29.12.08

christmas movie 3: nanny mcphee


This one isn't necessarily a Christmas movie, but I did get it as a gift this year and plan on putting it in my stack of regulars. I watched Nanny McPhee a year or so ago and instantly fell in love with it's sense of style, color and whimsicality. Not to mention that there are a few Love Actually cast members in it as well.

Of course any movie that involves a magical nanny may fall under comparison against the wonderful Mary Poppins, and even I'll admit that I was skeptical when I first sat down to watch it. That's not really a fair deal to compare the two though, since they are different stories and totally different nannies. In fact Nanny McPhee isn't attractive at all. She doesn't sing and she doesn't smile a whole lot. But somehow she's a lovable character and sees each one of her lessons through to the end until it's time for her to depart and move on, in typical, English, nanny fashion.


My favorite part of this movie is at the very end when there is a wonderful snow scene. The colors of course is what gets me, me and my monochrome/cool and warm tone inclinations. It's absolutely breath taking. Through the entire movie the colors are harsh and saturated, where when the snow scene arrives everything falls to a soft neutral between shades of gray, pinks and soft blues and yellows. It's a lovely contrast from the theme of the movie, delicious all the same. Amazing when I realize how much color shapes my tastes in movies.


I won't admit how sappy I get with these types of movies because in the words of Mary Poppins "practically perfect people never permit to sentiment to muddle their thinking." Who am I fooling? I cry almost every time. They're just such wonderful stories.

28.12.08

christmas movie 2: a christmas story

For years now, A Christmas Story has been a traditional favorite of mine. Actually, it seems like my rule of thumb is that Ralphie Parker is welcome in our home as long as there is snow on the ground. And without a doubt, that's what I'm watching when we get our first snowfall of the season. No fooling.


There is a great sense of nostalgia that is represented in this movie, which I somehow never seem to grow tired of. To be taken through the story in the perspective of a child, bouncing in and out of magical day-dreams, it really does bring back great memories in what Christmas used to mean. I think often times that we forget to use imagination as a luxury during this time of year, and so I enjoy having the little reminder throughout the winter season . . . in the form of Ralphie Parker.

27.12.08

christmas movie 1: love actually

Though Christmas has passed, I'm still pretty stuck on my regular Christmas flicks. Simply because I love them. I'd probably say that there is a group of 4-5 movies that I watch throughout the winter, which was a pattern I gravitated to when I was in college.

Typically I spent a lot of time outside of class because I had a horrible time focusing, and so I'd head home, make a tea, throw on my pajamas and listen to a movie while I zoned out and worked on my projects. It's actually quite rare when I take the time to watch from beginning to end, but I'm leaning on giving myself a treat this evening of doing absolutely nothing, while the boy leaves me with the house to myself.


One of my favorite picks, usually above everything in my movie binder (yes, a binder.. I can't stand clutter) is a movie my dad gave me, Love Actually. First off I wasn't too keen on the idea of a romantic comedy because I am one of the rare few females on this planet who doesn't really like love stories. I find them too easy to read, and so when I first put Love Actually in to watch, I was expecting to make it last about 5 minutes. Instead, it is now one of my most favorite holiday movies. Go fig.


The greatest thing for me, which I noticed through listening while I worked, was that each and every voice in the movie is delicious on the ears. There's also something about British accents too that make it more enjoyable.. And Liam Neeson? The man could read me the phone book. But anyway, there are other great voice actors to accompany him like Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. All of whom can manage to make me happier than most of the jazz tunes that I listen to on a regular basis.


The bit that makes me really excited (like most of my favorite movies do) is the color direction. There's a great balance between cooler tones and warmer tones without overdoing the other. It almost has a hint of a Tim Burton reminder to me where some scenes can be so monochromatic, but manage to break it up with a splash of lovely red for interest. I actually wasn't fond of red at all until I started to love this movie.


So though I've watched (er.. listened to) this movie nearly a thousand times, I think tonight I'll give my eyes a treat and enjoy it as one whole piece rather than fragments of imagery among sound. Perhaps tomorrow I'll share another one of my faves, to get me back into writing more frequently. I'll admit that procrastination has settled in this house and none of us are interested in lifting a finger just quite yet. Ah, the holidays.

26.12.08

t'was

It came and it went, but it was enjoyable while it was here.


