Sunday, July 21, 2019

What's Your Creative Legacy?


Some of you may remember that in January I participated in a two-week online creative challenge hosted by artist Brooke Shaden (you can read about it here).   I enjoyed it enough that when she advertised on her website that she was doing a Promoting Passion lecture tour, which had a stop in Vancouver during the time I would be there, I immediately signed up.  The tour was sponsored by Sony, which allowed for Shaden to set the early registration fee at a very affordable $50 (the registration fee later increased to $70). The brief description below is from the event materials:

"Focusing on intense community connection and inspiration to create more authentic and impactful art, the lecture tour will bring together artists to jumpstart their creative ambitions.  Lectures and workshops focus on how to live a passionate life by turning your passion into a career, how to create more meaningful art for yourself and others, how to find confidence in your craft, and more"

Upon first reading it sounds a bit intimidating, and I wondered if everyone else attending would be "serious" artists.  As it turned out, the majority of the 35 or so attendees were women in their 20's and 30's, and there were some for whom photography was a profession, others, a means of creative expression, and a few who didn't bring a camera with them at all. 

Shaden is a warm and encouraging person, and very generous with sharing the process behind her art.  She greeted each participant with a hug, which was a lovely way to start the day.  First up were a few group exercises that were designed to take us out of our comfort zone and connect with the other people in the room.   Have you ever stood a foot apart from a stranger, facing each other, and stared into each other's eyes for a full minute?  Until that point, I hadn't, and it's definitely not easy; I had to fight the urge to look away after about 30 seconds.

This was followed by a lecture from Shaden that addressed the topic of Legacy, and what stops us from leaving a creative legacy.  If "Legacy" is the message you want to leave behind, art is the messenger.  We examined the excuses we make to ourselves (and others) for not creating, and what is the narrative we tell ourselves about our creative abilities.  There was a lot of food for thought, and it encouraged some self-reflection on what I had to offer as an artist (or creative), and what words do I use to describe myself - are they positive and kind, or do I focus on comparison and fear of failure? She encouraged us to trust that what we had to offer was worthwhile, and pointed out that "believing you are insignificant is easy, as it takes away your autonomy and responsibility".

After lunch, and a talk by accomplished sports and lifestyle photographer Erin Hogue, came the hands-on part of the day. 

Brooke Shaden (left) and photographer Erin Hogue

We had two models to photograph; first up was Niki (wearing the white dress above), a plain backdrop, a book, and some loose pages.   Shaden set up the original idea, and we were encouraged to give posing suggestions.  It was challenging to jockey for a good shooting position with 30 other people but in the end, after a bit of editing at home, I ended up with the two photos below...



Then we moved on to the hotel pool, with model Chelsea.  Initially, Shaden got in the pool with her to hold a backdrop (you can see her head peeking out on the left), but that became unwieldy so after we all had a chance to get some shots she left Chelsea to her own devices.

Chelsea earned major kudos from us for her patience, and excellent posing skills, especially considering she was immersed in a pool while wearing in a long dress.

For this photo, all I did was alter the colour hue a bit

Shaden brought an old magnifying glass to use as a prop

I had fun playing with creative filters on photos of Chelsea floating in the middle of the pool

The two photos below were created using the "plastic" filter, and I liked the effect it has on the water.  It definitely made the photos look more like paintings, which I was very happy with.




It's said that "comparison is the thief of joy" so I'm kind of glad I haven't seen anyone else's photos from the day.   Initially I had hoped the event might provide an opportunity to make some connections with other creative people, but everyone seemed focussed on their own journey and less interested in networking.  Still,  it was a creatively fulfilling and inspiring day, and I came away with some photos I liked, and feeling motivated to spend more time on creative pursuits.   With so many terrible things that are happening in the world, in addition to the stress of our own lives,  it is important to not lose touch with our creative side, whether for you that means brainstorming new ways to re-cycle the glut of plastic that is choking our planet, sewing clothing for ourselves, creating stories to entertain our children, trying a new recipe, or taking a photo of your dog.  It's the thing that feeds our soul when the outside world asks too much of us, and gives back too little.

Monday, July 1, 2019

POSE!


*If you haven't seen the show POSE (on FX) yet, it's brilliant*

One of the reasons I enjoy spending time with Melanie in Vancouver is that she loves playing with makeup, and dressing up, as much as I do.  We had planned to do a photo shoot at some point during my visit and on the Saturday we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and an low-traffic alley in her neighbourhood to channel our inner performance artist/model.  We had done a shoot together when I visited in 2016, the results of which you can see on my blog here.

My daily makeup routine consists of brow pencil and lipstick, so it's always fun to experiment using Melanie's extensive collection of products.  We go for lots of bold colour and more than a dash of whimsy. 

Mel's makeup - don't her eyes look huge!

