December 30th, 2003
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vacation, n. derives from the Latin vacatio, meaning “freedom, exemption”.
“Winter is clenched teeth, turned-up collars, the grim hard business of survival, in nature or at the office.” -Frederic Morton
Blizzard-like conditions have descended on the village. Into survival mode I keep myself busy tending the fire and standing over a pot of split-pea soup with an open book at hand.

December 29th, 2003
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Thanks to Elaine I became completely excited about learning to love you more. It is full of wonderful “assignments” aiming to make art just for fun. As you can see I became enamoured with the story of Steve the Taxi Driver and made a fabric stuffed bust of him. This has given me the idea to do a whole series of dolls based on everyday people, random sketches from the journal. Some of my favourite assigments include,
Assignment #6 -Make a poster of shadows.
Assignment #10 -Make fliers of your day.
Assignment #12 -Have someone draw a tattoo of one of Morgan Rozacky’s neighbors onto your body.
Assignment #15 -Hang a windchime on a tree in a parking lot.
In contrast to assignments…
The guests have all gone, the house is silent. I have given myself permission to take a few days off. Time spent reading, cooking and walking. I haven’t seen or heard the news in over a week. The world could be going to hell and I wouldn’t know it. Ignorance is bliss. I ran into my friend Rhya yesterday and we talked briefly about how it can be hard to take a break from “creating”. Many of us seem caught up in ‘do’ mode. I have been thinking a lot about it ever since. Everything I attempt lately seems to have an end goal in mind, must be for a book, or to show, or to give someone. After a whirlwind of creating for X-mas I am now imposing a “no doing” rule. Sometimes I catch myself heading to the drafting table or going for the sewing basket. It’s o.k. to sit and watch the rain. Really it is. I need to recharge a bit. Just be.

December 22nd, 2003
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The Amazing Holiday Zine of Keri Smith (my yearly newsletter). Enjoy.

December 16th, 2003
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My morning ritual usually includes opening the window shades to greet the day. Lately I have been enjoying an abundance of bunny tracks all over both my yard and my next door neighbors. I sometimes laugh at the strange drawings they make in the snow and have been waiting to see if at some point they will possibly spell something. Today I looked out at my neighbor’s house and saw this…

Do you think they are trying to tell us something? A friend of mine came to visit and I pointed at the message, “Wow!” he laughed, “you should really photograph that one!” I can’t wait to see what it says tomorrow.
I have taken some inspriration from my friend Alex who has simplified her gift giving down to books, time, and food (I can’t find the exact post). I decided to give the gift of baked goods, and my felted mittens (which turned out quite well.) So I spent much of the weekend covered in flour making shortbread, macaroons, squares, and rum balls. I must say it was the most fun I think I’ve had making gifts and it harkens back to my Newfoundland background (in which a gift is usually baked, knitted, or sewn by hand). Now I am anxiously preparing for an annual party I started several years ago. It is loosely based on the tradition of “Mummering” in which participants dress up to disguise their identity and walk around to different houses singing songs in exchange of a piece of Christmas cake or a drink. The point of the game is to guess the identity of the guests. In our version a large group of people walk around town (sans costume) visiting several houses and having food and drink at each one. We don’t do the guessing thing but there is always a contest of sorts (usually trivia related). The best part about it for me is walking in a snow covered village, and the carol singing after a few drinks, (we have in the group a few folk singers, a guitarist, a violin player, and several drunk altos). Oh the fun we will have!
…I was sent a copy of Danny Gregory’s new book (by the man himself), “Everyday Matters”. It is a beautiful illustrated journal, in part documenting how his wife was run over by a subway train and became paralyzed from the waist down. He talks about how he used drawing as a coping mechanism and how it changed his life. I love this book, it makes one want to run to the journal and start sketching!
Mia Hansen’s blog.
decorating for X-mas 1950′s style. I’m in love with this mobile.

December 11th, 2003
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Tonight while browsing through my journals from the last year I stumbled across this quote:
“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” -Wendell Barry, naturalist
A night of quiet. As my grandmother would say, the Newfoundland recipe to cure all that ails you is ‘tea, toast and a bath’. To that I add a good book.