I wasn't even sure of where to begin and where to stop, but like many things, I didn't know until I got there. I tend to focus on everything at once and then have a fit to myself, with crossed arms, but instead (after talking many times with Mom) I started to progress from one task to another with ease. And what really brought me down into that state of calm I was looking for, was getting the chance to create and share with others. Creativity is definitely the fuel that keeps me going.


My family taught me well about creativity, growing up, and the holidays were without a doubt their greatest moments for self expression. With mom, it was sewing. She made our stockings with felt, and also made my sister and I matching dresses, which often came with a matching set for our dolls as well. My grandmother was best with her ceramics, and had a ceramic tree that I would love to make for myself one day. It really is the fondest memory I have of coming to her place at this time of year. My aunt was the gingerbread queen and made lovely little houses, sometimes with objects on the inside to spy on through the windows. All of these elements added a sense of dreamlike nostalgia to my holidays, that I will always hold dear to my heart. I am just so grateful to have been shown that I am in my own control to bring those things back into my life, as coming from a broken family can be disorienting as you find your sense of self and balance again. It's like rediscovering where I've come from. Such a wonderful gift.


On another note, one thing I wish I had done was brought out my camera when company was here. I'm still very shy with taking photos of people, but am hoping to break the seal one of these days. I'm such a tremendous fan of capturing character from behind the lens, I just have to learn how to relax and let things go without worry. And after I had such a great opportunity in seeing that I hold family and memory so close to my heart, I'm hoping to get more adventurous with my camera, to capture those moments, to make them last while they're here. Perhaps this can be a resolution for the year to come?


I didn't manage to get our painting completed for the dining area in time, but I am in the process of visualizing how I want to approach it, since there is no deadline. It's been a while since I've settled with the paints, so it may take some time before things are moving smoothly in that regard. Christmas is quite a lot to take in when you get the time to come to a stand-still after it passes like the swift blur that it is, so I'll give it time to process before I even pick up the palette. For now, we will recover from full, round bellies and maybe think about adding a couple of other things to the list of resolutions for the new coming year. Exercise maybe?

23.12.08

wishes to you


As there are so many last minute things to do before Christmas Eve, I have to take a graceful exit in order to see things through to completion. There isn't too much left to do but I don't want to miss it while it's here.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Keep warm and toasty with those who matter most.

creating christmas


I finally took some time today to sink into the reality that Christmas is just around the corner. I was certainly aware that it was coming, but somehow time creeps up on you and you have to ask yourself "really?" while that internal, fluttering, panic ensues. After pacing quickly around the kitchen and staring at my post-it list a million times, thinking of everything at once (like I always tend to do with things) I decided to do whatever it was I felt like doing and enjoy it while I could, for that moment, alone. Just like mom told me, to get me out of the grumbling stupor I was in, when we last spoke.

Time has been precious these days, with toys, story development, and sketches to refine for other projects. And though it's a great feeling for me to be working so hard in the creative fashion I live and breathe, my brain was tired and it wanted so badly for me to take the time to enjoy the rest of the fun while I could. It's my favorite time of year, and somehow I'd lost sight of it. After a good, long 13 hour sleep (which I apparently needed) it started to come back into focus.


Giving my hands a break has been a lovely treat, though I'm working them enough that they're not feeling restless and confused at being so sedentary in comparison to the last couple of months. My mind is still racing, but typically that's how it always runs. Go go go. While it muttered in the background, amid some Charlie Brown Christmas piano jazz (which I highly recommend) I managed to zone out for a few hours and I took in all of the pieces I was looking for.

Simplicity is how we ran with the holidays, growing up, so though it seemed like a massive task to get my body into the kitchen to finish one of my many chores on the list of plenty, it was easy to get lost in that sense of calm once I allowed myself to do so. As I've said before, the chaos is somehow contagious and easy to get caught up into at this time of year. With a little bit of rest and deep breathing, and a pep talk from mom, it was smooth sailing. Easy. Whip out the Bailey's if you need.


So, to make our first Christmas in the house special, I've been taking that extra time to craft things for Christmas Eve. It's our turn to entertain this year and it's nice to realize how much of a wonderful opportunity it is, to get to add our special touch and share it with others. It's starting to feel more real and the best part is that it's starting to feel more like home. I couldn't be more grateful for experiencing that.

Thanks mom, for reminding me to breathe.

19.12.08

almost there


I failed to mention a while back that we've got monkeys now. My assembly line is almost at an end, which means that Christmas baking is around the corner. It will be such a treat (literally) to give my hands a rest and take in all of the memories as I go. Better posts to follow, I promise.

