Category Archives: Collaborations

H.A.M.S. – The Holiday Arts Mail-order School

A Brief Timeline for H.A.M.S.

March 2008

FLY Gallery
Month long exhibit promoting the founding of H.A.M.S., the Holiday Arts Mail-order School.
A Correspondence Art Project by noted Hallowe’enologist Professor Derek McCormack, Ian Phillips, an artist, and Miss Candy Cackle of the Ladies Institute.

The launch of H.A.M.S. successfully enrolls painters, sculptors, authors and librarians into it’s Hallowe’en Arts program for the 1936-37 year.

Fly Window

H.A.M.S. recruitment window inviting passersby to sign-up for a correspondence course on the topic of Hallowe’en


H.A.M.S. promotion

H.A.M.S. promotion


YORK logo

October 2011

AGYU, The Art Gallery at York University presents:
the Holiday Art Mail-order School
at the Toronto International Arts Fair

Three years into our project, we invited the public into our open house at The Toronto International Arts Fair. Patrons experienced a replica of our haunted Peterborough classroom and were treated to a display of completed student projects and related ephemera.

Haunted Peterborough, Ont., map

Haunted Peterborough, Ont., map


H.A.M.S. Ouija Board

H.A.M.S. ouija board and planchette


Student projects at H.A.M.S.

Student projects in the H.A.M.S. haunted school house


Ectoplasmom at H.A.M.S.

Ectoplasmom in the entrance to the H.A.M.S. Haunted School House


H.A.M.S. souvenirs

H.A.M.S. souvenirs and multiples


H.A.M.S. student conduct

H.A.M.S. classroom


H.A.M.S. souvenirs and multiples

H.A.M.S. souvenirs and multiples


H.A.M.S. student awards and bone china Jack-o-Lantern clock by student Alexx Boisjoli

H.A.M.S. Haunter of The Year award and glow-in-the-dark bone china Jack-o-Lantern clock by student Alexx Boisjoli


Haunted Peterborough, Ont., map

Haunted Peterborough, Ont., map


The H.A.M.S. correspondence course for the year 1937 is complete. We are very excited to announce the Fall 2016 launch of our H.A.M.S. yearbook,
The Jack o’ Lantern!

H.A.M.S. correspondence lesson books

H.A.M.S. correspondence lesson books

A number of events are planned just in time for Hallowe’en 2016, including a H.A.M.S. yearbook launch party and graduation ceremony. We are also working on plans to attend art book fairs in the Toronto and Peterborough region, where the public can obtain yearbooks and H.A.M.S. multiples. Here is a sneak peek at our soon to be released yearbook:

Faculty of the Holiday Arts Mail-order School, of Peterborough, Ont.

Faculty of the Holiday Arts Mail-order School, of Peterborough, Ont.


A sneak peek at our student gallery

A sneak peek at our student gallery


H.A.M.S. achievement awards

H.A.M.S. achievement awards

Thank-you to everyone who helped us with H.A.M.S. Special thanks to Darryl Bank, Alexx Boisjoli, Emelie Chhangur, Joey Comeau, Grant Heaps, Jacob Korczynski, Michael Maranda, Jason McBride, Mr. and Mrs. McCormack of Peterborough, Ontario, Melissa McCormack, Philip Monk, Christopher Paulin, AGYU The Art Gallery at York University, and Fly Gallery. A very special thank-you to the graduates for all their enthusiasm and hard work — to you the upcoming edition of The Jack o’ Lantern is dedicated!
— Dr. Derek McCormack, Prof. Ian Phillips, Miss Candy Cackle


National Ballet of Canada Colouring Book


A few years back I designed and illustrated a colouring book for the National Ballet of Canada. It was something to keep the kids performing in The Nutcracker busy with backstage, while they were waiting to perform.

Grant Heaps, who works in the wardrobe department took one of the drawings and made a quilt with it. Watch and listen to Grant talk about his work at the ballet here.

The Nutcracker starts this Thursday at the Four Seasons Centre.

