Sunday, 5 October 2014

Meeting Sharilene Over Tea

Tea has loomed large in my hat life this year. I named my bridal collection "Tea and Iced Cakes". I use tea as dye sometimes. And several clients found me to make fascinators for their tea-themed showers.

It was one such client who brought me to the attention of Sharilene Rowland, and vice versa. Sharilene's business, Tea Celebrations, catered Chandra's shower. I made fascinators for Chandra and several members of her family, and Sharilene took care of the festivities.

She was among the very first to specialize in tea catering in the GTA. The photos Chandra shared after her shower showed the work of someone who knew what they were about.

What I didn't realize was that there are so many other occasions beyond wedding or baby showers that can and do choose afternoon tea as their theme. Tea Celebrations' website will tell you its own story quite nicely, as does this great blog post Sharilene just shared with me.

Two things I loved about Sharilene before I met her: She says "afternoon tea", not the frequently misunderstood and misused "high tea." (One of my favourite pet peeves.) And she gets her teas from Pippins, a lovely shop in my own Beaches neighbourhood. Sharilene used to be a Beacher, too. It's so great to support local businesses. One thing I loved upon meeting her: Devonshire cream is a must at her events. I share that priority. (Without Devonshire cream, a scone is underdressed. Like it's missing its hat.)

It took a while for Sharilene and me to meet face to face. When we finally did, she took me to the Toronto Antique & Vintage Market, where she was blogging for Torontonicity. I am such a sucker for vintage shows! And, amazingly, I had never been to the Queen Elizabeth Building in the Exhibition grounds! It's mid-century cool, full of light, and, appropriately, it's wearing a crown.

Cool vintage photo of cool vintage building care of Robert Moffat/Toronto Modern

Sharilene worked the room, chatting up various vendors in her easy-going, friendly way, and I mooched for jewels for fascinators and whatever eye candy came my way.

From the iconic Lock & Co. hatters in London. Mysterious Mr. J.E.B.'s loss will be someone's gain.

I loved this charming painted straw cloche.

My haul. Fascinator bling!

I took lots of photos, in case Sharilene could use them for her blog post -- call it a hostess present.

After a thorough scrounge, on our way out I ran into an artist acquaintance. Patricia was there with Toronto Urban Sketchers, well, sketching. No sooner had I introduced her to Sharilene than they found they had much in common and would be in touch with each other about all of it. I love helping people connect, especially when it's with such serendipity!

I also met Patricia's sketching colleague, Helen Wilkie, who allowed me to take this photo of herself and her à propos sketch:

That's Patricia behind her, deep in conversation with Sharilene.

So I hope that Sharilene and I will be much in touch from now on. And look no further if her kind of celebration is just your cup of tea.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Akosua and Dale Make History

Last spring, a bride-to-be engaged (!) me for a special commission. It was right up my alley. Or more specifically, right up the park where I have spent so many summer Saturdays.

Akosua found me online, searching for a milliner to create custom fascinators for her four bridesmaids. We made an appointment to meet at my studio in April, and she brought along her fiancé, Dale, and bridesmaid Dara. We had a great time over tea, getting acquainted and sharing with me what they were looking for.

Akosua and Dale had a vision of Old/Jazz Age Toronto for their July wedding. Locale was also honoured through choosing Toronto artisans, each making their particular contribution toward bringing the couple's vision to life. Of course, the vintage theme cried out for fascinators, and when I learned that the wedding venue was old St. Lawrence Hall, right behind my old table location at St. Lawrence Market, it really felt like the universe knew what it was doing in bringing us together. A marriage made in millinery heaven!

Once I heard the colour scheme they had chosen, the affinity count ticked again, because I then had my own little piece of local history to offer to their wedding story. In the 1920s, the Jazz Age, and beyond, my father's family's business was a factory in Toronto that made exquisite lingerie, under the Toronto Petticoat label. The finest examples used lace made in Paris. I have a small remnant of this lace, uncut on the bolt. It's an irreplaceable treasure, and I don't use it lightly. Akosua and Dale's wedding was that rare occasion where colour and theme were perfectly sympatico, and I was happy to provide it. Mercifully, they totally "got it", which was extremely gratifying!