18.12.08

lemonade

I don't normally enjoy playing the finger pointing game to tattle, so to speak, but after my experience on the phone with my illustration agent this morning I thought I'd share a little tid- bit on an agency called Lemonade Illustration. They're a little agency situated in the UK, and though I was originally pleased to be a part of their team, I couldn't be happier to have been pulled from their list of illustrators.

To shorten the long and complicated story, they are money hungry and completely absurd. I hadn't received a single word from them since my first payment, in the summer of this year, so to see that they were calling me off of the hook for the following payment not even a day after I received the contract in the mail, I knew it wasn't a positive situation. Greedy and disrespectful, I spoke to one woman this morning who would hardly even listen to what I had to say. Had she listened, she would have come to find that I sent my reply to the message not only on that very same day via post, I also sent a message via email in case there were any communication issues or delays in the mail since the holidays can be quite slow. I did my part responsibly and respectfully and yet somehow I was chewed out on the receiver for simply stating that I wasn't interested in the commercial package, issued at the price of 300 pounds.


Now what really irks me about this situation is that the woman I spoke to was completely baffled as to why I wouldn't be home during the day (our time) because I should somehow be relying solely on them for income. Do the math with me will you. 300 pounds to gain representation, dead silence, pay another 300 pounds for a commercial package. Who makes the money here? Math has never been so easy.

In the end, Lemonade decided it was best to pull me from their list and will no longer be representing my work. Keep in mind that this came from a simple one answered reply to the first commercial package I was even offered. If you are an artist and are seeking that extra push to get your name out there, stay away from agencies if you can, especially Lemonade. They are more sour than the actual thing. If anything I can be proud of the business I've received on my own.

16.12.08

let it snow


It looks like it's here to stay for the holidays, and I couldn't be happier. In most cases, snow here lasts a mere day or two until the warm air from the mountains decides to wipe things out by turning it all into a mass of mucky slush, so it's a pleasant surprise to wake up in the morning to see that it's still there. Most seem to dislike this early presentation of winter that we've gotten, I on the other hand prefer my Christmases to be white.


It's actually quite amazing to see how much snow we've gotten at this time of year. Typically for Calgary it hardly snows at all until maybe mid-March, which is totally disorienting when you want a white Christmas like I do. So, to wake up each morning and see that the ground is still white and that the temperatures are remaining in the negatives, I couldn't be happier to see another day of this.


There's so much beauty in this time of year it makes me quite sad to see that it goes so unappreciated in these parts. Thankfully, I can zone out the complaining, smile at the beauty and think back to my roots in Winnipeg, where winter is a part of the culture. I have such a tremendous soft spot for something so simple as this. What would Canada be like without it? Quite dull, I can tell you that.

Let it snow!

14.12.08

gulp


In between making teds comes coffee, in between coffee comes making teds. And so on that note, I'm off to keep going.

13.12.08

ice skating

I had some fun making Christmas cards this year and am hoping to make more for the following year, when I have more time to focus on them. Two of my favorites are of a pair that I made, inspired by some videos my dad sent me, of my grandparents when they were very young.


My grandpa was quiet and simple. He enjoyed time to himself but he was also playful and childlike. He wore a little red touque in the video, which made me smile because as a kid I remember him wearing a little orange touque with a bell on the pom-pom. That alone, to me, illustrates his whimsical personality.

My grandmother used to be very shy and reserved, but there was a side of her that was rather spunky. She was modest, and didn't like to be the focus of attention but did little things to show off her playful side, which was fortunately captured in the videos for me to watch when I please.


This is a screen capture of the image that inspired it all. That's my Grandma taking a bow, after a (not so graceful) twirl for the camera, while my Grandpa skates playfully around her. I also believe that my dad is the little one who you can see just behind my Grandpa's shoulder. I have yet to add him as part of the set.

I'm just so thrilled to get to play with these memories and make them a part of my work, to share with others. Thank you for everything.

12.12.08

the rush


With the snow blowing outside and whistling against the windows, I am grateful for this evening to be stuck in bed, held down by miles of yarn as I get set to rush the latest group of toys out in time for Christmas. And not only do I have orders for the holidays, but I already have dozens lined up for the new year, already. It's amazing.