December 9th, 2003
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A recent post by Robot Johnny talks about a “secret” gallery in the city showcasing Group of Seven paintings. It reminded me of another little known secret. I worked for a few years at Nicholas Hoare Books in Toronto, (on Front street). It is a cozy place with a big fireplace, creaky old floors and real feather stuffed couches. Scattered throughout the store is a lovely collection of great Canadian paintings (one is actually an A.J. Casson if I remember correctly). Most people do not register this fact. But the most interesting thing to me was that several of these paintings are hung onto hidden doors where the overstock is kept, it is truly like in the movies where the safe if hidden behind the valuable art. The first time I saw someone open one of the doors the Nancy Drew in me got completely excited. There were many hidden compartments in that place. Books and mysteries seem to go together like beans on toast (yes that is a popular British/Canadian delicacy, I am well aware that some people in the US are revolted by the thought of it, but trust me it’s excellent. Simon documents it beautifully.)
When I was in Paris I made a visit to Shakespeare & Co. on the left bank of the Sienne which is famous for having little cubby holes behind various curtains (for weary travellers who exchange work for a place to sleep.) A sign over one of the doors reads:
“Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.”
Another secret which sends my imagination into a whirlwind…
Several years ago in my town there was a renovation being done on the historic Munshaw House, built 1849. While they were digging they uncovered an underground tunnel with a room at the end. It was never investigated and the owner closed it back up for fear of the added cost. I have postulated at length about what the room was for, (bootlegging liquor, brothel, hidden fortune). The mysterious story begs to be made into a novel. Every time I walk past it, which is mostly every day, my curiosity is aroused. More than one ghost has been sighted in the building, if only they could talk.
Last week while cleaning the mantle of my fireplace I noticed a little door inside one of the air vents. It is on hinges and has a little latch that one might be able to attach a string to. I made several attempts to reach it to no avail. Is this where the hidden fortune of the previous owner is concealed?
My friend Rama has hidden links to secret pages throughout his website. I spent way too much time trying to find them all one day. It is a brilliant idea, we should all have many hidden secrets.
I have a secret habit of hiding notes in the holes of trees.
send a secret message.

December 8th, 2003
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Finally a political part after my own heart, The Work Less Party, their slogan… “Alarm clocks kill dreams”.
I haven’t tried these yet but they look fun, drinking straw stars.
Also enjoying Egg Press.

December 4th, 2003
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I’ve been into the synonym finder again. I purchased it a year ago because I was looking to expand my use of descriptive words. But what I really like about it is it’s size, there is such a sense of satisfaction in pulling out this chunky reference volume and flipping through the thin onion-like paper. I like pretending I’m doing research for a really important legal trial or I’ve found an overlooked clue to a murder mystery. Once you open it’s pages it is hard to put it down. So many variations, you can get lost in the possiblities. I like how it feels to hold a really well bound book in your hands, the smell of the ink, the ability to lie it flat, the feel of the paper. Working in bookstores for most of my life (before illustrating) I acquired a really strange skill. At one point I was able to identify a publisher by smelling a book (at that time most publishers used the same printing houses, I don’t think this is the case now). It became kind of a party trick we would do for fun in the stock room and I got pretty good at it. Kind of like wine tasting, only instead of fruit bouquets the books have smells like wood, plastic and solvent. Have you ever noticed that the smell of a favourite book becomes a perfume that soothes and energizes you at the same time? Pulp fiction has an aroma all it’s own, cheap newsprint and ink, but inticing all the same. It reminds me of the beach, sleuthing, and vampires. I quite enjoy the smell of my moleskine journals (glue and paper sizing), it’s the smell of new ideas , jotted quotes and line drawings. Or sometimes it smells of late night brainstorming and insomnia. Penguin books always smelled of time past and school. J.I. Rodales Synonym Finder smells strongly of the plastercine we used as kids. Do you have any book smell associations?
prospectus, n. 2. plan, outline, design, sketch, draft, roughout; syllabus, synopsis, digest, brief, summary.
As promised an excerpt from the show:

