Renovation & Design
Did I ever mention that Mad Dog Vachon and I were once a couple? I present picture proof of that fascinating concept here today, with a notation in Mad Dog’s handwriting describing us as "cuties" — which we definitely were.
Yes, this is April 1, so I’m getting the spoof part taken care of right off the top — and this memory captured at Schmockey Night here in the ‘Peg many years ago with me on the left and the marvellous Mad Dog on the right shows you that not only the audience had fun, but that the performers did as well.
This was the year the media team brought in Mad Dog to help us beat the Bombers in the annual broomball game. Can’t remember if it worked, but I sure remember how much fun we had.
That’s what pictures do for us: they capture moments in time. And part of the reason I’m featuring some old pics today is to urge each and every one of us with old family albums or movies at home to preserve them for future viewing and appreciation by whoever! Whomever! Whatever!
My Dad was a picture-taking fiend and I’m so glad that he was, because I have a huge number of historical family pictures to browse when the mood strikes — and even the old square cameras he took them with. My Uncle Jack not only took pictures, but shot home movies as well, so I have a big box of movies that even includes a great walk up Broadway Avenue/Street in Killarney (that I’ve always called Main Street), immortalizing that summer day in 1952.
I soon have to take all his films to be transferred to DVD or whatever the appropriate technology is today, to ensure they are preserved before they disintegrate. My family LIVES in them, so they’re incredibly precious.
One of the most commonly recorded events back in the history of the Mustard family was the family picnic. They were so much fun and often arranged for a Sunday.
More formal attire was worn — everybody spiffed up (some even wore a suit!) to go throw some blankets on the grass in some pretty spot, eat sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, pickles and potato salad and drink tea, coffee, or often water pumped up from a nearby well.
Those were wonderful gatherings. I miss those family times and the relatives our family spent so much time with back then. If you’re lucky enough to have pictures from your family’s past, treasure them. You don’t need to know the names of the people in them, just keep them safe and have a look through them now and then.
If you’re lucky enough to still have a relative alive who can name the people in the pics, get together and record that irreplaceable information before they leave and take it with them.
I’m a picture taker too, but I’m a tad concerned with all the digital shots we take today and store electronically, because I fear some day for whatever tragic reason, those pics will disappear from "memory."
Being the techno-phobe I am, I don’t know if there’s a program or an app that will take those photos, arrange them on a page in the style of the old albums, then print them out so they can be put in actual albums. If that exists, I need it. If not, please — someone create it and enjoy all the money you make from my idea. You’re welcome.
This picnic "snap" I’m showing you today has my Mom, Dad, brother and sister in it and appears to be from the mid- to late-40s. Where have all the years and all these people gone? From the faces I can see clearly here, I believe the only one still alive is my sister Bonnie, the cute little girl far right.
In last week’s column I made an offer to take and preserve any family pictures or movies you may have that you and other family don’t want, just to keep captured moments of another time alive and safe. That still stands. I’ll eventually find someone who will do something constructive with them and will feel good that I have helped preserve the recorded past.
And just to remind you of how good looking at a picture can make you feel, I’m including this picture of our dog Shazzy, totally chilling in a big comfy chair. She is pure love and thanks to this great pic, I’m sure you have no difficulty seeing that.
Have a smashing April Fool’s weekend, thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week.
Comments or feedback, love to hear from you!
If you find yourself rearranging the furniture and staring at four walls as you wait for spring to green up your outside world, why not cultivate your inner botanical style and colour your home’s interior with botanical prints, fabrics and wallpaper?
Today, with a resurgence of interest in everything botanical, a new generation of artists and designers are putting their own unique stamp on everything from wall art, wallpaper and furnishings to dinnerware and throw cushions, transforming home interiors and creating an indoor garden that’s in bloom year-round.
Lynn Savage McMillan, owner of Noble Savage Interiors (1079 Wellington Ave.), loves the Lilly Pulitzer collection of fabric and wallpaper from Lee Jofa. With patterns ranging from big, bold botanical motifs in sunny, vibrant colours to leafy, nature-inspired designs against pink, yellow, or white backgrounds, this fresh, cheeky colour palette is a modern take on a more traditional botanical style, says McMillan.
Colour, tone and scale have a unifying effect, allowing unique patterns to be used in various rooms. McMillan loves the juxtaposition of contrasting motifs. What’s important, she says, is to ensure repetition of at least one of the colours in the fabric or wallpaper in each room.
Colour can be energizing, playful or calming. It can be incorporated into an all-white bedroom, says McMillan, with botanical-themed fabric headboards, throw cushions, lampshades and a throw. Creating a gallery wall with ready-to-frame vintage illustrations also spruces things up in a hurry.
