Au revoir!


Well, folks, in an hour I'll be on my way to the airport to begin my big European adventure with Mikey J! We're spending 4 weeks travelling 6 countries, and I couldn't be more excited! I have a feeling that this trip is going to be life changing for me, so I wanted to take a moment to think about where I am right now.

The last three months have been a complete whirlwind for me. I opened up shop as Dear Edna on Etsy as an experiment to see if I had what it takes to turn my sewing projects and crafts into a small business. I didn't have much of a plan or a goal outside of making a little extra cash for my trip. Holy cow, was I ever aiming low! I have been literally overwhelmed by the positive response to my work and my own response to being a small business owner! It's been a lot of work, but it's been the most satisfying and rewarding work I've ever done. If you had told me a year ago that I'd be reading business books before bed, studying expense reports, following currency rates, or writing my own blog, I would have laughed in your face and told you to have another drink!

I feel like this trip is my little break from the chaos of launching my business, an inspirational sabbatical that will have me returning to you in August full of new product ideas, eager to learn more about my craft, and ready to put a proper business plan in motion. I have big plans and big goals now that seem to have a life of their own!

Have a great July everyone!

E xo

Meet Your Maker: Holly Farrell

I came across Holly Farrell's paintings at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition last year and was immediately taken with them. I love the simplicity and nostalgia of the subjects she chooses. They remind me of those moments when a single coffee mug or a row of books can seem so perfect and comforting. Or when a toy car or doll's dress can evoke long lost memories as clear as day. At the risk of sounding hokey, they speak to me. As you scroll through the pieces I've chosen to show here (and believe me, it was tough to choose), I'm sure you'll see why.

I've been using Holly's card as a bookmark for the last year, so you can understand how thrilled I am that she has agreed to answer a few of my questions and share with us a little bit about herself and her art. Perhaps even more inspiring than her work, is her amazing story... so enjoy... and you're welcome!

WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I was born in 1961 in North Bay, Ontario. My childhood was spent in various towns in Northern Ontario along Highway 11, depending on where my father was working. My father was an alcoholic which has had a big influence on my work. The chaos that resulted from the strain and violence of alcoholism had me and my siblings constantly scrambling for escape and solitude. My father died from the effects of alcohol when he was 39 (I was ten), leaving my mother and seven children to run the roadside diner and gas station that he had hoped would help turn his life around.

Much of my time alone was spent in creative endeavours (unless I was playing with Barbie). I loved crafts and paint by numbers. Art was the only subject I excelled at in school but it never occurred to me to pursue art in college. Instead I trained to work with children with special needs. It wasn't until I was 29 that I decided to try my hand at painting again. I was stressed out from my day job, working with teens who had developmental as well as psycological difficulties, and painting seemed to ease the strain.

WHAT inspires you?
I am inspired by all things common. I find comfort in the quiet that comes from painting and the simple things that I paint. The familiarity of old bowls, chairs, toys, books, shoes (to name a few) reassures me.

WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
I have a room in my house which is set aside for my work. The house was built sometime in the mid 1800s. It houses me, my husband and five cats (yes, a cat lady). I was never comfortable "going off" to work, so being able to step into my studio when I think I need to do something makes me very productive. My studio has old wood floors, big baseboards and a high ceiling - lots of light. It is a good setting for my subjects.

WHEN do you feel most happy/successful/frustrated/insecure?
I work in three stages. As each stage is completed successfully, I feel happy. Sometimes I get stuck and have to work on a painting for a long time before I am satisfied with the results. I usually have a hard time appreciating these paintings until a little later on, as it takes time for the frustration to dissipate (and the odd time I throw a painting away). It's hard not to be insecure about my painting, especially as I'm self-taught. Having no formal training I feel lucky I fell into painting but also feel that somehow, sometime, someone will tell me it's all been a big mistake. I am really happy that I can make a living with my painting as it was totally unexpected.

