Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Woodland Wreath

Remember last year's New Year's Resolutions? Well, this year, I need to get back on the blogging horse. My writing really benefits from a daily post. That's top of mind for 2012. In the meantime, here's a little catch up from craft land (my dining room table). This weekend I bought some greenery and some teeny, tiny mushroom pics. This woodland wreath is decorating my door for December. Happy almost-Holidays!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Happiness

Our tribute to Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Wes Anderson, whose old-school stylings inspired these handmade costumes. Super analogue! I think I'll sport that fox cameo on my jean jacket.

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places." - Roald Dahl,(such a kindred spirit!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nuit Blanche

Oh City Mouse! You had me by the nose; your evergreen scent, perfuming Scotia Bank plaza. Your (longish) line couldn't dissuade me.

My favourite installation, by Artist Julia Hepburn, was cheeky in its placement, square in the heart of the financial district. City Mouse (and raccoon, owl, wolf and bear) was full of wonder, sentiment and nostalgia. I'm sure there's a whole other meaning here, something darker and more sinister (why else the wee sculpey figurines - all anthropomorphized fantastic Mr. Foxes, - shredding papers and calling meetings, in their business suits and cubby cubicles?) Whatever the case may be, goodness knows I love a miniature, especially a la woodland.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall updates

"Creating is a way to find personal achievement in something small and lovely."
- via Etsy, feature sellers Sundries and Plunder

I couldn't agree more! I'm busily working away on small wonders at present, all in the secrecy of my basement studio (i.e., the corner by the tv!)

Just as my day job ramps up (Fall is always a bit bonkers), crafting follows suit. And it's not just the turn of seasons that has me switching gears. My job is super-administrative, but an administrator, I am not! (just don't let my boss hear that). I need handwork to keep my mind active, and my heart full. At work, I've been spending lunch with my sketchbook, instead of my sandwich.

This weekend, I ran into my friend Kalpna at the Queen West Art Crawl. She had a new booth of birch trees, and it looked spectacular! I confessed that I didn't apply for City of Craft - the first time in three years that I'm not ramping up my production for a sale this holiday season. I felt a wee pang of regret. But then I remembered I had one of my *top secret* felt prototypes with me; I pulled it out of my purse, a bit rumply, but none the worse for wear. Kalpna loved it, and I was ever so glad! She put spring in my step on a cool, fall afternoon.

It can be hard to create in secret, but there is so much joy in working slowly, at one's own pace. For me, this is when new directions come.

Last night I dreamt of the woods in winter (that's a hint).

photo credit: loveliest woodland mask by Sundries and Plunder. p.s. if my sweetheart is reading this post, this would make the most excellent birthday present!

Monday, September 5, 2011

season's end harvest

Labour Day weekend and the weather feels truly September-like; windy and cool, our neighbours' laundry on the line.

We've got a garden full of green tomatoes on the vine. Teeny, tiny cherry ones, and some lovely but long-to-ripen heirloom varieties. Anyone have any ideas? I'd hate to see them wasted.

Thanks for indulging my enthusiasm for my new backyard, xo

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

forest fantasy

Soaking up the inspiration in our nearby urban forest, with new friends and kindred spirits.

Yes! These are real mushrooms, no photoshopping. Wee, candy-coloured gems. Isn't nature wonderful! Pure magic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Martha meets zucchini

Golly Garden

Can it be? A month since my last post. I haven't been lazing around, if that's what you're thinking. Instead, I (meaning Me + Guy) have been attending to our growing garden. When we planted our tomato plants a little late in the season, we could never have guessed the tangled garden that now results. It's no J.E.H. MacDonald, but in our hearts, (and stomachs) it's masterpiece!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

makes bunnies

I am so taken with this photo, by the talented Sonja Ahlers, sourced from her lovely blog. Sonja is well-known for her beautiful cashmere bunnies, each hand stitched with careful, precise, perfection. Her work sets a real standard. This photo captures her earlier prototype bunnies. I love photos like this, that illustrate how an artist's work develops and grows over time. I find it so comforting. When it comes to art, I think we tend to dismiss the practice makes perfect motto. Art galleries celebrate the end result, the "Artwork" - capital A. But it's often an artist's sketchbook that holds the real gems - the seeds of an idea, that germinate over time, and grow. Alright, perhaps I am taking this gardening metaphor too far ...

The secret, of course, is that it's really the work that is important, not the end result. (Put another way - the journey, not the destination!) Diligence, discipline, discovery: work leads to things! Like these, the most perfectly-perfect bunnies. (sigh) You are an inspiration, Sonja Ahlers! and my latest blog crush. Follow Sonja's blog, here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

popsicle weather

We’re experiencing an official heat wave here in the big smoke. I know that parts of the States (Hello, American friends!) are seeing temperatures soar also. According to my peg city pals, the prairies are scorching, too. What’s left to do? (besides watching the tomatoes grow ).

