Monday, June 30, 2014

Canadian Artist Showcase: Art by Putzy

Wow, it's 30th June which marks the end of the financial year here in Australia. The other thing it marks is the end of our virtual tour of Canada, we hope you have enjoyed it.  We will finish things off by showcasing a fabulous Canadian artist.

Previously located in the Beaches of Toronto, Hamilton, and later Paris, France, Art by Putzy is now based in the Niagara region of Ontario. As well as being a professional visual artist, Putzy (Elizabeth) Madronich is a consultant and artist educator for the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Living Through the Arts and Learning Through the Arts programs. 

Putzy's beautiful studio in Port Colburne, ON
We were very lucky to have the chance to catch up with Putzy and ask her a few questions about her work and sources of inspiration.

Why art?

Creating visual art is an essential part of who I am. It’s what makes me, me. It’s what gives my life definition, satisfaction and purpose. It’s how I interpret the world.

Putzy (Elizabeth) Madronich
Even though I’m not looking for it, I am captivated and inspired by the beauty of ordinary objects that might go unnoticed by others – the texture on fossils or a peeling painted barn board, the shadows of plants or objects in the late afternoon sun. The vibrant colours found in nature, sunsets, flowers and bugs, the wind blowing through a field of tall grasses.

All of this gets filed away and brought out when I’m painting. I collect small lovely things like wrappers and stones and wine labels, pieces of glass, anything I find that has an interesting pattern, shape, colour, or texture. I could never imagine not making art. I won’t leave my studio for a weekend without bringing art supplies and my camera. They are more important to me than clothes and a toothbrush.

What work do you most enjoy doing?

I love the spontaneous results of watercolour, also its transparency and light. I enjoy the smell of beeswax and the primitive designs created while playing with batik. However, collage is my ultimate joy and challenge. I use hundreds of tiny objects, pieces of hand printed papers and many other materials in my collage pieces. It is very difficult to retain the integrity of the subject itself while assembling all those pieces into a unified whole, that has balance, great colour and textures, and the right values. 
Egypt by Putzy

Where is your most inspirational place?

My most inspirational place has been Marrakech, Morocco. I traveled there not long ago, with my
brother Charles, who is a fine photographer. We spent days painstakingly setting up shots: framing
them up, assessing the light, taking turns in the view finder and finally, inventing covert ways in which to include people in the background without upsetting them. Each narrow street is a frenzied tangle of life – donkey carts piled high with pots, vendors trying to seduce you into their stalls with sweet mint tea, blind men soliciting alms, bicycles, scooters, fortune tellers, story tellers, snake charmers, pick-pockets, mad men and hustlers of every kind.

Moroccan Bazaar by Putzy
Vivid colours also flood the marketplace in the mounds of oranges, saffron, pickled lemons, olives, dried apricots, figs, pistachios and sweet meats. The colours are so overwhelming, the beauty so obvious, so simple. It affects all your senses simultaneously with such incredible intensity that you can’t help but to channel that energy into a work of art that you can share with others.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Great advice I have received is “paint every day for a set number of hours religiously.”

The best piece of advice I would give would be this: When painting, never be concerned with whether or not people will love or hate your work. Paint only for yourself and be uninhibited. Go out on a limb and take risks. It’s the only way one can ever do anything great. 
Antique Store in France by Putzy
Visit and "Like" the Art by Putzy Facebook page for more information and to stay up-to-date on Putzy’s art and adventures!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Canadian Artist Showcase: My Friend Monster

Far, far away on the West Coast of Canada in Victoria, British Columbia, a creative “creature-maker” births monsters from rescued wool sweaters and heaps of love. It all started in 2009, when Terri Wild was intrigued with the idea of crafting with upcycled wool sweaters.  Soon after, My Friend Monster was born, and has since continued to make one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly monster plushies.

Photo by Sarah Funk at Silver Lamb Studios
Recently, we were able to ask Terri a few questions about her unique creations.

Why monsters?

Hm, good question! My short answer is: Why not? The long answer is that I stumbled across “creature” making as an art form one day while surfing the Internet and I was intrigued. So I tried could say it was love at first stitch!

Photo by Sarah Funk at Silver Lamb Studios
Describe your creative process. How do you go about creating your monsters?

First, I search all [of] my local thrift stores for wool sweaters. [They have] to be at least 80% wool or it won’t felt. I use lambs wool, merino, cashmere, angora, etc.
Then I launder and felt all the sweaters in my trusty, top-loading washing machine. Wet felting is the
process of “shrinking” the woolen sweater in hot water and soap with agitation. This creates a fabric that is perfect for crafting with! Some sweaters have to be washed twice to attain the desired level of “felted-ness”, others don’t felt the way I want at is always a bit of a mystery! After air-drying, the sweaters are ready to go!

