Category: Studio Diaries

Studio Diary: Class Prep, Dance & a Garden of Potential

Studio Diary: May 23, 2018

Art: I have a class coming up that is a part of a great bundle. I’m doing some experimentation as try to find the just right way of creating the experience that I’m hoping for the students. I want them to have a visceral, intuitive experience, take away techniques they can continue to use and also have an artifact to remind them of both.

I know that something’s working because I’m getting swept up the in the process myself as I experiment with different approaches. I managed to sneak in an hour before rehearsal yesterday and some time in the early morning today. I could easily have spent all day playing with paints and pastels!

Dance: We are one month away from the show! It’s hard to believe and incredibly motivating.  Yesterday we learned the first dance of the performance. It’s lively and fun and the music sticks with you. I was tired tonight and things were slow to sink in – that’s happening more too as we are holding more choreography in our memories.

For the dance we are arranged in lines and recently we had the opportunity to choose our spot, the place we feel most comfortable.  Yesterday the rehearsal director told us that, for a variety of reasons, there will be adjustments and we’ll be experiencing a bit of a shuffle. She also asked us to be generous and adapt to these changes.

Another lesson from performance : Your commitment must not waver but your expectations must be flexible.

This is one of those moments when you remember that you are in a relationship – with the other dancers, with the work itself, with the creative directors and eventually with the audience itself.  You are a part of something and one of the things that means is showing up for the greatest good.

As we move along in rehearsals, I think often about one of the lessons I learned in theatre. Not only is it not your job to correct, direct or ask another actor to give you what you need, but it is exceedingly bad form.  I think about it every time someone raises their hand with what sounds like a question but is actually, well, usually calling others out: “Is this part supposed to be loud? (pause) I mean, it seems like there are a lot of people that are making a lot of noise.” For me, this reaffirms my commitment to staying in my own sandbox.

Often our desire to fix things, to make things better, to correct other people is our own worry that things are going to go horribly wrong and we will be uncomfortable and embarrassed. How often do we do this in life too? How often do we try to control other people’s behaviour based on how it impacts us?

Give up trying to control the circumstance. You can not control others in order to make yourself more comfortable. Bring your attention back to yourself and do your best  work.

As a performer and a person, you are responsible for you. Yes, you can give help when asked but trust other people to be responsible for themselves. Trust the leaders too.

In the Garden:  I couldn’t love springtime in the garden more. This past week the birds have been singing joyously and I have loved listening to them. I’ve been dancing outside too. Since our performance will be outdoors, I thought it would be good to get used to the elements. Of course, I also bring my camera because the garden changes so subtly and often that I don’t want to miss a moment.

This year the daffodils have been a highlight for me. I haven’t had much success with them in earlier years, which made me sad because I planted them in honour of my Mom. When I was a girl in Montreal, we had a wonderful backyard. Half of it was covered with tall thin trees and beneath each one Mom planted yellow daffodils. They delighted me every spring. I felt like I was walking through a forest, finding beauty along the way.

Clematis Bud

Right now the garden is filled with potential – which was my Mom’s favourite word. Everything seems to just be about to happen.

Cranesbill Geranium

Including the sturdy Cranesbill Geranium which came from Justin’s mom’s garden. This beauty will grow just about anywhere! I’ve managed to tuck it into corners where dirt gathers and it has taken hold!

Peony Bud

The peonies are coming, and the ants are helping them along. I still haven’t managed to get a white peony in the garden! Perhaps after the renovation, when I’m rebuilding what inevitably be broken down, I’ll be sure to do that!

The tree peony looks like it will have several blooms this year. They bloom only briefly but they are spectacular. This was the first plant that I was really excited to put in the garden. I just happened to see it as I passed by a Loblaws one day and I brought it home. The first year it gave one singular but spectacular bloom. All these years later it is stronger, the blooms are bigger and more abundant. This tree peony must finally feel more at home.

