Category Archives: Collecting

Phil’s Shoe Box!

phils shoe box

I grew up in a place called Green Acres. When I was really small I would go to Phil’s Shoe Box at Green Acres Plaza for new shoes. I’ve named my series of shoe-themed prints after that place.

Gold foil shoe horn print, Empire Shoes!

Shiny gold foil shoe horn print, Empire Shoes!

Got a whole little shoe shop happening in my Etsy Shop!

There are a lot of extra steps when using gold foil. Black ink is applied last, and prints are set to dry.

There are a lot of extra steps when using gold foil. Black ink is applied last, and prints are set to dry

I printed the shoe horn as a companion piece to the shiny silver Brannock Device I printed last year:

My drawing of the classic Brannock Device. Silk screened in black ink and silver foil!

My drawing of the classic Brannock Device. Silk screened in black ink and silver foil!

Later on, I found myself walking down Yonge Street, and I spotted these abandoned shoes:

Y is for Yonge Street, the longest street in the world

Y is for Yonge Street, the longest street in the world

They gave me the inspiration to go home and draw a bunch of odd shoes for another print:

Found this great antique frame at a local thrift shop

This antique frame I found at a local thrift shop suits this vintage-style print pretty nicely!

One final mini-print, which I just finished yesterday:

Who doesn’t love a shoe sale?

Who doesn’t love a shoe sale?


Handwriting Analysis: A Collection

A country veterinarian’s journal

A sad tale

The journal of Douglas Young, 1898–99

Thomas Field’s scrapbook, Galt, Ontario

Found in a Calgary bookshop. Sprinkled with four-leaf clovers

The handwriting: H.R.H. Prince Arthur

Money Spent in 1931, by H. Wilbur Schwartz of Wayne County, New York

Pants + spenders + socks for $3.68! A bushed of turnips for 10 cents!

I picked up this book, attracted by the handwriting throughout in the margins:

The Hall of Hellingsley Volume III, by Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, published in 1821

“This book is a mere parcel of balderdash”

Love Letters: Lawrence and Louise

Dearest Louise

Dearest Lawrence

Dearest Louise

Dearest Lawrence

Patterns & Process: SURTEX 2013!!!

It’s official. I am excited to announce that my agency will be at SURTEX: The surface design show in New York, May 19-21st 2013. Come visit!!!

This is my simple three-step process for pattern making:

1. Inspiration

2. Scribbling in my sketchbook

3. Designing the final pattern

Here’s an example:

1. Recently I came across my friend Benjamin Nemerofsky Ramsay’s series of photographs of flowers:

Mimosa on Lausitzerplatz

2. I like the variety of vases he’s found for his Berlin flat’s windowsill. I googled “vintage glass milk vase” and found additional images for reference while scribbling in my sketchbook:

This is always my first step, scribbling on paper

3. The results:

One of the final designs

One of the final designs

One pattern leads to the next:

Something very different can come from a single element of the original design

Thanks for the inspiration, Benny!


Collecting: Chia planters

I thought it was a mannequin head when I bought “Barnacle Bill” online

I soon realized that these were chia planters from before the days of Chia Pets

This one has penciled-in eyebrows and a mustache…  I think it makes him look like Clark Gable

Love the clown make-up applied to “Paddy O’Hair”

“Elmer the Doughboy”

A lot of army and navy dudes… these must be early 1940s?

My favorite… I found this “Paddy” at Mickey’s Monkey in San Francisco. I didn’t notice him right away as his ridges were sanded down and he has a nice thick coat of shiny black paint

These are much like the now-famous Chia Pets, which were trademarked in the 1970s by Joseph Enterprises of San Francisco. Now manufactured in China and as American as apple-pie, their true origin is the region of Mexico named after chia – Chiapas. And they have been around since the days of the Aztecs! Even Joseph Enterprises engaged craftspeople in Oaxaca in the production of their original line of Chia Pets. For more information you can read an extensive history of the origin of the chia planter here.

I found this image on the Curt Teich Postcard Archives (check out their great blog, Life in a Postcard Mirror, too):

The Robinson Ransbottom Pottery Company of Roseville, Ohio.

A dealer also sent me these photocopies along with a planter:

The Paddy Novelty Co., Goliad, Texas

Chia and Contemporary Art

More recently, the chia planter has been explored through the brilliant creations of Toronto artist Naomi Yasui. I spoke with Naomi about her chia pillar and planter and about collecting.

