A Day at The Met


Have you been to The Met yet?  Hmm, maybe I had better clarify because it’s probably not “The Met” that you’re thinking of.  This is the new Metropolitan Weekend Artisans Market that has just opened up in downtown London, Ontario.  This weekend was its grand opening and I had the opportunity to go there with my women’s group.


The Met (so named because it occupies the space formerly occupied by the Metropolitan discount department store) isn’t “fancy” from the outside, but upon entering, I was enthralled with the amazing artwork and other items presented there.  The goal behind The Met is to promote arts and culture in the London area by providing a venue for the region’s rich pool of talent in the form of artwork, handmade and recycled items, vintage and rare treasures, and those of a local or historical nature.

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Here are some examples of what I saw at The Met:


This is the work of the children who attend Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute, a private school here in London.  Don’t you just love the colours and abandon that children use when creating art?



The horse is one of my favourite pieces!



Hawthorne onDisplay had a booth here with a lovely variety of paintings, prints, and other items.  Their studio is located at 551 Colborne Street, 519-433-6466.  Their Facebook fan page:  www.facebook.com/HawthorneOnDisplay  Their ETSY shop: www.etsy.com/shop/HawthorneOnDisplay


These two little canvases (about 2 1/2-3 inches square) are from Hawthorne OnDisplay.


These two girls, Michelle of Bezanson Design and Nicole of Eco-veg Footprint, were positively adorable! Some of what Michelle creates is artwork that was mostly created by dripping paint (you can see one of her pieces to the far right and one over to the left).  Nicole does, among other things,  recycled art from old newspapers and magazines – you can see some of her postcards and bookmarks in this photo.


Here are two of the postcards I purchased created by the artist above.  Nicole also collaborated on a PanAmerican Vegetarian and Vegan Cookbook with Jessica O’Neil.  I purchased it and can’t wait to try out the recipes because they sound positively delicious!    Check out Michelle’s blog here: http://bezansondezign.blogspot.com/  and Nicole’s blog here:  http://ecovegfootprint.blogspot.com/


I love the textiles she creates here.  They are all made from recycled natural fibres and are hand-dyed with vegetable and nut based dyes.  The brown stripes in the pillows at the top centre of the picture were created by walnut dye. Check out more of her work at http://www.goodlinesdecor.com

The Met is located at 140 Dundas Street between Richmond and Talbot.  Hours are Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm and Sundays from Noon to 5 pm.  The website gives information about vendors for the upcoming weekend as well as forms if you’d like to apply to become a vendor.  This coming weekend there will apparently be pottery making demonstrations! Http://www.metropolitanmarket.ca

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Easter Sunday Walk in the Park


Went for a Sunday morning walk in Springbank Park here in London, Ontario after Mass and breakfast with my women’s group.


It looks really gloomy here but really by noon it has turned sunny and is getting warmer.


I can’t do a lot of walking so I sat down on a bench for a while and did some birdwatching while the more active members of the group continued on.


This red winged blackbird is gorgeous isn’t it?


The water still looks freezing cold and the trees are still bare, but if you go closer you can see that they’re starting to form some little buds and it won’t be long before they’re in full leaf.


This is the Thames River which flows right through the park and downtown London.  There must have been one HUGE pile of snow there on the left because really this is the only bit of snow I’ve seen left in the city.

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The London Civic Garden Complex


I took a tour of the greenhouses at the London Civic Garden Complex in my city of London, Ontario today.  It’s an annual open house event sponsored by the Friends of the LCGC in which you can go and tour the greenhouses, usually closed to the public.  Despite living in London since the 1970s, I had never actually been there before and it was fascinating.  We were greeted at the doors with our choice of a potted herb to take home with us.  I chose the pineapple sage.  I’ve never seen that variety of sage before and it just smells so good!


Next, we were given a tour of the greenhouses and conservatory.  The original greenhouse was built in 1922 with subsequent additions including the Manness Conservatory in 1985 and 1996.  The current London Civic Garden Complex was funded through a cooperative effort of the city of London Parks and Recreation department, the London Garden Club, and the Manness estate. I learned some really interesting things about the greenhouses.  First of all, I never realized how multi-purpose they are.  I had always assumed they were basically a tourist attraction for the city but they do so much more than that there.  First of all, the greenhouses are staffed and run by city of London employees, volunteers from the London Garden Club, and students from Fanshawe College who work there as part of their studies.  In fact, the LCGC is the home of the London Garden Club.


The plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetables that are grown there serve several purposes:
a) they provide flowers for local schools as part of an initiative to encourage them to green up their schoolyards and include children in the process so that they can learn about gardening at the same time
b) they grow plants for a balcony greening program in which plants are given to tenants of low income housing so that they too can have a beautiful garden space in their homes
c) they grow herbs and vegetables to donate to the Grow a Row program of the community gardens project in which volunteers are asked to grow an extra row of vegetables to then be donated to the city food banks
d) they provide hanging plants, planters, and garden plants for all city properties throughout London – city hall, the John Labatt Centre, Storybook Gardens, and so on.
e) they participate in a program dedicated to preserving heirloom plants and seeds so that these particular varieties never become extinct.
What’s more, apparently, in some places in the city they like to display tropical plants that are not a part of our usual environment, so not only do the greenhouses provide a safe haven for these plants to winter over, but they also offer that same service to city residents who can bring some of their own plants there to winter over as well.


The way the greenhouses function was very interesting as well.  It runs on hot water, not steam.  There are two boilers – one for running the greenhouses on a day to day basis and a second one as a backup as it would be disastrous if the first one failed without something to take its place.  The pipes for the hot water run overhead for heating the air inside the greenhouses and underneath the tables to warm the soil and the seeds when first being planted.  There are snow sensors in the roof – they sense any snowfall and heat up to melt it right away, which given the crazy weather of rain, snow, icy rain, and hail today, we got to see firsthand.


Our city has bylaws that prohibit the use of pesticides (although there are some exceptions for agricultural uses) and the complex tries to use only natural methods when caring for the plants they grow and they promote these methods to their visitors.  Our guide said that at certain times they will “release the beneficials” into the greenhouses – meaning that they will release helpful bugs that can control some of the issues they may have with the health of the plants.  She told us that they also have turtles living in the greenhouses – the turtles eat the bugs and this helps to keep the proper balance of them as needed.  They also collect rainwater to supplement their water supply and have large tubs in which they place the water, allowing it to stand for a while to release the chlorine and other chemicals that could harm the newly planted delicate plants.  In the one room where they start the seedlings, our guide, Sarah, told us that to water all of the plants in the room takes over two hours!


Finally, the Garden Club had a sale of plants going on to raise money for the complex.  I couldn’t believe the prices! Nothing was over $5 and that price was only for quite large plants.  Most of the plants were $1 each.  I’m not really much of a gardener but I’d really like to spruce up my yard so I’m going to try to learn and do a bit of gardening this summer.  I bought a variety of herbs which I love to use for my gourmet cooking and some geraniums because I just love the appearance of them and have had success in growing them before.  I’ve always felt a close connection to nature and I realize more and more that it is a great inspiration for my art.  It doesn’t always come out in terms of me creating nature themed items but certainly in the colours and textures I use.  This summer I hope to create a bit of that inspiration right here at home.


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Yesterday, Roberta and I attended Scrapfest in Kitchener, Ontario.  I have to be honest – at first the only reason I was going was because Robi was.  I figured the two of us could have fun while having a root canal done so it would be good no matter what.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised because it was excellent.

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There were prizes being given out at the show.  Here’s Robi finally winning the long-awaited new car! (tee hee)

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There were some manufacturers and scrapbooking stores present with a variety of special deals on their products as well as some products that were new to us.  It was fun to try out some of these and to see what the hot “must have” items were. 

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This retractable craft knife has a really small blade in it (as well as a couple interchangeable ones) making it perfect for intricate detailed work.  We won’t discuss the fact that I bought it mistakenly thinking it was the retractable punch tool.   The Cinch machine that we saw at House of Scraps (Breslau, Ontario) is a bookbinding machine that is super easy to use.  It even works well for me despite my hand and strength issues.


This quilling mould was one of the products that got me really excited.  You create tight paper quilled coils and then press them down over one of the domes on the mould to make them 3 dimensional.  They turn out kind of looking like a bowl.

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Here’s the other product that really jumped out for me and made me ooh and ahh.  It apparently had the same effect on others attending the show since the handle for this item was sold out and on backorder.  The Sew Easy is a tool that pierces your paper into a pattern of holes so that you can then stitch easily with a needle and thread.  There are many different patterns allowing you to do a variety of stitches and allow it takes a bit of pressure to pierce through a couple layers of thick paper or cardstock, it really does make it so much faster and easier to add some hand stitching to your paper crafts.