I love watching the hosta unfurl. It’s shapes are so dramatic. Looking back over these photos it’s amazing to see the different light there is in the garden at the same time of day.

De Caen Poppy

But even as most of the garden is coming to life, some plants are also fading . The De Caen poppy is a wonderful early bloomer. When everything else was still battling the elements, she was coming to life. Even the end of her flowers are spectacular!

Now that everything’s growing well, it’s time to do some tending! With things so busy my much-loved garden often goes untended.  I am so grateful that despite the overgrowth, the beauty remains. Thank you, little Vinca, for the reminder.


Studio Diary: A Snapshot of My Creative Life

Studio Diary: May 21, 2018

Dance: I feel like I haven’t written at all about the amazing experience that I am having with Le Grand Continental in Toronto. I’m now in rehearsals 3 days a week as we move towards performing at Luminato. (The video is from Portland but I wanted to share it because it includes our choreographer, Sylvain Émard.)  I am so glad that I braved auditioning.

I do feel like we’re moving into that “this is getting real” stage when all the inner demons come out to play.  We start with the discomfort of the unknown countered with the excitement of possibility and new beginnings.

Then we get a little more comfortable and excited about learning something new and being a part of something amazing. At this stage, every success and challenge holds great weight. Our inner voice yells, “Look, I can still dance. i’m doing it!!” and “Omg, I’m messing up everything. What was I thinking? I’ll never remember all of this.” At this point, we dive in deeper or start to detach. Perhaps the direction we choose depends on which voice we believe the most.

For those of us who dove in deeper, we started working harder, building our strength, renewing our confidence or we decided to remember that we’re doing this for fun and stopped taking it so dang seriously.

Now we enter the stage when we really start to understand there will be an audience. The training wheels are coming off. The rehearsal director us giving us less clues and we must start to find our own way and recover from our missteps. The show must go on.

Last rehearsal I found myself fraught with emotions. I have no idea why. I just felt sensitive about everything.  Once again I realized the gift that meditation has given me.  For the first time, I aware of experiencing myself as separate from those emotions. I chose to acknowledge and honour them while bringing my focus onto the choreography  – just like watching my thoughts and coming back to my breathing. Afterwards I took it to my journal, giving myself time to experience and process all that had been stirred up by that day of dance.

Collage: The Collage Techniques of Anne Marie Grgich has wrapped up but I am still working on my two collages – the red and the yellow. I have loved learning from Anne. She is generous with her teaching, sharing the processes she has honed over years.  I haven’t come close to experimenting with all of the materials that she used but have gained so much by seeing the possibilities. i feel like I have stepped through a door into a much bigger room of what collage can be.

And that is perhaps why I am so frustrated that my pieces are still sitting on the kitchen table waiting for attention. They’ll need to move forward and/or be put away by next weekend as the seasonal Studio Yearbook packaging party begins! I have a demanding week so I’m not sure that I’ll get any time for them, though maybe on this holiday Monday I will sneak some in.

I’m also not sure whether the red piece is ready for completion. I love it as it is right now, so that’s an argument for “yes” but I also know that as a creative I have a tendency to stop when I “get it”, which isn’t necessarily the same place that is required to transmit the message to the viewer. I’ve asked for feedback in the class.

The Studio Yearbook & Ephemera: This week was the big launch of the summer Studio Yearbook. Now we move into production mode, including having a wonderful time gathering some ephemera for the First 100. On Friday, Shannon, Suzie and I went to Value Village to look for some treasures and spent the evening watching Netflix together and cutting up pages to find little bits of delight to share.  This is something I could do all day!

Photo by Justin

The Studio Kittens: After a spell of throwing up and a trip to the vet, Escher seems to be doing better. We tried several things and are not 100% sure which it was that tipped the balance but we are delighted that his tummy has settled. We’re also thankful that we were able to make this vet trip his yearly medical because picking him up and getting him into a carrier is quite a challenge!