WHY do you do what you do?
I paint because I love to and it's the one thing in my life that I have done with some success. If it "wasn't my job" I would still be painting.

HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day.
I learned how to paint doing crafts, tole painting, guessing - most of what I did was on wood or metal. I was also a house painter for a number of years and you would be surprised at how much it teaches you about colour and care. I basically transferred my wood technique to board. I learned how to draw by setting up a subject in front of me and drawing until I thought I had it right. My earlier work is certainly fairly askew - but nice in a folky way. As time went on I would refine my technique, discover new paint, and stretch a little here and there. Basically, I underpaint the background and subject in acrylics and then I warm the surface with oil paint (rubbed into the surface and used to creat the shadows). There are many layers, I use lots of fine sandpaper and I always use varnish to keep the oil and acrylic separate.

I am still working on trying to find balance in my life. I work mostly during the day in natural light. I begin after breakfast and paint on and off until the light goes. Some days, when I am working a lot of detail, I can manage only a few cramped hours with a tiny brush. Other days I can do ten hours if I feel really inspired or a great deal of pressure (meaning a looming deadline!).

FINAL WORDS... Anything else you would like to add? Advice for new artists or entrepreneurs?
I feel very lucky. I love my work, and if it wasn't my work, I would love it anyway. I would advise anyone aspiring to be an artist to "just be an artist". Do it for yourself, and if it works out that people would like you to share your work with them, then that's extra.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Holly! I identify and relate to so many of the things you said and I have a much deeper appreciation for your work now that I understand more about where/who it comes from.

To find out more about Holly and her work, visit her website

If you're in the Toronto area, the Katharine Mulherin Gallery is showing some of Holly's most recent work  until July 4th!

Tea Time

My name is Erin and I'm a tea addict. It's true. I love it so much that I drink it black. I love it so much that I'm cranky in the morning without it. I love it so much that I now get heart palpitations after a few too many cups. It's a good thing I don't like coffee.

But the old wive's tale that drinking hot tea in hot weather makes you feel cooler, is a crock. I can't live without it, so I make pitchers of iced tea to satisfy my cravings. It's been so hot around here lately that I've been perfecting my recipe enough to share it with you! Hope you like it!

1. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 4 tea bags in a heat safe bowl or pitcher.
2. Let steep for about 20 minutes.
3. Remove tea bags and add about 5 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you like your tea - you can always add more later - see tip below)
4. Squeeze in half a lemon.
5. Fill the rest of your pitcher with cold water (approximately 4 cups)
6. Serve over ice and enjoy!

Tip: If you find it's not sugary enough after it has cooled, dissolve a little more sugar with a little boiling water to make a syrup. It will mix better.

We've been experimenting with flavored iced teas too by adding one tea bag of a fruity tea like peach or raspberry. It's delicious and a natural sweetner. But I recommend still using 4-5 black tea bags, as the fruity teas aren't strong enough... for me anyways.


Meet Your Maker: Laura Amiss

I came across Laura Amiss's work while searching for picks for my April showers post. I immediately fell in love with so many of her pieces that I knew she needed to be reserved for a feature all her own and I am so thrilled that she has also agreed to answer a few of my questions to let us all get to know her a little better.

Laura combines so many things that I love in her work: vintage fashion, cityscapes, fabric, embroidery, bright accent colours, and clean lines. They're incredibly affordable too! If the lovely ladies are too feminine for Mikey J, I have a feeling, after our trip to Amsterdam, a special place on our walls will be reserved for a canal print.

WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I'm a Textiles Artist and Illustrator. My work is composed of subtle lines and color combinations produced through layering, piecing and sewing fabrics together. I am originally from the north of England near the Lake District but for the past seven years I have called Amsterdam in the Netherlands home. I live there with my husband and two children aged 2 and 3 years.

