Saturday, April 30, 2011

Freedom to Create

Today's workshop is being taught by Jesse Reno.  I hadn't heard of him before signing up for this class but my friend Heather tells me he is a fabulous painter and the artwork on his website looks like stuff I have never seen before, let alone even dreamed of creating, so I am quite looking forward to seeing what today brings.  As you can see from this blurry (no doubt to protect the image from being borrowed from people like me) photo taken from the Art & Soul website, his work is quite colourful and totally unique.

Here's how the class is described on the Art & Soul website:  "This mixed media painting workshop will focus on building freedom within our creative process. The biggest thing you will learn is to let go of your preconceived ideas about painting, allowing for a pure, personal, and in the moment painting experience. We will focus on the idea that it is better to make a mistake and follow it through, or correct it, rather then trying to be perfect. A far less stressful approach to art making. we will work on techniques that engage us with our process and teach us to watch our process happen rather than worrying or focusing on the outcome. We will be painting with our hands and fingers, drawing without looking, mixing paint on the fly, and many other techniques that force us to understand that some of the best work happens on accident. It's all about learning to see. Working in this way ensures a fun experience in art making, and this ensures we continue to be excited about making art. The best way to get good at anything is to enjoy yourself this is the biggest lesson of the class. This class is open to students of all levels as it will be a new experience in painting and creating regardless of background and knowledge of techniques."

Friday, April 29, 2011

TAP and Lutrador

Today at Art & Soul, Heather and I are taking a course taught by Lesley Riley about TAP™ (Transfer Artist Paper) and Lutradur, described on the website as "two new materials that are taking the art world by storm. Both can be used in your mixed media, bookmaking, scrapbooking, quilting and more. It’s what you make it! We will explore the basics plus altered and alternative ways to incorporate both into your art that will ignite and inspire you for years to come. Learn from the expert! Lesley literally wrote both books. You’ll leave with a stack of samples, oodles of ideas and fingers just itching to delve into new creations."

I really have no idea what either of these items are - taking this class was Heather's idea! :) - so I am quite looking forward to finding out!  But I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve this kind of tap:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Path of Least Resistance

Today will be my first class at Art & Soul Hampton.  It's being taught by Linda and Opie O'Brien (no relation to my friend Heather, who's attending A&S with me!) who I have long admired for their funky mixed media creations. 
You can see what their art is like here on the cover of one of their books:

or here, on their website: Burnt Offerings.

Here's how today's class is described on the A&S website:

"Got Tools! Well we all do - but sometimes we need a safe environment to begin using them and nurturing instructors to lend a helping hand. So come spend a day with us traveling down our favorite path… the path of least resistance and learn our easy techniques for creating meaningful jewelry using both hand and rotary tools. We’ll cover everything from riveting to wire wraps, aging and oxidizing metal, simple patinas and etching techniques, the dremel and its attachments, some of our favorite harbor freight tools, making your own findings, and even some simple torch techniques. There will be lots of demos and lots of working with each of you hands-on. So bring your questions, your desire to create, and even that half finished piece you started once upon a time… that now has you stumped. You’ll leave this workshop confident and on solid ground with a variety of pieces you made in class and a burning desire to create more. While this class is geared toward beginners, our cool techniques can be appreciated by all."

I've taken various classes in the past from wonderful teachers such as Kate McKinnon, Susan Lenart-Kazmer and Stephanie Lee, to name just a few, in which I would have already learned some of these techniques but I'm looking forward to learning how Linda and Opie do it. Their metal collages are especially appealing to me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding

In case you haven't heard (and/or have been living in a cave for the past month or two), there's a royal wedding happening on Friday. HRH Prince William is marrying Miss Katherine (Kate) Middleton.

In honour of the occasion, I went looking for these photos, thinking they were taken when William's mom and dad, Chuck and Di, got married. My parents invited people over to watch it on TV. Everyone dressed up, no one seemed to mind that it was 5 o'clock in the morning, we drank champagne and orange juice and toasted the happy couple.

When I found the photos, I realized I had written on the back of one of them that it was, in fact, the birth of Prince William we were celebrating, not his parents' marriage. Which makes the date June 21, 1982. Nevertheless, still appropriate to this week's festivities. I remember we had a pool about what his name was going to be, everyone picked various royal names out of a hat.

