Monday 29 September 2008

A Project That Will Grow...

Ooooo, I've been sitting on this one for a while :-) Now that there's an official introduction out there, I finally get to show my excitement here! I just wanted to make sure that it was really going to happen, and not let anyone down, including myself ;-)

There are a couple of intersecting spheres of activity and ideas here, so I'll do an old-fashioned narrative to straighten things out. Sit down, grab a coffee.

It started with a walk. Good things often do. Late last summer, that is, in 2007, on the way home from a visit to the park, my friend Katharine, the kids and I stopped to talk to a lady who had a very nice pear tree in her front yard. Not an astounding pear tree, but a very nice, abundant pear tree. We complimented (and by that I mean envied) her tree, she said that the landlord used to pick it but no longer did, and that maybe someone she knew was going to come by and pick it, but if not the pears would fall and. would. go. to. waste.

Arg! The Mennonite part of my heart contracted in pain at the thought of that food going to waste, and more and more I started to notice bags of apples and pears being brought to the curb on Tuesday mornings (garbage day) when Safiya and I would be walking to the East York farmers market to buy...apples and pears.

Surely someone could use these? A couple of years ago I had read about Fallen Fruit, an urban fruit foraging group in L.A. There had to be someone in Toronto doing this. At that time, and by this time it was winter, I couldn't find anyone. In spring I fell in with this wonderful group called the Shoelace Collective, a group dedicated to alleviating the symptoms of poverty in our neighbourhood. Practical stuff, like community lunches and dinners, a workers' referral system, and working with the food bank.

Went to a meeting, brought up the idea of a residential fruit harvest; something walkable/bikeable. Where we could share the harvest with our neighbours, with an emphasis on preserving the harvest so that we could use it for dinners or donate it to the food bank or have a bazaar and sell it or give it away...the list of ideas got big fast :-)

A late summer meeting saw us ready to go, with a name and kind of a plan. I'm really a "huh, I have feet and hands, you have a fruit tree, I know of a kitchen. Maybe people will join in. And...done." kind of gal. So, with a neighbourhood newsletter in the works, we were waiting to go and then I got a very interesting email from someone at Shoelace after the meeting about....duh duh duhnnnn:

not far from the tree

I emailed Laura, the (phenomenal) project coordinator, right away, hoping to talk to her about some tips for us, since clearly they had their act together :-) They looked to be about a year ahead of us in planning and experience. Perfect. She said, let's talk. We met in a coffee shop. The gleam in our eyes was the same kind of gleam, and Laura took a very large chance. And the rest is history, or actually, just the beginning.

We will be the Woodbine Heights Hub of not far from the tree. As each neighbourhood is unique, we retain a similar, but slightly different mandate (ward 21 donates fresh fruit, we'll have an emphasis on preserving) and our own not-for-profit affiliations (Shoelace, in our case), but are under the beautiful, caring, inspired umbrella of not far from the tree.

And I have to say, it gave me goose-bumps when I sat in that first meeting with Laura and we shared the vision of the entire City of Toronto covered; linked, with these hubs. "Can you imagine?" we kept saying...

But as for now, now it's just me and my neighbourhood. 'Cause that's where food security starts. And everything starts with food security.

peace and sweet, fruitful dreams to you, my friends...

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Not Dead Yet...

This probably should have been a beginning of the summer project, but better late than never! Safiya cut out bags from fabric scraps for her stuffed animals while I, sniffling away and ignoring dishes, attended to this:

My Mom hates this bag. Seriously. "Loathes" would be more appropriate. She calls it "that ratty thing", as in "you're not going to take that ratty thing with you, are you?" Ha! Then there was a point at which even I had to admit that it was really ratty. It delighted me to give it a good wash, cut off the top, re-sew the drawstring and voila! casually flaunt it to my Mom the next time we went out. Daughters are supposed to irritate our mothers. It keeps them on their toes. :-)

Alas, the beloved bag wore out again quickly, and since repairing it again would render it too small to be serviceable...I can see my Mom raising her eyebrows in anticipation, glee about to escape her lips. Not so fast, Mom...

Assorted market bags, ready to go, their logos replaced by some pretty scraps, including that one in the back there...


Tuesday 23 September 2008

Catching Up

This has been the view of our front stair for the past week. Safiya's offerings, her decorations, her busy-ness, there for the mail-lady, the neighbourhood kids, friends, and me and Mr. S. to step over in our comings and goings. A reminder of the other things that are important in daily life. Physically making us shift our focus.

It's been a good week, and a busy one. I was proud to pass two custom quilts into the hands of my friend-in-craft Leah. Making things for fellow crafters is nerve-wracking and, I think, could be ultimately unsatisfying because there's that part of me that decides "you could have done even better". I don't like that part of me very much anymore, and I don't let her talk very often these days, but she's sneaky and will slip me a mickey when I'm not being vigilant. I have yet to find the antidote, but I'm getting pretty good at bowing my head and forging on as I get older.

The quilts were a lot of fun to do, and I'm finishing up another one for a neighbour's daughter who has been patiently waiting for her special blanket. There aren't any craft shows on the forseeable horizon, so I've got a breather and can catch up on promised projects and things for the house. And indulge in some stocking up of, well, stock:

Along with the fishing sets I've got a whole stack of hoodies to my leisure ;-) Not sure if that's good business sense, but Mama's got a cold and is just going to poke along for a couple of days.

Poking along today I made some veggie borscht with this:

That, my friends, is part of why I disappeared for a while there in August. My friend-in-insane-ideas Katharine and I, with the help of our unwitting husbands and children, put up over 100 litres of various incarnations of tomatoes. By the end of the two day saga, we were tired, happy, very proud, satisfied, and very tomato-y. Working beside a friend is one of the joys in life, and in this case produced some very yummy results, as the borscht will attest.

