On Tuesday & Friday mornings I invite you Behind the Scenes at my studio.
Today: One of my focus areas is “Life” and I made sure to honour it with an adventure this weekend. I also received another wonderful self-portrait and a gift too! Plus, I announce how to get early bird access to the Studio Yearbook (It’s easy!)
You never know what will send you on an adventure! This week it’s beer! Well, beer and Father’s Day. Since Dad was traveling in Scotland on the actual day, we had plans to celebrate this weekend. It seemed like divine timing when I came across the launch of a new microbrewery beer named for the Humber River, one of my dad’s childhood haunts. He often uses the river’s clean-up as an example of how the world can, indeed, become a better place. Perfect.
So on Saturday Justin and I went on an adventure out to Junction Craft Brewing. It’s on the other side of the city but this was an opportunity not to be missed. Admittedly we were a bit skeptical as we got off the bus and walked towards what we hoped was the location behind this big and unwelcoming wall. The sign ‘beer’ gave us hope but it turned out to be a different brewery.
As we walked a little further, we passed by these big logs and caught sight of an interesting old building. According to the brewery, they have made their home in what was originally a City of Toronto incinerator called “The Destructor.”
Yep, we were in the right place. Clearly it’s a lot more welcoming these days!
We walked in and immediately enjoyed the ambiance of the location. Reclaimed old buildings are such treasures and this one is no exception. The high ceilings, the brick walls, the good wood, the still-industrial feel, all of it makes for a cool place to hang out.
We arrived just as the launch event was beginning.
The feeling that this was just the right thing for my dad continued as we saw this…
My dad worked for Esso for many years. In fact, it was his first big job out of university. Clearly we were in the right place to find something special and meaningful for him.
Of course we had to sample the wares and found the Humber River Pilsner to be a wonderfully clean, crisp beer that felt just right for summer. Even better was knowing that the brewery had collaborated with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a charity which focuses on keeping our water clean enough for swimming, fishing and drinking. My dad certainly approves of those activities! The only disappointment was discovering that someone had misspoken when they said the beer was actually made from Humber River water. Untrue. Perhaps the label art by Matt James, would make up for it. It does a beautiful job capturing the wonderfully Torontonian mix of the water, trees, fish and the subway passing by on the bridge.
At the event I was blown away by the having the opportunity to hear a performance by Juno-nominated artist Dayna Manning. Years and years ago I went to one of her concerts in a tiny twinkie-light lit venue upstairs at the Big Bop (as it was called then). It was intimate and beautiful and she stole our hearts. On Saturday I was absolutely captivated even before I realized who this rare and beautiful voice belonged to. What a gift!
We decided to keep the adventure going and sampled the brewery’s regular fare. I rather enjoyed the Raspberry Sour and Justin tried out the Stationmaster’s Stout.
For the event, food was provided by The Arepa Republic, a Venezuelan food truck. Justin and I both tried out the Pabellon – shredded flank steak, black beans, fried sweet plantain and white cheese. Delicious!! The plantain in particular added so much to the life of this meal. Memorable!
For years Justin and I have loved going on Saturday adventures. Heading out to Junction Craft Brewing for the launch of the Humber River Pilsner gave us the perfect motivation to have a wonderful outing ourselves while bringing home something really special for my dad.
I can tell you that both the beer and the stories were a hit!
So much has been happening that I want to pull out each of my current activities and put them down here in my diary, like I’m emptying my bag and having a look at what all has piled up in there while I wasn’t looking! First – reno chaos* and the studio.
As soon as my show finished, it was straight into preparing for the reno. Packing, boxes, moving and storage estimates filled our days! I struggled with finding a matrix for making good decisions about what to bring and what to let get of. Justin and I are having deep and meaningful discussions about the nature of things, space and what we want for our home, our selves and one another.
Justin helped me make progress on my books, encouraging me to start with simply packing the ones that were dearest to me, the ones that elicited an immediate “Yes!” Yes to the Secret Garden. Yes to Come, thou, Tortoise. Yes to Writing Down the Bones. I started to take that approach in every room and it helped. One, two or three boxes of immediate yeses in each room. And lots of piles and questions left behind.
I also made amazing progress with my mom’s stuff and the timing seems just right, as we marked the 5th anniversary of her passing on June 28th of this year. My goal is to transform the 7 or so boxes of her things into one and I am almost there.
Amazingly, just as we were getting lost in the process, we found out that our application for an extension needed to go to the committee of adjustment… and the earliest date was November 7th. That changed everything. We thought. We talked. We strategized. We asked for advice. Then the other night as we were coming closer to a decision, I could feel both Justin and I settle. We would continue to go for the design we wanted and we would push our reno to the spring. Everything about it felt right. Even more so when today I called the city to find out how old our house is. “It was built in 1919,” the woman at MPAC told me. “Really? So next year will be its 100th birthday?” “Well, yes, it will be.”
Now I feel so badly for have completely neglected the garden. It didn’t seem to make any sense at all to plant and putter when construction guys would be walking through with equipment and throwing things in the yard. I have been amazed by how consistently anyone that comes to work on the house shows absolutely no regard whatsoever for the garden. One guy who was just there to give us an estimate on some tree work walked right on top of my tulips without hesitation. I couldn’t help but think it signaled how much care he would take of the whole job.
Despite the garden being overgrown and left to its own devices, there is still beauty there. Two years ago I planted a white rose and last year it gave one singular bloom. This year it is more generous and I couldn’t be more delighted.
This time of year we see a lot of raccoons. This family seems to have claimed quite at least a 6-house radius around back. On this day they faced quite a dilemma. The two little babies below simply couldn’t find their way up. They were at it for at least an hour! I’m not sure whether Mom came down or babies finally made it up. I’m betting on the mom.
One of the things we are letting go of is boxes and boxes of our childhood Lego. Every one of us played with these pieces. Suzie has done an amazing job creating a series of photos for their sale on eBay. We hope that they will find a really good new home. I’m delighted to have such evocative photos and the memories of everyone playing together one last time!
On July 3rd it was the third anniversary of the day I went out for coffee and came home with three kittens. No one believes me but the truth is that I never intended to give them all a home. I sincerely just wanted to help them on their healing journey and then let them find their forever home(s). We had just said goodbye to Jinx and to Shannon’s cat Gobo. We needed some time to heal and didn’t want to rush into anything – but sometimes the Universe has other ideas.
Thinking about it now I see how all of our cats have been misfits. The beautiful Bascha was a flea-bitten, scraggly 3-lb stray who would nip at you if you tried to pet her. Jinx was a soft-hearted goofball who most people didn’t seem to quite ‘get’. Now these Escher, Shibumi and Scout, with their wild and strong personalities, are a part of our family. I wouldn’t change a thing.
On Tuesday & Friday mornings I invite you Behind the Scenes at my studio.
Today: Sometimes things going awry is just what’s needed to get them on track – and sometimes it’s an excuse to have fun no matter what! Plus – more Bulletin Board self-portraits and a new book from Jeanne Oliver
One June 24th I was deep in the final performance of Le Grand Continental, a 30-minute dance piece performed by over 200 dancers here in Toronto as a part of the Luminato arts festival. The photo above is a moment of sheer bliss during dress rehearsal. The show was an experience of a lifetime.
In a post-show conversation, the rehearsal director, Bonnie Kim, mentioned that it was too bad we hadn’t had time to hear everyone’s stories and I agreed. I know that in this photo alone each person has a tale to tell of their relationship with dance and what brought them to this moment. Here’s mine.
Dance is my first love. I remember as a small girl dancing tirelessly as my grandmother played piano. I remember in elementary school choreographing numbers for the friends in my neighbourhood and performing them in class. I remember summer acting classes that were ‘meh’ until the movement instructor arrived. I remember in high school going to Marjorie’s studio from 4:00 to 10:30 every weekday and teaching ‘the babies’ on Saturday mornings. I remember how, in my teenage years, I lived in unraveling grey leg warmers and a sweatshirt with sparkling letters that said, “Born to Dance.”
Though the love, passion and hard work were in me, I came to training late for a dancer. I was 15 before I took formal dance classes. I was also short, curvy and even though I spent hours soaking in a hot tub and wore pants that would warm my muscles and I stretched… stretched… and stretched…, I just wasn’t built with the extension that gives you Rockette kicks.
I may have been born to dance but, according to the world, I wasn’t built to be a dancer.
So, after high school, I let it go.
It broke my heart. If a magical creature had crossed my path and said, “Jamie, you can be a dancer but you will have to give up everything else – and I truly mean everything.” I would have said, “Yes,” without hesitation. Even so, I let it go. Without magical intervention, being a dancer just didn’t seem possible.
Instead I went to university to study English. Eventually, that turned into studying drama, which turned into studying theatre. I found myself on stage again but this time acting. Eventually people heard about my background and began to ask me to be their choreographer or movement director. I said yes. I always said yes. Dance found its way back to me.
Later, during one of the greatest transitional periods of my life, dance and I deepened our relationship once more. While in grad school, I left my long-time boyfriend. I stepped into my independence and onto the dance floor. I was out 6-nights a week clubbing with my sister Shannon. Night after night, I sweat my heart out on the dance floor. Night after night, I remembered who I was.
Since then, I have never forgotten that I am a dancer. it doesn’t matter that I am short and curvy and lack extension. It doesn’t matter now, that I am older. It doesn’t matter whether the professional world agrees or not. The profession does not have the power to mediate my relationship with dance unless I let it.
I wish I’d known that all those years ago.
I want you to know that now.
No one gets to stand between you and your art. That relationship is direct and pure and true.
Pick up your guitar or your paintbrush or your pen. Sing. Dance. Design.
Don’t spend one more moment separated from an art you love.
Don’t live one more moment not being who you truly are.
I am so thankful that I found the courage to participate in Le Grand Continental, that I was able to experience and express myself as a dancer this season. I am thankful for the vision of Sylvain Emard, who created a show that was open to all ages, sizes and levels of training, a show that comes to life in many communities and leaves a legacy of joy, hope and connection.
Perhaps even the professional world is discovering there is room for all of us on the dance floor.
After auditioning and rehearsals for Le Grand Continental at the Luminato arts festival, it was time to start moving into performance mode. We had a beautiful night for our dress rehearsal. The sky was clear, the temperature comfortable and our energy could not be contained!
Because we were performing Le Grand Continental in a public space, our first time on the ‘stage’ at Nathan Phillips Square gave us an early taste of what it was like to share this dance with an audience.
I was incredibly lucky that the audience included my two sisters, Shannon and Suzie. They were there beaming at me from the stands and taking tons of pictures!
Our choreographer, Sylvain Emard, was pleased! We were ready for opening night. The experience was spectacular!
I will hold these moments and this experience in my heart forever. And if every the music comes on, I’m sure to jump into Funky” and “Caravan” without hesitation and smile knowingly at “Ima” and “Boogie.” Each number a mood that caresses my soul and reminds me of the power of Le Grand Continental – this summer, this city, this dance.