Sunday, March 27, 2011


A very valuable lesson I learned from Ivaan early in our friendship was, "Never say you're going to do something until you've already done it. This will greatly enhance your appearance of being successful." I should have thought of that before I wrote, in the post before last, that I was going to cast the Separated At Birth ring in sterling silver and set the stone in the silver version.

I've been working at it ever since.  It is still not done, but barring any unforeseen eventualities like the stone shattering (may it not come to pass), the ring is now within sight of completion.  It is at this precise stage that I should have written, "I think I'll cast it in silver and set the stone in the silver version."   Grrrr.

"Si j'avais su" often seems to be a recurring theme in my life, and it certainly was in this instance.  Had I known it was going to be half this much work to cast the master in sterling silver and set the stone in it, I would simply have set the stone in the bronze master, given it a good polish, and gone for a manicure, secure in the belief that I had carried out Ivaan's wishes.

Instead, my hands look as though I've been coal mining, the ring isn't finished, and neither is my term paper on Italian Sociolinguistics.  And who can write an academic paper with fingernails like these?

Here are some photos of the work in progress.  I've still got some work to do, mostly on the strands that connect the band to the bezel, but chances are I will get it finished this week.  I'm still not sure what the stone is, but it's possibly ammolite:  time - and Tamas - will tell.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


In the summer of 1989, Ivaan's friend Len bought a new video camera.  One day he decided to pay a visit to Ivaan.  He was filming when Ivaan opened the front door.  Here's a clip of the film Len made.   My heart still pounds every time I watch this.  The mess is breathtaking, but it's beautiful to see a young Ivaan again.  This was at the very end of his bachelor days....and judging by his standard of housekeeping, not a moment too soon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SEPARATED AT BIRTH? A Vintage Ring And The Stone Around Which It Was Made

A couple of days ago, I was sorting through some bronze masters (originals) of rings Ivaan had made.  Many of them were vintage rings and some of them were quite spectacular.  One in particular caught my eye.  It had a large, unusually-shaped bezel on top.  A bezel is a metal border that folds over very slightly to hold a stone in place.  I was mystified by the shape of the bezel, and wondered if Ivaan had intended to have a stone cut to fit it.  It didn't make much sense, but I set the ring aside, planning to do some research into stone cutting and polishing.  Here are two photos of the ring, which appears to date from the late 1970s or early 1980s:

Yesterday, I was sorting through a bag of gemstones.  The bag looked like it might have been recovered during a salvage operation on the Titanic; that's how bashed up it was.  I had just finished sending an email to Ivaan's former partner, Tamas, who is extremely knowledgeable about gemstones, asking if he would help me figure out which (if any) of the stones were worth keeping, when I noticed an oddly-shaped crystalline stone shaped a bit like a kidney bean.

I've often marvelled at how many rings Ivaan had that required stones, and how many stones he had that didn't fit any of the aforementioned rings.  If an oval stone is required, it has to be the exact shape and size.  Rectangular stones are the worst to fit.  I guess that's why they are usually in a claw setting. So I wasn't optimistic when I picked up this crystalline stone and went in search of the ring I'd found the day before. I'd be better off buying a lottery ticket than expecting a random stone to fit a particular ring. I popped the stone into the ring.

It fit like a glove.  (You could see this coming, couldn't you?)  For a few moments, I marvelled that Ivaan would have gone out of his way to have a stone cut to fit this ring.  It didn't  make sense.  It wasn't a particularly exciting shape, and Ivaan was acutely sensitive to how things were shaped. Suddenly I had a revelation:  Ivaan had acquired the stone first, and had made the ring to fit the stone.  This, of course, doesn't explain why the ring has sat for 30 years in one plastic bag and the stone has sat for 30 years in another plastic bag, moved seven times from one studio to another, shared the same closet for the last two years and have never - until this weekend - been reunited.  It's a bit like having been separated at birth from your twin, and eventually meeting as adults, only to find out you'd both gone to the same school.

I know what will happen next:  I'll be leafing through one of Ivaan's journals and I'll find the original drawings for this ring. Ivaan's journals will be the subject of an upcoming post.  They are so interesting: a combination of drawings, diary entries, clever ideas, phone numbers, random thoughts, plus descriptions of many of his techniques.   So here's the ring:  I think I might cast it in silver and set the stone in the silver version.  Stand by for further developments.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


During their internment in a forced labour camp in Nazi Germany, one of Ivaan's family's deepest secrets was the fact that Dad owned a camera.  It was not only a prized possession but it was also the source of great fear.  If its existence came to light, there could be repercussions.  But for that camera, however, there would have been no early photographs of Ivaan and his sister Nadia.
Ivaan and Nadia, 1945
The first photo of Ivaan and Nadia was taken a few months after the liberation. He had fattened up considerably, and his head had been shaven for a couple of reasons:  head lice and tradition.  It was believed that shaving a baby boy's head would ensure he would have a good head of hair as an adult. Notice his eyes? Anyone who knows Ivaan well will recognize him by his eyes. I used to describe them as two currants in a loaf of bread.

Ivaan, circa 1959

Ivaan's interest in photography stemmed from the time he started high school at Harbord Collegiate.  He must have been about 15 when this photo was taken.  I don't know who took it.  Perhaps he took it himself or maybe it was taken by another member of the Camera Club at Harbord.  It's an excellent photo, though, and he treasured it.

Ivaan, by Helen, circa 1961

I think this photo was taken by Helen Poliwka, who was Ivaan's first serious girlfriend.  Ivaan and Helen were the cutest couple imaginable  - both with movie star good looks and personalities to match.  Helen remained a lifelong friend and Ivaan always treasured her as one of the favourite people in his life.

Ivaan, Helen and friends, circa 1962

I don't know whether it was for a school play or a dance or some other reason, but Ivaan and his friends dressed as beatniks for this photograph.  That's Ivaan in white, in the middle of the photo, and his girlfriend Helen is directly to the right of him in the photo.

Ivaan with some cheerleaders, circa 1962
I think the glasses were just for effect.  Ivaan didn't actually need glasses, yet he wears this pair in several photographs, so I can only speculate it was to give him that certain "je ne sais quoi". 

Ivaan as "Jesus", circa 1973
Ivaan took this photo of himself in about 1973.  There are a million photos of Ivaan but this is the one most of his female fans swoon over.  I think he took it just before he cut his hair and shaved his moustache.  I only have one copy, and I can't find the negative, so I really prize it.

Ivaan christening his goddaughter Mariana in 2001

Mariana looks far less worried than she ought to be in this photo:  Ivaan had just suffered his first stroke a few months previously, and  his right arm was still  quite paralyzed.  He was terrified he was going to drop her, so this photo was taken in a hurry. For the remainder of the christening ceremony, Mariana was held by her godmother Anna (also a goddaughter of Ivaan's).