Escape wrapping paper

I still have an amazing amount of joy whenever I wrap a present for, well, almost anyone. But, the sober understanding that most people throw wrapping paper into landfills has squelched my wrapping joy (but not my card fetish, that will never go away). Consequently, I haven't had to buy wrapping paper in many, many years. I do miss going to the store and picking out a pattern that someone has lovingly designed. Here's some fictional wrapping paper, based on some fire escapes I made quite a while ago. Cute repetition always makes me happy.


Wedding Invites

I was lucky enough to be in the wedding party of two dear friends who got married (to each other!) this summer. I had a tonne of fun making their custom wedding invitations and all the other little things that come with. Not only are these two a lovely couple, but they also have great taste so I was extra-excited to collaborate. We decided on a type treatment and muted palette because the two are amazingly well-read and also embody understated elegance without ever being snobby.

Hand screen printed, two-colour cover.
An imperfect heart shape gave the cover some extra depth.

Main invitation.
Info. card: the bride has a way with words
so the copy was adorable!
Thank you cards that were tied to homemade sugar cookies,
which were gobbled up before I could take their photo!
Detail of the type pattern.


The Walrus Illustration

I had the unique privilege of illustrating an article for The Walrus magazine. The piece, "The Indie Rock Swindle" is beautifully written by the talented Alex Molotkow. She examines the Polaris prize and the so-called indie Canadian music scene. You can read it in full here, but might I suggest you support your Canadian writers, illustrators and artists and buy a copy? It's on newsstands now. Or better yet, subscribe!

Conceptualizing and crafting the image was an amazing process, skillfully guided by Paul Kim, senior designer and Brian Morgan, art director at The Walrus. Once I worked through my angst and heeded the wise advice from a friend to "enjoy the process" I was pleased with the result. The experience reminded me of the importance of allowing freedom to explore and play with ideas while they solidify.

The three-dimensional illustration is composed of paper, string, glue, one knitting needle and several late nights.



I found this scrap of a street poster the other day. To me, it's a rad policital statement about mental illness.
For all people, no one is ill.


Vintage Buttons!

I've been MIA from here but, I assure you, not missing from action in general. There is a lot happening that is exciting and new! Right now, I'm researching and starting to play with some ideas for a brand redesign that has brought me, of all places, to vintage buttons.

How freakin' great are these? I'm likely late to the party of appreciating these stupidly amazing pieces. If I ever come across one of these precious little fasteners, I promise I will proudly make it into a necklace charm that I wear at least once a week because, seriously, I never knew I needed a shirt with cigarette buttons until I found this wonderful book. (Source to follow.)


More Chicago collage

I've continued to play around with my Marina City building images from last year. As with most things that I do, the process seems very slow. Unlike the rest of my life, which seems to move quickly at times, I take full liberty to move as slowly as I feel like my personal projects deserve. I'm at a bit of a standstill right now, as I've been working through translating the photo to a collage to a screen print and now am not quite sure how I should finish.

I've learned a tonne about screen printing so far, though! Right now I want to introduce the right amount of depth to the final images so that the image sits comfortably on the plane between real and abstract. Hopefully I'll make some more progress in the coming months and if I happen upon a solution I'm really excited about, I'll be sure to share.
Source photo taken in Chicago last year.

Resulting collage that took what seemed like forever!

Rubylith stencil based on shapes inspired from the collage.

A screen print done with three layers of Rubylith stencils and doodles over the ink.


Brain on the brain

I'm so funny! But seriously, I've been thinking about the brain lately. The band An Horse has a great song (I don't remember the title, I swear that my ipod actually makes me less aware of what and who I'm listening to) with the lyrics "I've had too much to think," which perfectly characterizes my over-analytical nature. Being able to think things through a bit too thoroughly can be inebriating. It doesn't always leave room for free and simple doing. I digress, of course.

One of my more profound thoughts? The brain looks neat. Case in point, this beautiful anatomy book I borrowed from the library and never want to return.

source Human Anatomy by Rifkin, Ackerman and Folkenberg

PS Somewhat unrelated but amusing: My first date was with a boy named Brian when I was in grade six. We went to go see Look Who's Talking, Too with another "couple" and did not touch eachother for the entire movie. Whenever I wrote notes to him, as 11 year olds do, I always spelled his name as Brain by mistake. It really pissed him off.


