Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pieced Together - Two Exhibits at the Canadian Textile Museum


I was recently in Toronto for a few hours for an event (see my previous post), and had some free time beforehand so I decided to take in the latest exhibits at the Canadian Textile Museum.  The museum has many things to recommend it: it's centrally located (two blocks from the Greyhound Bus station), it's small enough that you can see everything in about an hour, and if you are interested in textiles (contemporary and historical), their exhibits are informative and often visually stunning.

There are two exhibits currently on display:  Crosscurrents: Canada in the Making, and Colour Improvisations 2: An International Exhibition of Contemporary Quilts.  While I was initially more interested in seeing the second, I found myself equally engaged by both.

Crosscurrents tells the story of the cultural interaction between early settlers, indigenous peoples and immigrants in Canada over the last two centuries through textiles.  Items such as hooked rugs, quilts, blankets, and beadwork illustrate the exchange of knowledge, skills and traditions between the various groups.  The exhibit incorporates artifacts from the Textile Museum's Canadian collection of historical artifacts, loans from public and private collections, and pieces created by contemporary artists.


Quilts figure prominently in the exhibit.  Settlers brought the craft of quilting to Ontario from the UK and Europe.  The first two in the photo above are from the late 19th century, the far right one from the early 20th century.  The quilts were often pieced together from scraps of fabric from worn out clothing, most often wool.   The fabric was cut into precisely measured pieces and assembled following overall patterns, which as shown in the quilts above, were usually repeating blocks.


Above is a Jacquard-woven coverlet made in Southwestern Ontario between 1847 and 1885.  This particular one was woven by John Campbell, a hand loom weaver from Scotland who had been displaced from his home country through industrialization, and found a local market for hia work in Ontario.  It was fascinating to note that the Jacquard loom, which required tremendous skill to operate, used punched cards (much like the early computers) to make the design.


The "Block of Honour" quilt, above, is from Buxton, Ontario, a black settlement founded in 1849.  It was used as a sort of fund-raiser, as the creator, Hattie Rhue Hatchett, and the local quilting circle, accepted donations in exchange for names embroidered on quilt squares.  The money raised went towards supporting black congregations who did not have a full-time minister.

Above left is a man's woven shawl, from Markham, ON.  In the mid to late 19th century, these were worn by men as a top layer in the winter.  The shawls were hand-woven and expected to last a lifetime.  On the right is a child's coat from the same time period that incorporated wool, cotton, satin, hand and machine sewing, and embroidery.  The amount of work that must have gone into the making of this coat, which was outgrown before being worn out, would be unthinkable today.

lacemaking pillow from Quebec, circa 1920

I had never seen a lacemaking pillow before.  They were used to produce lace shawls, collars, dresses, fans, and fancy trim for undergarments.  The pillow consists of a wood frame covered in cotton fabric and the one above shows a sample of bobbin lace in progress.  Each thread is kept in order by a wooden bobbin, which acts as a weight,  and the work is pinned to a pillow while the threads are twisted, plaited and interwoven to make the lace.  Given that I have no talent for knitting, crochet, weaving, etc. the idea of working with all those bobbins at the same time boggles my mind.

page from a commercial crochet and tatting sample book, late 19th century

When I saw the pink crocheted cross in the display above, I was immediately reminded of Christmases when I was a child, and each year would receive a pink crocheted bookmark almost identical to the one above from one of my great aunts.

Moving From the Historical to the Contemporary......

Colour Improvisations 2:  An International Exhibition of Contemporary Quilts is the other exhibit at the Museum, and it was particularly interesting to see these quilts after viewing the ones from 100 - 200 years ago.  The first difference you see is the colours!

Left:  "Flight Plan" by Elizabeth Brandt (USA), Right:  "Vibrant Colour Bars" by Ruth Bosshart-Rohrbach (Switzerland)

This is the only Canadian venue for this exhibit of bold, asymetrical quilts made in 2014 and 2015.   The 25 quilts (made specifically for this exhibit) were created by 25 artists from Canada, Germany, Scotland, Switzerland and the United States.  What unites the artists is that they all studied with American artist, quilt-maker and teacher, Nancy Crow, who curated the exhibit.   

"Riff #4: Calm" by Nancy Crow

"I believe that those of us who love working with fabric were originally drawn to this medium by its large, forceful presence and the freedom to use colour joyously"
                                                                      Nancy Crow

Clockwise from top left: detail of "Vibrant Colour Bars", "Flight Plan" detail, detail of "Moby Dick 3" by Kit Vincent (Canada), and "Precaria #6:Flux by Sandra Palmer Ciolino (USA)

I am in the process of learning to sew, which has made me more aware of the skill and detail that goes into the making of a garment or other piece of textile art.  I was fascinated by the variety of intricate machine quilting used by the artists in the exhibit.   Closely-spaced straight lines faced off against seemingly random loops and curves. 

