Author Archives: DeirdreD

I Learned How To Scroll Saw Today, What Did You Do?

To say I live in a remote part of Canada may be an understatement. The town I live in is approximately 500 people strong and a hair south of the arctic circle in the Northwest Territories. There are no permanent roads in or out, no coffee shops, no retail stores, no theatres, nada, nuthin’, zip, zilch. What’s a girl to do in a town like this?

I took up scroll sawing, natch.

A scroll saw is a craft tool used to create intricate and fine detail into thin pieces of wood. Those who are well practiced in this craft can literally turn blocks of wood into lace. I thought if I could learn to scroll saw, then I could stay busy AND force all my friends and family to display my ‘art.’

This is Gord. Gord has been scroll sawing for about 15 years and has graciously offered to teach me EVERYTHING he knows.  Gord is also from Newfoundland, which means that half of the time I don’t even know what he is saying, but he does tell me “good job b’y” which I think means I’m doing ok.

These lace beauties are the result of Gord’s handiwork. I’d say I feel pretty good about him as a teacher.

Because my roommates and I had just cut down our Christmas tree from the woods, I had ornaments on the brain. I found some free vector images of feathers on the internet and thought they’d be a good and easy first project. Some other tools that were needed, in addition to a scroll saw, were thin craft plywood, spray glue, stencil, scissors, and sandpaper.

The first thing I learned is, that because the wood is thin, it is much easier to saw through three pieces, plus you get three times the finished product with each cut (efficiency!). The three pieces of wood are taped around the entire perimeter to hold them together. The stencil of feathers is then roughly cut out and adhered to the board with spray glue.

I also learned the basics of using a scroll saw. It’s beautifully simple. A blade is held in between two pairs of clamps, as well, there is an on and off dial that rotates to adjust speed.

Before I was allowed to get at my feathers, I had to practice on nonsense shapes (wax on, wax off). Shown above are my feathers after they had been cut out and glued to the three pieces of craft plywood and placed on the scroll saw.

My feathers! Once they were cut, they were sanded down with 150 gauge sandpaper and an even finer 240 gauge sandpaper. Aren’t they bee-u-tee-ful? I still need to varnish them and figure out a way to hang them from the tree, but I’m very satisfied with the result to this point.


Posted in Design | Tagged ,

DIY: Sketch all the time (or you know, whenever)

Cave of Chauvet

The Cave of Chauvet.  Image via The Ministry of  Culture and Communication, France

Two Things: 1) I like to sketch, 2) I’m not very good at drawing

I have heard it said that people like what they are good at. If this were true, then I shouldn’t enjoy the movement of pencil over paper, but I do, I really do. So what gives?

Sketching is indiscriminate. It doesn’t care if you are good or bad or that all you have to sketch on is the backside of a recycled essay on Kumashiro’s anti-oppressive pedagogy.

Sketching begs you to be bad. It wants you to be quick and messy. Sketching says: “Make mistakes, I dare you!” “Go ahead use that crumpled newspaper,” and most menacingly “I laugh in the face of your eraser.”

Sketching is frivolous. There is no finished project or end goal and because of this, sketching is a chance to play with composition, movement, texture, expression and light, without anxiety.  A sketch can’t be wrong; it’s just between you and the paper. Best of all, when you do like what you’ve sketched, it can become the blueprint for a shirt you want to design, or a chair you want to build, or the large canvas landscape you’d love to paint. Or maybe the sketch becomes the art itself.

Van Gogh's Study of Six HandsVincent Van Gogh, Study of Six Hands.  Image via Codart

Most importantly, sketching allows for anyone and everyone to include creativity into their life daily. It can literally only take up a minute of your day to sketch something.

Whether you are a novice sketcher or an old hand, here are some nuggets of wisdom to help get your pencil to paper (or pen to napkin, or charcoal to notebook, or conté to…you get the picture)

  1. 1. Pick your poison:

pencils on the table

I like to use a pencil and any available paper. I like a pencil because if I don’t like something I can just draw over top of it with more pressure. Other writing implements that work great for sketching are charcoal and conté.  I recommend keeping a notebook with you so that you can use it like a visual journal, especially if you commit to sketching on a regular basis.

2. Ditch the eraser

Jordan Ramsey nude sketchSketch by Jordan Ramsay

Sketching should be dirty and your pencil should continue flowing. Don’t worry about making mistakes. let the pencil move like a stream of consciousness. If you don’t like the curve of a particular line, then just draw over it.

3. Time Yourself

Gesture DrawingsGesture drawings

Try capturing a movement or a moment within a set time limit. This is a good way to capture action or mood or the whole picture without getting too boggled up with the tiny details. For example, give yourself four minutes to sketch kids playing ball.  OR give yourself four minutes to sketch something with as much detail as you can. Setting time limits helps eliminate the urge to erase or become focused on minutiae.

4. Don’t Look Down

sketch using blind contour drawing techniqueSketch by Jordan Ramsey. My friend Jordan often sketches without looking down, as seen above. It’s all part of her style.

Have a crack at blind contour drawing. While your sketching, try and get the contours of the subject on the paper without breaking your gaze with the subject…Just draw the edges of what you are looking at without looking down.

5. Sketch on the Go

Pelee Island Sketch Sketch I did while at Pelee Island

If you carry pencil and paper around with you, then you can try sketching in all sorts of locations with all kinds of subjects. Here are some ideas:

People on Public Transit

Dogs in the park

Sculptures in museums

Flowers in a garden

Food at restaurants

Nudes at the Gladstone (sorry, this one’s Toronto based, but I highly recommend it. It’s drop-in and uninstructed!)

What are your tips? Do you have any great places to sit down and sketch?