Comings and goings

The winter in Canada has been strangely mild, thanks to our good friend global warming. For the first time, I decided to experiment and not buy a TTC metropass. Instead, I bought tonnes of tokens.

I'm trying to save money and walk more. I definitely walk more than I ever have but, let me tell you, it's much, much easier to convince myself to take a cab to work when I'm running late when a token costs $2.75. So saving money? Probably not. It's likely worked out evenly. But, thwarting the monopoly the TTC had on my winter travelling in past years made for happier cold months filled with discoveries I never would have had if I'd succumbed to the pressure of buying a monthly pass.

Another bonus? I have new material for yet another project. I found myself with layers and layers of paper transfers lining my coat and purse pockets. To paraphrase from a woman in a promotional ad for Hoarders, "I don't consider myself a hoarder, I consider myself a collector of things." It's a fine line, sister.

All these little pieces of paper serve as an interesting record of my city routes and I'm excited for bike season to start so I can complete my jar of winter TTC transfers and get started on turning them into something.



One summer when I was 18, I saved every penny I got my hands on, then went to Europe for three weeks. While there, I did a bunch of things including going to the Anne Frank museum slightly stoned. What can I say? I was 18 and in Amsterdam for only a few days. I wanted to pack everything in; some things don't change.

I also saw Medusa by Caravaggio

I was in awe of the anguish on her face because she looked so much more raw than the cartoon version that lived in my mind.

I'd forgotten about my childhood obsession with the myth of Medusa until I got the best gift I've received in quite awhile in the mail on Monday. I love the idea of a woman being so powerful as to be able to turn people to stone from a mere glance. Fitting then, that I finally own a jellyfish necklace that I remember eyeing at City of Craft in 2008. The Meduse necklace by mynta, a jewelery designer from Montreal who I met at this year's show. She made me a version with brushed silver tentacles and a longer chain, which I absolutely adore. Who knows? Maybe wearing it will give me superhero powers.

The photo is from mynta's etsy shop as it turns out the jellyfish is really difficult to photograph!

UPDATE: Did you know that Meduse is the latin word for jellyfish? I learned something new today!


Fighting the winter blahs

My grandma, for as long as I can remember, gives all the women she knows Amaryllis bulb-growing kits for Christmas. She's more egalitarian now; the whole family gets them, regardless of gender. Amarylisses are strangely phallic flowers with long stems, massive blooms and no scent. Each year, the blooms are a welcome burst of brightness during the gloomy winter months.

I'm extra happy that this one turned out not only to be fuschia has multiple blooms!



My brother always sends me the best stuff.

Procrastination from Johnny Kelly on Vimeo.

source apartment therapy


Picture Files

I was introduced to the picture files at The Toronto Reference Library (TRL) last year and the first time I visited I immediately fell in love with the idea of an entire department dedicated to collecting magazine clippings and filing them in a system that sometimes makes sense but mostly doesn't.

Not only is The TRL gorgeous, it has special meaning for me because it's where my mother learned English when she first came to Canada almost 40 years ago. (Not to mention that my parents first met in a library, but that's a story for another day.)

I had the treat of visiting the picture files again because one of my friends is currently in love with The TRL for it's amazing calm energy and sense of community. After poking through the files I found a thick folder dedicated solely to trees.

Here are some quirky finds that I'd certainly never come across on a Google Image search. I just adore how someone has taken the time to write the category and source on each image—it tugs at my heart.

I've had trees on my mind lately because I've been trying to think through a logo using a tree to represent the inner workings of the brain.

Something like this, perhaps from Canada Post.

I appreciate the successful blend of colour and how the illustration is hopeful rather than macabre.



The much-discussed creative block is to me, actually just anxiety induced fear. But, everyone is delightfully different, even in the ways that our creative blocks manifest! Not to mention that creativity is a process and we all go through phases where we're more productive than others. Here's a wonderful collection of designers by ISO50 who share what they do when they face some sort of creative standstill.

source swiss miss


J.K. Rowling on Failing

I'm all about inspiration these days, no matter how cheesy. In fact, the cheesier the better! I love this talk for many reasons but mostly because it comforts me in this time of risk taking. I'll be speaking cryptically of these risks I'm taking for the next little while. It's an exciting time of plunging into the unknown and chasing things I love.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.