We just loved Jen Starr’s work!

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My favourite part of the whole thing was all the free Make n Takes.  It wasn’t just that it was fun to make the items but also that I had a good time crafting alongside my buddy and seeing how we each had a different take on the same crafts.  Here is the Scrapping Turtle booth where we were making paper flower pins.  Part of the paper was just basic scrapbooking paper but then there were layers in between of a paper that was likened to coffee filters.  We cut the scrapbooking paper into circles but the “filter paper” was already precut into circles with scalloped or pinked edges.  It apparently comes in kits with several sizes and several different edges on the circles.  We sprayed the “filter” circles with spray inks and then layered them together with the scrapbooking papers.  We sewed them all together, securing with a button in the center and had the choice of adding a pin or a barrette on the back.  I don’t know why Robi didn’t think that a barrette would be a good choice for me!


Roberta and I made these (mine is on the left) at the Creative Memories booth.  Creative Memories has a number of products that I quite like but I was unimpressed with a couple of the ones we used for these.  The basic shape of the paper strips was done with what looked like a metal ruler that had a curved edge, almost like a French curve.  You laid it on the paper and then pulled the paper up against the ruler to tear it into the shape.  They said it was to give it a rough distressed look but really it didn’t work very well and just ended up looking messy.  The other thing that didn’t impress me was their tape runner.    They were all gummed up and nearly impossible to use. 

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This tag I made at the Scrappin’ Buddies (located in Port Sydney, Ontario) booth still needs a little dressing up but I think the butterfly is very pretty.  It’s similar to a technique I have used before.  You use plain old basic Crayola waterbased markers to colour a stamp.  Just before stamping it onto your surface, give it a quick little spritz of water (not too much or it will just run) and then stamp away!  It gives the appearance of water colours!  Quick, easy, inexpensive, yet beautiful.  It’s a great technique to use with children too!

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At Skribbles and Scraps (a store in Sarnia, Ontario), we made these “grunge” tags using a lot of Tim Holtz products.  The tag is made of grunge board and the flower was cut from grunge paper.  We got to choose an embossing plate (I chose gears of course) and the tag was run through the Cuttlebug to give it some texture. We inked these pieces up with Tim Holtz distress inks and then accented with Smooch ink.  There was a “treasure box” of all kinds of brads and little metal doodads to further embellish with. 

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I made this card at the Crop Stop booth.  This was where I made the “Incredible Sew Easy Discovery”!  You can see the stitching that I did on the card, courtesy of the Sew Easy tool.  The little glossy dots you see on this were made with Liquid Pearls.  I sure wish I could remember who makes this paper because it’s just lovely.

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This cute little kitchen themed card was made at A Scrapbooker’s Dream.  There’s a pocket inside the card that holds a recipe.  Note:  Dear Scrapbooker’s Dream, whatever brand of glue runner you were using for this product does not hold on this cardstock and I’ve had to fix my pocket at home.

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This was from my favourite booth in the whole show, Stamping Bella.  She had the most incredible Make n Take creating mixed media canvases – so incredible in fact that the line up for it was hours long and we never got a chance to do it before the show closed.  Of course, Robi, in true Robi-schmooze fashion, bonded instantly with Emily and was able to not only talk her out of a canvas (free), but was also able to arrange for her to give the two of us a private session to learn how to make these canvases AND for her to come on our In the Zone show to demonstrate it to our audience as well!

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Artsy Girls’ Night Out


I belong to a London women’s group and last night had the opportunity to attend an art night at a local art gallery.  It was so much fun!!! It was advertized as a night to go and learn how to make a mixed media collage/painted piece.  I already do a lot of that kind of work myself but I figured that if nothing else, I would have fun getting to make some art with other people for a change instead of working alone in my studio like I usually do.  I also know that many mixed media artists have quite different ways of doing things and figured it was quite likely that I would learn something new from the award winning artist, Robin Baratta, leading the group.  I was right on both counts.

First off, here are some of the beautiful pieces of art on display at the gallery.  Most of these are by Vivian Tserotas.




You can’t really tell from these photos but many of these are quite dimensional and are created from textiles and free motion sewing.