Shibumi also ended up at the vet this week after getting some irritation in her eye. We have drops but thankfully it seems to have settled on its own.  We are glad that we had the chance to turn the outing into her regular check-up. Other than being a bit… well… shall we say, “sturdy,” and the issue with the eye, she’s doing great.  She’s bit of a bruiser this one.


Studio Diary: Collage Class & Book Ends

JRS Books for Collage

Collage is one of my favourite mediums and I love expanding the way that I think about it, exploring new techniques and approaches.  That’s why I signed up for The Collage Techniques of Anne Marie Grgich from Carla Sonheim Presents. (Oh, you know how I love Carla!)

Over the past week I have had a fabulous time engaging in this class. It even inspired a creative outing with my sisters.

The class suggests books as collage materials and so we took an outing to Book Ends, the Toronto Public Library’s used book store at the Reference Library. (There is another location in North York.) I have so many fond memories of this library! When I was in high school, I would sometimes (often) skip a day in favour of working on assignments here. I would pick a spot and set up shop, taking my boots off and surrounding myself with books. I would occasionally slip out for a coffee but I was soon back and working.

Book Ends with Shannon and Suzie

Shannon, Suzie and I had a wonderful time going through the books. Not surprisingly, Suzie came home with a few food books and Shannon spent precisely her budget on quite a range of choices! I found some beautiful books in the art, travel and garden sections. (Again, no surprise, lol. We are who we are!)Gather Collage Images

After acquiring the books, it was time to harvest images.  I know, we book lovers find it hard for to cut, tear, break apart a book. It just feels wrong somehow! Over the years I have become more comfortable with it, especially when using secondhand materials. It sometimes feels like giving work a new life and I feel such love for each of the pieces I use and gratitude towards the book itself.  I have made peace with it.

Next it was time to start putting a layer of collage on our canvas. I chose to work with a wood support because I find it so much easier for applying some pressure to smooth out the images. I use a linen cloth to do that, rubbing it down in the hopes of avoiding air bubbles. I’m only ever partially successful. I think every collage artist works to find the secret of smooth, well-adhered images.

Some lessons I’ve learned:

  • Be liberal with glue stick. If pockets form, it’s almost certainly because you missed a spot.
  • Consider using glue stick on the back of the piece and also on the support.
  • Whether you’re using glue stick or gel medium, smooth down each piece as you go. Use a bone folder, a credit card, a cloth or your fingers. (Only use the cloth with drier adhesive)
  • I’m experimenting with Yes paste. I didn’t enjoy the process as much with the Yes paste but I definitely feel my images lay flatter.
  • Let your glue dry overnight before using gel medium overtop.
  • Gel medium will impact the look of your work so stay unattached or don’t use it.

Red Collage

Usually with a piece this big I work at the kitchen table but I really wanted to be in my studio space. I did move downstairs for applying gel medium overtop.

It wasn’t tremendously successful. One strategy for removing bubbles is to use an Xacto knife to cut them open and then get some medium underneath and smooth it down. Our process uses such thick medium, that I didn’t find it successful. I did feel motivated to keep working on getting things smoother so I did a second collage using Yes paste as the adhesive. It was a bit more successful and now I have two collage pieces to work with for class.

My Studio Diaries Are Back

Jamie in a Beret

A couple of years ago, I started a series on my blog called Studio Diaries. It was a way of capturing and sharing the experiences, moments and insights of my creative life. (As I say that, it strikes me that it was also the beginning of the Studio Yearbook!!) Also, I missed blogging as a creative outlet, as a free and open space to follow my muse, a welcoming home for the wild stream of ‘stuff’ that consistently wants to pour out of my creative heart. I thought it would be a way of sharing possibilities, resources and learnings – plus a little bit more of me and my creative life.

I let it go for a variety of reasons, from someone telling me they didn’t love the series  to feeling conflicted about whether to share my own unfiltered process at the studio blog. A Studio Principle helped me decide to give it another go.

A Studio Principle convinced me to give it another go.