Heart day

Usually I can't be bothered with Valentine's Day regardless of what box I'm currently occupying in the relationship status section of my life. But, this year, I'm obsessed with hearts! So much so that I must've cut out about a hundred to make valentines that I sent to loved ones. I was a bit late in sending them out in the mail, but I figured, it's so rare to get a valentine in the mail these days that no one will complain when they finally do get theirs.

I drew imperfect hearts and cut them out with my trusty exacto knife.

I found lots of colourful paper in my stash and taped up the holes. Then, I glued pretty paper on the backsides and cut everything to size.

I found some red paper amoung my things and cut lots and lots of teeny hearts with scissors.

I placed each valentine face down and sprinkled with a generous helping of my heart confetti that will fall everywhere once the envelope is excitedly ripped open. (I tested this in person with a friend, it works!)

I sealed everything with amazing tinfoil duct tape that I cut into hearts, of course!


On Lee

I remember McQueen when he first started appearing on my television screen. I remember his surliness and reluctance to conform. I remember he used to wear large union jack t-shirts and compared to the pristine beauty of the models surrounding him, looked downright crazy.

I remember loving him, though I didn't know why back then. Now, I think it was because I saw my own eccentricities in him. Knowing that he's no longer with us saddens me a great deal, but I hope he's no longer in pain.

I remember watching this with my mouth gaping wide open, then smiling.

I'll remember him most as a shy, nonconformist artist who had an uncanny ability to poke fun at the very industry that fueled his creations.


More fire escapes

I took this photo on Sunday and I couldn't believe my luck! I've walked past this unassuming sign dozens of times and never noticed it. I've been walking around the city much, much more than I normally do. I must say: I'm beginning to understand what all the fuss is about in regards to walking. Walking has long gone hand in hand with meditation and I also remember reading somewhere that there are important energy meridians at the soles of our feet. Not to mention all the nerve endings. Makes sense then, that walking should feel so good and maybe it also explains why I hate wearing socks? No matter how awful my day, walking home always at the very least, brings me back to neutral and at the most makes me legitimately happy.

The fire escape obsession continues...


New tree collage, Australia-bound

I did a swap with Kylie and am months tardy on sending my side of the bargain. Though, I finally sent off my piece last week! (And really, I'm such a master procrastinator that it only got mailed because I asked an extra-helpful girl at work to do it for me.) It should arrive on her side of the world soonish. I blame part of my lateness on the piece itself: it hung up in my hallway for months begging to be finished but I just couldn't figure out what to do with it, despite it being mostly complete. In the end, I added little pink dots and cut the tree out of the paper, so that it was free from the confines of the paper edge. I hope she likes it: I remember her mentioning once about how much she loved trees.

I made this little tree out of random bits of paper I always have laying around. The trunk is made of amazing tin foil duct tape I found at Active Surplus, one of my favourite stores in Toronto for absurdity and practicality. Where else can one purchase yo-yos, dental equipment, hologram paper and mini light bulbs under one roof? Rarely do I leave there without a strange procurement that inevitably comes in handy in ways that I never imagine at at the time.

A brighter shot, mostly just to show off my nail colour.



Sagmeister on happiness and taking strategic time off. Needless to say, this made me smile happily.


New Zealand Book Council: Going West

I loved this incredibly haunting, well-thought, paper cut, stop/go short film. I hope you do, too.

I ♡ Ira Glass

"I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met." —Ira Glass

I adore Ira's view on being a beginner and dealing with, well, sucking hard. ♡
source lunele



I experienced this piece tonight in a completely serendipitous way! (That's spiritual talk for unplanned.) It made the start of 2010 extra special for me. It's a permanent installation of LED lights beneath the Gardiner Expressway that illustrates what water levels looked like in Ontario many years ago. The flashing lights are accompanied by recordings of waves crashing on Lake Ontario's shore. It was a little piece of peace in the middle of condo zombie land. Magical, ambitious and clever: my favourite kind of art.

by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak
photos via spacing