I was inspired by a photo of Twiggy wearing "flower power" makeup on the cover of Vogue Magazine from 1967

We didn't confer about what we were going to wear but as it turned out, we were perfectly in sync with our silky, voluminous pieces.  We found a suitably grimy-but-not-stinky alley in her neighbourhood, set up the tripod and went to it.  Looking at these photos, I wish I would have had different shoes to wear (one can only pack so many pairs of shoes) so I encourage you to focus on the knees upwards.

I found this silk caftan/dress at The Sentimentalist and this was the first wearing.  It felt like wearing nothing and the fabric moved beautifully.  Reviewing the photos, I see a Japanese/Geisha influence in the poses, which I think was inspired by the shape of the dress and the makeup.

The breeze was an unplanned, but very welcome addition to the shoot, and provided great movement to the light fabrics we were both wearing.  I love this shot of Melanie and her "wings".

If we lived closer to each other, I know we would do more of this kind of thing.  I think we are serving excellent fashion editorial here.  Vogue, pay attention.

You can see the details of Melanie's makeup in this shot.  She is one of the most creative people in terms of her personal style and she inspires me to push myself further in the way I present myself in the shoots we do together.


While writing this post, I asked myself what it was that inspires me to do this, and what do I enjoy about it (aside from the obvious appeal of working on a creative project with a good friend).  Most women I know don't spend their spare time doing things like this (although I wonder how many of them would secretly like to).  I spent my childhood, and much of my young adult life, feeling very unhappy with my looks.  I was plain and mousy with buck teeth and glasses, and yearned for the  dramatic style of Elizabeth Taylor and Barbra Streisand.  Over the years, I've grown to accept, and on a good day, even like, the face I present to the world, it's only when I see myself in photos like these that I feel beautiful.  There is something about the exaggeration and artifice that I feel makes my face more interesting to look at.  Perhaps this is similar to what drag queens feel when they look in the mirror and see their fully made-up selves?  Perhaps I was a drag queen in another life?   This requires more time to fully address than I'm prepared to spend here, but definitely food for thought.

I played around with the highlights on this one and I rather like the effect

Melanie, caught in a perfect serious moment 

However, she can only be serious for so long...

It was obvious we were both getting a bit giddy, so, time to pack up and go for snacks!

Thank you Melanie, for being an excellent partner in creative crime.  You can see her first post about our adventures on her blog here.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Living The West Coast Life (Part 1)


I flew back home on Wednesday from Vancouver (and boy, are my arms tired!) where I spent an absolutely lovely week enjoying the scenery, stellar weather, and inspiring company.

The irrepressible Melanie aka Bag and a Beret

This was my third trip to Vancouver, and the second in which I have visited with Mel.  She's funny,  inspiring, and super creative, but she also has her quiet moments too...

We took advantage of the glorious weather and sat outside as often as possible  


I stayed with people I met last time I was in Vancouver in the area known as Yaletown, one of the "happening" neighbourhoods according to Vancouver Tourism websites.  Formerly the western terminus for the Central Pacific Railway, its popularity grew in 1986 when Vancouver hosted the World's Fair and many of the venues were located along the north shore of False Creek (see the black arrow at the top of the photo).  The Seawall is a 10 minute walk from the apartment, and there are lots of restaurants, a grocery store, shops, and the Vancouver Art Gallery close by. 

I took a walk along the seawall almost every day, and there was always something new to see

For an animal lover like me, a walk along the Sea Wall provided an excellent opportunity to meet, and pet, many of the dogs that live in the neighbourhood.  The beautiful weather meant that every dog (and their owner) was out enjoying the sunshine and some were jumping into the water to retrieve sticks or balls.

I watched this pup and his human on the paddle board for quite a while.  There was a woman with them on her own board and the dog would go from one to the other.  They had stuck small Canadian flags in the dog's collar and put a red and white garland around his neck and when they were taking photos it made me think this was more of a social media opportunity than an enjoyable excursion for the dog.

 I spent over an hour on this bench reading on Sunday afternoon and relished every minute of it

While exploring my neighbourhood with Melanie, we stopped by H-Mart Supermarket which carries all things Asian, including groceries, skincare and beauty products, home accessories and health supplements.  

I bought this, well, because OMG the packaging!  Who knew kitties could get clogged nose pores?
I haven't tried it yet (on me, not Sylvester) so I can't vouch for its effectiveness.

ZAC-ZAC is a food court-style eatery located inside the H-Mart that offers Japanese curry and Katsu dishes.  I had the pork cutlet Katsu curry and it was very good.  Most of the meals I ate while I was in Vancouver were from small places like this.

Early in my visit I discovered Baggio Gelateria and Pizzeria near the seawall, and after trying a scoop of organic coconut and rum gelato, combined with a scoop of fresh mint with Ecuadorian chocolate pieces, I was hooked.  Their gelato is made on the premises daily using natural products including fruit from local farms.

