October 5, 2023

Only my Mum would describe the red of the walls in her new home as “porphyry”. It’s esoteric. Pretentious, even. But not coming from her. Earlier in the week, we spent half an hour discussing what white she’ll paint over the porphyry with. White is her default wall colour. A blank canvas for the colourful textiles, objects and paintings that she travels from home to home with. “The cabinets will be stone,” she says. “As in grey?” I ask. “No, stone.” She means a creamy white, the stones that wash up on a Greek island beach, maybe. I find people’s associations with colour fascinating, how memories and past experiences influence the images and ideas that come to mind when we think of a specific colour. Our perception of colour varies, too. My winter coat is chartreuse. “I love your yellow coat,” some people say. “I love your green coat,” say others. Neither one is wrong. Perception is everything. “I think the cashmere has too much yellow in it,” she says. “The walls will look like they were painted with vanilla ice cream.” How delicious. I suggest Benjamin Moore’s OC-122 –– my go-to for a crisp but warm white. “Anything’s better than porphyry.”

the taste of memory

September 5, 2023

Given that my grandmother didn’t cook, it’s ironic that so many of my memories of her are attached to food. I think it’s partly because we ate things in her home that we didn’t eat anywhere else. Ice cream sandwiches. Hot dogs. Cinnamon donuts. Cracker Jack cereal. I grew up in England in the 80s; our junk food was limited compared to what was available in sunny Bermuda. While my grandmother appreciated fine dining, she was happiest eating a tuna sandwich on the golf course. Or a freshly battered corn dog at LaGuardia Airport. “They’re the best in the world.” One of my favourite things to do together was to go grocery shopping at Miles Market and load up the cart with ice tea, Kraft slices, sugary cereals and mini marshmallows that I’d eat by the handful on the way home. Years later, once I lived in Toronto and I was able to visit her more often, either in Florida or Manhattan where she then lived, she’d always send me home with a stash of English muffins, Entenmann’s cookies, or a honey glazed ham in my carry-on. On our last visit together in New York right before she died, I remember her asking me to get her a chicken salad sandwich while she got her chemo infusion. I went to five different places near the clinic searching for the perfect chicken sandwich and came back with some Gourmet thing slathered in a Caesar-ish dressing and alfalfa sprouts. She took one disdained look at it and shoved it straight back into the bag. Who brings alfalfa sprouts to a chemo patient? As is so often the case in these moments, the gussied up sandwich was what I wanted to give her, not what she wanted to eat. A few weeks ago, I was travelling through a new and improved LaGuardia, and I felt a pang in my heart when I saw that her corn dog stand is gone. “I mean, the cheek of it. They were the best in the world.”

note to self

September 1, 2023

Somewhere between 40 and 45 it became painfully clear to me that much of my identity hinged on what I thought other people thought of me. And that many of my efforts at self betterment, this blog included, were in service of an imagined ideal. It’s an impossible way to live; it gets in the way of everything, not least, one’s ability to know and be themselves. Start where you are. Write about what you know. And the best advice of all, write like nobody’s reading. Thinking about what someone is thinking when they’re reading your work is the surest way to suck the life out of it, specifically your life. I love writing. And I needed to take a break from it this summer so I could remind myself who I am writing for.

to look without fear

July 27, 2023

The first time I heard of Wolfgang Tillmans was in my early 20s when I happened upon a photograph of his in Vogue. An editor had singled out “Sandcastle” as her favourite photograph, adding that it was the hopefulness of the image that she was most drawn to, “that we build them, even though we know the tide will wash them away.” There’s nothing remarkable about the image, but it’s what it represented to her that made it meaningful. It resonated with me and so I tore out the page and stuck it in a scrapbook. And up until recently, my only association with Tillmans was that one sandcastle and the uplifting ideas that came with it. I knew that he was enourmously prolific, and that his work was raw and real, but I hadn’t looked further than this one image. So, when I walked through The Tillmans show at the AGO recently, it came to me, somewhere between the black and white salacious club scenes and still lives of mangled crab legs that, “to look without fear” means to see the whole picture, better yet, to look beyond the picture and see that it’s rarely as frightening as we think it is. Just as significant as seeing the light, is seeing the shadows cast when something gets in its way. “I want to invite the audience to approach my work without fear but also to not be afraid of their own eyes and how they see,” says Tillmans. The show is a shining example of how seemingly unremarkable moments, when strung together over time, can tell a story that is as painful and complicated as it is beautiful and celebratory. His images, some 4 x 4 snap shots, are stuck to the walls with clear tape like one might see in a student dorm. It’s so crude and quotidian. So brilliant. The mundanity of it all. The gritty, tender, miraculous mundanity of it all.