All the quilts in the exhibit are bold in pattern and colour and I would have happily hung severaly of them on a wall in my home.   Below are a few of my favourites:

"Madness", Brigitte Ammann (Germany)

I was drawn to the mix of colours and abstract shapes in Ammann's quilt which gave it a whimsical, cartoon feel.

"Shapes and Lines 19/20/21", Heide Stoll-Weber (Germany)

I was fascinated by this particular quilt because the finely spaced stitching (see below) and mottled colouring of the fabric made it appear to be a painting instead of a piece of fabric.

detail of the incredibly fine quilting stitching on Shapes and Lines

"To cut parts, shapes and lines by eye and manage colour and value demands hours of practice.  It takes obsessiveness, intensity, and a great eye."
                                                                        Nancy Crow

"Interactions #10", Gerri Spilka (USA)

The large shapes and bold colours in Gerri Spilka's quilt made a strong visual statement

"Repetition #3: Expectant", Louise Harris (USA)

There is something about the colours and shapes in Louise Harris' piece that for me, recalls graphics from the 50's and 60's.

Colour Improvisations 2: An International Exhibit of Contemporary Quilts is at the Canadian Textile Museum until September 23rd

Crosscurrents: Canada in the Making can be viewed until March 31, 2019

Monday, September 3, 2018

What Makes a Great Ad Campaign?



Put my friend Melanie in it, of course!

When Melanie told me earlier in the summer that she was going to be part of a very exciting project I was thrilled for her, and very curious to know what it was, but it was all very hush-hush until last week.

Nordstrom, a U.S - based fashion retailer, first opened its doors in Canada in 2014.  On August 27th, they launched their first national ad campaign created specifically for the Canadian market.  The campaign, titled True Nord, was produced in partnership with Toronto-based advertising agency, Ogilvy, and was shot by Canadian-born photographer and Director Justin Tyler Close.  It features a diverse cast of 13 Canadian stylish personalities, and the title, True Nord, combines the short form of Nordstrom with french and English lyrics from our National Anthem (Nord is french for North).  

 
 The digital media part of the campaign, which was shot in and around Toronto (watch for Melanie on the streetcar)

I think the campaign did an excellent job in capturing the eclectic cultural diversity of our country.  Watching it reminded me of just how fortunate I am to be living here - True North indeed.

Melanie invited myself, and fellow bloggers Suzanne and Patti to celebrate with her at the campaign launch, held at the Broadview Hotel in Toronto.   We met in Melanie's hotel room beforehand to toast her with champagne and snacks provided by Suzanne.  Suzanne (left) was wearing a beautiful vintage maxi she purchased from the Ian Drummond Collection, and Patti (right) rocked a cool dress she purchased from Suzanne's Etsy shop.  Our star in the middle was wearing an outfit from Nordstrom, and will no doubt be setting a trend with her multiple hair clips (which came out for the party).

It was wonderful to watch Mel as she moved through the party, laughing and chatting with fellow models, Nordstrom staff and other attendees.  She was on cloud 9 (more like 99) and I was so proud of her.

Melanie chats to Michelle Haggard, VP and Regional Manager for Nordstrom's Canadian Stores.
I loved her bird patterned dress.

More photos from the print campaign.  On the left is Harjas Singh with Estelle Habermayer.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the name of the model in the other photo.

There was music provided by a DJ and a violinist

You could sample oysters served to you by a very attractive oyster shucker

It was another stiflingly hot day and fortunately part of the rooftop patio was enclosed and air-conditioned.  It was a lovely space and the natural light was great for photos.  Above, Biko Beauttah, United Nations Goodwill Glambassador and founder of TransWorkforce, chats with another guest while her segment of the campaign video plays on a large screen in the background.

Yolanda Largie, co-founder of The Canadian Curvies, is also part of the campaign

The man in the Gucci suit

campaign model Ishie Wang

Toronto Stylist Harjas Singh, one of the models in the campaign, wearing a marvelous shirt from Nordstrom.

Easily the prettiest shoes at the party

Model, blogger, photographer and stylist Mirian Njoh poses with her photo from the campaign

Another model from the campaign, Jazmin Katz, caught in an unguarded moment

Estelle Habermayer, the youngest model in the campaign, had the most energy of anyone at the party and twirled, jumped and danced in her party-perfect star-spangled dress.  I was wishing I would have worn a dress like that, accessorized with sequinned cat ears, instead of the striped cotton tent I ended up wearing.  Comfort before style seems to have become my motto this summer.

It was great to see so many people at the party wearing bold colours and patterns.  This woman had her jumpsuit made for her from upholstery fabric that felt like barkcloth.  Her glasses made an equally strong style statement.

Suzanne managed to snap this group shot of the campaign models with Michelle Haggard over the heads of the crowd of people in front of us.

Alas, the only shot of the four of us from the evening, taken before the party with Suzanne's selfie stick.    We were photographed together by someone who appeared to be hired for the party but I have no idea where those photos ended up.  You can see more photos from the event on Melanie's and Suzanne's blogs.