On my second last day I discovered La Cantina, where I had some yummy tacos, and was also enamoured with the decor...

 Who doesn't love a Lucha Libre theme?

Even the stools had images of wrestling masks.  The brilliant wall murals were created by Mexican artist Irving Cano.

So, enough about food....
What do women who love dressing up do when they hang out together?

They go to Nordstrom and play fashion model, that's what! Both of us shop primarily secondhand from thrift and consignment stores, so when an opportunity arises to try on some beyond-our-budget high end pieces, we'll take it.

The staff were very nice and gave us a large change room to ourselves. I'm wearing the Dries van Noten Valimera crop sleeve denim jacket paired with cotton flared pants.  The jacket is something I would wear with many of the items in my wardrobe, but it would need to be marked down more than what it was for me to take it home. Melanie was working floral and sequins with her own fringed heels.

I liked the colour combo and the streamlined shape of this Valentino coat, but the very obvious "V" pattern was a bit much for me.  I'm not a fan of broadcasting what brand I'm wearing.

I was rather in love with the shiny pink bicycle-style shorts I'm wearing in this photo (alas, they were too small; I couldn't do up the zipper at the back) and the shirt by the brand Area was a good colour but a bit too crunchy.

The fabric of the Loewe dress I'm wearing made it comfortable and sexy.  Melanie is also rocking a body conscious funky dress with her own cool shades. YEAH! Let's hear it for playing dress up at any age!

We also play well with others, so when I mentioned to Sheila, who lives in Victoria, that I would be spending some time in Vancouver (we have followed each other's blogs for years, but never met), and she offered to fly over and spend a day with us, I was thrilled!  Finding, and connecting to, like-minded women has been the best thing about blogging for me, and I've been lucky in that the bloggers I've met face to face have turned out to be just like the selves they present on their blog.  Case in point....

Sheila on the left, Mel on the right

Sheila was as cool, colourful, and delightful, as she is on her blog.  We had a jam-packed several hours together that included grabbing some lunch on Granville Island, and some stellar shopping at Turnabout consignment (you'll see some of the great things I found in a later post).  You can read Sheila's post about our day together on her blog here.

You must be tired of reading by now, and I am still trying to get my sh*t together to return to work tomorrow, so I'll leave you here, and be back with more of my Vancouver adventures (including a photo shoot with Melanie and a workshop with artist Brooke Shaden) later this week. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Champagne Taste for Beer Money


Back in April I was browsing in a local consignment store where I've found a few nice pieces, but overall, isn't known for carrying high-end designer merchandise, and I found this coat.....


It looks like a nice coat, right?  The colour is not one I would usually wear, but the fabric was luxuriously soft, like a wool-cashmere blend, and the beautiful detailing indicated the coat was very likely an expensive purchase for the original owner.

The flaps on the pockets are held open by a button, instead of the usual "buttoned-down" position you see on most coats.  A length of binding (I don't know what else to call it) is sewn on the front (it's visible in the photo next to the row of buttons), and on the shoulders, and there is an ever-so-elegant half belt in the back.

And then there's the label...


And how much did this vintage, French-made designer piece cost me?   The coat, a vintage top, vintage maxi dress, and a t-shirt came to $11 (it was their end of season sale).  As I was inwardly "SQUEE-ING", the woman behind the counter eyed my bag of treasures and said, "well, you did pretty well today, didn't you?"  She really had no idea.

If you're not familiar with the designer Sonia Rykiel, here's a bit of history...

 French knit designer Sonia Rykiel, with her trademark red hair, in 2007 (source)

 The story goes that in the early 60's, when Sonia Rykiel was pregnant with her first child, she couldn't find any clothes she liked in her husband's Paris boutique, so she designed and created a dress and a sweater, using his Italian fabric supplier.  The sweater had high-cut armholes and a shrunken fit, and she began selling the sweaters in her husband's boutique.  The "poor boy" sweaters, as they became known, were very popular (Audrey Hepburn bought 14 in different colours).  Rykiel's husband helped her start her own company and in 1968 she opened her own boutique on the left bank in Paris, specializing in casual knitwear.

Rykiel is quoted as saying "I do not want women to disappear beneath my clothing, the woman must be more than the garment, for it is not the dress that makes the woman, but the woman who makes herself".  Her designs in the 1970's were very modern - garments were made inside out and hems were left unfinished. She was one of the first designers to put text on a sweater.  Colourful and bold stripes figured prominently in many of her designs.  In 1972, she was dubbed "The Queen of Knitwear" by Women's Wear Daily.