On Stage: The Haunted Hillbilly

The Haunted Hillbilly
Montréal’s Centaur Theatre
May 8 – June 3, 2012

The award-winning musical based on
the novel by Derek McCormack.
Produced by  Sidemart.

I saw it 3 times last summer in Toronto at Theatre Passe Muraille!

Featuring all-original music by Matthew Barber, this season’s production launches the soundtrack on both vinyl and CD. The album includes twelve songs from the play and has guest appearances by Doug Paisley, Justin Rutledge, Oh Susanna, Julie Fader and of course, Matthew Barber (and others!). The album will be exclusively available at the theatre during the run of the show and will have a wider release in June.

The hatch-show style poster for the original theatrical production & Derek McCormack’s book

Matthew asked me to design the cover for him — such an honour!

I wanted to keep the same character I used on the original book cover and poster – the skeleton in a cowboy hat, playing guitar. I found this old photo at a flea market and altered the person’s face to resemble a skull.

Found photo and collage

This doesn’t have the impact I was looking for. Dropping the photo and
updating the illustration I came up with something more effective:

Introducing characters from the story: the lonesome cowboy, and the vampire bat

Something closer to the original poster could work. I used a
typeface that is easier to read at smaller sizes, but the type and the
cowboy are competing for attention — more revisions!

Thinking of bats, some snapshots I took at the South
End Cemetery in East Hampton came to mind:

Nathan Baker, who died by the fall of a tree, South End Cemetery, East Hampton

I’ve always liked those little angels on tombstones. They remind me of bats.
Changing one angel wing to a bat wing and adding cowboy hats,
I came up with this new design:

One of 26 variations – my second favourite, with a leather and denim texture

I wanted to keep the new cowboy so used him elsewhere:

The lonesome cowboy appears in the liner notes

I really liked the leather and denim colours on the design, but we
decided something warmer and more colourful would
be better. It’s more musical, more sideshow, more carnival.

The final design:

Matthew Barber's new 12-inch vinyl

In Montréal? Order tickets for the play here.
Matthew Barber’s webpage.
Derek McCormack’s reading list

The Holiday Arts Mail Order School

H.A.M.S. is a correspondence art school Derek McCormack and I have been running for the past three years. We send lessons about Hallowe’en to people in the mail. In return they complete Hallowe’en themed craft assignments. This installation was the first physical manifestation of the project. Here is a sixty-second slideshow from our Art Toronto open house (photos by Alexx Boisjoli):

Take a tour of H.A.M.S.

Thank-you to everyone who came out to see our project. Special thanks from Derek and myself to Alexx Boisjoli, Grant Heaps, Melissa McCormack, Naomi Aiko, Philip Monk, Michael Maranda, and Jacob Korczynski, for all your assistance at the fair.

Sally Fatarms reads Elissa Joy

Miss the book launch in July?

Watch Sally Fatarms read Elissa Joy’s Tightrope (07:38)

A few remaining copies of Niagara File are available for purchase here.

Niagara File, a new title from pas de chance

Window installation

Alexx Boisjoli installing Grant Heaps' textile work at Type Books

Ceramics by rcboisjoli at Type Books

Sonja’s bunnies in Alexx’s barrels on Grant’s textiles

The reflection of Trinity Bellwoods Park in the window makes Niagara Falls look like a fountain!

Window done! The gallery will be installed on Friday. If you can’t make it to the book launch, the show will be up until the end of July.

Something I collect

A recent discovery

If you haven’t been in my bathroom and witnessed my Nurse Romance Novel wall-covering, do not despair! I have recently loaned 50 of these novels to artist Nina Levitt for an upcoming art exhibit.

Celebrating 100 years, Women’s College Hospital, in collaboration with the Gladstone Hotel, presents Being She: The Culture of Women’s Health and Health Care Through the Lens of Wholeness. The exhibit will address the culture of women’s health care by exploring issues of empowerment, diversity, identity and embodiment.

Besides Nurse Romances, Nina also collects Nursing School Yearbooks. She and I have a lot to talk about when we finally meet each other next week at the opening!

The show runs June 9 to August 1, 2011 at The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto

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