I made this fiery fascinator during a big snowstorm a few weeks ago, to make myself feel warmer and to remind myself that warmer weather was on its way. And it is, you know! It's been above freezing here once or twice! This is a huge improvement at the latter end of a very long, cold winter.
A friend said it reminded her of Pentecost, all fiery tongues.
It awaits its forever home. Contact me if you think that's with you.
Happy Valentine's Day! This lovely day is an auspicious and apposite occasion to introduce my latest collection.
A couple of years ago I took an introductory course on tambour embroidery. It was a rare opportunity to learn a heritage skill, and from Robert Haven, visiting university costume prof and a master who had himself learned at Lesage, the famed atelier in Paris where the crème de la crème of couturiers get their bead and sequin embellishments done for their haute couture collections.
Tambour embroidery is done on a frame with a hook that is like a tiny, sharp crochet hook. A lot of it is done upside down, too, including beads and sequins.
I did not find tambour embroidery to be a cakewalk to begin with. But last October Robert Haven was in town again, demonstrating his impressive skills at the Wearable Art Show, where I was working for a friend. Watching Robert was mesmerizing, and I was inspired to get my frame out again and practise until my fingers knew what they were doing. It became my new obsession over the next few months.
The result of this phase is my new bridal collection -- Etoile Brillant. I hope you like it.
Tamboured bow, alone and with ostrich
Tamboured leaves with saddle feathers
Tamboured ginko leaves alone and with white feather spray
Embellished lace alone and with white feather spray
Peau de soie rose, with white feather spray and closeup
Rose à la mode!
Each piece can be customized to complement your colours and preferences. Please contact me with your enquiries. Merci!
Last November I entered another millinery contest. The theme was "Remembering". Although it corresponded with the 100th anniversary of World War I, the brief said it was about remembering in all its senses.
I considered a lot of options for trimming my contest hat -- words, flowers and plants associated with memory, pictures... Lots that were in fact picked up by lots of the contestants, and very nicely, too. But then I thought of ginko leaves.
Not that it led to victory! I didn't win anything, but that's okay. I enjoyed the challenge, I liked my hat, and many people were kind enough to say that they did, too. And I'm proud that at least my idea was unique among the competitors.
The best part was that an acquaintance liked it so much that she commissioned me to make her a cap version!
Carol is an artist, and it's always such a compliment to me when an artist invests in my work. And she's not afraid of colour! She began by contemplating a vibrant palette for the wool felt ginko leaves on her cap, also to be black, as is the original hat.
(Pay no attention to the colour of the sample cap.)
But after some consideration, she decided that she really preferred the palette I had used to begin with. So that's was what I did.
On its rightful home - Carol's head.
Carol brings such a happy energy with her. She's also hilarious, viz: Our cat had been making off with some decorations off the lower parts of the traditional evergreen. Carol mused, "Well, maybe he's working on his own Christmas tree."
I loved the time we spent together working on her cap, and I hope I'll get to do it again sometime. Thanks again, Carol!
St. Lawrence Market without craft vendors? Can you picture it? Do you want to?
St. Lawrence Market has been waiting for a redevelopment plan to begin for a few years now. The old north market, or farmers' market, is going to be taken down starting this spring. It will take some time to build the higher, bigger, multi-purpose (with underground parking) replacement building. There is a temporary structure being built on the Esplanade for the farmers on Saturdays and antique dealers on Sundays, so they can carry on their business in the meantime.
The vendors of the Market Cart program, including myself, were told some time ago that we would be found places around the temporary structure. Now, as of late December, we were told that the Market Cart program will be temporarily suspended beginning in April, until further notice.
Until further notice. Does that as ominous to you as it does to me?
They say they value us, that they want us back. But that doesn't help the vendors who make their living there, some of them selling year-round, outdoors, in all weather. That doesn't help the visitors, from near and far, who love the colourful scene the Market Cart vendors provide along with their unique crafts and wares.
It just plain does not help.
Fortunately, the Toronto Star and an online newspaper, the Bulletin, have taken an interest and have published stories about the situation today. (The display photo the Bulletin chose may look familiar.) The author of the latter piece is by David Gareau, a Market Cart vendor of long standing himself, and who will also be gone as of April if nothing changes.
But where there is a political will, there is a way. That's why there is also an online petition being circulated which needs all the signatures it can get, from everyone, everywhere. If the prospect of a craft-vendor-free St. Lawrence Market, even temporarily, saddens you, I urge you to sign it.
I don't know if anger will help. As one my best vendors buddies keeps reminding me, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And maybe if heads are allowed to cool and a backlog of pressing problems can be solved first, maybe the Market Cart program will be given better consideration.
And maybe an onslaught of petition signatures and polite, non-blame-y pleas in your accompanying comments will make a difference. Maybe we can change the minds that matter and keep the Market Cart vendor program going during redevelopment. But without all our friends from far and wide saying that they don't want an interruption in the Market Cart program and the unique vendors that makes it what it is, we're "temporarily suspended."
St. Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of milliners. (Actually, she's quite the multi-tasker, being patron saint to a very long list of other constituencies and occupations.) Her special day is November 25. Traditionally, milliners make their unmarried female staff over the age of 25 a yellow and green hat (or fascinator) for the occasion, kind of a queen for a day thing.
