Wendy Eakins Memorial Fund

Wendy Eakins Memorial Fund for Textile and Design  

By Karen Rudolph Durrie 

Deitra – work colleague & friend of Wendy, and Andrew – best friend & husband, wearing the vest designed and tailored by Wendy.  Photo taken at ATP/TC Wardrobe, Arts Commons, Calgary.

Wendy (Wheeler) Eakins 1955 -2022 

From the beginning, Wendy was captivated with textiles and design – all the way through Winnipeg elementary school, junior high, and high school. The University of Manitoba (Department of Home Economics, Textile and Design) soon became Wendy’s second “home”, graduating in 1977 (BHec). 

Banff beckoned in the summer months between university years, and in 1978, Wendy met Andrew (Montreal).  Three years later, in March 1981, a wedding, and then three beautiful children followed: Kyle, Alexandra, and Grace. Over time, and through multiple provincial moves (Alberta to BC; BC to Manitoba; Manitoba to Alberta), Wendy shared her skills academically and in live theatre as a stitcher/cutter. 

“Wendy, my best friend and supporter, through thick and thin, solid” says Andrew. On paper, Andrew uses the following words to describe his best friend: warm, intelligent, beautiful, articulate, pragmatic, kind, encouraging, selfless. 

In September 2022, soon after Wendy’s end-of-life, Theatre Calgary Wardrobe hosted a picnic in Lindsay Park to laugh, to cherish, and to remember Wendy. During this picnic, it was suggested a memorial be created as a permanent tribute to Wendy, structured to help the Calgary theatre community, an initiative Wendy would promptly embrace. 

Co-founded by Andrew, and Wendy’s longtime work colleague and friend, costume designer Deitra Kalyn, the Wendy Eakins Memorial Fund for Textile and Design made its first grant to support the salary for a stitcher for Alberta Theatre Projects’ 2024 Christmas production. 

Understanding that arts organizations often struggle for funding, Deitra says: 

“This grant will go towards hiring another person to work on the costumes, and in turn more time allotted to costume making will make the show that much better. In the theatre world, it adds up to making a huge impact.” 

Wendy worked as the lead cutter for Alberta Theatre Projects for many years, and on productions with Theatre Calgary, One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre, and Vertigo Theatre, as well as countless film productions.  She also shared her skills and enthusiasm at Arts Commons and was involved with the University of Calgary, cSpace, and Costume Alchemy.  

Deitra recalls designing a housecoat for one production, and Wendy joked that she had a ‘four-hour’ kimono pattern that would be perfect for this design! 

“We got a beautiful burnout velvet, and had it dyed in-house. It was incredible. A year or two after that show closed, I acquired this housecoat. I wore it on my wedding day. It was extra special because Wendy made it, and I designed it,” she says.  

The sewing machine Wendy worked on at ATP is still there, now adorned with a plaque that says “Wendy’s Machine.” It will likely be used by the craftsperson funded by the Wendy Eakins Memorial Fund for Textile and Design.  

“Tell me, and I forget; 

Teach me, and I may remember, 

Involve me, and I will learn” 

              – Benjamin Franklin