August 2010

Saintly Sock Monkeys

Why am I so infatuated with sock monkeys? Because every time I look at them they make me smile. Sometimes they even make me laugh.

It all started one day when I decided that the perfect gift for my boyfriend, at the time, (we'll call him Mr.X) would be a sock monkey – at our age we really have everything we need and anything we want is too damn expensive.

My first attempt was less than spectacular. Following instructions I found online and using a pair of itchy wool work socks I ended up with an over-stuffed,

My Mom – Part II

Happy Birthday Mom!

47ABC_10.JPGIllustration by Vlasta van Kampen for ABC/123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book

In my last blog I wrote about my favourite of my mom's books ABC/123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book (ABC/123). I was upset because when I went to scan in some images I couldn't find my copy. I have no idea where it has gone but it is nowhere in my house.

It was my mom's birthday this past weekend so our little family gathered to celebrate with excellent food, great beer (thanks Dimitri) and divine wine (thanks Marie). While I was there I mentioned my loss to mom. She took me to her cupboard, dug around in some

My Mom

39Vlasta van Kampen Hippo.jpgPurple Flip Flops – Vlasta van Kampen, Hip Hippos, 2008

After my last blog entry I have had many inquiries regarding my craft focused family. I have decided to start off my response by writing a bit about my mom. My mom was a devoted crafter, more so when I was a kid than of late, so I am trying to help rekindle her passion for

Toronto's Festival of Beer

The handmade handcrafted ideology runs in my family. My grandmother was a quilter, my mother an illustrator, my father a graphic designer (pre-computer) and my brother is starting a Toronto-based craft brewery.

My brother hired me as the company's graphic designer. Over the past few months I have been tagging along to beer festivals, pub crawls, beer tastings and tap countings in order to conduct serious

Fearless colour

It's a holiday Monday, the weather is perfect and my mom's Pontiac Solstice convertible is begging to be driven. We head out on the lush, curvy, hilly Ontario roads just east of Peterborough for a day trip I won't soon forget.

We end up in a typical rural town called Madoc. It has a couple street lights and some parks, a pizzeria and a few coffee shops. But what may escape the average day tripper is that just off the main drag is the home of a very unique and wonderfully interesting painter named Diane Woodward.

Diane and her cat Lily greet us as we dislodge ourselves from the car.  Immediately I am aware that this is not an ordinary home. The window frames have all been painted with red and yellow and pink stripes.

She opens the door that leads us into the kitchen and I feel as though I am Alice in a strange Wonderland. Every square inch of the kitchen has been painted. There is no surface left bare. Christmas lights in orange and red are looped along the low ceiling. The stove is a giant sun with red and yellow rays shouting "I'm hot! I'm hot!" Each cupboard door is a different geometric painting – yellow and orange dots in Op Art style framed in black and white checkerboard patterns – a spiral of red and white framed with yellow and orange dots with rainbow stripes – a  blue sky with a zebra's backside framed in red and yellow dots.

The kitchen table is a swirly flower of red and yellow on a green backdrop framed in a jester pattern of red and white diamonds. Every wooden chair around the table is a sculpture of a throne with zebra stripes, yellow and red paisley swirls and any other number of colour combinations and patterns.

As I drink in my surroundings this woman, whom I have just met a second ago, is chatting away as if we have all known each other for many years. There are cookies baking in the oven  and we are asked to remind her to take them out in 10 minutes as she leads us into the living room.

The living room, she explains, is now a bar. The bar is in the shape of a paisley swirl, designed, constructed and painted by Woodward herself. She recommends I invest in a nail gun and asks us if we have ever taken a course in carpentry. She discusses the merits of the different glues she uses and then goes on to tell us of the new mirror box paintings that she has started creating. She pulls one out and plugs it in. This painting looks like a wooden light box where every surface has been painted. It has internal lights and due to mirrors and angles the apintings appear to go on forever. The mural behind the bar is circus-like and surreal. It shows a tiger on a tightrope, lounging leopards and zebras playfighting.
13Diane Woodward_Bar.jpg
I can't possibly keep up. She is gone and reappears with a plate of cookies. She explains that she is vegan. She gives us the recipe verbally, "it's really very simple." But she looses me after spelt flour and tahini. The cookies are delicious