Thursday, 18 August 2011

Knitting for Kitties

I realized that with everything going on I have yet to post anything about knitting. For my first exclusively knitting post I wanted to share something that I think is a really great initiative started by the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. They sent the call out a month or so ago for people to knit mouse toys for the inhabitants of their shelter waiting for a more permanent home. The call was well received and people from all over the world sent in adorable hand knitted mice and toys for the kitties that live there. Check out this article in the Guardian UK to see a sweet slideshow of the results of their toy-drive.

I finally got around to knitting my first one, and before I had even finished sewing him up, my cat Lola was waiting rather impatiently to have a crack at him. This toy was even more special because this summer I have been growing catnip in my balcony garden. Catnip is a wonderful plant. You can cut it right back to barely nothing and it will grow again. I have been doing this all summer and have been drying it for just such an occasion.  Before sewing up the toy I rolled some of the dried catnip in the stuffing that was going into the little mouse. Lola was beside herself and I have posted some cute pictures below. The toy is now lying in the corner in a soggy mess and the cat is fast asleep after a catnip high. 

For any knitters that might be reading this blog I would highly recommend this easy and adorable pattern  from Laura Long that you can download from
The Battersea is still accepting toys, but I am sure there are many local sheltered cats that would love to have a special handmade gift. Now that Lola is sated I am casting on for another mouse that will be going to a local shelter. 

Happy Knitting!

I snapped a few quick photos before Lola got at her
Checking her out with a good sniff

Oh, this is such a yummy toy!

Wild kitty catnip attack!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

AbEx Inspired Art

I have a feeling its going to be feast or famine with this blogging endeavor, as I seem to have trouble sitting down at the computer and writing these days. I did want to take the time to share something really cool that happened a few weeks ago. I haven’t had time to post it because of everything going on with my grandmother and work, but it is definitely worth sharing.

One of my volunteer activities in the past year has been to help with the multi-sensory tours at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). These tours started in 2009 and were designed to make art experiences more accessible to people who are blind or have partial sight. I became so interested in the benefits and tensions of “tactile” or multisensory programs that I even wrote my master’s thesis on this topic. Since writing my paper I have become a volunteer with the AGO, delivering these specific tours to groups of people with disabilities. It has been a lot of fun and I have learned a lot about accessibility, advocacy, and art. My major issue with programs such as this is that they are only given to specific groups of disabled people. In a way this practice is further excluding people and segregating them into isolated groups. I believe that multi-sensory access should be given to all of us, so that we can all experience art and learn in the way that works best for us. The AGO has really taken many great steps in the right direction with these initiatives and I look forward to see what they will continue to do in the future.  

My favourite part of this work is thinking of ways of making art more accessible to all. For example, this could include making a tactile representation of an image, pairing an art work with a piece of music that evokes analogous emotions, learning how to give an in-depth visual description of an image without resorting to words like “see” and “look” (this is much harder than you might think!). A few weeks back I gave a tour for a group of teenagers who are blind or partially sighted in the Abstract Expressionist show (this is a must see show if you have the opportunity before it closes in early September ). We had a great time in the exhibit talking about Pollock, Rothko, Kline, Reinhardt, and others. 

After the tour we went out to the Grange Park where we did a really fun art activity. Prior to the tour we split the group into three smaller teams: Rothko, Pollock and Kline. In the park they were given a multitude of art supplies to create their own work inspired by their artist: paint, brushes, sticks, spray and squeeze bottles, glue, ribbon tissue paper, crepe paper, felt, sponges. With permission I am sharing some of their wonderful creations here; it was so difficult to pick only a few! Perhaps I can share more in a later post. Such lovely memories of a wonderful summer morning getting paint under our nails in the protective shade of Grange Park.


Inspired by Jackson Pollock's drip paintings

Another piece from a member of the Pollock group, using drip techniques and a finger-painted line, inspired by Pollock's use of handprints in his work

A piece inspired by Franz Kline - the artist definitely embodied "action painting"

Another Franz Kline inspired piece using tactile elements. Crepe paper painted to create even more texture,  ribbon and yarn affixed to the canvass. 

A Rothko inspired work with brilliant colour fields

Jointly inspired by Rothko and Pollock this reminds me of a Japanese garden 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Summer Therapy

Its been a tough month. My beloved grandmother has taken a turn with her already failing health and I have found myself in and out of hospital emergency rooms, doctor's offices, and an ambulance all in the past few weeks. At 83 years old she is the toughest person I know, and determined to remain independent despite the odds being stacked against her. My role as her advocate is to make sure that she remains safe, independent and maintains dignity, as times get difficult.

In an interesting collision of my personal and professional lives, I am also currently designing a course that looks at the intersections of disability and aging. No matter how much theory one reads and analyzes, when it’s your own it is so much more difficult. The tensions between independence and safety, health and well being, professional and personal become more and more apparent with each passing day. My mom, who is a geriatric nurse herself, is shocked at how difficult the last few weeks have been for her. Despite working in this field everyday, when it’s your own loved one who needs constant support it can be incredibly physically and emotionally draining.

It can also be amazingly rewarding. I have spent more time with my grandmother in the last month that I had in the several previous months and have relished reliving old memories, providing her with the small comforts of a foot or hand rub, and knitting at her bedside while she reads me articles from the newspaper. This experience has brought be back to being a little girl, raised by two fiercely strong women - my mother and grandmother - and I wouldn't trade a second of it. Knitting has played an important role in our time together. Unable to knit due to arthritis in her hands, my grandmother helps me wind soft skeins into balls, picks out projects for me and critiques certain colour choices I have made as being too bold. In the span of an afternoon she can make me laugh, cry, feel anger, love and sadness; her importance in my life has become startlingly clear to me.

The future is uncertain, but I am lucky enough to have a support system of my incredible mother, loving partner and supportive best friends. This morning I indulged in some summer therapy by attending The Stop’s Saturday market at Wychwood Art Barns. This wonderful market is a gathering of local farmers and food cultivators. Everything that is sold at the market is either grown locally or made with local ingredients. It was wonderful getting out in the sunshine and enjoying people watching and munching on local yumminess. I also dusted off my camera and took a few photos, some of which are below. If you are in Toronto and in need of some free summer therapy I would highly recommend it.  


One of The Stop's Community Gardens

Marigold in black & white

Inviting pathway and arch

Love the intricacies of old, cracked wood

My heaven will be filled with bread baskets

Market Stall

Ruby red beets

Remember the old days, we ate so good

With all this healthy food around, who could resist a freshly made donut?

Sugar Mama donuts. Delicious!