Pocket Blog

The Berlin Baby Quilt

This spring I accepted one of the most heartfelt quilt commissions I’ve ever had the pleasure to receive. In my head I call it the Berlin Baby Quilt — but really, it should probably be called the Euro-America Quilt since it represents 11 friends in 11 cities: Helsinki (Finland); New York (United States); Paris (France); Murnau (Germany); London (England); Montpellier (France); Vienna (Austria); Copenhagen (Denmark); Munich (Germany); Bordeaux (France); and Berlin (Germany).

Berlin Quilt Multi View

I received the commission from my dear friend Lisa from dance school days –she was the one who tucked my unsure-and-2000-miles-from-home-in-a-big-city-self under her wing on the first day of classes, offered me her unconditional friendship, shared a locker with me (which we wallpapered in floral drawer liners, obviously!), filled me in on years of complex history and dance politics for that community, got me my first independent costume commission, and danced in my first piece of Toronto-student choreography — that kind of friend. Solid. The kind you never forget however brief your time was together and always feel warm and grateful towards.

Lovely Lisa circa. 1998 in front of our floral locker and sporting performance make up. She may kick me for including this, but she's so sweet, non?! I couldn't resist!
Lovely Lisa circa. 1998 in front of our floral locker and sporting performance make up. She may kick me for including this, but she’s so sweet, non?! I couldn’t resist!

She’s one-of-a-kind and is now a rock-star level arts educator and administrator in New York City (lucky city to have her, they have no idea!). But I digress.

So Lisa called me with this commission idea from her and a tight group of European friends … these friends of hers are part of a circle of 11 who all met during their studies and travels. Each lives in a different city scattered across Europe and America.

And they have the most beautiful tradition: whenever one of them has a baby, the rest commission a quilt for the baby that represents each of them, geographically scattered though they may be, and thus the new family has a charming and practical daily reminder of their dear, faraway friends.

Berlin Quilt Single Close Up

The problem was that the couple from Berlin were the ones who always arranged the quilt, but this time they were the pregnant ones, and none of the others had that quilter’s contact info. But Lisa remembered that I sew and so I “won” the contract — and I’m so glad! We decided on a quilt that represented each friend via the main river or water body of the cities they lived in, along with the 3-letter IATA code for the airport of that city. And lastly, I added little pieces of transportation, nature, animal, whimsey and shelter for contrast and interest.

I finally got to use the applique stitching functions on my new sewing machine and also got acquainted with double sided, peel and stick interfacing for the detailed appliques. All together it was a learning experience and the most charming process. I loved researching the cities for their rivers and choosing an archetypal bit of the river for each quilt section. Embroidering the IATA’s and river names made me feel like the secret 12th member of their lovely friend circle. I kind of didn’t want to finish I enjoyed the making so much.

Berlin Quilt Front and Back

And once baby Ella was born in Berlin, I added her name and birthdate in the 12th piece (I love that they wanted to wait til she was born for the quilt to be finished, no chickens counted before hatching), and off went the quilt. Canada Post and Deutsche Post, bless/curse them, had some communication issues and I tracked the package helplessly online as it bounced around German cities for no apparent reason for about 6 weeks, but eventually the slightly more mature Ella received her international quilt. She’s snuggled in the arms of her parents’ friendship circle every day no matter how far away their actual arms are.

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Harriet the Venn-Toting Matryoshka

I have been busy as the busiest bee, designing and sewing up a costume-storm for dance and theatre productions these last few months. However, I still happily make time for felt Matryoshka commissions when I’m able to spare a day for doll-making – it’s a great way to catch up on some TV while creating a new little dolly-friend to send into the world.

Harriet the MatryoshkaMeet Harriet, the Venn Diagram Matryoshka! She’s science meets craft, and it’s a beautiful thing! In the 4-to-5-ish hours it takes me to make a Matushka Matryoshka (one of my larger matryoshka dolls), I feel like I get to know the little lady and then I have a bit of a hard time letting go!