Random Quilt Series
As an artist I am drawn to paper as a medium because it is such a natural and overlooked part of our daily existence. We are surrounded by a variety of popular media in the form of magazines, ads, mail, newspapers, ticket stubs, flyers, etc. Most are eventually discarded or dismissed as garbage. I am compelled to take some of these elements and recreate the context by using them purely as a textural element or a spot of colour (transforming the mundane into a thing of beauty). What emerges is akin to the old fashioned method of quilting, taking used, discarded pieces of clothing, cutting them up, and arranging them into various patterns.
This quilting influence was inspired by my Grandmother who came from Newfoundland to Toronto sometime in the 1940′s. With her she brought a variety of skills including sewing, baking, rug hooking, knitting. All based in using materials that were readily available. I can recall being amazed as a child when a pair of old nylons were transformed into the brown stripe of a colourful rug. On another occasion several outgrown dresses became material for a large, colourful quilt.

anecdote: My Dad was perusing my amazon wishlist looking for gift ideas. He phoned me and asked, “Do you REALLY want Harry Potter 5 en francais, and the latest Rod Stewart?” Ack! Definitely not. It seems that my wish list was linked incorrectly and some other nasty (read: commercially motivated) list put in it’s place. I decided to inlclude the list on my site not as a way to ask for gifts but because it is a way of gaining insight into a person’s world/interests. Good thing my Dad knows my taste or I might have gotten a big shock on X-mas morning!

November 29th, 2003
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Yesterday I was in the city dropping off some collages to Distill. There are nine pieces of mine on display there for the next little while (for those of you in the Toronto area). You can see a sampling above, though these are not the exact works to be displayed. My friends Allie and Kelley have created such a wonderful collection of things in their little gallery, all are completely unique and full of surprises, you will be amazed. I got to see a beautiful show of Graham Gillmore’s work at the Monteclark Gallery. It is hard to see the detail on the website but the backgrounds of his pieces are comprised of a variety of found paper collaged onto the canvas. Old ledger books with handwritten script, children’s homework assignments, all with browned edges and beautiful patina. The type (various cutlural sayings and popular phrases) is overlaid creating a dymamic sense of depth to work. I was grateful to get to see it up close and feel immersed by it all. The majority of them were quite large (15 ft).
While perusing a copy of Real Simple Magazine in a bookstore I was inspired by a photo of a felt covered photo album. (Thanks to S.Kim-design for the link!) It was a slip-on like cover with lovely simple felt designs sewed onto (dress, stockings). Since I’m on a big felt kick, I’m going to experiment a little with this concept and create my own versions for gifts.
In other gift idea news… For some time now I’ve wanted to tell you about Two Herbal Mamas, (I’ve been waiting for them to get their web site up and running.) I met one of the Mama’s on a studio tour and fell in love with both her energy and her products. I am rather picky about face cream (must smell good, must be all natural, and feel good on my face). The Rosemary Face Cream covers all the bases. I so love that they make all of their cosmetics out of stuff from their own gardens. When you support these two girls you are taking care of yourself and giving back to the planet at the same time! (A little anecdote: I burned my hand rather badly two days ago by grabbing a pot handle that had been in the oven for several hours, blisters and all. I used the healing salve on it and was virtually pain free. It has since healed completely.) I have no vested interest in this company other than I really like finding people who do more than just “sell stuff”. It’s much bigger than that and I knew immediately that this company was a really good thing.
My friend Kris was wearing a great pin the other day that said:
“Everything is Interesting”, done by the artist Kelly Mark. I wanted to steal it!
Every once and a while I find a site that makes me want to jump up and start creating. I just have to share with you a recent find that does just that. Cynthia Malaran. I aspire to such greatness. (sadly she does not seem to be updating the diary.)
I made some of these as gifts. Mine are ornaments though, not cat toys. Link via craftster.

November 25th, 2003
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A new set of ornaments (or mobile if you prefer), featuring the ever popular Hortence & Giles. Happy cutting & gluing!

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