It might be quite some time before I write another post, more than a paragraph long, but once things are at least closer to being complete, I'll have much more to say. I'm just pleased to find that a part of my work dress code requires a big, fluffy blanket and a cozy, gray cat. I love it.

11.12.08

exploring


When it comes to brainstorming for the painting in our dining room I decided to fish into what it is that inspires me. I love creating graphic shapes with organic forms and I've always been drawn to trees. So because my eye seems to spark at the sight or even the thought of them, I think I'm going to take my camera for a spin this weekend to find some more inspiration, outside, to bring some prettiness inside.

With the beautiful layers of snow we have out there right now, I'm sure this weekend's adventure is going to be very uplifting for me. I so enjoy the beauty of winter and how harsh and bright the trees seem to stand out against the blinding white scenery. It might be an interesting trek due to the weather forecast, but being from Winnipeg, the challenge of the weather always brings out the best in me. I hope to return with ideas.

8.12.08

naked dining


Oh yes, this is our dining area. Bare walls and all. I doubt even a pure minimalist would find this space appealing and so to challenge myself, on top of the other millions of things I have to do before the holidays, I'm hoping to create our first "masterpiece" to hang for when company arrives on Christmas Eve. For myself I know this will be a massive challenge but I'm going to try it.

Honestly, home decor isn't something I'm all that good at (being indecisive) though I know what I like when I see it. Perhaps some browsing in some decor mags or something fancy will help perk the inspiration. Any suggestions?

I sense a couple of new wrinkles in my forehead for the new year. I will definitely keep you posted.

6.12.08

let it snow

To most it may look wicked outside, but I can't get enough of it. There are so many memories that come to me at the sight of snow, having grown up in Winnipeg. And so, this morning when I opened the blinds to see it all, I had a moment of feeling like I was totally at home. It soothes me completely.


I'm pretty amazed by how much snow we've gotten, as the trees are beginning to grow heavy with what looks like a layer of thick icing sugar. I can't help but smile at the sight while it's here. Simple, sweet and just beautiful. It doesn't seem to last long, here in Calgary. But at least for today, I got to sit back and take it all in.

For the first time in a long time, it felt like home. Happy winter.

precious tim(e)


The calm before the storm has certainly passed, as I have nearly a dozen toys yet to finish before Christmas, along with custom orders for the new year. My yarn is stocked and the line-up is permanently set up on my floor; buttons, thread, yarn, stuffing, pins, ribbon and Tim.

Yes, he's become a regular helper, holding down my bag of Polyfil as I work. And though I may not have time to do much around here lately, he is always there to remind me that a quick moment to breathe is allowed. A pat between the ears, a quick bout of catch the yarn (where he snorts and flails his paws in every direction) or a tummy rub for a few minutes; it's bliss for both of us.


For the next little while it is going to be very busy, as I just received a request for not one but five toys in one day! With Tim taking up residence where ever I decide to set to work, I am filled with a great joy to get to spend so much time with him as I do what has become a part of my daily work. My hands may take a much needed break once the storm has passed, but for now we will press on and enjoy the moments while they last.

2.12.08

me time

There's just something about this time of year that says chaos is totally rational. It's so easy to get caught up in if you're not too careful and somehow I found myself frantically (but silently) shuffling around my workspace, trying to figure out what to do first.


The toy orders are rolling out like crazy, alongside illustrations, Christmas cards, prints and story ideas. And though my heart rate is probably higher than it's been in a long time, I couldn't be more grateful to be doing the things that I enjoy most. I never saw much importance in my work, until just recently, and for that I am incredibly grateful.


Because I found myself getting a little caught up in things, losing sight between what is work and what is home, I decided to treat myself with a date on Saturday night and put the hooks and papers away. Ian was out for the night and Tim was in his bed, so I took full advantage and brewed up a tea, grabbed my big red fleece blanket, dimmed the lights, made some spaghetti, put on a movie and painted some ornaments in between doing nothing at all. It was heaven. I highly recommend it... right now.

27.11.08

tabs


What fun a tabby cat can be. This is Tabs (we think it's short for Tabitha.) Normally I'd have some sort of silly story to go with this but somehow my brain is mush and I'm at a loss for words. Let's just say I had a lot of fun making this one. And there just might be more tabby cats to come..

