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.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Wychwood Barns - The Sequel

Tomorrow the hats, the indispensable Scott and I will be at Wychwood Barns again to take part in their juried arts and crafts show. Bring your grocery bags, too, because their farmers' market will be going on outside, and it's a really good one. Lovely people, lovely food, lovely arts and crafts. What's not to love?

I'll be in Barn 2. spot #17, close to the Wychwood Avenue entrance.

If you like, you can meet my award-winning Queen's Plate millinery design competition hat!*

Hope you can make it. It's a really nice show and I'm always happy to be a part of it.

* Don't ask it for autographs, though. Its handwriting is terrible.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Best. Day. Ever.*

The first time I went to the Queen's Plate I was about ten years old. I was not wearing a hat. The next time I went was last Sunday, July 6. This time I had two hats -- one to wear, and another one.

The other hat

For this was the occasion of the very first Queen's Plate Millinery Design Competition. The Queen's Plate is the premier horse race of the season, the first in Canada's Triple Crown. Our own Kentucky Derby, or a petite Royal Ascot. I was invited to participate by George Brown College (GBC), where I learned my trade. They co-sponsored the contest, along with Woodbine, the racetrack, and David Dunkley Fine Millinery. David is the Official Milliner to the Queen's Plate, for the second year, also a GBC alumnus, and a contest judge. Other judges were Maria Cristina Grossi from GBC, Traci Melchor from CTV's The Social, and Bri Mott from Fashion at the Races.

David's tent

Traci Melchor

Bri Mott

Over thirty GBC-trained milliners submitted a design for a hat to wear to the races. Of those, fourteen made the first cut and were invited to create the hat designed and submit it. It took me over a day to get the nerve up to even open the email, I was that nervous about my sad little sketch's chances of passing muster. (I can make a nice hat but drawing them? Not so much.)
See? Sad.

When I did open the email, the news was good. Phew! I'd made that cut, too, and went ahead, made the hat and submitted it to the college.

The fourteen of us were to come to the Queen's Plate's three-year-old Hats and Horseshoes party on race day. There the final judging took place, onstage in front of the party, on an overcast, windy afternoon, with jets flying just over our heads from nearby Pearson Airport. Our competition hats were waiting for us on display in GBC's tent nearby. We filed onstage one at a time to show and talk about our hats to the MC, The Social/CTV's Mellisa Grelo, with the panel of judges looking on from their table in front.

Melissa Grelo

Competition hats in GBC tent

One of many planes flying low above us. (I loved them!)

Competitors onstage with Melissa Grelo

After that, we waited in trepidation for the next round, when the judges would make their decision.
Trepidatious competitors waiting.

Luckily, one of my clients came by with her good wishes, wearing the fascinator she had bought from me to wear that day. That was a pleasant distraction from the nervousness.


With the high calibre of entries, I thought I would be lucky to make the top five. But they skipped that level and went right for the top three finalists. My name was called. I'd made the top three!
Three finalists: me, Amparo Findlay, Iris Lee

Then they named the runners-up. My name wasn't called for second runner-up. It wasn't called for first runner-up.

That meant....

I had won.

First Prize! A plaque and a substantial cash award, too!

My jaw dropped. When I picked it up again, my chin wobbled, trying to hold back happy tears, without much success. I was rendered inarticulate with geflemptitude. (Must be a word if I just used it.) And thus I remained for the remainder of the day.

See? I'm not kidding.

David and me on the red carpet afterwards

Why did my hat win? Who knows! They didn't say. The colours I chose, I think. Pink was having a moment.

Right, Lexie-Lou?

I can't tell you what a big deal this is to me. It's humbling, and also vindicating. I Am A Milliner! And I Don't Suck! Even among such a talented group of competitors, I can hold my own!

I also can't tell you how grateful I am to be honoured in this way. It's so encouraging. It makes me want to improve my skills and grow, and make better millinery for all my fabulous clients, current and future.

What do you think? Is this a story you'd like to go with your new bespoke piece you'll have me make for you?

Thank you for reading this far. A day like this doesn't come along often, so thank you for indulging this me-fest.

Hire this woman to dress your head! Please!

If you want to see more photos of not-me at the Queen's Plate last Sunday, Woodbine's Facebook page ha more than you'll know what to do with.

* In my millinery career, definitely, and right up there in my life in general.