Next I cut each sweater apart and sew the monsters one at a time, without using a pattern. I design as I go, so each monster turns out to be one of a kind! I have techniques that I repeat, such as the way I construct the mouth or legs, but I don’t sketch it out or create patterns before I make the monster. My workshop is usually piled high with cut up scraps, and folded colourful sweaters, which inspires me as well. I love finding colour and pattern combinations that make interesting monsters! I find that the more monsters I make, the more inspired I get!

Where is your favourite (or most inspirational) place?

Oh dear, do I have to pick just one?! Nature and animals inspire me, and I think undersea creatures are the most fascinating! The seashore and the local aquarium are my favourite places. I love watching documentaries about coral reefs, as well as the deep-water creatures that are so crazy looking!

Photo by Sarah Funk at Silver Lamb Studios
What is your dream project?

To make a monster so large [that] you can climb inside his mouth and snuggle up for a nap.

What do you enjoy when you aren’t creating your adorable monsters?

When not birthing monsters, I am hanging out with my husband and our 9-year-old daughter. I enjoy spending time outdoors, hiking and camping. I also practice karate, and love to play soccer.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Why?

Oooooh! Good question! I would love to be able to teleport anywhere in the world. I could visit any country in an instant! Either that or telekinesis - I would love to make the dishes wash themselves...

Photo by Sarah Funk of Silver Lamb Studios

Check out the My Friend Monster Etsy Shop to take a closer look at Terri's incredible creatures!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Canadian Restaurant Showcase: The Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply

Next up on our tour of Canada is a pit stop in the nation’s Capital Region. Ottawa is home to a bevvy of unique restaurants and cafés, so it was pretty difficult to choose just one to showcase – but we’ve finally decided on The Whalesbone! Read on for more information on the spot that was aptly described by the Food Gypsy as “THE maritime-hillbilly, loud and rowdy, tiny postage-stamp-sized place with morals of a sailor and the ethics of a librarian”.

The Oyster House by The Whalesbone

The Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply breaks down into three divisions: the Oyster House, the Whalesbone Sustainable Oyster & Fish Supply and Catering. These three divisions make up the region’s only 100% sustainable supplier of oysters and fish. The Whalesbone is a certified Ocean Wise supplier; this certification demonstrates their ongoing commitment to protecting the environment and maintaining sustainable seafood sourcing practices, all the way from catch to consumer. Their minimalist menus are all-Canadian, sustainably sourced Ocean Wise-approved items - and delicious too!

Photo by The Whalesbone

At the Oyster House and Oyster & Fish Supply the menu changes daily with the shipments – as the Whalesbone says, “we’re all at the mercy of mother nature and the fisherman’s luck”! A sample offering from the Oyster House menu might include the Scallop Ceviche or Fish Cake Bahn Mi. Over at the Oyster & Fish Supply you will have a superb selection at the fish counter, which may include Whalesbone’s House Smoked Wild Atlantic Mackerel, Brown Sugar Cured Wild Pacific Salmon, Artic Charr, Smoky Octopus, Walleye, Bass, Albacore Tuna, and (of course) oysters. The icing on the cake is their delicious Brown Bag Lunch menu. While everything is delectable, the Catch o’ Day is a true favourite: a breaded wild pacific cod fillet with caper and roast garlic mayo, carmelized onions, mango hot sauce and iceberg lettuce all served up on a gorgeous hand-shaped bun, baked locally at True Loaf Bakery.  Yum!

Ottawa Magazine describes The Whalesbone as organic in the most natural sense: gritty, primal, and sometimes messy.  Indeed, the Oyster House and the Whalesbone Oyster & Fish Supply exude the genuine vitality and feel-good atmosphere that is hard to come by these days. Next time you are lucky enough to be traipsing around Ottawa, stop in and enjoy all that it has to offer!

Today's Oysters by The Whalesbone

Friday, June 20, 2014

Canadian Showcase: The Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour

"Landscape" by Annette Blady of Miskwabi Treehouse Studio
The Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour offers a unique chance for locals and visitors to drop in on a number of the artists in the area. This self-guided driving and art tour usually takes place during the first two weekends in October, which means prime-time viewing opportunities of the exquisite fall colours. Heading into their 27th annual tour, the Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour now features 27 artists specialising in a wide variety of mediums.

Haliburton is located in the heart of Cottage Country, approximately 2.5 hours Northeast of Toronto. This rural area is a favourite among city-dwellers looking to find a little weekend rest-and-relaxation. With an abundance of lakes, rivers, trees and rocks, Haliburton truly captures the spirit and splendor of the Canadian Shield. This is also the home of the Haliburton School of the Arts; this school is popular worldwide as a superb destination for art students to visit and take courses in a variety of mediums. Many of the artists featured on the tour are part-time faculty at the school.

