Friday, 17 February 2012

Feb 17, 2012 - My Junction Women's Art Round Robin

For the past three years, I've been part of an informal art group that basically makes projects together by passing them around at 3 week intervals, over the course of several months. The first year, we did altered books, each contributing pages using a variety of visual media. The second year, we wrote entries in each others' books. This year, we decided to go 3D, with shadow boxes, or dioramas. Themes have ranged from "the macabre", to "happy places" to "endurance."

I don't want to give too much away, because some of the boxes that make up my project will be on display during the upcoming women's exhibit at Wise Daughters (see for March 2 opening party details!). But I have to share this much...

My theme is "gender," inspired in part by the controversy last summer around baby Storm, whose parents are choosing not to disclose the baby's gender. As a lesbian and a feminist, I probably think about gender more than some people anyway.

Everyone had to tackle this theme in whatever way she saw fit, filling an empty box like this:

Today I received the box pictured below, filled, as you can see, with a plant that rather splendidly represents the theme.

This box is not exactly mountable on the wall, but will be on display during the women's show nonetheless. I can't even tell you how much this plant improved my day. It's been a strange and frustrating week, in fact, but this outrageous plant is just the thing to wrap up my Friday on a positive note. It's Family Day weekend, but let's leave the discussion about what makes a family for another blog...

Thanks to Anita for the inspired submission to the project!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Feb 15, 2012 - Mistress of My Domain

It's been a few years since I've been responsible to a board of directors (my previous work was in the not-for-profit sector), or responsible for a staff of any size, and the freedom has been intoxicating.

Sometimes people assume Wise Daughters is a collective, I suppose because it kind of has that vibe, and because some other craft enterprises are structured as such. I jokingly reply that it's a benevolent dictatorship. I've been a collaborator and a compromiser all my working life, and I still think I play quite nicely with others, but being a dictator really kind of rocks. I'm beholden to nobody. If I succeed, I get to take the credit. If I fail, at least I won't feel I was powerless in the face of opposing forces, the way I sometimes did in my previous jobs (they were mostly elected forces, not much concerned with social justice).

So, here I am, mistress of my work domain. And, for the first time in my life, mistress of my domicile too. No partner, no kids at home, just a silly little dog who knows I'm the leader of the pack. In fact, I'm living alone for the first time EVER. Went from parents to roommates to partner and from there into motherhood, which lasts forever, but not under one roof (well, maybe if you have video game playing boy-men, but I have fiercely independent girl-women). When I found myself suddenly single last summer, the shock morphed into curiosity and then into invigorating experimentation into doing whatever the hell I want.

For example, last night, for Valentine's Day, I took myself to an incredible concert/reading with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and Lawrence Hill. It was right up my alley, and I didn't have to be concerned about whether anybody else was having a good time. Recently I went to the live finale of Canada Reads at CBC. I play Scrabble often. Why? Because I can.

I am totally embracing my inner nerd (ok, outer nerd). My daughters joke about the number and variety of obscure free arts events I subjected them to as children (these experiences made them what they are today, if you ask me). Now I am at liberty to unapologetically pursue the oddest cultural activities I can find. Plus, I can eat single ingredient meals, hang around in my undershirt and fluffy swan slippers and yell answers at Alex Trebek during Jeopardy. It's fantastic.

Will I feel this way in 5 years? Hard to say, though I've read a lot of recent media articles about how singletons make up a large and growing percentage of households. Whatever happens down the road, I'm so glad I'm getting this time to truly be mistress of my domain.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Feb 3, 2012 - Social Enterprise Meets Handmade

Wise Daughters was pleased to be approached a few weeks ago by Human Endeavour, a Vaughan area agency serving marginalized communities through a number of programs and initiatives.  One is Epic Mart, a "social enterprise incubator" that offers training, space, marketing and sales support to help people earn an income through craft. Wise Daughters now carries pillows made with beautiful fabrics, and unique hand-painted vases like these:

Social entrepreneurship is a growing sector. Inspirations Studio, a program of Sistering, operates using this same model; for 3 years, Wise Daughters has been selling gorgeous ceramics made by women who are overcoming poverty, homelessness or trauma.  The hottest item Wise Daughters has commissioned from Inspirations is this ceramic humidifier, a low-tech, free way to add moisture to homes heated by rads.