Once again, we all dressed up in our finest. My friend Maryann and I focused on a red, white and blue theme. Notice our white gloves, very chic.

Here's a picture of my mom (in a New Year's Eve tiara and a royal blue velour housecoat), my grandmother Evelyn (my dad's mother) in her pillbox hat and a rather fancy outfit (that makes me wonder where she got it from, did she bring it with her when she came to visit and if so, why?!), and me.

You will notice the woman on the right in the next photo is wearing her bustier outside of her clothing. Not sure if this was where Madonna got the idea or not.

Diane, Pat, Jean, Cynthia and Ruth
The lady on the right in the picture below wore her own wedding dress, which she had since restyled and worn several times as an evening gown. The woman second from the right, you will notice, is wearing a raccoon tail on her hat. This is the height of fashion here in Canada, some will tell you.  Don't believe them.

Maryann, Evelyn, Margot, Shirley and Doriann
Also notice that everyone is holding their hands in a very royal manner. The queen is such a good role model for us all, is she not?

I certainly wish Wills and Kate the very best for a long and happy marriage. It can't be easy living life in a fishbowl, although they seem to have managed very well so far.

Not sure if I will be awake at 3 a.m. on Friday to watch it all unfold, might need to rest up for class at Art & Soul but we'll see how it goes. Heather and I are driving to Hampton today, about a four hour trek. Hoping to stop in colonial Williamsburg on the way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Katrina Poses

While I am away on vacation, Katrina has the apartment all to herself.  I imagine she is relieved to have the space all to herself, not doubt reveling in the kitten-free silence.  A very nice woman named Tracy is coming in every day to feed her and empty the litter box - thank you, Tracy!

Just to show I haven't just been using my new camera to take kitten pictures, here are two photos I took of Katrina. I think she looks quite regal and glamourous, don't you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Times On Good Friday

My sister, her boyfriend Wayne and I went to visit my mom in Lindsay on Good Friday.  We all had fun with Wayne's iPad, especially playing the oh-so-addictive Angry Birds for the first time.

Much hilarity ensued after Wayne hooked up Mom's new cable box and set up a universal remote for her TV, DVD and VCR and then had to give her a lesson on how to use it.

We had a quick, lovely visit with Don and Sue when we went over to see their almost finished kitchen renovation and then a delicious steak dinner with the delightful Dorothy at a local restaurant.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Who needs an Easter Bunny when you have cute little kittens in a basket?
Photo courtesy of Abbey Cats Facebook page
BTW, these 5 little kittens (one is hiding, can you see it?) will be available for adoption in just a couple of weeks. If you are interested, contact Abbey Cats at 416-284-2140.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Vacation!

I'm officially on vacation as of today, headed to Virginia to spend a few days visiting with my friend Heather and her family before she and I head to Art & Soul Hampton for five days of art classes.  I'm looking forward to seeing Dawn again, one of my co-conspirators from our wonderful trip to France last fall, and her friend Baba, whom I met at a workshop with Kate McKinnon in Tucson two years ago, as well as some of the delightful ladies I met at ArtBLISS last month. 

I've scheduled some blog posts to appear while I'm gone because I'm going to leave my laptop at home. I feel like I've spent wayyy too much time in front of the computer over the past few weeks at work and I need a break.  Plus I'm going to be too busy playing with my new camera, making art and seeing the sights with Heather to be logging in.

Be good while I'm gone!

P.S.  Everything went smoothly with the kittens this morning.  Barbara and Alice went together to their forever home with a lovely young lady (who arrived with her equally charming mother), whom I'm sure will be a wonderful "mom" to these little fur babies.  Lillie and Buckingham have gone to stay with another Abbey Cats foster mom, in the hopes that they will be adopted this week while I'm away.  If not, I shall beg to have them come back to stay with me once I get home!  Katrina's cat sitter came to pick up the keys and get the lay of the land, I know she will be in good hands when I'm gone.  The place seems very quiet now, I'm glad I'm about to get on a plane, it would be hard to hang out here without four little balls of kittenfire energy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

Today is Earth Day, did you know?

A Canadian photographer by the name of Jason Leo Bantle made this video in honour of the day, featuring two cute little polar bear cubs and their mom.  Trust me, you're going to want to watch it all the way through in order to see the tree hugging.  Made me laugh out loud. 