Realistic hand-drawn and -coloured botanical sketches at one time formed the basis for the scientific study of previously unknown plants. Explorers were frequently accompanied on their journeys to new lands by skilled illustrators who created drawings of flora and fauna.
Decorating with botanical illustrations and floral-patterned textiles became all the rage in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was not uncommon for parlours or living rooms to feature gallery walls with uniformly geometric rows of botanical prints and watercolours, each with identical frames and mats.
The Department of Floristry’s Candace Fempel has her own unique interpretation. Her dark floral prints show blooms or leafy textures against an infinite black background for a classic, dramatic statement, but with a decidedly bold and crisp twist.
A graduate of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Manitoba, Fempel’s disciplined approach to her art begins with documenting her process and cataloguing the plants she uses in her floral design. Placing an individual plant within the framework of a scanner, she manipulates it until she achieves the desired composition. To grow her understanding, she researches the botanical names of plants that she gathers and also dissects blooms, stems and foliage to examine their internal and external structures more closely.
Maintaining a catalogue of plants is invaluable as an identifying reference, says Fempel, especially when she is deciding on the various compositions and design for each print. Fempel loves playing with textures. In one print, Fempel captures the luxurious parrot tulip with its satin-smooth, fringed and ruffled petals and in another the soft, feathery plumes of creamy astilbe flowers pop out against a black background. In yet another interpretation, the more rigid, architectural structure of greyish-green poppy pods glimmering with coppery-coloured crowns is brought to life.
Fempel believes that art should be accessible so she creates her prints in standard sizes, indeed the same dimensions as IKEA wall frames, which come with acid-free mats. It’s not about the frame. It’s about the art and the relationship between the artist, the plants and the printmaker, says Fempel.
To see Fempel’s work, visit her website at deptof.ca or drop into Parlour Coffee in Winnipeg’s Exchange District between now and May 11th, where Fempel will be exhibiting a large botanical archival inkjet print that depicts a delicate white lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum).
Kristen Aleida Wiltshire is a local artist who works with watercolours. Her handpainted designs include flower bouquets and greenery sold under the trade name Kristen Aleida Art. She is drawn to fine textures such as the lacy maidenhair fern (Adiantum) and the fan-shaped foliage of Ginkgo biloba, one of the oldest living tree species. The coarse textures of tropical foliage plants such as palms and in particular, Monstera deliciosa, figure largely in her work. More commonly known as the Swiss cheese plant, Monstera’s iconic, deeply incised, emerald green foliage with its characteristic holes is often the subject of botanical illustrations.
Self-taught, Wiltshire creates her designs on cold-press watercolour paper. The slightly uneven texture of the paper holds in the water and pigment, further emphasizing the texture of the flowers and foliage she paints. She also paints with watercolours on canvas, priming the surface first to increase its absorbency. Some of her art pieces include brush calligraphy. The words she chooses are very intentional, she says, so that they bring encouragement and empowerment.
Wiltshire frequently visits local garden centres and greenhouses as well as Assiniboine Park and the Conservatory for up-close-and-personal encounters with foliage and flowers. She takes every opportunity to study the details of plants and always travels with her sketchbook and watercolours near at hand. A recent trip to Spain provided plenty of inspiration.
Wiltshire receives many requests to paint wedding bouquets and says that, in addition to creating a permanent memory for a newly married couple, it’s also an opportunity for her to learn about new flowers.
Wiltshire sells her prints and originals at Tara Davis Studio Boutique and on Etsy, and will be an exhibitor at the upcoming Third + Bird spring market, May 5 and 6 at the Bay.
Gerry Oliver is a teacher and painter whose botanical art classes are offered through the Wasagaming Community Arts Centre at Riding Mountain National Park and the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (AGSM) in Brandon. There are several levels of botanical art, says Oliver. Students learn about drawing and how to use watercolours and coloured pencils. They visit a greenhouse, study plants with a magnifying class and over a few weeks learn to create very detailed botanical illustrations. After that, things loosen up a bit, says Oliver, and students get a taste of the different ways to interpret plants through the more abstract techniques of formal and expressionist floral art.
A former garden writer for the Free Press, Oliver, who lives only a few kilometres from Spruce Woods Provincial Park, loves to create exact renderings of native plants such as Canada Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis) and Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed). With a love for detail, she admits it’s a slow process. Drawing flowers, says Oliver, not only connects us to nature but also takes us back to a familiar place with all its vivid colours.
If last year’s sold-out botanical art workshops are any indication of the growing interest in learning how to illustrate plants, plan to register early for this year’s courses.
Fashion, too, will be inspired this year by floral prints. Love geraniums, daisies, freesias and bouquets of chrysanthemums? You’ll find florals splashed on everything from dresses to flip-flops but leave some money in your budget for all the real flowers that will soon decorate your outside world.