by Thalia Stopa | Katie Piasta is one hell of a woman. A pillar of the DTES community, the long-time Strathcona/Chinatown resident runs the Window Community Art Shop, which Scout featured when it first opened its doors back in 2011. The PHS-operated, non-profit artisan retail space also doubles as a workshop for the Carrall St. Canvas Co., her line of aprons, clothing and bags. The mandate of both businesses is admirable: to employ and empower women residents of the neighbourhood who are recovering from addiction and/or suffer from mental health issues. Earlier this year, the shop relocated to a swanky new space on East Hastings Street, shared with the equally remarkable (and woman-run) Community Thrift & Vintage shop. Piasta recently agreed to open a window (har har) into her own inner world, a place where she is the proud owner of a miniature pony, the men wear platform shoes, and time travel is totally a thing…
What is your favourite Vancouver neighbourhood and why? Strathcona, 100%. I’ve lived in nine different houses over the last 14 years in this amazing community. Even though at times it’s been hard with all the constant shuffling around, due to renovictions, I still love it! I don’t think you can find the same village-like qualities anywhere else in this city.
What is your favourite rainy day activity? I always fantasize about snuggling up with a giant pile of glossy cookbooks, a pot of soup simmering on the stove and a great record on the turntable… But when you have kids and live in a co-op it usually means 100 kids coming in and out the door, piles of Lego underfoot, Nerf bullets whizzing past my head and and running the popcorn maker at full tilt.
What are you most looking forward to doing this spring/summer? Driving my family across Canada to Ituna, Saskatchewan for my grandmother’s 90th birthday. I can’t wait to visit all the tiny thrift shops in small prairie towns along the way!
Greatest fear? Not having enough time alive on earth to see and explore all the beautiful corners of this wonderful planet (and eat ALL the foods).
Who, living or dead, do you most admire? All of the mothers in my life.
An unexpected source of inspiration? All of my amazing co-workers.
The last book you read? She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb.
The last concert that you attended? Dakkabrakka – it was probably the best concert I’ve ever seen!
The song or album that you currently have on repeat? “1966” by Karen Dalton.
The one musician that you would most like to see perform live? Joni Mitchell, in the 1960s!
You can only eat one meal for the rest of your life. What would it be? Bibimbap in a hot stone bowl with extra daikon kimchi on the side.
Favourite DTES spot for a meal/beverage? There are so many it’s really hard to choose. I live my life from one snack to the next. I’d start with a veggie steambun from New Town Bakery; the barley bowl from The Birds and the Beets for lunch; a 3 o’clock chocolate pick-me-up from East Van Roasters; and late night chicken wings and pepper squid from Phnom Penh.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? Expensive gin and spending time at JJ Family Spa.
A bad habit you wish that you could kick? Always saying yes – my plate is perpetually full.
If you could have any pet, what would it be? A miniature pony and all the homeless dogs ever (I’d need a ranch for them).
If you could be any animal, what would it be? My dog – she gets to sleep all day in piles of soft laundry and is hand-fed so many snacks by the kids, without even having to lift her head.
You can have one superpower. What is it? Time travel, so I could go on a shopping spree in all my favourite eras.
Do you believe in ghosts? The afterlife? I used to believe in ghosts but, after spending the past 12 years convincing children that zombies, monsters and ghosts don’t exist, I’ve also convinced myself.
The piece of clothing or an accessory that you most covet? Well, I’m a bit of a vintage hoarder from years of working in vintage shops but once I found a 1920’s silk beaded flapper dress in the sari section at Value Village for $3.99. I was eight months pregnant and nearly went into labour, I was so excited! I also have a collection of vintage quilts that I adore.
The fashion trend, from any era, that you would like to see revived? Platforms on men.
The fashion trend you’d like to see die? Black platform flip-flops.
If you could change one thing in Vancouver, what would it be? More units of affordable supportive housing. I’d also like to see compassion from my fellow Vancouverites on issues surrounding the overdose crisis, poverty and the struggles that effect the people living in the DTES. I live and work in the DTES and my heart lives here.