I know, right?
Fortunately, modern milliners are making new traditions to celebrate millinery and each other, like hatty parties and gadabouts that have nothing to do with age or marital status, or even gender.
That's why I commissioned a commemorative pendant to be made by Maria Lopez , one of my erstwhile vendor neighbours at St. Lawrence Market. (I'm the "erst" one; Maria is still there.) Maria is fabulous with resin, which is why I asked her to make me a little keepsake with this lovely picture of St. Catherine by Bernardino Luini on one side.
This on the other:
A buckram tiara.
I was making a hat block with overlapping layers of wet buckram, and when I trimmed off the excess, this cool little tiara was the serendipitous result. I kept it, with no particular plan for it, just because I loved the whimsy of it, the way it accidentally turned out to be such a perfect little thing.
Winning the Queen's Plate competition gave me the idea of adopting it as my personal cipher. A buckram scrap seems a fittingly tongue-in-cheek crown for such an ephemeral moment of millinery glory. And St. Catherine's Day of this auspicious year seems like the perfect occasion to rebrand myself, with my new business name and logo:
And here is the St. Catherine pendant Maria made:
I love it. We're near inseparable.
Thank you, Maria, and thank you, St. Catherine, for your many blessings. Your devoted secular acolyte, Anne Livingston, Milliner.
I've been out and about a bit lately. Last weekend I was helping Joanna Furtado of Belle Boutique at the Wearable Art Show. This year it took place from Friday, October 24 through Sunday, October 26 at the Daniels Spectrum Building on Gerrard, just east of Parliament. I had passed by it often enough since it opened in 2012, with its now iconic Paintbox Bistro at the corner, but this was my first opportunity to go inside. It's a beautiful community space, with some neato little touches, like a fantastic mural of a kid on a swing, rendered entirely in keys (brass, house, lock... that kind), and a painted piano just inside the front door, inviting anyone to sit and play it, and they did and it was.
The Wearable Art Show took place in the Ada Slaight Hall, which was just perfect. Black and elegant inside, with a stage at the front for the daily fashion shows and tambour embroidery demos (read on!), yet natural light poured through the windows, so we didn't feel hermetically sealed in. Yay! Loved that part!
Over thirty vendors of wearable art displayed their work, and discerning shoppers got the jump on holiday self-adornment, beginning with an opening gala Friday night. Shopping is much more fun with a complimentary wine or beer and nibble in hand.
I didn't take many photos, but the ones I did were courtesy of Akvile Minkevicius of Art in Touch, creator of exquisite nuno felted accessories. She kindly lent me her camera, as I had forgotten mine. Akvile is lovely company and I hope you will have the opportunity of seeing her and her work at a show soon.
The view down our aisle. David Dunkley's hats are on the right. Caryl Richmond's reclaimed woollies are on the left, and behind her display is Catherine Curtis's.
Me at Belle Boutique's display. Photo by Akvile Minkevicius.
Tattoo-sleeve-inspired tambour embroidery jacket by Laurie Lemelin of Abrash Emboidery.
Akvile's Art in Touch booth. So beautiful. This is her photo, too.
And finally, this is Professor Robert Haven doing a demonstration of the tambour beading technique. It was great that he was on a stage, because a lot of the work in tambour beading takes shape upside down. His being elevated meant we could see what was going on under the frame.
A costume professor at the University of Kentucky, Robert learned at the famed Lesage embroidery house in Paris and also travels to teach this historic skill. He had just made his first appearance teaching sold-out classes at this year's Creativ Festival. Laurie Lemelin learned from him, and thanks to her heads-up, I had that opportunity myself at Ryerson University last year. I may have taken lessons from the master, but I have much to practise before I go around calling myself adept at this.
The day after the Wearable Art Show ended, I had a brief window of opportunity to see fashions and hats that belonged to Isabella Blow. She was a muse to emerging designers, some fresh out of fashion school, especially milliner extraordinaire Philip Treacy, and Alexander McQueen. Google her. It's quite the story and I won't be the one to tell it to you. I'm just going to show you lots of photos I took. (They let me! Nothing bad happened!)
Isabella Blow in a Philip Treacy hat.
Suffice it to say that her good friend and fellow fashionista, Daphne Guinness, bought her entire wardrobe at auction and brought it to The Room at the Bay. Everything was in as-worn condition -- heel holes in trains, fraying (from wear), cigarette burns, high heels worn hard. Signs of life. Wabi-sabi. Daphne Guinness said that Blow used to wear haute couture because she wanted to, regardless of occasion, and she wasn't wealthy. She'd do the dishes in them.
Philip Treacy and Ms. Guinness even flew in for a gala opening. For a few days, it was like a mini-museum inside the haute couture salon. So wonderful that mere mortals like moi (and my companion, Salome) could go and gawk for nothing. Thank you, Ms. Guinness and The Room!
Sorry there aren't many credits given, but you can find them elsewhere if you really want to.
The first thing we saw was very disarming.
The second thing we saw was actually in The Room, and part of the display, which was called Fashion Blows. Philip Treacy hat.