Make popsicles, I say. They're the easiest DIY ever, and truly impressive: the flavor combinations these days are so inspired! Like these avocado-lime pops I made on the weekend (recipe, here). Even the New York Times recently dedicated a spread, proving that popsicles are the new cupcake/sandwich cookie/cocktail/whoopie pie - Just don’t tell Starbucks. (I don’t fancy my Americano on a stick!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the wellsprings of creativity

I run the volunteer program at the biggest gallery in the city (lucky me!) The best part of working here, before the art and the building, is the people. They fill me with inspiration. I’ll always remember a conversation I had when I was living back in Winnipeg, and working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). Our Chief Financial Officer (money bigwig) – new to the gallery- shared with me her biggest insight on leaving the corporate world, and entering the non-profit. She was amazed, AMAZED, at the lunchroom conversations. She had no idea people talked about art, ideas, and, more than that – had such rich “other” lives – whether it be sewing into the wee hours, or getting up early to catch the morning light to paint. These are the secret lives of artists working day jobs.

If you work in the cultural sector, you’ve long known this secret, as it’s really the best part of the job. Surrounding yourself with likeminded people goes a long way. Most of us have administrative roles – that’s another secret – so the creative part of work isn’t in the task, it’s in the environment. That’s something I wish they taught you (me) in grad school, but I digress. Today one of my colleagues asked me about the wellsprings of creativity. When are you most creative? More specifically, she had seen one of mushroom terrariums, and asked where the idea came from.

I started making mushrooms years ago, with thrift store finds from Value Village. I love the idea of rescuing old needlework, and attributing wealth to materials that have lost their value; hence, the crocheted doilies. I think craft and community are also inextricably linked. I think of the potters I met in peg city, who came together for wood fires, shared kiln space and secret glaze recipes. I know living in Winnipeg, a city well-praised for its collective leanings and arts community, was instrumental for beginning my own work. I can’t help but think that picking up and moving to the prairies (circa 2001) was one of the best things I ever did. I found my inner artist, long ago silenced by a (terribly) influential art teacher.

Fast forward to 2008, and my move back to Toronto, and the terrariums. I started putting mushrooms under glass the summer I moved home. Without employ, (such an unsettling time), artmaking was a source of comfort. I am lost - lost- without routine. Looking for fabrics to sew, and vessels to fill - it was just what I needed.

This past Fall, when my mum’s cancer diagnosis rocked me to my core, I reached out to craft again. This time, more painstakingly, I painted tiny white dots on bright red fabric. It may sound trite, but the focus calmed my mind, even just for brief moments (something that work/sleep couldn’t do). Today, that terrarium - the first of the painted mushrooms- sits in my mum and dad’s kitchen bay window. For them, a present. For me, a reminder of my mum’s (and my) journey. P.S. Today my mum is cancer-free. Better and more beautiful than ever.

Where do your ideas come from? Or maybe more importantly, when do they spring?

sleeping quarters

Martha's always been the type to prefer hard surfaces to soft (I think this is a breed characteristic - my mum and dad's Himalayan similarly favours tabletops over sofa cushions). Her newest sweet-spot: Guy's desk (more specifically, his sketchbook). Blame her artistic spirit!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Golly Garden

One of very best things about our new home is the garden. We have a front yard (rosebush, porch!) and a back plot (wildflowers, shed!). In the back yard we've kept a vegetable patch. We're patiently watching the first signs of our tomato blooms (roma, cherry, heritage!). Sidenote: rhubarb and zucchini are firmly rooted and growing well! In the meantime, I'm thrilled to share our first harvest. Check out these gorgeous garlic (garlics?). Should we confess these bulbs just kind of sprouted? Like a gift from the universe; a good omen, we hope, for bounty to come!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

new press!

Thank you to decorology, who "swooned" over my terrariums. You made my day! The best thing about this feature? I am once again linked with Shannon, one of my crafty - and Anne Shirley-loving - (of Green Gables fame) kindred spirits. This gorgeous photo credit - my terrariums have never looked so good - to Covet Garden)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

moving on up

I'm back! This is my first post-move post. Try saying that, three times quickly! (That's almost as difficult as moving, I'd say.) Here are my beloved Cotton Monsters on moving day. My shamrocks, incidentally, are blooming like crazy in the new house. That's what a bright, south-facing, sun-filled kitchen will do for you!

Everyone says moving is stressful, and Boy, are they right! Martha Doodle can't seem to quite find her litter box, for starters. But eating breakfast on the back step with my sweetie today, I was reminded how nice it is to feel grounded, and how lucky I am to be invited to share a home – a front porch, a back step! And laundry without quarters. Making breakfast for two is much more fun (though we still quite haven't figured out our shopping lists. Always short of the essentials!)