After Akosua and Dara had chosen the millinery elements, they went off to a vintage store to choose jewels to add bling to them. When those arrived, I went to work. Photos were submitted for approval. Weeks later, Akosua picked them up in a car, after I had probably not very well concealed my alarm at her desire to swing by for them on her bike. Nope, couldn't see that working...

She liked them! The nail-biting moment was over. Phew!

I was determined to set up my hat display at St. Lawrence Market on Akosua and Dale's wedding day. She had kindly promised to come by with her bridesmaids for a photo. That July day duly saw me in situ, selling, chatting, catching up with friends, watching the sky cloud over... in denial over the first raindrops... and finally packing it in. Sigh...

So a photo op was not to be. So what? I left with spirits undampened, knowing that a happy wedding was unfolding just yards away.

Fast forward another bunch of weeks, and Akosua's promised fascinator-featuring wedding photos arrive. And were they worth the wait! Jennifer Ballard Photography did a gorgeous job of capturing the day Dale and Akosua made personal history, she in her custom Valencienne gown, bridesmaids Katie, Dara, Annick and maid of honour, Jenn in their BHLDN dresses, and the jewel brooches on the fascinators from Cabaret Vintage.

Fascinators by Anne Livingston, Hats by Anne.

Ahem. Sniff! (I always cry at weddings.)

Feast your eyes:

And finally...

Don't you just love the onlooking-founding-father-in-the-portrait's expression? Matt, you're a game guy!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What I Did On My Summer Staycation

Summer is unofficially over. Kids are back in school, the weather has the hiccups, the season's last days are slipping off the calendar like leaves off the trees. The light is doing that magical thing it does at this time of year, as the deep greens segue into chartreuse. It's all so poignant and bittersweet.

I love summer! Tepid summer, not too hot, so this one was perfect for me. I enjoyed it and myself. In fact I reveled in it. Having given myself permission to not spend every Saturday at St. Lawrence Market, I played a lot of hooky, with the indispensable Scott, with friends, and on my own. It felt so good.

Here's a selection of snaps from my adventures around town, starting with Edwards Gardens in August:

A bee hotel

A goldfinch by the stream

A green wall in a pretty little courtyard

Me in the gift shop. When wearing a moose hat, it is advisable to also wear an expression of great (if mock) dignity.)

And from Scott's and my annual visit to the Little India street festival on Gerrard Street East:

Decoratively cut veggies outside a restaurant

Boy hangers

Amazing art display

Sugar cane and more yummies

A music machine

And from my annual solo pilgrimage to the Cabbagetown Festival:

Street music care of the Anti-Queens

Carved fruit. (What is it with me and carved fruit and veggies?)

Lovely architectural details

Street café with its own yard sale. Yard sales throughout the neighbourhood during this festival.

Aside from the occasional day trip, we stayed close to home. So when anyone needed a little millinery something, I was still there to make it for them. And I learned that my years at St. Lawrence Market were still working for me, even in my absence.

Case in point:

T.D. was in need of a fascinator for a wedding she was attending in England. She had bought her spectacular gown, and wasn't sure where to look for a fascinator to go with it. She enquired at a fabric store on the other side of town from me, and amazingly, someone there mentioned a milliner who sold outside St. Lawrence Market on Saturdays. They wished they had some of my business cards, but thankfully a quick online search found me, and we made our appointment to meet in my home studio.

T.D. was so much fun to meet and to work with! She played dress-up with samples on the shelf, her energy and high spirits were like a tonic, and her kind words about my skills were exactly what an artisan loves to hear. The dress she had bought was just the coral-red that I love, and together we came up with the perfect thing to top her off in style and stature:

When I delivered it to her house, she was Skype-ing with a friend, so I got the pleasure of enjoying oohs and ahhhhs from both of them. When T.D. sent me the photo of herself at the wedding, it was my turn to make similar sounds:

Another happy client, another happy story to share. Thanks, T.D.!