Find out more about both of these programs at and

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Jan 25, 2012 - Meet Daisy

These days when you come to Wise Daughters, you'll meet Daisy, the dog I adopted last week. She's a 4 year old puggle (pug/beagle) who was sent to a pound because her elderly owner had to go into nursing care. She didn't cope well there, so was taken into doggy foster care by Snookie's Little Rescue, a national non-profit, and it's through them that we found each other.

Daisy was clearly the alpha dog in her last home, and has work to do to learn her manners, but she's a very quick study. I can see her trying very hard not to displease me by barking. She's already learned to sleep in her own bed next to mine and to sit next to me at the shop (vs in my lap all the time).  She needs a lot of reassurance, but once she gets it, she's as sweet and calm as any well loved dog can be.

It's just lovely for me to have her company, especially on those long days when there's a full shift plus an evening workshop. She's come to enjoy our routine of walk/bus/walk to get here, followed by a mad dash around the shop before she settles in for the day.

Don't worry if you've got allergies or are just not that into dogs - she's restrained behind the cash so she won't bound over to greet customers. But if you want to say hi, she'll give you a wag of her ridiculous curly tail.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Jan 11, 2011 - Help for Handmakers

There's an embarrassment of riches in this city in terms of artistic talent. But few people possess a combination of creative skills and sales acumen. It's not always an easy blend. This is where I hope Wise Daughters can make a difference in 2012.

Since mid-2010, I've been offering workshops on The Art of Selling, to help makers with the often daunting business side of things. It's on the schedule again Jan 18, followed in the coming weeks by The Art of Marketing via Social Media (levels 1 & 2) and then Craft Fair How-To, each presented by crafters with a wealth of understanding in these areas. This cluster of workshops will really help equip handmakers with tools and tips for success in this very tough line of work. One of the most valuable aspects of these workshops, I think, is the chance to get feedback and share ideas with peers, since many of us work in isolation.

I've also decided to move forward with more consulting for crafters. I do quite a lot of it anyway, as part of the process of negotiating with artists who approach the shop, and I enjoy sharing what I've learned over the past 3 years. So I'm offering 30 minutes of free one-on-one consultation with handmakers who want help pricing, packaging and promoting their wares. I'll give you an honest opinion and help you determine where to focus your energy (besides making things). Some people are great at selling themselves, others would rather crawl under a rock. I can't change your disposition, but I can help you improve your written materials, for example, so your message is clear. Then maybe you can get your gregarious best friend to be your front man or woman at shows and sales!

If you'd like to know more, check out the workshop details at or shoot me an email at


Friday, 30 December 2011

Dec 30, 2011 - Year in Review

Craft fans, I haven't blogged much during the peak season, but here I am with an hour to spare before a dinner date, and some of the highlights of the past year at the shop are filling my head.  I always enjoy year-in-review articles, whether about news, culture, food, trends.  So here are some of my best experiences as the proprietor of Wise Daughters this year:

  • receiving $10 more than the ticket price for a ceramic bowl from Inspirations, because a customer felt it was undervalued
  • renting out my button-maker for uses as varied as the relaunch of Joel Richardson's mural on Dupont, the launch of Chris Kay Fraser's Toronto kiss map, and somebody's 75th birthday party
  • helping not one, but two husbands choose Wise Daughters classes for their wives for Christmas 
  • hearing that a baby who received a U Rock onesie from Wise Daughters appears in it in every photo
  • hosting various bouncy Sparks and Brownie troupes for crafting sessions
  • collaborating, communicating and sometimes commiserating with the lovely women behind Nathalie-Roze, Distill and Beadle 
  • handing out donated yarn to a local woman in her late 90s who returns it knit up into blanket squares and scarves for Streetknit
  • helping a brother and sister choose a really good present for their parents with their pooled coins totaling $14
  • making babies laugh with Banjo Puppets' hilarious popcorn monsters (including one wee boy who laughed for the first time here!)
  • making adults laugh with Coy Clothes' saucy, silly t-shirts
  • getting a note just today from somebody who loves her Wise Daughters sleep wear so much she hasn't taken them off for the better part of a week
  • serving ALL the wonderful people who choose to shop local
It's been a wonderful year. Here's to another (and another, and another).  

A very happy 2012.