The first room I have plans for is the craft nook (job #1, finish that concrete floor). It's a lovely light blue, (previous owners) and I'm thinking I'll sew up some red accessories for a Scandanavian space. Cophenhageny happiness. In the meantime, with my sewing machine and fabrics missing in action (aka buried in boxes), I'm drawing up a storm. More soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

mail alert!

In honour of the United Nation’s International Year of Forests, Canada Post released a two-stamp series that is so decidedly me! Who knew the post office was so crafty? Stamp bliss!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sakura Hanami

Last week, Guy and I made an after-work trip to High Park, to see the fabled cherry blossoms in glorious, full blooms. This is my third summer back in TO, and can you believe it, the first spring I’ve managed this flowery field trip (May is typically a bit bonkers for me). I am so glad we ignored the clouds, as the rain held off. It was a beautiful, romantic night. The park was full of couples, snapping self-portraits – we were in good company!

Sakura trees aren’t native to Canada. In 1959, the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 (!) Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo. The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Oh Canada!

Sakura bloom just once a year, and flower for only a week or so – two tops – so timing your visit is important. There’s even a facebook group that stalks the buds (forgive the pun!) In fact this past Friday (Cherry Blossom update #12, in case you’re counting), reliable sources reported limbs laced with blooms - for a limited time only. Go forth and flower!

p.s. Love the vintage-vibe of these? That's the Hipstamatic for you. Decidedly low-fi, super-analogue "film" for your (or in my case, Guy's) iPhone. So much fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

more sketchbook

I'm all about the pinecone these days. I trace my affection to the loveliness of Pinecone Lane, our anniversary hideaway, where we celebrated year 2, back in November. What a sign!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Evidence! I'm still drawing, despite packing up my art supplies. Good thing I carry markers in my purse.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

what I'm reading

I'm daydreaming big these days (and laying low, craft-wise). The best news ever: I'm moving in with my sweetheart! June 1. And, as I know my fellow crafters will sympathize, my secret fabric, button and notion stashes really do have to be addressed. So I'm packing up the projects for a while; spending my time filling boxes ... in lieu of stuffing mushrooms! I'm reading, too. Inspired by blogland, and the Beehive Craft Collective's recent post on vegetable dyeing, I'm diving deep into research mode. Imagine vegetable-dyed mushrooms! I love the idea of mimicing nature, and experimenting with true-to-life hues and subjects.

P.S. The move into Guy's house means I'll get a wee room of my very own - my first studio (that isn't my living room table). I am beside myself with happiness. I think I'll be so much more productive when I'm not trying to balance my workspace with dinner plates :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

woodgrain wonder

Here's another wee friend, with the norwegian forest baby set (autumnal flowers bib and soft branch rattle). Babies + branches = a perfect combination.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

magic mushrooms

I've long been told that my mushroom rattles hold a certain je ne sais quois for babies (French and otherwise!) But here's the proof:

It doesn't get better than this! These bib and rattle sets are craft sale best-sellers - any more babies (mums/dads) out there with pictures to share? Baby happiness totally makes my day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A few months ago, a friend at work told me if I made mushrooms she could "hang", she'd buy some - she had run out of shelf space at home. Like all apartment dwellers (yours truly, included) it's wall space that need filling, not mantels (sigh - still waiting for my fireplace). ANYWAY, I stumbled upon some fun 1970s wooden plaques at the reuse center - 25 cents a piece, and started playing. Here's my first result:

(Big thanks to my best-ever Dad, who got out the belt-sander and drill to help me with this project).

There's one detail that doesn't feel quite right- can you guess? -yep, it's that moss. A teensy bit too decorative. What do you think? In my usual end of day, head on pillow juggling of ideas, I brainstormed some other options. So stay tuned, as the kids used to say, because I think I've got it! In the meantime, this little plaque is on its way to Winnipeg, for MAWA's (7th) annual Over the Top Art Auction and Cupcake Party.

Are there are any prairie pals reading this post? I miss you! (nevermind the cupcakes!)Here's to another successful fundraiser - I'm sending all my best thoughts. Much love, HP xo

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

upcoming exhibition

Hi all! Each year, my staff and volunteer colleagues at the Art Gallery of Ontario come together for a group show "Artists of the Gallery" (that's a nice little spin, AOG/ AGO - in case you missed it). If you're in Toronto, stop by the Hangman Gallery (East End) to see one of my bell jar terrariums (running through to the end of March).