And you can bet that I thanked the fabric store, too. And sent them business cards!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bonus Points for Presentation!

One of my recent clients who commissioned a fascinator to wear to her friend's wedding. She is my star of the moment because she not only remembered to send me photos of herself on the big day, she made a point of taking some that shows off the fascinator so well.

Thanks, Angela! I'm very grateful. And you look gorgeous.

Wasn't it nice of the wedding venue to decorate a room to go with Angela's ensemble? I thought so, too.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Late July Marketing

The indispensable Scott, the hats and I hit the markets again over the last two weekends. First up, back to St. Lawrence Market. I wanted to be there especially on July 19 because a bridal party at St. Lawrence Hall, just behind us on King Street, was bedecked in bespoke fascinators I had made for them. They had promised to drop by for a photo with me. I had been looking forward to that since I met them months ago. Of course, Mother Nature had other plans, dumping rain on us in the afternoon, so alas, the photo did not happen. Sigh...

Anyway, I did have lots of fun regaling everyone who came by and would put up with it about my big day at Woodbine earlier this month. People were very kind and indulgent, and said many lovely things about my competition hat, which I showed off shamelessly. I figured potential customers might like a story to go with their Hats by Anne purchase, and I think I was right.

After a slow start and amid ominous weather, it turned out to be a pretty good day! Herewith some photographic souvenirs:

Here's my table.

And here's me, in my lucky hat. (The one I wore to the Queen's Plate, not the competition hat.)

The buskers du jour. They were upbeat and entertaining, playing a selection of pop tunes, mostly vintage, which were fun to sing along to when no one was at my table.

Birchy art in the tent behind mine.

Orange art being shown at a distance for a potential customer. We're all about service in the market carts at St. Lawrence Market!

A new thing at St. Lawrence Market: Historical Artisans doing their thing. This one is cobbling, so I had to talk to him. I learned to make shoes before I learned millinery.

Nice fellow is Peter Monahan.

Sue in her new equestrian cap. Thanks, Sue!

Maria picked up this little fascinator just in time to wear it to a wedding later that day.

And the universe smiled on me once again by bringing by Jean and her daughter Nan, two dear customers who are building something of a collection of my hats. It always makes my day when I see them, and I'm so grateful to them for their ongoing support. Big hugs to both of you with big thanks!

And that was that. The rains began and we pulled out.

The following Saturday, the last one in July, we made another foray to Wychwood Barns, to take part in another of their curated arts and crafts shows. I love the place and what they've done with it. I've talked about it enough on this bog, but follow the link to hear about it directly from them. It was another jolly day, inside and not at the mercy of the elements. And Roberto Riveros was there again, my photographer friend from St. Lawrence Market, with his super son Severus, a budding photographer himself. Here's a photo Severus took of me last time we were there:

What a talent!

It was a bit quieter this time, but still good. And I do love trolling through the awesome farmers' market and picking out something to nibble between table visitors. This time it was a yummy vegetarian Japanese rice roll wrapped in nori.

And I learned about the image of the flapper poster mounted high on the wall in Barn 2, where we were.

It's a staged photo from a series taken on streetcar safety. The woman is demonstrating the unsafe way to get off a streetcar. The photo of the correct way wasn't nearly as attractive. So the message is enjoy the view, but don't follow her example. The Barns people were selling buttons of her unsafe self, so I bought one.

Here are my photos, including those of people trying and buying hats, keeping safety first and foremost, of course.

My table, under the skylight, not under the open sky. What a pleasant experience.

This is Charlotte, who really liked this hat.

Just a smidgeon of the wonderful farmers' market right outside.


Southern Horizons. Love those jolly buckets of colourful veggies.


Clarence Michon. Love his guitar.

Michelle, who really liked this sea grass cap. She was wearing it around the market, when someone asked her where she got it. Next thing I know...

...Nadia bought one herself! Thank you, ladies! You both look wonderful in them!

Thanks to all who came by, including the camera-shy customers, and my charming vendor neighbours. Looking forward to the next time we get to be in a Wychwood Barns sale.