Some of my work colleagues and I were caught green-handed when we took part in a 20 minute clean-up on Tuesday afternoon (yes, it was cold and windy!), picking up trash around the property on which our office building is situated.  Not as much garbage to be found this year, that is a good sign.
Photo courtesy of Linda Lorusso

Enjoy today, whatever you do.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Running Out of Time

I'm off on vacation on Saturday but first I've got to pack, spend Good Friday with family and friends and most importantly, make arrangements for the kittens (two hopefully to be adopted early Sat morning, two to be moved to a different foster home before I go) and Katrina (cat sitter arranged, coming over Sat morning to get keys and instructions).

I am sad at the thought of breaking up our little family, at the idea that these 4 little kittens won't be together much longer and that they won't be here with me.  But that is life, I suppose, we grow up and life changes but we adjust and find joy in our new circumstances.  Certainly that is the nature of fostering, that they will only stay with me for a short time before being adopted. For Barbara and Alice, they will be off to a new home with someone who will adore them (how could she not?) in just a couple of days.  I spoke to the potential adopter on the phone tonight, she sounds like a lovely person and she is most excited to bring these two into her life.  Hopefully it is just a matter of time before Buckingham and Lillie find their new family. 
A Family Portrait

I'm happy that these little fur babies will soon have forever homes, but I sure am going to miss them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wildlife Photography

I have the greatest admiration for those photographers who wait patiently in the wild for the perfect shot, especially after the past few weeks with these kittens.  Trying to get a picture of them that looks any good is hard, and getting a good shot of black haired kittens seems even harder.

Oh sure, it's easy to take pictures of them - I have taken over 300 so far - but getting one that is any good is another story.  Part of the problem is that they move so darned fast, they only stay still for longer than a second or two at time.  So more often than not, you get pictures that look like this:

the blurry and slightly spooky shot

the back of the head shot
the blurry half a kitten shot
the butt shot
 and my personal favourite:

the "there used to be a kitten on this carpet a second ago" shot
But I persevere, and occasionally I am rewarded.  In addition to the many shots that don't turn out, there are several that do and will be nice to look back on some day when these kittens are gone.  And every once in a while, I get one or two that are, I think, extra special.
Oh yeah, and I bought myself a new camera.  A Nikon D3100, which takes pictures faster.  That helps too!  :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seeking the Flow

It has been one of those days when things just haven't come together quite as they normally do, when the flow seems to be somehow impeded.  It's not that anything has gone terribly wrong, it's just hasn't been quite right.

It's the 6th anniversary of my dad's death today. I scanned a photo to post here and according to the printer, the scan was successful but when I insert the photo card, nothing comes up.

Two different people, each of whom were interested in two different pairs of the Royal Favourites kittens, changed their minds and decided not to proceed with the adoptions.  Who could not be interested in my darling little foster cats?? It simply does not make sense to me.

I spent all day today working on one document at work and still didn't get it finished.

It started raining this afternoon just as I was leaving the office and turned into ice pellets, which added up to slush on the windshield.  Hello, spring, where the heck are you??

It was a day of not quite frustration but no real successes either.  Until just now, when I looked up from my laptop to see this:
Katrina (top right corner of the photo), out from the bedroom where she has been hanging out the past few days to avoid the kitten invasion, sitting on the couch watching the kittens play.  Surely this counts as positive progress!

And suddenly, my photo card works and here is the picture of my dad.  Not sure what age he is in this picture but he sure is cute.  Do you ever wish you could go back in time and meet your parents when they were younger?  I'm convinced I would have liked this kid, I sure did love the man he grew up to be.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vote Early, Vote Often

Photo by Dean Terry via flickr
Okay, I'm just kidding about the "vote often" part but I did vote today, two weeks ahead of the date of the upcoming federal election on May 2nd.  I'll be out of the country on the actual day, as well as on the dates for the advance poles but luckily my mom told me that anyone can vote early at their local Elections Canada office, as long as you have the proper identification and, preferably, your Voter Registration Card. 