Now for the class itself – we were asked to bring copies of photographs that we could use.  Our instructor also had old magazines on hand so that we could use images from them if we wanted.  I pulled some images out of my art files and took those with me, ultimately settling on a Frida Kahlo image as the central one for my artwork.


She had us working on a canvas board.  We began by gluing down pieces that were punched out with basic craft punches – the butterfly and flower shapes you see here.  I used both the positive and negative shapes. 


After that, we took gesso that was in a squirt bottle (like the kind you use for ketchup and mustard) and squirted it out into random designs to create more texture.


Once it dried, the next stage was to dry brush on a metallic paint – the idea was to “catch” the gesso and punched out shapes so that the metallic paint would highlight the raised parts.  It added a reflective quality to the piece.


We followed up with layers of colour washes.  She asked us to pick a colour that would go well with the picture we were using and then to pick complementary colours (as in complementary on the colour wheel) colours for the subsequent layers.  In some cases, we pulled off some areas of the colour with a rag to allow other layers to peek through.


Here I have begun to add my images- Frida, an old door, and some flowers from the magazines.  This is as far as I got while in the class and there is more embellishment I plan to do on this piece to finish it up.


It was a great class and Robin provided us with excellent support and guidance as we went along.  It was a very reasonable $25 each for two hours and well worth that!  We are all already talking about going back again for more classes.

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One of our favourite places in Sparta – Sparta House Tearoom and Restaurant


Sparta House as it looked about 100 years ago.

I just love the town of Sparta, Ontario.  In fact, I love it so much that when we went looking for a new house, we looked at a couple there.  I soooo want to live there!  It didn’t work out at the time but I haven’t lost hope that someday I’ll be a Sparta resident!

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Sparta House serves a traditional British menu.  As is often the case, Sam had the Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie and I had the Ploughman’s Lunch.  For dessert, cream tea – YUM  www.spartahouse.com


Sparta began to be settled by Quakers during the War of 1812.  During the War of Independence, many Quakers from the Niagara Region in New York and from Pennsylvania had come to Canada to settle.  They had been suffering persecution in the United States because of their conscientious objector status and refusal to take sides during the war.  Jonathan Doan and his family were among the first to explore and settle the area.  Doan built a tannery and had others build a grist mill on the creek that went through his land. 

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Sparta House was built in the 1840s by David Mills in the American Colonial style.  At this time it was a hotel and since that time has also been the town’s first library, a general store, a furniture store, a funeral parlour, a hardware store, a barbershop, a pub, and now a tearoom.  It was purchased in 1992 by Ken and Norma Roberts.  Norma began collecting teapots to display in the tearoom and to date, has over 350 of them.

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Sparta House is said to house a ghost and has been featured on the TV show Rescue Mediums.  http://www.spartahouse.com/spooky-sparta.html

The settlement, known as The Corners, was established in 1822 and grew quite steadily with Quakers and other settlers buying land and setting up businesses.  It was a popular area for many Methodists to settle in as well.


In 1834, the name of the town was officially changed to Sparta, named both after the Greek city and after a town named Sparta in the U.S. from which several of the settlers had come.  Sparta continued to grow into quite a prosperous town until the 1870s.  At that time, two railroad lines were constructed, passing through nearby St. Thomas and most businesses relocated to be closer to the railroad.  Sparta shrunk in size shortly after to reflect the size that it is today.   The town still boasts 28 buildings that date to pre-Confederation times.

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Above left:  The studio of local artist Peter Robson  (originally from England) http://artistsandtheirart.com/PagesArtists/Robson.htm

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Above:  A lovely little shop of home and garden goods and gift items.  This building is known as Temperance House.  It was built in the 1840s by Mr. Hitchcock and served as the Sparta Hotel.  It later became Elgin House and then Ontario House and was the busiest hotel in the area until its bar was closed by a Temperance group (hence its most recent name).  It has been an ice cream parlour, a dance hall, apartments, and most recently, shops. It’s currently known as Beyond the Garden Gate.

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Above left:  Anything Used, the home of Sparta Candles, owned by Patrick and Mary Muscat.  http://www.spartacandles.com/index.php  Just as people come from all over to visit the tearoom and nearby Winter Wheat http://cynchronicity.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/winter-wheat-and-the-art-of-lucy-ogletree/ , the Sparta candle store/Anything Used is a place that draws visitors from all over.  They have the nicest candles I’ve ever found, gift items, and second hand flea market and antique treasures.  This building was originally Eakin’s General Store, the back brick section being built prior to 1846 and the front portion being added as a general store and post office in 1846. 