Harriet the Matryoshka compliation

And Harriet was no exception — though I can trust she is bound for an appreciative home. I love her mix of purples and I added a wide, shallow herringbone stitch in a dark salmon pink to jazz her belly up just a wee bit. I like that her Venn diagram has no details, Harriet will allow you to demonstrate almost anything with her unmarked Venn!

Speaking of herringbone stitch … I plan to spend my summer cottaging days working on this sweet princess-and-the-pea sampler from Nicole of Follow the White Bunny. Time to increase my stitch vocabulary!

 

She-Ra and The Mother Mary go Matryoshka

I may or may not have received the best Little Felt Matryoshka order yet last week: to make She-Ra, yes I do mean the Princess of Power herself, and the Mother Mary, yes, that Christian matriarch of matriarchs. Together. One order. So awesome! And they are beautiful. And funny. Especially together.

SheRaMary_Matryoshkas

As a not-Catholic person, I didn’t know about the myriad of symbols for Mary and in researching this gal, found out about the pansy/trinity symbolism. So I used that for the belly instead of the sacred heart, which could have worked, but I like the metaphor (I always go metaphor if there’s a choice, let’s be honest!).

SheRaMatryoshka

If you want to order a custom felt matryoshka brooch or doll, you can visit my Etsy shop! Just let me know, the possibilities are endless … as you can see here. So much fun! Truly, they are my favourite thing to make these days. And I dare you to find a more awesome pairing then these 2 ladies!

MaryMatryoshka

For more examples of my Little Felt Matryoshka brooch ladies, click here.

Costuming Parasite: a Music Video Adventure

I am so thrilled to be able to share the official video for Parasite, a song by my friend and singer/songwriter Christa Couture! It’s been a long time coming, over a year since filming this, the first music video I’ve ever worked on. It was very exciting, a learning curve indeed. And it involved unitards. My world is complete!

There was a wind machine, which was fun, beautiful, intense and also funny! Christa was amazing, walking through flying debris, singing at super-speed (so that it would look slow, a film magic trick that I don’t quite grasp!) and dealing with hair and various flotsam and jetsam that stuck to her glossy video-lips.

“Parasite” was directed by Adam Garnet Jones and Big Soul Productions.

The wind machine was fun, beautiful, intense and also fun-ny! Christa was amazing, walking, singing at super-speed (so that it would look slow, magic of film that I don't quite grasp!) and dealing with hair and various flotsam and jetsam that stuck to her glossy video-lips. Truly, feathers were flying. 
Truly, feathers were flying. And tissue paper, and fake snow, and and and …
A last minute make up touch near the end of the shoot. We started late and went all night, needing the darkness. I love this. And I love that I got my friend the folk singer into a tulle skirt inspired by the romantic ballets - worlds colliding! 
A last minute make-up touch near the end of the shoot.  I love that I got my friend the folk singer into a tulle skirt inspired by the romantic ballets – worlds colliding!
Aerialist on high. I had a successful dye adventure to match them to Christa's top and the make-up artist gave them subtly metallic gold skin making them other-worldly and metaphoric. 
Aerialist on high. I had a successful dye adventure to match them to Christa’s top and the make-up artist gave them subtly metallic gold skin making them other-worldly and metaphoric – one of my favourite combos really!

 

 

 

Raising a Knee

Christa Couture KneeraiserI have spent the last month building a crowdfunding campaign to get a new, microprocessor prosthetic knee for my dear friend Christa Couture. She happens to be a childhood cancer survivor, though the disease left her without a  leg. As a musician without extended health care, the prosthetics available to her are serviceable, but there’s a world of microprocessor technology out there that helps immensely in balancing an amputee’s weight, allowing stair climbing and descent leg-over-leg (as we with 2 legs generally do) and backwards motion, among other things. As a musician who tours Canada and Europe regularly, Christa is often hefting gear and this knee component will make an enormous difference in her life — both day-to-day and professionally.