There has been other good work going on around here, a project about which I am very excited. It has to do with these:

It is fruitful work, and I'll be ready to tell you about it soon! :-) Now off to bed I go, with some sweet dreams, I hope, in tow...

Tuesday 16 September 2008

A Fine September Day

I love this time of year. The chill morning air gives room to breathe. There are signs of fall, and yet the bees are still poking around...

Our neighbours still have green tomatoes on the vine....

And the earth is still producing bounty, sometimes with weird and curious results...

The farmer very prosaically explained that the watermelon had rested on vines. I prefer to think of it as a magical watermelon tattoo. It's so beautiful. And it was in relief, so there we were at the market, Safiya and I, caressing this watermelon in wonder.

Sometimes that's all it takes to make a day fine.

Monday 15 September 2008

Some New Little Things

After a show, when I look back at what I've written afterward, I realise that it's mostly the ravings of a 12-year-old girl. :-) Anyway.....

Things I am enjoying making lately:

That picture is for my friend Janet. She had this idea a year ago and I promised that I would work on it and it's been percolating. And now it's here and I'm very pleased. What is it? It's a fishing set, of course. Fishing for rain. Happy rain :-) There are a bunch of other sets coming and they're pleasing me to no end.

Usually I'm pretty laid back about artistic license and integrity and things up in that alley there. Great masters like Mozart and such borrowed from eachother, so why can't you borrow from me....ish? Obviously, if someone rips people's stuff off for sale, I don't want to be their friend, but I post a tutorial here and there because I think it's good karma. I have no grand designs for a design empire. It's more fun that way.

That being said, even though that cute little set could possibly not be an original idea, it seems so to me (not to mention Janet), and I'm feeling a little proprietary. If I catch you copying this idea and selling it, I will hunt you down, that cloud will grow teeth, and gnaw at you in your dreams.

I'm just sayin'....

Sunday 14 September 2008

The Queen West Art Crawl (in Which There is Mention of Artists)

We (shows around here are always we - it's pretty much a family affair, as I suspect it is for many people) were at the lamp-post. Thanks to everyone who came by!

Safiya took pictures, including the one above, while Mr. S. and I put the tent up Saturday morning. Which means that there were a lot of pictures that looked like this:

and this:

Midriffs and feet. I'd like there to be a movie shot entirely from the perspective of a young child. What a different world view. Do you remember being little? I mean, are your memories from that view? All I remember is not being able to reach the top of my dresser.

Anyway, as you can see from the pictures, the weather was miserable on Saturday, which was why I was so happy when this happened today:

Everyone was happy, because Saturday had been a struggle with the rain all day, with many vendors tents' roofs filled with water and a few collapsed overnight, and there was the threat of an evening deluge today, so we were all just whooping is up.

I was thrilled to be accepted into the QWAC. I am of two minds about applying for it again. The reason being that it is outdoors. This is not a problem when the table fee is $30. The table fee for the QWAC was $175. This is the most that I've paid for an outdoor event, an event which is, of course, weather dependent.

However, (besides the ego inflated a couple of times when I got accepted) my criteria have not changed. Did I make my table money back? Yes. Did I get lots of work done? Yes. Did I get to meet some very cool people? Yes. For instance, the wonderful Lisa Pijuan-Nomura, who was across the way. And wonderful is a staid word for such a girl. You know those people who, when they cross your path in life, provoke in you that awareness that you are lucky to have met them? Lisa's one of those, and I think it will be fun getting to know her. Which I must. Besides which, Safiya's taken with her ;-) Lisa was there supporting her husband Dave's work, some kick-ass amazing photography.

I also have a new felt love. James Fowler was kind enough to chat for a bit. He has a neat technique for joining little squares of felt together. I wish I would have thought of it. Check out his amazing throws.

Also, I got to meet and ahem, gush a little, over the artist Peter Schacht. Back in April I wrote a little about his work, and the images in that post are postcards of his at which I never tire of looking. He still has the farm painting I pine over. He was kind enough to reciprocate my visit and come over for a chat. That's the thing about these shows. I've found the community to be warm and helpful and full of really interesting people.

The other favourite artist of mine that I mentioned in that post, Shaun Downey, the one whose sketch I have, was also there. Now, from my purchase of his sketch he remembered me (there's a small, slightly humiliating story on my part in there somewhere. I'll tell it to you one day...) and I found out that he was there supporting his partner, Kelly Grace. Obviously I wanted to check her work out. Good painter + another painter = probably another very good painter. He couldn't remember her booth number, so I asked what she looked like. He smiled and said "pretty" (and blushed ever-so-slightly?)

Life should be full of kind, sweet moments like that.

I went and checked her stuff out. I like it very much.

And he was right. Pretty :-)

That's my mish-mashed table - it was much better organised (and better lit) today. There weren't very many people doing textiles. And certainly not much geared towards younger kids. (Oh - swapped stuff with Fish on Fridays - her stuff is clever and cute - good combination!)

Maybe I fit in, maybe I didn't - who cares! I had fun :-)

Wednesday 10 September 2008

We're Back

We did this. For a while. And as it is said: it was good.

Now, much too chill air bookends the days. I'm already wearing woolen socks. But in the spirit of a just-passed-us-by-and-much-too-quickly August, this evening we took part in quite possibly the most urban thing ever: we roasted the last of our vegan marshmallows in the kitchen, over our stove...using chopsticks as sticks.

Seems like a strangely Canadian thing to do, too, although I hear generations of campers rolling over in their graves. ha!

There are many stories to tell, much to catch up on. Including my work for this weekend's Queen West Art Crawl, into which I was accepted. So now, on to a some late night crafting.

I hope you have been keeping well this summer's end. Good to be here again.