25.11.08

sipping memories


As I was getting ready to set to work this morning I came across something that made me sink into a memory. It was a bit strange how it started, but as I went to take a tea packet from the cupboard, I noticed that it was the last from the box. What was so significant about this little tea bag was that I quickly realized it was the last pack of tea that came with us, here, from our old apartment. It sounds so silly to get all sentimental about a packet of tea, since I can go to the store and get more, but somehow it took me back in time for a moment, which made me see that it was more than what it was. It was a piece of where we've come from.


Ian and I had some really colorful moments in our apartment, to say the least, and what I enjoyed most about it were the stages in which we grew together. We learned how to cope with the inconveniences of apartment life. What comes to mind most, was when we lost our heat in the dead chill of the winter season, every year, without fail. For weeks we went without any heat at all. Showers were long and hot, getting out of bed was murder and any room without a blanket was useless. Poor Tim hibernated in my lap, because in order to keep working on my homework for college, I had to wear the biggest blanket I could find. Unfortunately even with the biggest of blankets, a cold desk by a drafty window results in very cold fingers. And so, when defeat was announced, I'd throw on my coat, scarf, and layers, to set out to find ourselves a nice, hot, drink to bring home and share.


For Ian it was a hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie, and for me, a jasmine green and a ginger cookie. Just a heavenly combination. I'd come inside to throw back on my layers of clothing and with our hoods up and blankets to our chins, we'd sit curled up on our little red love seat and wait to feel our bodies come up to regular temperature. And though these moments at the time were so incredibly frustrating to have to endure, I enjoyed a part of it in that it literally brought us closer together. We'd wiggle our toes under each others' legs, put our cold noses on the others' cheeks to question "is it that cold, or is it wet?" We found great humor in our unfortunate situation and somehow at the same time I didn't want it to end.


I'll never forget our days in that apartment and the things that we went through to get where we are today. It's just kind of a funny feeling when you're taken back in time for a moment to realize how quickly we're all growing up in this world and how far we've come so far. I look forward to what random objects will bring back memories to me of today, in the future. Until then I'll be sipping my cup of delicious memory.

surgery

Of all of the toys I've been making these days, I couldn't help but feel badly for the one who wasn't rushing out the door with everyone else; Oscar. He has sort of sat with me funny since the day I put him together, so I put him on the floor with me and my assembly line, to study and figure out the problem as I worked on other things. In looking at what seemed to be the ugly factor, his face, I decided to do some surgery and give him a full facial transplant. And so... this is the new Oscar. Young again.


I almost felt kind of bad as I dismantled poor Oscar's face and I do quite miss his original character because he was so very ugly and awkward looking in comparison to the cutesy things I've been making. With a new freckled nose and smiling mouth, he's quite sweet. Maybe this new change will bring him better news while he sits on my shelf patiently waiting to be someone's new best friend. Good thing cats have nine lives.


23.11.08

toy store


It's up!

After quite some time of making promises, I'm glad to say that you have access to my toy catalog...or should I say...toy store (in the top right hand corner.) Thank you for your patience! Be aware that some items state they have been discontinued, but that certainly doesn't mean it is impossible to reach the goal at hand.

To my surprise, more than half of my toys sold within the first week of presenting them to the public. So on top of that, I'm trying my best to fill the gaps to have more available for the future. I have a ton that are ready to be assembled yet.

It warms my heart to get to do something that I enjoy for those who are welcoming my craft with open arms. I really can't thank you all enough for your support.

our tim


Things are keeping lively around here, as Tim seems to find a new place to climb into every day. He never used to be so adventurous so it is sometimes a shock to come into a room and see him peering over you curiously.


For an old cat, we never imagined he'd be able to jump higher than the couch, but he has sure proven us wrong. Lately his place of choice is up on the fire place mantle where he'll look outside from where he is, or lie down to groom his face and paws. He's a funny one, that's for sure. It is just so nice to see how curious he is.

20.11.08

trees

I have to say, that taking my camera for walks is the greatest thing in getting myself to explore more and search out new ideas. In taking a look around at the trees in our area, I actually found great inspiration in getting up close with the branches, forming silhouettes and graphic shapes. Which may just give me some ideas for paintings, for around the house.


I tend to gravitate to trees (as you can probably tell from my blog name) and simply love the intricacies and delicate forms that somehow seem to withstand the strongest breezes. My grandma once said, before she passed away, that she wanted to come back as a tree so that she could continue to provide for her family. She was an amazing woman and from that alone I see a lot of her in the trees around me. I guess it's a comfort in feeling her presence. I love those simple reminders.