this accessibility tool that will allow them to not be dependent on a partner or a parent, or it will give somebody an independence that you can't really realize that a sighted person has, that an unsighted person doesn't have. Or it's like being a wheelchair to somebody who can't walk. It's an accessibility tool. And I know how life changing having that kind of accessibility tool is, yes, it's gonna be hard. I probably will cry, I will probably be very sad to see her go. But I also know that wherever she ends up, she's going to she is capable of great love, great affection, and she will be a loyal, helpful buddy to someone.


Stuart Murray 16:49

Claire, just a couple of things to wonder in. And again, as I said at the outset, you're not a spokesperson for CNIB, so the question I may ask you about, is it typical that the puppy raisers and these dogs that do go to on to become CNIB dogs, but what would you call a CNIB, like, I know, they keep calling eye seeing dogs? Or what would be the-


Claire Sparling 17:12

Guide dog.


Stuart Murray 17:13

Guide dog. Okay, thank you for that clarification. So Claire, is there a chance that the Yuki might actually be given to a family or a person I should say, maybe in Winnipeg, and that you might actually crossed paths with Yuki at some point?


Claire Sparling 17:27

I mean, yes, it is possible. What I've heard is that the trainers give you a monthly report until they graduate and then you find out whether or not they've been partnered with either blind or partially sighted handler. And then I think you get one visit at your own expense and you can go see them work at a distance.


Stuart Murray 17:47

Oh, wow.


Claire Sparling 17:47

I have heard of some circumstances where, yes, a dog has been assigned in the same city. And that handler has chosen to reach out to their puppy raiser. I don't know how common it is. I mean, for all I know, Yuki could be stationed in Nunavut or an Ontario or to somebody travels all over Canada. I don't know. And also, if she's, if she's on duty, I wouldn't want to distract her from work.


Stuart Murray 18:18

No for sure. I you know, yeah. You've worked too hard. You've worked too hard to get Yuki there for sure.


Claire Sparling 18:23

Yeah. But also, all guide dogs have off time as well.


Stuart Murray 18:26

Yeah. And and the other, this is the question, maybe that is really not as for somebody who does is a volunteer for CNIB. But our guide dogs, are they typically female, or does it not has it, it could be male, female, it doesn't matter?


Claire Sparling 18:38

It doesn't matter. I don't know if there's typical gender the better or not, that they tend to do golden retrievers and labs, because they are easier to train because of food motivation. But-


Stuart Murray 18:54

Yeah no it's just I mean, it's an interesting, I mean, it makes sense that it wouldn't be gender driven that it would be I mean, these dogs are all intelligent and regardless of whether they are a male or a female dog, and so I think that you know, is this something that once you key has, you've taken her through Elementary School, and now she's going on to university, Claire, will you be getting another dog and be a puppy raiser for for CNIB?


Claire Sparling 19:20

I would do it again. I think I'll take a break for a couple of months. It's just nice to not pick up poop every day for a while. So if you're not a puppy raiser, you can be a puppy boarder, which means that somebody needs a break or needs to go camping or whatever, I would house a puppy for a week or so as needed. But I think I would want to wait a while let myself kind of re recenter before taking on another essentially one your projects.


Stuart Murray 19:50

Totally. Yes, exactly. I'll just say this, Claire when I saw you, you know in this coffee shop, I mean, you were working. You know you were working because again and I mean Yuki was every time somebody came in, there was a an interaction, there was a sent, so, you know, I get the fact that at some juncture, you know, this is. And again, as a volunteer, you know, this is part of what your day is all about. So I understand why you might want to want to take a break, and you deserve it, but I was so impressed with how you were, you were training and handling and working through the, through the process. And so you're obviously extremely gifted at it and, you know, that's just my observation.


Claire Sparling 20:29

Thank you. I noticed that I get this very tunnel vision that I just completely focus on her, and how she's reacting with the environment. So I'm more focused on, on what she's focusing on and helping her move through the challenge of seeing you being very excited by you, but then having to not physically react, and maintain that awareness of me that as much as she's excited to meet a new person, I'm saying no, we can't meet a new person, and she has to be okay with taking a treat from me for having seen the person and not jumped up. And, and being treated for that as opposed to positive reinforcement of breaking out and saying hi to you, and having that endorphin of having that behavior rewarded by you saying hi to her, as opposed to me saying, Nope, we're not, we're not reacting to that, and then having to be very rude to the people around me, because all I'm doing is I'm gonna order my coffee later. Right, I need to make sure that this puppy has a constructive learning experience in the shop.


Stuart Murray 21:39

Right and, you know, I think the other piece of it, Claire, that is, you know, it's hard to really understand the life changing ability that a guide dog brings to a human being, uh, you know, I mean, I, you know, they're obviously you see them in public and, and I know, some people who have had a guide dog in their life. And I mean, the, you know, the passion and the relationship. It's so deep and so meaningful and it's, it's really hard to probably understand unless you have been able to experience that. So, you know, the work that you're doing, I mean, it's, it's just incredible, because, I mean, there's some enjoyment there, right? I mean, yes, we've all have to go behind the dogs and pick up the poop. I mean, that's all part of it. But I mean, the enjoyment that it must bring, you must be incredible.


Claire Sparling 22:24

Yeah, it's, there's something very comforting and the amount of trust that she has the she trusts me to keep her safe to help her figure out what she needs to do to help her learn and it is a beautiful bond. And I'm also very focused on making sure that she can bond with others that she's not going to that I'm not her world, because somebody else will have to be her world. The blind trust show really does the they talk with some dog handlers. And they describe how how much independence and confidence having a guide dog gives them, but essentially a guide dog is a good is an excellent friend, an excellent companion, but also a tool.


Stuart Murray 23:10

Right, right. No, that's well said. For sure. Yeah, well said. And so just on this conversation, we've talked a lot about the fact that you're a volunteer, puppy raiser for cniv but when you take Yuki on the bus and you go to work, you are a textile artists, your your profession and sewing, knitting, weaving design, etc. And I went to your website when you gave me your card, which is www. csparling.ca. And Claire I was blown away with with what you do in terms of your obviously you're involved in in the movie industry, the theatre industry. So talk a little bit about what you do as a profession. It because I think as we hear the fact that you're sitting with worrying sewing machines and a lot of other things. I imagine Yuki sitting there trying to figure out what's going on. So let's talk a little bit about your professional day job.


Claire Sparling 24:07

So my professional day job, I'm a cutter pattern drafter tailor the sower I work for her theatre exchange the Manitoba Theatre for Young People I've worked at the ballet, I've worked at Bard On The Beach in Vancouver. Yuki is not accompany accompanied me to all these places, but she did come with me quite a bit to the prairie theatre exchange. So what I do is I take measurements of people and I draw lines on a piece of paper and I make the patterns for the clothing that I then will cut out of fabric and sew together and yes, there's lots of machines like industrial irons, Sergers sewing machines, and I don't know if you've ever heard an industrial sewing machine but it's a big powerful row. Yeah, Yuki had her bed next to my sewing machine and she'd come up and she would would listen to to these big noises and she was like, you're not worried. Okay, okay. This is boring. Yeah.


Stuart Murray 25:07

Yeah, it may be loud, but you look like you're in charge. And I'm good with that.


Claire Sparling 25:11

Yeah, yeah, you're fine with it. Yeah, we, we've been to festivals. We listened to the 21 gun salute, and the first shot went off and she kind of startled. And then she looked at me and then by the third shot, she was just, this is boring.


Stuart Murray 25:27

Yeah. I mean, I know from your your resume, you went to the University of Manitoba and you got your Bachelor of Arts in advanced drama major and minor in mathematics, graduated with honors. Congratulations, but how did you find yourself into that kind of a profession?


Claire Sparling 25:44

The math minor was because there's no essays to write in math, right? They're no essays to write is because I am very dyslexic and have a lot of anxiety around essay writing, theater was a natural progression. I started sewing when I was five, there's a picture in front of my sewing machine of a relative of my sewing machine of me sewing with my brother watching. But, I sewing was something I was good at, and that I understood and that I didn't need to read for one thing that I mentioned earlier that I understand how important it is to have those accessibility tools is there was a tiny section at the library of audiobooks. There's, I don't know maybe a dozen audiobooks. As soon as I discovered that little section, by the end of the month, I had read all 12 of those audiobooks. Reading was not enjoyable. Reading was difficult. I could decode a word but I wouldn't understand the sentence. And I was really interested in stories and learning. But that that written word medium wasn't the way I was taking in information. And so my mother campaigned my pediatrician to write a letter to the library and the CNIB to get me access to the Talking Book Collection that at the time was read by this is before Audible and audio books were having access to these talking books was something that was reserved for the blind. And so having access to this collection, I remember suddenly going from hating reading to loving stories and staying up until, like 11pm, with my headphones on, and listening to, I don't know, I think it was the Count of Monte Cristo and Anne of Green Gables. My mom read my first book of Anne of Green Gables and said there's too many run on sentence she was not going to read me the second. But I was able to, to access these books on my own without having to ask somebody to read to wait for my mom to have the time to read out loud. To me, I figure I'd probably listen to a year's worth of audio content. So a year's worth of puppy raising as the as a pay it forward fair trade for access to that. But you asked me about how I got into sewing and it was coming from a place of it was something that I was good at. It was something I could do. It was something that had nothing to do with reading. And it was something that most of the other kids in my class didn't understand. And so the labeled stupid, disabled girl in class was actually really good at something. And then Claire, can you make me can you so the High School show costume naturally to the drama club. And from there, obviously it was going to go into costuming, because why not? And then during university, I had had a summer job. But then two years after, because of the Young Canada Works, you can't hire the same person for the same job two years in a row and I had a list of Claire will you make me and I figured I've got a tiny apartment. My parents live not too far away. This is the time to risk and see and so I worked through my list and I had I made about the same amount of money as the minimum wage job over the summer. So the next summer I did again, and then when I graduated, I figured, let's see. I'll see how long I can make this list last and every time I started getting to the bottom, more stuff would be added. And that was 11 years ago.


Stuart Murray 29:38

Wow. And that should be the name of your company Claire, Will You Make Me with a dot dot dot? Right. So good. Hey, Claire, so if you're comfortable just sort of talking you know about being dyslexic. What, when did you discover you were dyslexic? And what sorts of impact did that have? I mean, obviously you're incredibly successful today. But when you look back at that, I mean that's that's that's your world is all of a sudden in a different perspective because of that.


Claire Sparling 30:05

Yeah. My mom knew when I was very, very small. She was trying to teach me nursery rhymes. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch the pail of water. Yeah, yeah, Mom, I know it, the boy and the girl climbed a mountain for a drink. And then the boy trip fell down, broke his head, and the girl went, goes running after him. I know it, mom. No, no, don't Jack and Jill. But so I understood the concepts. I just couldn't give her the verbatim. And then I could count 1234, and then more. And then 14 is that the one for the 4 1. And I would just constantly be doing these mix ups. And I was super, super, super smart, but I was failing the test because I couldn't write my name correctly. And I was interacting in class, I had all the questions, the teacher was asking questions, I would I would answer the question, but then I was failing the test. So I got labeled as lazy. I got labeled as not trying hard enough, I got labeled as all sorts of things. I was diagnosed in grade four, but then they still didn't know what to do with me. And it wasn't really until high school that they assigned me a TA, who was then able to take notes for me, read for me, when the teacher would hand out quizzes, read the blackboard for me write down the things and essentially do what my smartphone can do now, which is voice attacks and text to speech, which is a tool that then allowed me to interact with my classroom. In this, there was this new program called Dragon Naturally Speak, which allowed you to dictate, and I was so excited by it, but you had to train it. And the way you trained it was by reading.


Stuart Murray 31:49

Right. Right. It had to hear your voice.


Claire Sparling 31:52

And then I wrote this absolutely fabulous essay about Lady Make- bath.


Stuart Murray 31:58

Makes it make sense. But yeah, for sure. And I, you know, that could have changed Shakespeare's history completely, you know, it's about it's about bath. I mean, it's about bathing. To be clear. You know, Claire, I love the fact that you're, you know, open to talking about this, and I appreciate it very much I, I just, you know, you look at how you've been able to use, you know, a situation where you're diagnosed as dyslexic, but you become this incredible fabric maker, um, you become sort of a go to person to make all of these amazing costumes for theater and for film. And, you know, in that you have to measure things you have to have I mean, there's there are some numbers involved in that. Is that is that been an issue? Is that something you've had to train yourself, or how have you been able to work through through that process.


Claire Sparling 32:43

I was once working for the ballet, and they have different proportions in the ballet. And I did mix up a 23 and a 32, which, but I can see whether it's going to be this big, or this big, doesn't matter what you call it, I tend to work in metric, because 58 is very different from 87. Whereas 23 and 32 are closer, but a lot of it is I have a feel for the sizing. So again, it doesn't matter what you're calling this distance, or this distance, as long as you're consistent. And so if I'm measuring something out, and I'm measuring 54 inch waist, and I look at the 45 I know that that doesn't seem big enough, I've seen the person because yes, and it does happen, and it is something that I need to check in on. But as a business person, I'm constantly having to write emails and use the voice to text dictate aspects on my computer. Something that I tell if I'm working with a team of sewers. I mean, often it isn't an issue because there's so many different languages spoken in shops that you don't leave written notes to each other you leave pins pinned in a certain pin language. And if it this way, it means Hemet to here. And if you pin it this way, it means let it out by that much and it's I worked with a team that there was a Russian lady who barely spoke English but with some gestures and a sound effect I was able to communicate how I wanted the zipper fly put together. And communication is so much more than the written word. I have really learned how to utilize all these other skills.


Stuart Murray 34:29

Yeah, and I just want to make a comment that it's just on your on your resume that you're fluent in both English and French. Is that it? I mean, just just again coming back to being dyslexic are different in French than English the same any noticeable?


