Wednesday, 30 March 2011

March 30, 2011 - Pity the Young People

Ok, that's a needlessly twee title, but I do.  Pity them.

My own daughters, ages 24 and 19, are remarkably self-sufficient people.  But a lot of their peers - not so much.  They really do stay put in their parents' basements, rendered utterly dependent and incompetant by the helicopter parenting to which they were subjected. They genuinely don't seem to know what to do with themselves. 

I have just been working on a piece on the topic of "great Canadians you've never heard of" for my writing circle.  It gave me pause.  Can greatness flourish in this generation of kids who've had their problems solved or circumvented for them, and rarely leave the house without a helmet on?  And what about the next generation, who seem to relate only to screens?

Now I've met plenty of awesome 20somethings through Wise Daughters - creative, enterprising young women who are having a serious go at making a living by selling their handmade goods.  They are full of beans and great ideas.  Some of them have self-esteem issues, and some are overly confident (a by-product of never experiencing failure perhaps?).  But a bunch of them truly give me hope.

As a demographic group, however, the collective abilitiy of today's under 25's to contribute to society (and my old age), and even to function as social beings, rather worries me.  I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but not entirely.  Their attachment to screens is, I fear, going to have implications beyond our wildest nightmares.  I already meet plenty of youth who can’t look me in the eye or string a sentence together standing in front of me.  They communicate more successfully via email, though their spelling makes me sob.   

I can't help but smugly feel that my daughters will outshine their peers simply because they can speak, write and move in the real world.  Also, they are fearless.  Not careless, and not carefree - there is a big difference there.  But they embrace risk.  And greatness cannot be achieved without huge risks, it seems to me.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

March 27, 2011 - More Yarnstorms Brewing

Also called yarnbombing or graffiti knitting, yarnstorming is, according to Wikipedia “a type of street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk.”

These yarn installations are thought to have originated in Texas, but are now a worldwide phenomenon, taking off as knitting and other traditional crafts gain in popularity.  People have covered everything from parking meters to whole phone booths, almost always anonymously and under cover of darkness.  Even the Great Wall of China has been “tagged” by yarnstormers.  There is simply nothing better than coming upon something like this (Soho, New York, last week):

It’s not uncommon to see random acts of art in Toronto, such as painted bike posts or intriguing stickers and stencils in public spaces.  Yarnstorming takes this beautification a step further, offering up work that the observer may find too irresistible to leave where it is.  This kind of thievery is expected, and even welcome.  Why not share the joy?  I couldn’t help but knit cosies for the plain and rather rusty traffic bollards outside Wise Daughters.  The first set lasted a while (except for the irresistible pompoms), but the next set were taken within a week. 

During the Junction Arts Festival last September, a group of Junction Yarnstormers beautified Dundas West.  The odd remnant can still be seen high on a pole or in a tree.  The public also helped cover a whole Nissan Cube, donated by AutoShare, with a colourful car cosy.  The squares were subsequently turned into blankets for distribution by Streetknit (

This June 11 has been declared International Yarn Bombing Day (check out the Facebook page).  Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd weeks of June falls Worldwide Knit in Public Day.  Last WWKPD, Wise Daughters co-hosted a public knitting shindig in the Junction with live music and free lessons.

Wise Daughters will be celebrating both the afternoon of June 12 with some serious yarn-related partying. Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

March 22, 2011

Hello craft fans, and welcome to Wise Daughters' first blog post.

I have decided to blog for the very simple reason that I love to write.  Writing has become a more important part of my creative practice since January, when I committed to creating for a minimum of 60 minutes a day.  It's been awesome.  I am a recovering A type, but still love a good "to do" list.  Yes, it's ironic and kind of sad that I have to trick myself into prioritizing something joyful by making it a duty, but it works for me.

For my first topic, I thought I'd explain where the name Wise Daughters came from.  But first, a step back...

As my job came to an end in 2007 (more about my previous careers later), I knew my next move would be sole ownership of a small business.  Then an irresistible contract took me into mid-2008.  During this time, I pondered, consulted and held a focus group to help me determine what kind of business it might be.  I knew I wanted to design some kind of creative hub, but initially thought it might be under the auspices of a cafe or bake shop that served the community via cultural activities.  As I began to scout locations, I realized I had to be in the Junction, my home for over 25 years.  The Junction didn't need another cafe, I felt, and the bright two-storey space at 3079B Dundas (which I now occupy) kept calling to me.  I realized the creativity I wanted to foster downstairs could be supported with a retail craft operation upstairs, and Wise Daughters was born in January 2009.

In a way, it is the fulfilment of the perhaps unfulfilled dreams of my foremothers.  I can't speculate how my great- and great-great aunts felt about the china-painting and needlework they did in such quantity and so proficiently, but I do know that they had the talent to do more than stuff the trousseaus of all the married women in the family.  Would they have chosen to be working artists, had they been born in an era when such a thing was possible for women?  I'll never know.  But one of those trousseaus - my grandmother's - came with her to Canada in 1916, and I still have much more embroidered linen than I will ever be able to use.  My grandmother, my mother, and her sister were all talented with their hands too, and were constantly making things.  It was under their crafty influence that I was raised.  My mother wanted to be a fashion designer, but was discouraged from such a "trivial" pursuit by her father.  She became a micro-biologist instead.

So the name?  It reflects my lineage - the skill and passion for art passed down to me, and manifesting in the next generation too.  I brought up my daughters to appreciate art, dragging them mercilessly from one free cultural event to another when they were girls.  They are both very creative women, and both wise beyond their years.  I am as proud of them as my mother was of me.  This shop honours the memory of Anne Collins Breen, who didn't get to leave her mark on the fashion world, but no doubt brought beautiful artistry to her work in the lab.