And we have been so mind-blowingly successful! In just over 72 hours we have exceeded our initial goal of $15,000! A true testament to her wide reach as an excellent person and musician. This means we get to go for our stretch-goal of $25,000, allowing even more options for Christa. Check out our Kneeraiser!

LgFeltMatryoshkas
The limited edition, guitar-toting Folk Matryoshkas I made for the exciting cc-kneeraiser.org, raising funds for a microprocessor prosthetic knee for folk musician Christa Couture.

A number of Christa’s friends have offered their artistic work as perks for the Kneeraiser. I myself made some little felt matryoshkas and some exclusive Folk Matryoshka dolls, larger guitar-toting mama matryoshka dolls. I think there are a few still available — if you act fast you can get yourself a gorgeous doll and support a most worthy cause: cc-kneeraiser.org. Cheers!

Revisiting Mountain Girl

I don’t talk about my contemporary dance life on this blog much since overwhelmingly my days are spent building my textile work, and mothering. It’s a big shift, but my interest in fibre art waxes of late and it’s not so much that my interest in dance wanes, but she’s had the front seat most of my life and it’s time for someone else to ride shotgun! So my dance commitments are fewer and farther between, but they are still precious to me. Dance is simply a part me, stitched inextricably into my fibres, a fundamental communication form.

MountainGirlDiptic_LZV

That said, I’m happy to report  I’m working on a dance project this month! It is so lovely to spend some time in the studio. Along with my friend and collaborator Brittany Duggan, we are reviving a solo we choreographed together for the 2010 Dance 2 Danse Festival called Mountain Girl. We’ve been invited by Simcoe Contemporary Dancers to perform it on a shared program they are presenting as part of Barrie’s Winterfest in the first weekend of February.

MountainGirlPostcardBrittany is the dancer, the interpreter for Mountain Girl. I’m the costume and set designer. The original concept for the choreography was our consideration of how geography effects the development of our physical and emotional selves and influences our relationships with space and place. We’ve had fun working in Studio B, the basement studio of Toronto Dance Theatre’s soulful old church building in Cabbagetown. We’re resuscitating Mountain Girl, breathing life back into her choreographic bones and it never ceases to amaze me how kinetic memory works – our muscles remember so much with the smallest cues. Plus Brittany kept excellent notes, thank goodness.

Here’s an excerpt of Mountain Girl in our first re-mount rehearsal a couple of weeks ago. That glacial skirt is not easy to dance in!

Reviving Mountain Girl – a choreographic remount project from Pocket Alchemy on Vimeo.

If you’re around or accessible to Barrie come enjoy Winterfest, the glorious expanses of snow we have here, and some contemporary dance at the MacLaren Art Centre on Sunday, February 2nd at 2:30pm — admission is free and it’s family friendly art! Click here for more info.

Photo credits: top: Lindsay Zier-Vogel; centre: Ömer Yükseker

There’s Gold on That Thar Island

PocketAlchemyTreasureMap1

I am as chuffed as can be about this Felt Treasure Map and Golden Coins set I’ve created. And they’re available for sale on Etsy! It all started with a gift earlier this year for my little pirate boy, a 2-year-old wanderer on the seas of imagination and basement-carpet-scapes who desired a map to assist in his adventures.

PocketAlchemyTreasureMap3

And of course every adventurer needs some treasure. So I’ve included a little pouch and five golden felt coins to be hidden and found over and over again. I recently watched a little piratess squirrel-away her coins while eyeing me, the maker and giver of said coins, with deep suspicion. “My money,” she stated with finality. In case there was any confusion. Toddler-test = passed. A+++ … !

PocketAlchemyTreasureMap4detail
Treasure Map Details

This map makes a great gift for an adventurous toddler or kid, or even a fun piece of art for a brave and savvy adult — because we all have a little pirate-adventurer tucked away inside us, right?

I think I’ll leave you with this Ron Sexsmith/Chris Martin gem, Gold In Them Hills. Arrr mateys, It’s time for I sailed back to me island of perpetual stitching.