They don't actually tell you that you can simply go to the return office to vote in person, or at least, it isn't very clearly presented on the Voter Information Card that gets mailed out to registered voters prior to an election.  Yes, there is a section in the bottom left of the card entitled "Other ways to vote" that says you may vote by mail or in person at your local Elections Canada office "if you apply to do so by no later than 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26" and then gives info about downloading a form from their website.  But when you go to the website, that information seems to geared more towards people who live out of the country who might want to mail in their vote.  To me at least, it did not seem to be very obvious that all you have to do is go to the local Elections Canada office (which is open 7 days a week, 12 hours a day during the week, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoons, quite convenient - all you do is type in your postal code on their website to find out the location of the one nearest you or call the toll-free number on your voter card), fill out a short form with your name and address, show your I.D., write in the name of your candidate (not the political party), as chosen from a list of names of all candidates in your riding that they have in the voting booth for reference, and voila, you are done.

78888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888tttt]=33333333e'[;r     Oh look, Buckingham wanted to have his say on this blog by walking across the keyboard.

Okay, where was I?  Oh yes, civic duty completed - check.  One more item crossed off my "to do" list.  As annoyed as I am to have to listen to all this political rhetoric and go through the whole voting process for the fourth time in seven years, I am conscious of the fact that we Canadians are lucky to live in a democracy where each individual over the age of 18 is allowed to vote, including women.  My friend Diane posted about about the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day back on March 8th (here), which reminded me of those who worked so hard to give women a voice and lobbied for the right of women to vote not just in this country but the U.S. and many other countries around the globe, as well as those who did and continue to speak out on behalf of women and issues affecting their lives.

Did you know that it hasn't even been 100 years since Manitoba was the first province to allow women to vote in 1916?  The federal government and most of the other provinces followed along between then and 1925.  Quebec was the last to follow suit and they didn't do it until 1940! Can you imagine??!

Can you imagine not being able to cast your ballot at all? I can't. So I voted today.  It was a little less convenient but it was way better than not voting at all, or being told I can't vote.  I urge you to do the same, whether it's on the election day (Monday, May 2nd) or on the advance voting dates (April 22, 23 or 25) or any time now at your local Elections Canada office.  Female or male, young or old, municipally, provincially or as in this case, federally, whether your party's colour is red, blue, green or any other colour of the rainbow, don't let others speak for you, get out and VOTE!!

And yes, I did have to swear on the form that I would only vote once. :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kitten Update

Barbara (who might be a Bobby, still can't be sure!)

Alice, the cuddliest and hardest to photograph
They are still here, much to my surprise.  They have been let out of the bedroom in which they were sheltered for the first two weeks, now given the run of the place, although I try to keep them out of the master bedroom as much as possible so it remains Katrina's domain.  She is still not comfortable with four pint-sized furry beings who tumble about playfully and wonder at this larger black cat who hisses at them if they get too close.  No matter, they pretty much leave her be and go on about their kitten business, exploring every available nook and cranny.  So far, the upholstery seems to be standing up well against tiny, climbing claws.  The glass topped coffee table is a great delight, both for lying on top of and playing underneath, sometimes both at the same time with 2 or more participants.  The sound of little paws galloping back and forth across the room is magical, it is the sound of happy cats.

Lillie, tied with Barbara for most photogenic

Buckingham, whose ear is magically blue in this shot

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bag of Beads Reveal - Part 2

As promised, here are some more pictures of the creations made by Toronto Bead Society members for the 2011 Bags of Beads Challenge. 

Maureen Warland was our MC for Bag of Beads night this past Wednesday evening and she started by sharing with us the very first piece she ever made for the BOB challenge.  She said she was very intimidated by the whole idea of the challenge when she first joined and wasn't inspired by the beads in the kit that year.  In the end, she glued the beads onto a rock, make some flowers and attached them to the popsicle sticks that were the "stumper" item that year.  Maureen said she likes to tell this story to encourage new members that in the end, they should just start and see what they come up with, chances are it won't be any worse than her rock.  (but I actually think the rock is kind of cool!)
Darlene Eng made this beautiful broadcollar, inspired by Bette Kelley's style.  It took her over 30 hours to make and her advice to fellow beaders is to always buy more beads than you think you'll need, as she had been back to the bead store 3 times in the past 3 weeks after running out of what she needed!

Christine Kappas Dufrene beaded around one of those little alcohol bottles you get on the plane, using peyote, right angle weave and netting, to make a vase to hold the butterfly on its wire and a feather.

Rae Huggins made several pieces, inspired by the theme of "Lady Gaga goes to Trinidad for Carnival".  She was assisted by her 3 year old Joshua both in creating the flower piece and in making her presentation at the TBS meeting.