Studio Principle: There is room for you.

That phrase dropped into my heart and took hold during a Nia class several years ago. The class was full and we were moving! Our teacher noticed that many of us were pulling back, reining ourselves in because of the crowd. She called out, “There’s room for you!”

I could’ve cried. I had never heard those words before: “There’s room for you.” I decided to believe her and danced.

So, here and now, I am deciding that there is room for me. I’m envisioning ‘Studio Diaries’ as my personal studio space within the Jamie Ridler Studios complex. It reminds me of the open studios at Harbourfront, here in Toronto. Artists go about their work and the public can walk by and gaze in. They might catch someone firing some glass, assembling jewellery or eating their lunch  It is at one time both demystifying and inspiring. I hope that will be the case here.

My Studio Diaries will be irregular, unedited and unabridged. They will be just like a diary, the wild and true inner workings of my creative heart.


Studio Diaries 10: Photography, Comics & Crystallizing Moments

Shibumi Lens of Joy

One of the key ingredients of my studio life is being a lifelong learner. I am constantly enrolled in a class or classes and learning more about myself and my arts. As an instructor myself, I also love the opportunity to learn from other teachers and to become an ever better guide!

Rather spontaneously I signed up for Ali Edwards‘ photography class Lens of Joy. I’ve so enjoyed the beginning process of exploring my relationship to photography, thinking about my own art history with this medium and also about my voice as a photographer.

Jamie and Suzie Greenhouse
photo by Inta Ridler

In a whole new way I understand the creative and personal legacy of my mom, who captured our entire lives through her lens and who bought me my first camera.

JRS Comics Class 9 Pets

I’m also taking Summer Pierre’s Writing and Drawing Comics. I’ve had a lot of fun experiencing drawing drills and starting to work within the frame of a comic. It immediately brought me back to when I first started blogging. After being at it for a while, my ideas, stories and imaginings started to fit themselves into the blog format. Blogging became a framework for my imagination. I wonder if the same will happen with comics.

Wired to Create

I’m reading Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire and finding myself highlighting more than I’m not, including…

‘Many highly creative people can vividly remember a “moment, an encounter, a book that they read, a performance that they attended, that spoke to them and led them to say, “This is the real me, this is what I would like to do, to devote my life to, going forward,” says psychologist Howard Gardner.’

I have a moment like that, a moment when the light went on and I knew that I was a dancer. More to come on that later.

In the studio lately I’ve been listening over and over and over again to Build Me Up from Bones by Sarah Jarosz. The whole album is a treasure.

And no Studio Diary would be complete without visitation from at least one of the kittens. Enjoy this moment with Shibumi.

Creative Prompts for Your Studio (Remember, your life is your studio)

  • What’s next on your personal curriculum? What do you want to learn?
  • What’s your history with photography? (Or choose another art to explore)
  • Have you had a “crystallizing experience”, a moment of creative awakening? Write about it.
  • What music do you listen to in your studio? (Remember, your life is your studio) Is it time for a new music infusion?

Studio Diaries 9: Snow, Sickness & Good Reading

View from the Studio

Winter is having a hard time letting go of Toronto! I am thankful for more sunshine but I am ready for the snow to go.

First Signs of Spring 2016

Especially since last week my poor tulips and daffodils had started their journey in the garden. Every time I think of these spring flowers, I think of May Sarton and her book Plant Dreaming Deep. In it she talked about the battle of the bulbs that is waged every year with the surrounding wildlife. Whereas my solution has been to try to protect my few bulbs with this chicken wire, May chose to plant hundreds of bulbs, knowing that some of them would be her contribution to the winter diet of squirrels. I am inspired by that abundance and generosity. Perhaps next year I will plant dozens more.

JRS 2016-04-06 Racoon

In our neighbourhood it is not only the squirrels but also the raccoons that are out looking for food. I was surprised to see this one out in the middle of the day. Though they are super cute, they can really be a problem so we’d prefer not to feed them. Though we discovered a couple of years ago we were…

That was the end of the bird feeder!