We’ve included just a small sampling of the many artists now featured on this tour. The Haliburton Highlands Studio Tour provides a fantastic opportunity to discover where and how the local artists live and work, as well as observe their creative process through demonstrations and conversations. Perhaps best of all, this tour offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience - from multi-media paintings to fiber-art and metal work - sounds like our sort of tour!
Works by Lisa Barry of Homestead Pottery
Work by Gary Chapman

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Canadian Market Showcase: The Bastion Square Public Markets

via Bastion Square Public Market
To continue our celebration of Canada (being our current Country Of The Month), we thought we would showcase one of their fantastic markets.  Bastion Square is located in the heart of beautiful downtown Victoria, British Columbia and is the original site of old Fort Victoria.  For the past nineteen years, Bastion Square has been home to the colourful, open-air Bastion Square Public Market. The Bastion Square Public Market is open during the day on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from May until September. The Bastion Square Sunday Market (which also features a fabulous farmer’s market) is open on Sundays during the same time frame.

The Hudson’s Bay Company first built Fort Victoria as a secondary trading post in 1843; however, in 1846 Fort Victoria became a primary trading post which resulted in an expansion and the building of what is now known as Bastion Square. From a fur trading post to a hot-spot for Gold Rush workers, Bastion Square evolved as its surrounding population grew and thrived. This important heritage site is now home to many of the oldest buildings and landmark structures in the city.

Today, this spectacular heritage site is a seasonal home to an array of local artists. This year’s weekday vendors include artists that produce and sell stainless steel spoon and fork jewelry, seaweed pressings and prints, woodwork, alpaca knits, leather-crafted items, and moccasins – just to name a few! This year’s Sunday market vendors carry items such as wheel-thrown pottery, whimsical hand-made cards, monster plushies handcrafted from up-cycled wool sweaters, as well as a variety of glass creations.  You are sure to stumble upon something fantastic and unique when you visit the Bastion Square Markets!

With an incredibly interesting historical past, Bastion Square once held a jail, gallows and a brothel! Today this vibrant area is a social and cultural hub of historic downtown Victoria. You can spend your day soaking in the historical splendor of this location as you watch local artisans as they create or just sit back and enjoy the market atmosphere at one of the many local outdoor cafes.  Sounds like a lovely way to spend the day...
Image courtesy of City Of Victoria Website
via City of Victoria
via Flickr by InSapphoWeTrust

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Canada Until Now

We have decided to have a bit of fun with some virtual travelling by featuring a different Country on our blog each month.  And to get us started, we put lots of Country names into a hat and pulled out... Canada! 

via Flickr by Alex Indigo
Canadians are known worldwide for their pleasant demeanor, tendency to over-apologize and extreme love of ice hockey. We’ve put together a list of fifteen interesting, fun and random facts about Canada and Canadians:
1   Canada is the second largest country in the world – it has ten provinces, three territories and spans across six time zones.

2   Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, is the second coldest capital in the world. Average winter temperatures sit around -10°C, but are known to regularly drop as low as -40°C.  

3  The Canadian national motto is A Mari Usque ad Mare, meaning “from sea to sea”.  

4  The highest tides in the world occur in New Brunswick at the Bay of Fundy. The vertical tidal effect measures at approximately 50 feet! 

via Flickr by Boris Kasimov
5  Canadian’s have invented some pretty fantastic things that are now used worldwide. These inventions include: Trivial Pursuit™, the telephone, IMAX theatres, the electric wheelchair and insulin. Canadians are also credited with the discovery of stem cells.

There are more doughnut shops in Canada per capita than any other country. Thank you, Tim Hortons!
via Flickr by Scazon

7  The Rideau Canal, located in Ottawa, is a UNESCO world heritage site and transforms into the world’s longest skating rink each winter. 

8  Canada is home to 2.4 million caribou and 15,000 of the world’s 25,000 polar bears. 

9  In Saskatchewan a hooded sweater is called a “bunnyhug”. 

10  77% of the world’s maple syrup is made in the province of Québec. 

11 While Canadians are known for their intense love of ice hockey, the official sport of the country is actually lacrosse.  

via Flickr by s.yume

12  The year 1835 marks the first known use of the term “Canuck” when referring to a Canadian.

13  Canadians fondly refer to their one-dollar coins as “loonies”, and two-dollar coins as “toonies”. 

14  The province of Alberta is home to a national park that is larger than the country of Switzerland! Wood Buffalo National Park, created in 1922, protects the world’s largest herd of roaming Wood Bison. 

15  Famous (or, in some cases, infamous) Canadian celebrities include: Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Celine Dion, The Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan, William Shatner and Gordon Lightfoot.

Check back soon for more interesting information on the beautiful country and people of Canada!