It was a truly grand night out with friends, and I was so glad I was able to be there to celebrate with Melanie.  I'm sure this is just the beginning of a long and exciting adventure for her.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What DID I do on My Summer Vacation?


Now that it's nearing the end of August, I find myself trying to remember what I did the last couple of months.  I know I went to Toronto, because I wrote about it on my blog, which brings up the question, "If it's not on your blog or your Instagram, did it really happen?"

I took a few long weekends from work, but I usually don't take a lot of vacation time in the summer so that I can go away in either the fall or the spring.  I did go to the beach one day with my BFF and there's even a photo on my IG to prove it.  I'm not much of a beach girl, but we brought snacks, books and our own shade, and the water was shallow enough that even a non-swimmer like me could enjoy it.  I must have done something else, let's see....

The Play's The Thing...

I try to see at least one play during the Stratford Festival season in Stratford, Ontario, and this year I saw the current production of The Tempest, starring Martha Henry in the role of Prospero.  I have long admired Ms. Henry as a person and an actor and had the pleasure of working with her briefly during her tenure as the Artistic Director of London, Ontario's Grand Theatre.  In addition to being a talented actor and director, she treated everyone on staff as if they were equally important to the success of the theatre.  Her performance as Prospero was powerful and moving, and during her curtain call I found myself spontaneously moved to tears as I watched her graciously acknowledge the standing ovation of the audience.  Henry turned 80 this year, and it isn't hard to imagine that this may be the last role of this magnitude she is able to take on at the festival.

Martha Henry as the sorcerer Prospero, with Michael Blake as Caliban.  Photo by David Hou

Stratford's Festival Theatre, one of three performance spaces used for productions during the festival

The theatre is also famous for the gorgeous gardens that surround it.  Above are some of the plants in the Arthur Meighen Garden in front of the Theatre.

The Elizabethan Garden includes a statue of the Bard himself

Yours truly, hanging around in the Arthur Meighen Garden, wearing a dress I purchased in the fall from Cora Couture in Stratford.  It's become my default outfit this summer for whenever I want to feel "dressed up".


I Got My Pride On....

For some reason, London, Ontario holds their Pride Festival in late July, unlike the majority of the cities in the world who celebrate Pride during the month of June
 
I like to wear something colourful when I'm watching the parade (I have walked in the parade a few years, but generally I watch it with my neighbours) and this year I made a Pride Flag dress (flag, sewn on to t-shirt dress).  I was definitely one of the most visible spectators.

I saw my first Pride Parade about 30 years ago in Toronto, and it was a crazy, loud, and colourful spectacle featuring scantily-clad men and women dancing on floats and in the street, topless lesbians on motorcycles, and magnificent drag queens.  Spectators blew whistles and danced along with the participants and it was one hell of a party.  There were always members of the LGBTQ community who felt the parade was not a fair representation of the diversity of the community, and that it gave the impression that all homosexuals were into leather, dressing in drag, or partying in public while naked.   This was a valid point, and as more community organizations and politicians participated in the parade, and more families brought their children to watch the parade, it became more of a "family friendly" event.   I think it's great to see so many kids waving rainbow flags alongside their parents as spectators or participants, but there are some things no self-respecting Pride parade should be without, namely, Dykes on Bikes, who have traditionally led the parade, and drag queens.

The Dykes on Bikes were a no-show at this year's parade, and the small group of drag queens  participating were a pretty subdued bunch (that said, kudos to the queen in the lavender wig). Could they not have stuck a few decorations on that U-Haul???  There was a ton of parade swag handed out including flags, candy, stickers, beach balls, beads, temporary tattoos, etc. but I would have gladly traded it all for the sight of one statuesque queen in an extravagant dress, heels, and a towering wig.


Netflix, Books and a Cat (aka "It's Too Darn Hot!")

It's been a very hot summer, with temperatures consistently topping 30 degrees celsius, not including the humidex.  We've also had a lot of thunderstorms and rain, all of which made curling up on the couch in air-conditioned comfort with a book, Netflix, and a cat seem like the best choice of how to spend an evening


And what has Sylvester been doing this summer, you may ask? Mostly this, while I plowed my way through a stack of books that included Terry Pratchett's Discworld Series, Kate Atkinson, Ernest Hemingway and Margaret Atwood.  I also binge-watched Babylon Berlin, The Alienist, the Frankenstein Chronicles, Anthony Bourdain's The Layover, Anne with an "E", Dear White People, and the new Queer Eye reboot (both seasons) - all available on Netflix.

I've also been learning to use the camera on my new Huawei phone (which was used to take all the photos in this post), which has a black and white lens that comes pretty close to duplicating the rich tones of black and white film (see exhibit A above, portrait of a handsome boy) 

Yeah, so....that's been my summer.  Truth be told, I'm sick of wearing the same four pieces of loose-fitting linen clothing and feeling like a wet dishrag every time I'm outside for more than 20 minutes.  Bring on the chilly nights and cool days that require a jacket, and no more blasted humidity.