Above right:  You can see Eakin’s General Store as it looked around 1910.

I tried to find a reference for the population of Sparta but found some very different numbers!  One said that the population is about 200 people, another said that according to the census in 2006, it was around 12,000 people and another had to be very very confused as it said the population was well over 11 million!!!  Personally, I would say that walking through the town of Sparta, the number 200 feels the closest but likely once you add in the outlying rural/farm areas, it could go up to the 12,000 number (that sure seems high to me though!). I guarantee the 11 million number is a HUGE mistake!

If you live in or are visiting the area on October 2, 2010, Sparta will be taking part in Doors Open Ontario.  Doors Open is an initiative that promotes Ontario heritage by opening up historic sites to the public free of charge.  Some of these sites are ones that aren’t normally open to the public at all.  For example, some of the buildings taking part in Doors Open in Sparta are actually private residences.  http://www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_1_11289_1.html

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The Quilts of Gee’s Bend


Quilt by Rita Mae Pettway


Quilt by Florine Smith

Gee’s Bend is a small poor rural town located near Selma, Alabama. In the past it was comprised of cotton plantations, owned by Joseph Gee and a relative of his, Mark Pettway. Pettway bought the Gee estate in 1850 and after the Civil War, his freed slaves took the name of Pettway. They continued to work for Pettway as tenant farmers and created an all-black community.


Quilt by Lucy Mingo


Quilts by Rita Mae Pettway


Quilt by Ruth Kennedy

This community was quite isolated, being surrounded by the Alabama River on three sides. The women of Gee’s bend bonded together through quilting and developed a very distinctive style to their quilts. The quilt designs were based on traditional African American patterns and resemble the simplistic geometric patterns found in Amish quilting and modern art. The quilting skills and style of the Gee’s Bend women have been passed down to at least generations.


Quilt by Mary Ann Pettway


Quilt by Rita Mae Pettway

In 2003, the women formed the Gee’s Bend Quilters’ Collective and it is through this that they display and sell their quilts. All of their quilts are handmade and unique. These women had virtually nothing and yet they were able to take old worn clothes and turn them into pieces of art.


Quilt by Stella Mae Pettway


Quilt by Janice Pettway

Since the collective was formed, the quilts have been on display at several major museums and the quilters have appeared on such shows as Martha Stewart Living and Oprah. There are now books, DVDs, and CDs (of the women singing) produced about the quilts of Gee’s Bend. The United States Postal Service even released a stamp in honour of the quilts of Gee’s Bend.


Quilt by Lu Ann Bennett


Quilt by Janice Pettway

Recently, I had the privilege of seeing an exhibit of the quilts of Gee’s Bend and to meet a couple of the quilters themselves. On their only Canadian stop, the largest ever exhibit of Gee’s Bend quilts took place here in my city of London, Ontario. The quilts were beautiful in a very simple, rustic way. I see so many quilts now that are machine made, with tiny even stitches…ones that in many ways, seem to have achieved “perfection”. But these quilts were perfect in a different way.


Quilt by Sarah Benning


Quilt by Annette Pettway


Quilt by Geraldine Westbrook

The stitches were often large, uneven, imperfect. The fabrics were sometimes a mish-mash of colours and patterns that, in some ways, didn’t even seem to go together. And yet, there was such beauty to them. There was such art within them. The perfect, machine made quilts are beautiful, no doubt, but there’s a richness in the Gee’s Bend quilts that you just don’t see every day. You look at them and it feels like they are more than something beautiful and functional – it’s as though you can hear the stories coming from them, as though you can feel the history they hold.


Quilt by Florine Smith


Quilt by Nazareth Major

I wish I had the opportunity to take one of the workshops these quilters were holding during this weekend exhibit. I was entranced by them just in the brief time I got to meet them and chat with them. You could feel the warmth and the love emanating from them. You could tell that these are not women who are wrapped up in the rat-race, who are held hostage by technology, who are consumed by material possessions. It was obvious that they have their priorities in order and that they enjoy the simple joys of life. The moment I met them I could picture myself sitting with them on the front porch, sipping a sweet tea, and watching the summer sun set.


Lucy Mingo, a Gee’s Bend quilter and one of the quilts she made


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