Claire Sparling 34:43

So it Dyslexia has nothing to do with the amount of languages you're learning. It doesn't make it more confusing. It doesn't make it. There's just as many Dyslexics in Europe than there are in you know, lingual, North America. What works best for me is to break everything up into phonetic And then just try and make sure I use the first sound not the best sound first, like auto mobiel, I tend to start with a tee, because the T is the most biggest sound. But for me, breaking down, the word into sounds is so much slower. I draw pictures for notes. I don't write them down, I don't write down his waist was this, I draw stick figure. And I put little arrows to where these things are and numbers have meanings based on the place and position they are within the page, not because of the words around them. I also as you discovered and quite brazened about using voice messages. And in this world where we have this technology, why do I need to advocate for you to use that technology is so much different. Now I used to be very foreign to people when they receive a little audio clip, and then I'd have a please listen to this attached audio file. That was never really an issue and the people that it is an issue while there's so many more issues with you.


Stuart Murray 36:13

Right. Yeah, no, for sure. And again, one of the things that I loved about sort of just the fact that when we went back and forth to sort of set up this podcast, is you taught me about that, and the importance of that. And to learn about that and you know, that's, again, thank you, I think it's it's really an opportunity to learn from people like you, what your world what makes your world goal. And you know, the beautiful thing about this, Claire is that it's it's, you know, it's your world. And so it's a perfect world, it's your world. And I love that, you know, I love how you were able to sort of talk about that. I think that oh, I know what I was gonna ask you, I was gonna say, because of what you do, because you are such a professional creator of costume, if you will for theater. Do you ever watch a movie or just randomly go to a movie and watch and go, ooh, boy, they sure made a mess out of that jacket?


Claire Sparling 37:05

This is what my husband hates going into costume shows with me. I mean, I also know that there's only so much you can do with the budget you have. And that sometimes you have to make compromises and if the actor really wants to wear that shade of pink, doesn't matter how historically accurate the blue fabric is. Got to make compromises. But yes. Sometimes like, oh, I would have done that very differently. But, but also I try and keep a broader mind that yeah, there's choices I would have done differently. But every I really want to believe that everybody makes the best decision they can with the information they have. And knowing the whole context and why that decision was made. I try not to pass judgment on it. Although I have opinions.


Stuart Murray 37:53

Right. Yeah, no, no, listen, I mean, when you're a professional, I mean, it's hard not to look at that. I mean, it's not being critical. I mean, you're looking at it, and at an eye what you might have done. But I mean, I just find that's a fascination because of course, you know, in movies and TV, I mean, there's awards for costume designers, there should be I mean, they're some of them are pretty incredible. Just on that note, Claire, have you got a special TV show or movie, you would sort of say, man, when I watch this, like, the reason I'm watching it, I have no idea what they're saying, I have no idea what the dialogue is, but those costumes like rock.


Claire Sparling 38:26

I'm trying to think I enjoyed Bridgerton, not for the historical accuracy, but for the historical liberties that were taken, because it is very much a modern reimagining of what it could have been. And so I enjoyed seeing the blatant disregard for certain fashion lines and the bold choices because I think they reflected other aspects of that time period that if they would have had it, they would have used it kind of thing. And looking at not necessarily the historical accuracy, but the the playing with the costume language.


Stuart Murray 39:05

Yeah, yeah, no, I mean, I think that's, you know, that's, that's your world. You know, I think that's what's so fantastic about what you do. And that's why again, it's for me, when I had a chance to say hello to you and met met you and Yuki to have this transition into what you really do. And it's a fascination, what you're, what you're all about and who you are. And you know, you're a Winnipeg, or you're doing great stuff here. So, Claire, I want to just close by saying for me, you know, the notion that I left that coffee store and walked 10 feet and turned around and came back and said, I really would love to have your story as as part of the podcast. In every podcast I tried to do hopefully I'm successful at it, but I try to make that your story and you have a beautiful story and a fabulous story. And I just want to say thank you for and I want to thank you keep it very quiet during this podcast. So thank you, Yuki. But Claire Sparling, thank you for taking some time to, to finish a conversation that started off in a coffee shop a week ago. I really appreciate your time and admire what you do.


Claire Sparling 40:11

Thank you for reaching out and it was lovely to talk to you as well.


Stuart Murray 40:14

We'll see you again. Maybe not in a coffee shop, but somewhere and I will understand what you're all about.


Claire Sparling 40:19

Yeah, well, if you come to festival diversion, I'm usually in the basement of the wardrobe of the big house, making sure every pre costumed interpreter is properly dressed.


Stuart Murray 40:28

That's, you gotta you gotta date I'll check that out. Alright, thanks again, Claire.


Matt Cundill 40:34

Thanks for listening to Humans, On Rights. A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans, On Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray. Social media marketing by Buffy Davey. Music by Doug Edmund. For more go to humanrightshub.ca. Produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media Company.

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