Posted in Design | Tagged ,

A Trip To The Windy City

Chicago The Windy City - printImage via Windy City Prints

Chicago is probably one of my favourite U.S. cities. I love everything about it, I love the way they pronounce their As (al- lives for olives or sari for sorry), I love the big city with the Midwestern charm, and I l-o-v-e their Elevated trains, like the way a kid obsesses over choo-choos. There are more than 100 neighbourhoods in the City of Chicago, and each offers up their own distinct experience. On a visit here, the choice of what to do and where to go can be overwhelming, but donworryaboudit I have some ideas for you.

Have a picnic in Wicker Park

A picnic in Wicker Park

Head down Damen, pick up some tasty prepared foods from the Goddess and Grocer and take it over to Wicker Park (the park for which the neighbourhood is named). I picked up an iced mango black tea and a red velvet whoopie pie (part cake, part cookie, all delicious) and caught a game of softball at the park. The whoopie pie is rich enough to share so it’s easy on the budget.

Goddess and Grocer Whoopie Pie

Bonus: while in the neighbourhood check out all the interesting shops. Here were my two favourites: Rudy’s Roundup and Stitch.

Critique art in Pilsen

vintage and art shop Whisky Ginger

Every second Friday of the month in Pilsen, the self-proclaimed Chicago Arts District, hosts “2nd FRIDAYS Gallery Night.” This event sees 30 galleries open their doors, free of charge, from 6pm to 10pm for the public to view original work from Chicago artists. Unfortunately, my stay in Chicago didn’t over lap a 2nd FRIDAY, but the lovely Whisky Ginger opened its doors for me. Stevie Koerner and Dan Knispel, owners of Whisky Ginger, have been taking vintage finds and repurposing them or cleaning them up into charming and whimsical design elements for your home.

Whisky Ginger Home Bar

How cool is this bar?!

Whisky Ginger Collectables

When asked what makes a good vintage find, they said they look for pieces that have bold colour and/or interesting typography.

Splash around in The Loop: Millennium Park

Millennium Park Crown Fountain

Sure, seeing Millennium Park is a touristy thing to do, but this tourist attraction holds up. The park really is the intersection of public space, music, art, and architecture. Catch one of the free concerts at the outdoor Jay Pritzker Pavillion, designed by world-renowned Frank Gehry or cool down at Crown Fountain (pictured above) designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

Chicago's Cloud Gate

Finally, a trip to Chicago, just wouldn’t be the same without checking your reflection in Cloud Gate, affectionately known as the Bean. I recommend standing under the centre of Cloud Gate and gazing up at the kaleidoscope like reflections, it makes you feel like you’re the subject of your own Dali painting.

Bonus: Get Inspired

Chicago's T-Shirt Deli

Find design inspiration in your new surroundings. I love how the T-Shirt Deli in Bucktown uses old cans of food as pots for plants.

Photo credit Deirdre D unless noted otherwise


Posted in Culture, Travel

Toronto’s Craft Beer Brewery: Bellwoods Brewery

Bellwoods bottle

Stop messing around with Anheuser-Busch or Molson, and start imbibing something that does right by your taste buds. The beer is beautiful at Bellwoods Brewery, the new craft brewery located at 124 Ossington at Argyle. Since recently opening in early April, Bellwoods has been serving up well crafted suds to local patrons who are starved for a brew that, well, tastes interesting.

Bellwoods Brewery interior

Meeting at Amsterdam Brewery, owners Mike Clarke and Luke Pestl had a shared vision of what would make a great brewery, including combining academics with creativity and passion. This formula seems to be working since they just won gold for Strong Porter (Baltic) at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards for goodness sake.

Inside the breweryImage via Bellwoods Brewery

Currently there are 8 beers on tap, sometimes including a guest tap rotation. If you want to start off with something refreshing try their newest tap, the wine-barrel aged Biere de Garde ($7.50), likely to soothe your thirstiness . Move on to the award winning Lost River Baltic Porter ($8.50); this beer at 7.7% has a deep roasted caramel flavour that pairs well with a red meat or sweet dessert. Try a glass of the Lost River with an order of duck hearts or something off the BBQ. Finish the evening off with the Witchshark ($8.50), a double IPA that tastes like fresh pine and citrus fruits. This beer is pretty hoppy with a solid bitter finish and at 9%, it’s a big beer with lots of flavour. If you’re like me, completely unable to make any decision, 4oz glasses are available at $3 each – try’em all!

bellwoods patio

Torontonians will be happy to know that Bellwoods’ white picket fence patio is now open for the hot city nights. The patio is offset from the sidewalk which lends itself to a sense of intimacy while still allowing for prime people watching. Having once been home to an old autoshop, the front of Bellwoods is a garage door that opens to reveal the bar, a cozy seating area, and a mezzanine level that overlooks the actual brewery.

Brewing takes place during the day, but the entire infrastructure is in full view from the main floor behind glass walls or from above in the mezzanine.

tap at bellwoods brewery

While a prime spot for adult-type thirst quenching, don’t expect to eat big dinner-sized portions of food. The menu is not representative of the average pub food, but Bellwoods isn’t striving to be average. Mostly snack-sized and delicious, the food has been the creative work of Chef Guy Rawlings. However, as of June 18, Rob Julen (formerly Brockton General and Marron Bistro) has taken over creative control. Guests chefs will be appearing every now and then for special events including one in late July.

Expect to wait in a short line. Bellwoods doesn’t take reservations and don’t expect to be able to order shots of Jager:the brewery sticks to beers (yes, that means no wine either) and in my opinion that’s a good thing. For hours and location:

bellwoodsbrewery.com/hoursandlocation

FacebookBellwoodsBrewery

twitter.com: bellwoodsbeer

Photo credit John Gallagher/Deirdre D unless noted otherwise


Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged ,