Rain, Rain, Go Away

model on a swing, purple silk
Photography Credit: Jacob Connell
Hair & Makeup: Laura Lewis
Model: Athenais Testi

There are times as an artist where everything falls into place.  That could be anything from an unexpected drop off wax, when you are painting a Batik, that turns into something spectacular; to a new design the dye creates that you have never seen before; to your pot rusting while you dye your silk, turning the silk colours you couldn’t recreate if you tried.  This is not an example of one of those times.

Almost a year ago my husband (Ryan) and I set off to Moncton to shoot with a group I had never worked with before (other than Athenais):   Hair and Makeup Artist Laura Lewis and Photographer Jacob Connell.

Laura had spent HOURS working on Athenais.  She covered her whole head of hair in pencil curls  (for those of you who don’t know, Laura had to take teeny tiny sections of hair, wrap it tightly around a pencil and then flat iron over that.  This created the world’s smallest ringlets and when brushed out, the worlds biggest, baddest hair).    After hours of prep and flipping through large black and white fashion magazines (as I drank a delicious black coffee made by Athenais’ mom, Nathalie) for looks, we all set out to shoot.

Guess what happened next?  It rained.  Athenais hair completely dropped.  As her larger than life hair deflated, slowly my mood began to do the same.  We decided to keep shooting and find a place with shelter.  Laura and Jacob had come from NS and I from Fredericton. So we were determined to make this shoot happen no matter what.  The show must go on (said in my most theatrical voice)!

Our view from under our small shelter...
Our view from under our small shelter…

Athenais and her mom had scouted out this super cool location for our shoot, so we headed (in warm, dry cars) towards it.  We finally got to our location and guess what?  It was torn down! I’m not kidding you.  By this point our model’s hair was completely ruined and she was freezing (but of course, she did not complain ONCE). We were all soaking wet but we wanted, so badly, to get at least one good shot in the rain. Desperate and lacking resources,  we tried to salvage our model’s hair by pinning it up with the few bobby pins Laura had on her.  We also found a tiny section of the ruins with a roof for shelter.  Unfortunately, by this point, the silk I had dyed was completely soaked and it just would not float the way we had dreamed it would. This was not for lack of trying. I think Laura, Jacob, Nathalie, Athenais, Ryan and I all came close to falling over the rubbish at least once while trying to make that darn purple silk fly.

We did manage to get a few good shots though, thanks to the team of artists we had working together that day.  However, I am confident that if we had better weather, we would have had even more great shots to pick from:)

They say “everything happens for a reason.” I hope one day I find out what that reason was.



It’s About To Get “Slothy” In Here.

The very beginnings of my
The very beginnings of my “Sloth” yardage.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, SEVEN is a project I am organizing between a group of local artists.  I am dying the silk for each artist and then every designer is making their own, high fashion piece to represent one of the  “seven deadly sins”.

As I also mentioned in previous posts, I have worked with Adrienne Goodine on numerous projects over the past year.  One of which we called ADRARA (a combination of our names).  ADRARA was a brand we started before we got some news…Adrienne is having a baby!  So when I asked Adrienne to help me with one of the sins, I thought that “Sloth” would be the best option.  I figured that sloth would be something quick and simple that Adrienne could put together before she has the baby.  She agreed to help and here is her take on making her piece, “Sloth”.

“When I was approached about making a piece for the project I could not turn it down.   It sounded very interesting to me and I felt it was a great opportunity to showcase some of the local talent we have in Fredericton.  I was asked to do “Sloth.”  The textile designer and lead on the project , Dee Wilkie, felt it was something I should be a part of (which was flattering!).   We have collaborated several times and she knows I can be a perfectionist (okay, I am almost always a perfectionist) and thought this would be a good one for me to loosen up with.   I was also 4-5 months pregnant when she asked and felt it would be a more laid back design for me. 

The hardest part was to give it a sloth like appeal, a look of laziness,  i.e. the unfinished hems that drove me crazy because when it comes to sewing garments, I am the complete opposite of sloth.   I looked everywhere for inspiration and just couldn’t find anything.  I was overthinking it.  One night I looked at an old Swarovski Calendar I had. All the women were wearing designer dresses but all looked lazy, posing sluggishly, while sparkling in Swarovski designs.  I thought to myself, they all look so glamorous but don’t seem to care about anything.  I went with that idea but without all the sparkle.  It is after all, about the dress and the fabric.    The first thing I needed, was for it to look like one of my designs.  Secondly, I had to get into a sloth frame of mind.  That’s where unfinished hems and lose fit on the dress came into mind.  I had to play the part like an actor getting ready for a new role.  I had to become a sloth. 

This dress took me somewhere between 20-25 hours of construction.   That does not count the number of hours I spent changing my mind and trying to make it perfect.  As of right now, I work out of my house.  I have a full time job so it’s all in the evenings and weekends.    The late summer heat was not my friend and my biggest challenge was getting it finished within a certain time frame because I am pregnant.   It took me a month to finalize my design and another month to make it between working, other projects and preparing for a new baby.   Piece of cake!

Sketch for
Adriennes sketch for “Sloth”.

The most exciting part about creating something new is just that, the creative part. It can also be the most time consuming.  As I mentioned before, I can be a perfectionist.  I am constantly changing my mind until I am 100% happy with the design and feel that it represents me as a designer.  I like clean lines, simple silhouettes and love a fitted garment that is boned or corseted.   I prefer hand sewing because it creates a bond with the garment.   I also love bows and ruffles and try to throw in a little bit of that in almost everything I do.  Another exciting part for me is finalizing everything and seeing the garment on the person.   Sometimes I get emotional because that garment is a part of me.   It has so many hours of my life in it.  To see it complete and being happy with it, is amazing.  I have been doing this sort of thing for the past 5-6 years; working a full time job and sewing lines of clothing or custom pieces.  It’s something I love to do.  In fact, creating garments help me stay focused.  For that time I  become absorbed in what I am doing and forget about any stresses that may be plaguing my mind.     When you are doing something that makes you happy,  love and brings you joy, you are present in that moment.  You are doing exactly what you are meant to do. ”  

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

D.W. & A.G.


BTS hair set up for
BTS hair set up for “Sloth”.

I am writing this blog post after completing our first photo shoot for “SEVEN.”  SEVEN is a project featuring (at this point) ten different local artists. Involved in the project are: fiber artists, surface designers, hairstylists, photographers, models, MUA and more.

“SEVEN” was an idea I came up with when, one night, I started to get really envious of other people who were making their dreams come true and really “making it” in terms of their craft. I didn’t just want to sit in my living room feeling jealous, so I decided I would make a piece on jealousy and envy as a productive outlet. Then I started getting more and more ideas and thought, “hey, why don’t I do a series on the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed)!?” I messaged one of my favourite local Photographers, Lance Kenneth Blakney, right away and told him about my idea. He was totally onboard and as enthusiastic as I was.

Lance shooting our first “Sin” at Odell park.

So tonight, after months of planning and nagging, I mean organizing, we finally had our first shoot at Odell Park.  The location was perfect. It had that dark and erie, “once upon a time” feel I was imagining.  Our model, Athenais Testi, was professional as always.  We shot for, I don’t know, maybe an hour or so?  However, we probably didn’t need to. I think we got the shot in the first 15 minutes.  Adrienne Goodine who I have mentioned in previous posts, made our dress for this shoot out of my hand dyed fabric.  (There will be more about her and our dress in my blog post this Sunday.)

Tonight, unlike other nights after a photo shoot, I am not filled with excitement and joy like I usually am.  This was really bothering me on my drive home. So I thought more about it and realized, we have six more shoots to finish.  One for each sin.  Needless to say, we aren’t finished yet.  I am not excited and on a natural high yet because there is still so much work to be done.  Now that I have come to this realization, I am kind of getting excited again!

I am also PUMPED to announce that we are going to be featured in a local gallery (Dec.10th – Jan.19th at NBCCD) where our dresses, as well as Lance’s photography will be on display.  I will keep you all posted on our progress and of course invite you to the opening night of our show closer to the event! 😉

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb


In Pursuit of The Perfect Harvest

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, is the one time of the year that Fredericton actually comes to life.  Like any harvest, some are more bountiful than others. This year tomatoes were particularly good according to my Uncle Peter (a farmer in Northern New Brunswick).  The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival can be the same way.  Most harvests come with rain and/or cold weather. However, this year it provided over sized poutines from friendly food trucks, rich arts and culture and a heat wave that I can never remember having before during this time of year (side note: I had on a faux leather jacket that stuck to my arms like Ross’ leather pants. Thankfully I learned from FRIENDS that baby powder and lotion do not work and once I managed to squeeze my arms out of the coat, I did not attempt to put it back on).

As I walked up and down Queen Street with my BF Paige on Thursday night, we took in the usual sights and sounds.  Buskers dancing with fire, beatboxers making so many sounds at once it was hard to believe it wasn’t a recording and alas, the fashion.  Now, Im not talking about the “all walks of life” type of fashion that comes out at Harvest.  You know what I mean. Anything from kakis and polos (BORING!) to rainbow coloured, hemp sweaters. I’m talking about new, trendy local vendors…

In Pursuit Mobile Boutique
In Pursuit Mobile Boutique

When I first spotted the pink truck, I knew it was going to be a good.  In Pursuit is a mobile boutique based out of St. John  (I apologize for all of you that already knew that such a cool thing existed.  Apparently I am behind the times).  As my friend Paige and I passed through the chalkboard doors and into pink bliss, I became more and more excited.  The truck was stocked full of big chunky fall sweaters, graphic tanks and my personal favourite… bracelets with, um… words on them.

My favourite find at In Pursuit.
My favourite find at In Pursuit.

In Pursuit is THE STORE for millennials.  Just like their website says, it is “built for lady bosses, go-getters and rockstar girlie girls who know a good thing when they see one.”  With quotes about wanderlust and not having enough coffee in the morning littering the boutique, I felt right at home.

Experiencing this boutique made me even more excited about being creative and hopefully one day being a local business owner.  Experiencing this boutique at Harvest and talking to my Uncle Peter reminded me just how much hard work it takes to be successful.  It’s not all about an idea, it’s about making that idea a reality by nurturing and caring for it.  Hopefully one day, I will have a good crop of tomatoes too:)

“It’s like the seed put in the soil – the more one sows, the greater the harvest.” – Orison Swett Marden


Jack of All Trades

Being a Surface Designer is both frustrating and rewarding in the sense that you are not simply limited to painting and photoshop.  Being a Surface Designer means you get to work with paper, dye, fabric, paint, pastels, wool, string and pretty much every other medium you can think of.

Me, hand painting 5m of silk for my grad piece at NBCCD.
Me, hand painting 5m of silk for my grad piece at NBCCD.

Not only do you have to work with different art supplies, you have to take on many different vocations. Furthermore, you have to work as these vocations without any training.  I have been: a contortionist while painting five meters of hand dyed silk in a room not much bigger than the fabric itself;  a professional packer while fitting Micheals’ craft store into only two lockers; a sculptor when I had to make my own mannequin out of only masking tape. The list goes on.

This is the story about how I learned my next trade.  Football.  My husband and I live in a two bedroom apartment.  One room is allocated for craft supplies, but since anything that gets put into that room seems to procreate (seriously, I have thrown out over eleven garbage bags of stuff from that room alone and I still can not walk through it), I cannot physically do my art in there.  As a result, I do most of my work in our living room, kitchen, bathroom, you name it (thank you Ryan for still loving me).

So one day, I was painting this very nice, very expensive piece of silk. I had to do it in one small section at a time because of the lack of space. Ombre. Oh the coveted ombre.  “It will be easy” I said.  “It will be fast” I thought.  No. Ombre is one of the hardest things to dye in the world  (if you want it done correctly). So as I am spending DAYS on my first SECTION of this five meter piece of silk, I realize that the part that I have finally completed has somehow gotten a big splotch of BROWN (ew) dye on the lightest coloured section.  I died.  I literally died.

The calm before the storm...
The calm before the storm…

As I stood squashed between my kitchen table with the ruined silk and the kitchen window a few inches behind me, I picked up an empty glass jar that stood on the window sill. This jar had been knocked over by me countless times since I had started painting the silk.   As the jar was just about to leave my fingertips, heading directly towards our brand new Macbook Air, my husband yelled, “NO DON’T!”  That is when I became Drew Brees.  At the very last second I spun that jar with such perfection that Drew himself would have been proud.  Fortunately for our Mac, our computer was spared.  Unfortunately for our wall, it was not.

Luckily, I have a degree in PR that I received from years of studies at the Facebook-Instagram Academy.  So of course, I knew what to do.  I covered that shit up.   I have now disguised the hole with a cute working space so no one will know the hole is even there.  How “pinterest”  (psycho) of me.

“The work of art is a scream of freedom.”- Christo


Sometimes Art is The Best Therapy

My BF Sara and I doing our best Jackson Pollock
My BF Sara and I doing our best Jackson Pollock

One of my best friends, Sara, is a nurse here in F’ton.  This summer she worked a heart breaking shift. The kind of shift where one might turn to alcohol, or around here, a trip to Walmart wearing crocks and a onesie to stock up on junk food (I’m not judging). Instead, Sara wanted us to buy a couple of canvases and throw paint on them to help her get out some of her feelings in a healthy way.

After a tough night of Teri D bootcamp (love her), we got out our art supplies and started throwing paint.  The only bad part of the night were the bugs. They were horrible.  There are legit, tinny dead flies in my painting to this day.  Oh well, we’ll just say it was part of the medium. Lol.

“If you’re feeling blue – try painting yourself a different colour” – Hannah Cheatem


The Best Things in Life Are Free

As an artist, nothing makes you feel better than two things.  One is when something turns out EXACTLY like it is in your head.  It is the best feeling in the world.  Unfortunately this has only happened to me a couple of times, but when it does, it is so rewarding.  Number two, is when you see your work FINALLY FINISHED!  If you are an artist like me, you probably have a million ideas.  Some great, some not.  The problem with all of these ideas, is that you can’t possibly finish all of them.  My apartment (and car) is FULL of half way finished projects, sketches and supplies. I was one hundred percent convinced, at the time of purchase, that these supplies were going to go towards good use.  Ya.  Not so much. However, when you do finish something and you get to see it fulfill the role it was meant to (and not just sit crumpled up at the bottom of a  pile on your craft room floor), it is the happiest feeling you’ll ever get.  It is better than Christmas, it is better than Netflix, it is better than a poutin with extra cheese curds (and that is sayin’ somethin)!

Blue Silk Dress
Photography: Dale Preston www.prestonphotography.com
Surface Designer: Dee Wikie.
Fashion designer : Adrienne Goodine
Model: Athenais Testi

This team gives me that high.  Adrienne Goodine has a knack of taking my hand dyed silk, and making me love it so much more than I ever could have without her.  I am not joking.  I have literally dyed a piece of silk that looked like THROW UP. When Adrienne was done with it, I actually liked it!  Same with Athenais Testi.  She is beyond talented and professional. For a fourteen year old, that makes it even more impressive!  When Athenais is wearing my silk, I am immediately more happy with it.  I did not work personally with Dale, but look at this photo! Stunning.

All in all, I want this to be a reminder to myself, and to you: When it comes to art projects, we need to finish what we start. The end result is so worth it.