Several people mentioned that they had trouble with their cats eating, playing with or running off with the feathers.  In Mary Szatcker's case, her Pomeranian actually ate part of her creation!  This is all that was left.  As of Wednesday night, she was waiting for her dog to start pooping beads. :)

Jo-Ann Wolverton made this necklace after taking a month to decide what it was she wanted to make.  She was inspired by a woman named Colleen who was a fellow student in a recent class taught by Diane Fitzgerald at Beadfx, who was wearing a beaded peyote tube (perhaps a Colleen I know?).  Jo-Ann used flat peyote and zipped it together to make the tube, then wired the feathers on the inside and strung it from the gold chain.

Pam Kearns made this pretty little fascinator and advised that these purple feathers shedded more than her two budgies ever have!

Cindy Goldrick made two necklaces with various components, including a butterfly wing mounted on leather and edged with wire.  All of the items have personal meaning for her, from her sister's Brownie pin to a bead and wire wrapped key from one of 3 tobacco tins full of beads and bit and pieces that she inherited from a favourite aunt.

She also made a bracelet (spoon knitted with gun metal wire, I believe she said) with the feathers because they made her sneeze when they were close to her face in the necklace!

Last but not least is a cuff bracelet made by a woman named Dawn (sorry, I didn't get her last name), who took a class with Rachel Nelson-Smith.  She was inspired by patchwork quilts. The matching earrings feature the butterfly wings.
As always, I was impressed by the skill and inventiveness of my fellow TBS members in creating these beautiful pieces.  Well done, ladies! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Outside Visitor

I had an unusual experience this morning.  A little bird came to sit on my windowsill, which is not so unusual in and of itself until you consider that my window is a dozen or so stories off the ground!  While I often see birds flying past, they rarely set down for a visit.  This little fellow sat there for several minutes and I inched closer and closer inside, in order to get a good look at him.  He sang me a bit of song and then flew merrily away.

It was the size of a sparrow and had similar markings on its body but a very red breast and cap on its head.  I described it to my boss when I got to work, as I know she is a bit of a birder, and she thought maybe it was a purple finch but when we looked up images on Google, that bird was almost all red in colour, "the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice"".

The bird I saw was very red in two areas but not all over like the purple finch.  We then determined it was a house finch, which looks like this:
Male House Finch
Photo courtesy of

Go here to All About Birds to read more about the house finch.

(More photos from the TBS Bag of Beads reveal tomorrow, I promise, I'm just too tuckered out tonight!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bag of Beads Reveal - Part 1

Having spent close to 10 hours on the computer at work today, I am not too keen about spending a lot of time blogging tonight but I do want to share some of the photos from last night's Toronto Bead Society's Bag of Beads reveal, where 27 members shared their 2011 creations. So here goes:

One of the most common items (inspired by the feathers) were dreamcatchers.  Sonya told us that her five year old nephew recently started having nightmares, so she wanted to make a dreamcatcher to give him to help with that.  She learned how to make hers by watching a video on YouTube.

Made by (L to R): Liz, Sonya (oops - I might have mixed up the order, could be Sonya's on the left and Liz's on the right) and Sharon Couzens

Another popular item this year was masks:
L to R: Made by Kate Chesney, Rita Metcalf and Carol Shevlin
The most common theme (as a result of the colours of the beads we were given) was the peacock, as the colours of beads we were given to use suggested peacock feathers to several people.

Marilyn Parker made this beautiful necklace, based on a peacock's tail when it isn't fanned out (and minus the purple feathers, to which she was allergic):

Maureen Warland learned how to transfer images onto fabric with her husband's help, which they used to decorate the back of this denim jacket and then Maureen beaded the peacock.  She told us she isn't finished, she plans to paint the background image and bead the 2nd bird.  I quite like it just the way it is.

The most inventive item had to be this 3 dimensional peacock, made by Andrea Knowles-Muller, who advised that her piece was made up of 20 percent beading and 80% engineering.  She described how she first made the armature, which is soldered and padded and then covered in silk, and then beaded the bird with various stitches such as peyote, freeform peyote and bead embroidery.  The wheels of the wagon are glass Czech buttons. You can't see from my photo that there are 3 butterflies flying out front at the front of the wagon.  Such an imaginative and beautiful piece.
More photos tomorrow.