luck of the Irish

March 18, 2023

My grandmother was a Bostonian of Irish descent, a heritage somewhat washed out by all the Greeks in the house. I remember her making beer battered shrimp a few times, (that must have originated in somebody’s Nan’s kitchen?) but other than that, my very Greek Papou did all the cooking. I’m not sure I even knew my Yiayia wasn’t Greek until my teens, which given her terrible Greek accent and strawberry blonde hair shows how very up my own arse I was. She had freckles on every part of her body and wore yellow visors bedazzled with jewel encrusted frogs. She was a very young grandmother, seventeen-years younger than my grandfather, and after he died she only lived three short, sharp years without him. I came to visit her the Spring before she died at the apartment they had shared in North Palm Beach and within minutes of arrival we were at the local karaoke (a cafeteria in a nearby plaza) with my grandmother on stage (a chair) singing Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me,” followed by Irish super ballad, “Danny Boy.” She was wearing a cream cotton pant suit that night. Or maybe it was spearmint satin. My memory is froggy. She died a year later and “Danny Boy” played at her wake. And six-months after that, I sat on her memorial bench in Central Park and listened to the same Irish ballad singing at The Boathouse nearby.


March 1, 2023

Every now and then, there’s a scent or a sound or a taste that whisks up back to another time. It’s jarring that something so specific, like Imperial Leather soap or burnt marshmallows can have that much power over our emotional state. Photographs, too, have the power to transport us to another state and time. Why do we choose to frame certain pictures? Why do we choose that precise moment as the screensaver on our phone? Because it captures a state of being, a moment in time that we hope to access just by virtue of seeing it. Earlier in the week, my dear friend and fellow potter, Michelle Organ sent me a photo of me working in the communal studio she once owned in downtown Toronto. I was all at once catapulted back to that time. The shirt I was wearing, the plate I was painting, the feelings inside. It was all so visceral. I actually cried. Was it nostalgia? Was it a yearning for a creative community that I am currently without? Was it the fact that my hair was long enough to wear in a top knot? We don’t know at the time that these ordinary moments will one day resonate in the way that they do. And that, in part, is what makes them so extraordinary.

pinch a pot

January 20, 2023

There’s a time for big and ambitious, and there’s a time for small and humble. If I haven’t touched clay in a while, the sensible thing to do is to pinch a pot. Oh, but the excitement of soft, squishy mud in my hands, silence all around me. And before I know it, I’m forming one hundred mosaic tiles to attach to a two foot vase. Only, the vase is leaning like that tower in Pisa. And the squares are losing their shape like marshmallows to a flame. When I’ve taken a hiatus from pottery –– this one was a long one –– I return so full of enthusiasm only to be crushed by the reality that practice makes perfect (good). I can’t expect good work to come from unpracticed hands. The sensible thing to do is surrender wild ideas for simple pieces that remind the hands how to work with clay, simple pieces that yield the confidence to channel into the wilder ones. So, after a week of unsensible (is that a word?) I am going back to basics. Yet again. And again, with feeling. Don’t you sometimes feel that no matter how far you’ve come, you’re always at the beginning?


December 23, 2022

As much as our brains would have us believe otherwise, things are rarely black and white. It’s in the vastness of the grey where uncertainty and fear swim which is why we so often hold on to the outer edges. But there’s no nuance or variation in the black and white. No richness. No imagination. Isobel Rayson’s woodblock carvings are shining examples of what lies between two opposites. There is so much intricate detail, possibility and originality in the grey, proving that it’s always worth diving into.

eye contact

October 26, 2022

“A drawing a day keeps the doctor away,” says Tina Berning of her online diary. The Berlin-based artist shares an original drawing everyday on her Instagram account. Her figurative drawings, mainly portraits of women are ethereal, haunting, beautiful and intense. Berning’s women don’t shy away, with gazes that pierce right through us.

communal swim

September 21, 2022

Straining a muscle last week was an immobilizing sign that I had too much on my plate. My plate runneth over, in fact. On reflection, it’s clear that all the waters had merged, so to speak –– mine, my husband’s, my children’s, my friend’s –– and I was unable to distinguish between their lanes and my own. It was one giant pool, and there I was throwing out buoys in every direction even though everyone can swim. And if they can’t swim, they’re learning to. As parents, we incapacitate and undermine our children when we attempt to salve and solve their every issue. Marriage, or any other significant relationship, is no different. We think it comes from a place of love –– and feel undervalued when our efforts go unrecognized –– when in fact it is a need to control our own anxiety around what they’re dealing with and what it brings up in us that’s driving our efforts. It’s very human, and not very helpful. And this is when I know I need to step away from the pool, or the plate, or whatever metaphor we’re going with, and gain some perspective. Eventually I return to myself, find a lane, and swim on.

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