 Bedside Table

It’s nice there is so much to experience right through my window because I’m tucked inside for a bit. Unfortunately, I’m under the weather so I am taking a couple of days to rest and hopefully kick this congestion to the curb. I’m curled up under the blankets, with kittens at my feet and a big pile of journals and books at the ready. Perhaps you’ll see some of these in an upcoming Creative Living Bookshelf! That is if I can stay up long enough to read them!

Creative Prompts for Your Studio (Remember, your life is your studio)

  • What are you having a hard time letting go of? What would help you release?
  • Where are you being protective when abundance and generosity might serve you better?
  • What books are on your bedside table?

Studio Diaries 8: Journal Club, Art Day & Kittens

2016-04-01 First Journal Club

It’s been an amazingly productive time in the studio. Last week we started Journal Club and it is a joy already!  What a blessing to spend an hour a week dedicated to your journal practice in a community of sensitive and supportive creative souls! As soon as we started, I heard one of my favourite mantras rolling around in my heart, “More of that, please!”

Art Day

I have learned the power of “more” through my ongoing Art Day practice. Every other Sunday my sister Shannon and I meet up for an afternoon of creating. As we’ve developed this creative habit, one of the most important insights I’ve gained is that the more you create, the freer you are. When you know there are more coming, each piece does not have to contain the sum total of your gifts. It is not the one and only precious piece of proof that you have talent or the devastating message you have none (Impossible!). It is simply a piece of creative work, one among many, each one adding to your skill, your knowledge and your body of work. If you want to grow confidence in your creative work, create, create, create!

Art Day Shannon's Work

Currently Shannon and I are enrolled in Carla Sonheim’s yearlong Y is for Yellow course and we are beginning to work on a series. It’s amazing how your mindset shifts when you add that word. Shannon and I have both noticed our inner critic have been activated! Suddenly we are no longer having fun doing exercises around the kitten table. Now we are creating “pieces” for a “series”.  It’s like things suddenly got “serie-ous”! During this exploration one of the things we’ve talked about a lot is what makes something a ‘piece’?  Any thoughts?

Creating a Series

For my series, I’ve decided to work on 9×9 found drawings in watercolour backgrounds, mostly because I just love creating them. They have shown me that my creative imagination is full of landscapes, flowers and creatures. My subject matter leans to “wonder.”

I’ve been thinking about this in terms of my photography too. What do I love to photograph? What are the themes that run through my photos?

Scout & Escher

No doubt the studio kittens have been my favourite subject matter since they arrived. (In fact, I’ve endured a bit of teasing about that!) I love the way the kittens allow me to get truly candid shots and my goal is always to capture their personalities. I try to do that on video too!

Scout, Shibumi and Escher all get excited when I open the cupboard and pull out something from their toybox. They each have their particular favourites. Shibumi never gets tired of playing fetch with her little soccer balls. Escher loves plastic springs and small rolling balls. Scout remains true to their very first toy: paper balls. And they all love, love, love these little mice toys. In this video, Scout shows his enthusiasm while the others look on.

There’s always time to play in the studio!

Creative Prompts for Your Studio (Remember, your life is your studio)

  • Invite a friend out for a journaling coffee date.  It’s beautiful to sit quietly together and write.
  • Put an “Art Day” on your schedule. Take an afternoon to dive into watercolours or art journaling or photography. Whatever creative medium calls to you, give it some of your time.
  • Give yourself permission to create loads! The more you create, the more adept you become and the less pressure you put on each piece.
  • What activates your inner critic? How do you respond?
  • Explore the question, “When does something become a piece”? How do you know when it is there?
  • Explore the idea of a series. If you were to create a series of your work, what would you focus on?
  • Looking at your own creations, what themes do you notice recur? What do you draw, paint, photograph, write about, again and again and again?
  • Why not just go for it? Create a series!
  • Take some time to play. What would you like to play with?