IPi: Naomi, how would you describe your work, what is the foundation behind your practice?

NY: I attempt to articulate ideas rooted in the discourse of archeology and anthropology.  I’m interested in the relationship between cultures and objects and what objects can communicate about both past and contemporary civilizations; our understanding of society and human experience through objects.  I try to understand and articulate these concepts through my personal experiences with the material, with objects, and the process of making.  I believe, as sentient beings, there is an impulse to create and to express and I’m on my own journey of discovery with what this means to me and what it can mean in terms of cultural identity and expression.

Naomi Yasui’s chia planter

IPi: How did you discover chia?

NY: I first saw a Chia Pet on TV, and always wanted one.  In preparation and research towards building the chia pillar, I purchased a Garfield planter from Canadian Tire.

IPi: So Chia Pets are what attracted you to utilizing chia in your work?

NY:  In a way the 2 pieces I’ve created with chia were directly influenced by the recognition of chia planters in contemporary culture. But, I think even more so, I was drawn to the relationship between the porous nature of clay and the ability to grow vegetation on it.

I’m interested in the history and culture of moving plants indoors and cultivating indoors and in small spaces, with minimal resources.  I’m also drawn to the idea of bring the outdoors indoors with our desire to arrange cut flowers in vases or keep indoor plants.  Ceramics, a material I most often work with, facilitates these endeavours/impulses to live with plants in an indoor domestic setting.

The forms and structures I create visually reference obelisks and perhaps ritualistic artifacts of unknown function or utility, and in turn greatly reference the origin and history of chia.

Naomi Yasui’s chia pillar, part of the Slap Dash Depository, a collaboration with Jennifer Sciarrino and Jacob Whibley for The Gladstone Hotel’s Come Up To My Room exhibition

IPi: Almost everyone I know has some familiarity with Chia Pets. Do you think this makes your projects more approachable to your audience? People were excited when they realized what your installation was.

NY: “Is that real?” and “Can you eat it?” were two questions I was asked a lot.  Surprisingly, I often had to explain what chia is.  I think the plant is mostly recognizable on a Chia Pet form as many thought the pillar was covered in bean sprouts.  Everyone wanted to touch it, and some felt compelled to spray it (there was a spray bottle left at it’s foot), they wanted to interact with it somehow, help take care of it.  It’s funny how people have an immediate reaction to a living thing.

Studio mate Alexx Boisjoli watches Naomi apply chia to her colossal chia pillar

IPi: I am curious to know what challenges you faced in constructing such a large planter.

NY: I wanted to further explore the concept of growing on a porous surface and was curious to see if I could succeed using different porous materials other than the traditional red earthenware.  No red clay allowed in our space!

What is the right density of seeds?

The pillar, made out of one-foot containers of plaster, was relatively successful.  I think a better stacking and watering system could be engineered and perhaps one day I will revisit this. Maybe next time I do revisit this project I’ll do it with an engineer so I can go bigger and innovate a more even watering system.

Timing is everything – the pillar must be in full bloom for the four-day event

This piece tended to leak in certain places and growth was uneven due to this.  The chia was definitely happier and more robust on the plaster compared to the ceramic piece, however, plaster breaks down over time and with its constant contact with water and is not a sustainable material choice.

The chia pillar, sadly, is degrading in a dump somewhere…..  Overall, ceramic is the most ideal material for ethical and sustainable reasons.

IPi: The blog you co-produce with Heather Goodchild, The Wardens Today, is partly about collecting, about objects. Do you think collecting is a part of what one does as an artist?

NY: I think the habit of collecting and the origin/history of objects go hand in hand.  It’s all under the umbrella of the psychology of objects and why we feel so connected to inanimate things, why we insist in surrounding ourselves with them.  As a fellow collector and maker of objects, and the older I get, the more I see objects as distractions from real truths in oneself and our relationship to the universe, though I very much understand that objects are critical tools for understanding our historical past and for psychological comfort or therapy….. As I continue my study, the complexity of my relationship to objects deepens.

IPi: Naomi, what are you doing right now?

NY: I am installing pieces from my Alchemical Vessel Series for a group exhibition, which opens tomorrow at The Latcham Gallery in Stouffville.  It runs June 14th through July 28th.


Bubble gum card

Today I started a tumblr page — a place to share ephemera I have come across gathering reference material for art projects. A new image will be posted every day. Enjoy!

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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