Monday, March 7, 2011

new project

A few weekends ago, I found these simple tree-limb discs, with pre-cut holes, at the Reuse Center. Here's a tip, readers: it's always worthwhile to donate castoffs (however small and seemingly toss away) to your local Value Village/charity shop - as items you might think are destined for the trash pile can find a whole new life in a crafter's wise hands. We can all spot the beauty of an upcycled cashmere sweater, but just wait until you see what I make with these!

On second thought, this photo does look , shall we say, a bit rude? Never fear, soon my idea will blossom, err... bloom (yes, that's a hint).

like apples and oranges

Another sign of NYC's sheer bigness. This gets right to the heart of the matter:

There's only one thing left to consider. Imagine the heft of the squirrels!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NYC Favourite

Everything's an adventure when the right Guy is by your side.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The mothership: Etsy Headquarters!

I’ve finally sorted through the memories, errr…photos from our blissful weekend in New York. I thought Toronto was big, but New York is the Mecca. Toronto’s subway system feels unsophisticated and Playmobilish; my neighbourhood’s streets seem so wide and so empty. Our traffic woes feel old-fashioned, circa 1970. Here’s a big city discovery for you - time takes on new meaning in an urban metropolis. It sounds trite, but it’s really true. Remember on Sex and the City, when Carrie found herself stuck in a yellow cab traffic jam, and subsequently took off running in her fancy Monolos for the subway, in order to make it to the Stock Exchange in time to ring the opening bell? To the cab driver, she had worryingly instructed “I have to be downtown in an hour”. That line used to throw me off. An hour? By goodness! But now I’m wiser. Full blocks of traffic clog the city (and up the meter) like nobody’s business in NYC. Being late really is kind of fashionable.

On to Etsy. Birthday morning, Guy arranged a surprise tour of Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn, NYC (!!!) Borough- newbies, we confused one address for another and found ourselves off track and late, and our trek to the mothership took the form of epic adventure. One sun-dappled walk across the Brooklyn Bridge later, we were at Etsy Headquarters, - or at least in the vicinity of. Etsy is one of many companies (communities?) that makes their home in an industrial monolith warehouse. Picture this: Floors and floors of white hallways and largely-unmarked metal doors. Super insider. We felt very much like mice working their ways through one of those wooden mazes (on a timer, no less). But then I spotted this:

Now more than an hour late, the sight of handwritten script made my heart swell. We were here! (almost, we were actually at the Etsy Craft lab). A quick redirect later, and finally, HOME.

I took all the standard pics. But they’re MINE. I ran my hands over the fabric typewriter, stapled the plush Stadler, and made a (very important!) phone call via fabric phone. What’s more to say? The Etsy folks are just as you imagined they would be – your best friends, your crafternoon pals, your blog buddies. Walking through those metal doors was like entering a portal to the best high school cafeteria I could imagine: no cliques, just one big community – of Handmade! Sincerely, Etsy is everything you hoped it would be and more.

At this point, things get a little bit fuzzy - I totally nerded out, to be completely honest with you. (side note: I think I now fully understand how my sister felt, meeting Tom Cruise - 1999, not the creepy years ). I don’t really know what I said to Julie, who gave us our very own bang-up tour of Etsy – But THANK YOU, secret admiral for humouring me as I took it all in, all pie-eyed and wide-mouthed.

A final note: my favourite part was visiting the Editing suite, where This Handmade Life is put together. I was thrilled to meet all of the nicely be-specked nerdy types within, and tell them that their video portraits make my workday so much happier (who wouldn’t love to hear that?) As we all know, Quit Your Day Job fantasies are best experienced in the cubicle. Thanks Etsy pals!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Our recent sojourn to the big apple has me thinking all about signature ladies. You know who I’m talking about. Character trailblazers (olden-times quirky aloners – have you read that book? Very affirming for creative types). Lasses like Amelia Earhart, Annie Liebowitz (Did you ever see the PBS documentary? So fantastic!), The Beales, and the like.

It's all thoughts Grey Gardens over here. So many upper-east siders (ahem!) in fur coats and florals. High heels with tube socks; walking dogs in sweaters, stopping for bagels, and carrying Ferragamo purses that cost more than my rent. True grit – NYC style. Classically *Florence Broadhurst. Love.
(*oh I know, I know. Broadhurst wasn't a new yorker, but she's a kindred spirit, so allow me a little latitude on this one. And by the by, I think she'd be comfy chatting with some tea avec raccoons at Big Edie's bedside, don't you?)

I so enjoyed Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives. Have you read it? Such good company for cozy-under-covers winter's turn to spring nights (not to mention, sheer inspiration! Broadhust's patterns - wallpaper and fabric - are swoonworthy).

I'm looking for new stories (hint: I love a good artist/eccentric's biography). Read anything extraordinary lately? Send a little recommendation my way!