An outfit from Rykiel's Fall 1994 collection (source)

In 2009, she was awarded The Order of Legion d'Honneur in recognition of her 40 years of service to the French Fashion Industry.  Her company remained family-owned until 2012 which made it one of the last independently owned fashion houses. Rykiel died in 2016 at the age of 86 from complications from Parkinson's disease.


When I wear this coat, I imagine myself strolling down the Champs-Elysees in Paris on a cool Spring day, knowing that I am wearing a little piece of French fashion history.

Have you found any Squee-Worthy "champagne" designer pieces for the price of a couple of beers?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Taking The Black


If you're a fan of the series Game of Thrones, you'll get the reference in the title of this post.  I'm currently in the midst of the Game of Thrones re-watch in preparation for the final season which airs on April 14th.  I'm only 3 episodes into Season 3, so I've a ways to go and I realize I may not make it all the way through 7 seasons in 3 weeks.  I've had many favourite shows over the years (Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Hannibal, Veronica Mars, Penny Dreadful, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc) but I haven't felt as deeply invested in the outcome of a series as I do with Game of ThronesInstead of going off on a long-winded rant of why I love the show, I will move on to the subject of this post.

 

WEARING BLACK.....


I used to think I wore a lot of black in my early adulthood, but when I look through old photos, I see that aside from my favourite skinny black jeans, I wore quite a bit of colour, so perhaps it was just my attitude that was dark?   I had a few years in my 30's during which my mother would ask me "Do you own any other colour aside from black?, which must have been during my "I need to wear professional work clothes" phase as I transitioned from retail jobs to office work.  I remember having a temporary job in an accounting firm with a strict dress code, and everything I wore during the two months I worked there was black.  

In my 40's I embraced more colour, which may have coincided with my more mellow emotional state.  I loved colourful vintage pieces from the 80's and I had a couple of floral print jumpsuits that I wore in the summer.  But by the time I turned 50, I was slowing drifting back to the dark side.  More pieces of black clothing crept into my wardrobe, and when I went thrift shopping, I always looked at the black pieces first.  The colourful pieces were sold or donated.  Every time I was just about to take another piece of black clothing home, I would stop myself, and say "why don't you get something in a bright, or lighter colour?"   The answer would always be, "because I feel good in black".  

 faux leather skirt from Talize, leggings from Winners and FitFlop sock booties

Black can be rather boring if you don't pay attention to shape and texture and if I am wearing head-to- toe black (which isn't often), I will make sure there's some visual interest with different fabrics.

I don't think my fondness for  black has anything to do with it being a supposedly "slimming colour", mind you, I did start gaining weight in my 50's.  I think it has more to do with embracing a tougher and slightly more punk feel to my style, which suits my greying hair, which I've stopped colouring in the last few years.

 Photo from shoot I did with Melanie in Vancouver in 2016


 It isn't a seasonal thing - I wear just as much black in the summer as I do in the winter. 

 Summer black, in linen or light cotton

The late street photographer Bill Cunningham was quoted as saying "Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life"  and I feel like black is my personal armor.   I've watched many of my blogging friends (Melanie, Vix, Suzanne, Sheila)  happily embraced bright colours and patterns, while I feel more like a crow amongst birds of paradise.   I will add blue or grey, or even a bit of red now and then to break up the swath of black, but the foundation pieces of my wardrobe are black, and when I shop for clothes, I always look at the black pieces first.  When I was in New York in the fall, a friend took me to the Dover Street Market, which carries cool high end brands like Comme des Garcons and every piece I tried on (and loved) was black.

 Photo by Suzanne Golden

The massive neck ruffle on this Comme des Garcons jacket made me feel like a star, (worn with my own monster shirt and pants) 

 Photo by Suzanne Golden

The CDG dress I'm wearing above is all one piece.  The mix of fabrics was wonderful

  This is pretty much my idea of a perfect outfit

 Top - Talize, pants - From Mars

The background of the top I'm wearing above is actually dark blue, but looks black here.  I look so blissed out because this was one of the few sunny days we had this winter.

1980's cotton knit vest from The Sentimentalist, drop-crotch pants - From Mars

The outfit above is an example of adding a pop of colour to otherwise basic black pieces 

And Now, Back to Game of Thrones...



As the series draws to a close, all of the strong women end up wearing black, including the reigning Queen, Cersei Lannister, who is a nasty piece of work.  The colour suits her.


However, the "good guys" in the series also adopt a much darker wardrobe as time goes by.  Sansa Stark, currently the Lady of Winterfell, is all grown up and has abandoned the soft pretty colours she wore in the first few seasons of the show. 


I had to end with this photo of one of my favourite characters - 10 year old Lady Lyanna Mormont, who is wiser, and braver, than many of the other much older characters.  And of course, she is always dressed in black!

Do you have a lot of black in your wardrobe, or do you take a more colourful approach to dressing?