WHAT inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my every day environment and hope that the way in which I recapture the landscape or moments of ordinary life allows people to appreciate them with a fresh perspective. I am pretty obsessed with fabric, a piece often begins with color or fabric combinations.

WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
I work in my studio at home, although it has kind of spread to all areas of our flat! A lot of my preparation work is done on my computer, which along with my sewing machine is on a very large desk I have (that my husband built for me). I often see pictures of amazing looking studios, all organised and co-ordinated... mine is not like this, although I would like it to be.

WHEN do you feel most happy/successful/frustrated/insecure?
I really enjoy the process of putting a piece together, choosing colors and fabric. It has been amazing to receive such a positive response on Etsy. It's always nice to wake up to a sale; it makes being woken up early by my kids that bit easier!

Not everything goes to plan. I get frustrated when I've worked on something a long time and it just doesn't seem to come together as I had planned. Knowing when to put a piece aside is very important, although, saying that, I am also of the belief that great things can come from mistakes also! Drawing and planning a piece really helps avoid problems, although I am always very eager to dive in to pieces. It is actually my husband that makes sure I've thought it through first!

WHY do you do what you do?
I've always loved textiles and mixed media art work. I did my degree in Textiles at Goldsmiths Collage London. It took a while to find my feet once graduating; I think you have to become confident in your choice of working. I love being able to work for myself and from home.

HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day.
My pieces always begin with either a photograph or drawing. I make patterns of the image, just as you would making clothing and work from there, cutting fabric and layering the fabric together. My pieces are often made of at least three layers of fabric. I use a sheer muslin or silk for the top layer before adding the stitched detail.

I work in the mornings after I have dropped my two children off at pre-school (on the bike of course, this is Holland). I also begin again when they go to bed at night. I like that my children are growing up in a creative household but it's always a challenge making sure I am fulfilling their needs and doing work. When a lot of your work is based online it's hard to walk away from it with all the technology we carry around with us now. My children are 18 months apart, aged 2 and 3, so they have huge amounts of energy and inquisitiveness.

FINAL WORDS... anything else you would like to add? Advice for new artists or entrepreneurs perhaps?
You have to work very hard, not only physically but also to find your way of working, style and being successful. Most importantly you must have confidence in what you are doing and your work.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your process with us, Laura. I know it is a great inspiration to me and hopefully to others too.

To find out more about Laura Amiss and her work, visit her...

Hamilton Happenings

A few things to keep you busy this week. Hopefully the weather cooperates: as a person who gets around on two wheels, rain rather impedes my event-going.

Art Crawl: June 11 / 7-11 / James St. North / This event keeps getting better and better, with more people out in the streets and more galleries and shops opening every month. Come see what all the fuss is about! Find an extensive rundown of what's going on here.

White Elephant Grand Reopening Hootenanny: June 11 / 7-11 / White Elephant Vintage is my absolute favourite store in Hamilton. It's full of beautiful handmade jewelry, stationary, accessories, and housewares, as well as some really cool vintage pieces. They've moved to a new location, directly across the street, and I can't tell you how excited I am about finally getting to see it after all the tempting sneak peaks of the renos Hollie and Jane have been posting on their blog.

Artopia: June 11  / 7-2 / Academia Hall / $10 / A masquerade night benefitting Hamilton Artists Inc. promises live music, raffles, prizes, a silent auction, a bar, and masks of all shapes, sizes, colours and designs.

Durand Garden Tour: June 12 / 10-4 / $15 / A rare opportunity to experience a walking tour of ten magnificent, private gardens in my neighbourhood, Durand (bordered by Queen St., Main St., James St. and the escarpment).

Waterfront Wing Fest: June 11-13 / Bayfront Park / If you love chicken wings and want to find out which restaurant in the city makes the best, this is your chance to taste test them all personally. There will also be a children's carnival, boat rides, an art show, live entertainment, and fireworks on the Saturday night.

Music and Film Fest: June 12 / Corktown Pub / $12 / Starting at 6:30 pm, indie artists will be showing short films and playing short sets in a competition for prizes.

Harbour Cruise: June 15 / 5-9:30 / Parks Canada Discovery Centre / $60 / Cruise around Hamilton harbour enjoying food and drinks from local vendors, a silent auction, and door prizes in support of Hamilton Partners in Nutrition, which helps fund over 100 breakfast and snack programs across Hamilton. A great cause.

AllSorts Gallery Grand Opening: June 17-20 / 244 Ottawa Street North / Come celebrate the newest additon to one of the most flourishing areas of Hamilton. AllSorts Gallery is a collective that was created in order to provide local artisans with a venue to promote and sell their work.

Pride Festival: June 18-20 / 10-2 / There is a variety of events and fundraisers going on all week to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, including the famous rally and parade that ends with a big celebration at Bayfront Park.

Father's Day Gift Guide

Why is it that Dads are so hard to shop for? I think it's because they're so practical. They buy what they need, when they need it, and don't buy things they don't need! Ha!

Well, I'm here to help ease the burden, with a categorical approach to gift buying that would make Pops proud. Whether he's an indoor or outdoor kat, a traveller or a homebody, comfy in front of the computer or at the bbq, I've found some pretty cool and thoughtful gifts for your Daddy Dearest.

Not all my picks are from Etsy this time either, although handmade or vintage always make great gifts. I've found a few gems on Pinterest (one of my new favourite websites) and some personal recommendations too.

Happy shoppping!

You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That
If you want to get your dad something he wouldn't buy for himself, head for the fashion department. And this collection is the cream of the crop: that blue men's shirt is custom made to order for a guaranteed fit; those Outlier shorts are made of the newest, most technical fabric that repels water, dirt and odour and doubles as a bathing suit; that sweet messenger bag is made of recycled suits; those slippers are as comfy as they are stylish and are made of merino wool (google it); and those matching father/son ties are just too adorable for words.

A Little Dirt Never Hurt Anyone
If your dad is a great outdoorsman, these picks are perfect. After a long walk or some heavy duty yard work, help your father relax: flip over the colourful wheelbarrow, it doubles as a chair; lay back in that awesome hammock and watch the comings and goings of the insect hotel from a safe distance with vintage binoculars; and once the sun goes down, he can cook a marshmallow to a beautiful golden brown with his new rotisaprong (love it)!

I'm Not Lost
Here are some trusty tools for the world traveller, to help him never lose his passport, luggage, sleep, or himself again!

Because I Said So
Even if your dad shudders at the speed at which technology is changing and taking over all our lives whether we like it or not, these slick items will surely ease the transition.

Until Someone Loses an Eye
If your dad is into fun and games, these are some great ideas! Pool, croquet and corn hole are fun for the whole family, and if he's a golf lover, custom silver ball markers or handknit club covers make amazing gifts.

Nice To Meet You Hungry, I'm Dad
Your dad may not know how to turn on the stove, but it's safe to say that he knows his way around a grill. Style him up in a classic Dear Edna apron (available in three different patterns), a personalized beer mug, and a laser-cut #1 Dad spatula (how cool is that).

Don't Forget to Write
Not all dads have a way with words or sentiments, but I don't doubt for a second he wouldn't love a woodgrain, houndstooth, or mustachioed card arriving in the mail, not to mention being told how much you admire his taste in music or scratching a magic ticket to reveal a message just for him (genius).

Hamilton Happenings

There's TONS happening in Hamilton this weekend, from fire eaters to art shows, so I'm going to get right to it.

Buskerfest: June 4-6 // Downtown Dundas // With flame throwers, jugglers, acrobats, clowns and more from all over the world, it's no wonder this is one of Hamilton's most anticipated annual events. And of course in between the entertainment you can browse the many local crafts and yummy food stalls lining the streets.

Paul Richard James Art Opening : June 5 // 2-5 // The Pearl Company// Paul is not only an immensely talented artist, but also a good friend of mine. His work ranges from representational and abstract, figurative work, portraiture, political art, installation and some environmental art... so it will be well worth it for you to check out, as there will surely be something that will catch your eye. Check out more of his work on his website here.

Makers' Market: June 5 // 10-3 // Christ's Church Cathedral, 252 James St. N. // Local art, handmade crafts and farm-fresh foods.

Lobster and Rib Fest: June 5 // 5-11 // Dundas Market Street Arena // $60 // The tickets may seem pricey, but when you consider that you get a whole lobster, a rack of ribs, all-you-can-eat mussels, roast beef, salads, and dessert, that seems like a steal. You better go with a empty belly though! There's also a cash bar, live and silent auctions, and toe-tapping music to entertain you while you feast.

Open Streets : June 6 // 10-3 // James St. North // Cannon St. to Burlington St. will be closed to gas guzzlers and open only to pedestrians and cyclists. A great initiative aimed at promoting health, recreation, and community involvement; plus mon bicyclette is itching to roam the streets freely.

Unique Designs Art Show: June 6 // 12-5 // Ancaster Old Town Hall, Wilson St. // Local artisans selling their glass, jewelry, paintings, pottery, photography, textiles and more. Put on by the Ontario Arts Council: a member-based, not-for-profit arts organization that provides valuable programs that promote and grow the careers of craft professionals. Now that's something I wouldn't mind supporting on a Sunday afternoon.

The Iris and Peony Celebration: June 5-6 // 10-5 // Laking Garden, Royal Botanical Gardens // $12.50 // In case you missed my post about it here, a trip to the RBG will not dissappoint.

A Royal Anniversary

One year ago, I was packing a truck with boxes (too many, some would say), saying goodbye to the big city and moving to my new home in my old hometown. Mikey J and I have never been big on anniversaries, but this seemed like an occasion to celebrate, so we made a day of it, packed a picnic full of goodies from the farmer's market, hopped on our trusty bicyclettes, and headed for one of Hamiton's most prized possessions, the Royal Botantical Gardens.

First stop was the Laking Garden for the famed Peony and Iris Show, and it didn't dissappoint. There were so many different varieties and colours. I've never noticed how sparkly irises were before and did you know that peonies can be two-tone? So beautiful. They had a nice little set up too, with an acoustic band playing and a tent serving food and drinks. Oh, and we saw a mamma tortoise hidden in the shrubbery.

Lilacs are one my most favourite flowers, and I couldn't resist a quick peak just in case some were still hanging on at the Arboretum. We were pleasantly surprised to find a large picnic area here and promptly set up our feast of fine cheese, cured meats, veggies, fig spread, strawberries, and wine (shh.. . don't tell). Afterwards, we found a few lilac bushes still in bloom and I sniffed and whiffed as much of their beautiful scent as I could. I like to get right in there, as you can see by the photos. Haha!

We then made it a royal botantical trilogy and headed on in to the Rock Garden. And we were so glad we did. Situated in a little valley, surrounded by trees, it took me right back to my life in Japan... cool shady pines, trickling water, stone statues. Just lovely. Mikey J was particularly enthralled when we spotted "Bill Murray" the Groundhog.

We were home in time for a rest and mojitos on our patio before heading out to the posh Bistro Parisien where we had one of the best meals we've had in a long time! My three-cheese homemade ravioli just melted in my mouth. It was a perfect day.

I guess we've been in saving mode since we decided to travel to Europe this summer and I've been so busy with Dear Edna that we haven't been able to really get away for a whole day or afford a nice dinner out. Take my advice and make the time. A tiny indulgence never hurt anyone, and rest in particular can really pay off and have you hitting the ground running come Monday morning.

We were camera happy on this trip and took many more pictures than you see here: go to my Picassa picture gallery here to see more.