Monday, February 17, 2014


I didn't know I was going to be writing my 100th post today, but a funny thing just happened.  It's like one of those telescoping dreams I sometimes have, where one scene leads to another and they always make perfect sense at the time.  I had actually planned to write a post about a vivid dream I had, which I remembered in minute detail.  But now I'm going to write this Sheherezade-like series of events, and hey, it just turns out it's my 100th post.  In honour of Ivaan, who could not bear a story that wasn't succinct, I will try to keep it short and snappy.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

It all started with my friend Mary Ann, who owns a house that is magnificent. The first time I was ever at her place, I never actually saw the kitchen because the whole house was filled with people, but on a subsequent visit I did, and although I am rarely short of words, I was pretty well struck dumb.  First, it was about the size of my entire place.  Second, it was a simple lapis lazuli blue and white colour scheme.  It just had a feeling of calm permanence about it.  It was perfect. And indeed, when I asked, she told me it was just like this when she and David had bought the house over 10 years previously.

At the time, I didn't even have a kitchen here, though there was a room designated for that purpose.  And I was managing just fine without one, largely by virtue of accepting every invitation to dine that came my way, and extending quite a few of my own invitations to dine out.  One of my nephews calculated that on a recent visit, we had 14 consecutive meals in restaurants.

So, in short, it's because of Mary Ann and David that I became obsessed with having my own lapis lazuli and white kitchen.  It was either that or volunteer to be a scullery maid over there.  I ordered a kitchen, it was installed last week, and everything was good till I realized I still had some sanding, sweeping, priming and painting to do in there.  But I couldn't find my sanding sponges, or my dustpans, or my brooms, or any of my power tools.    They had vanished, so no work got done today, but a lot of searching occurred instead.  And while I was searching, I came across some interesting archival photos from the 1950s that Ivaan had put away for someone.  Setting those aside, I sat down to look at the remainder of the photos in the envelope.  It is very unlike me to misplace anything, but I have been looking for two particular 8 by 10 photographs since April of last year. It seemed almost unbelievable that I should be searching for my power tools and find two photographic enlargements instead.  I'd promised to give them to Barbara Frum's daughter, Linda, who had been a toddler at the time her mother interviewed the heartthrob English actor Alan Bates at Stratford in 1967.  (This would be like Linda Frum going for an afternoon picnic with Hugh Grant, or me with Gabriel Byrne, or Mary Ann having an assignation with Paul McCartney, and of the three scenarios, I think Mary Ann's is the most likely to occur.  She just has that kind of life.)

Alan Bates and Barbara Frum, Stratford, 1967, by Ivaan Kotulsky
(c) Linda Frum
Alan Bates and Barbara Frum, Stratford, 1967, by Ivaan Kotulsky
(c) Linda Frum

So, to wrap this story up, I have found the photos Ivaan took of Barbara Frum and Alan Bates in 1967 and will pass them on to Linda Frum with immense satisfaction and relief, but I still can't find my power tools.  Maybe Paul McCartney has them.  Grrrr.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


In 1968, while working for Maclean Hunter Publishing,  Ivaan was sent to photograph various First Nations people for a Chatelaine article Barbara Frum was writing, entitled Canadian Indians 1968:  How Ottawa (And We) Slept.  Five years later, Maclean Hunter disbanded their in-house photographic studio. All the staff photographers' negatives and prints were discarded.  It was a disgraceful waste of valuable Canadian archival material. Ivaan, hearing about the disposal, rescued as many significant examples of his work as he could, and kept them. Instinctively, he knew that these were too important to be thrown away.

After Ivaan's death, when I was sorting through the tens of thousands of photographs he'd accumulated, I came across some enlargements and all the negatives from this Chatelaine photo shoot.  I knew they were from his Maclean Hunter days but beyond that there were few clues.  I decided to do a little detective work, and eventually located a copy of the November 1968 issue of Chatelaine, containing the article, in the Toronto Reference Library.  The article provided the names of the people Ivaan had photographed.  I decided that the photographs and negatives should be offered to them, or to their families, and I conducted an internet search to locate the individuals.

One group of photos was of a slight, pretty young woman named Elda Smith. She was a Mohawk potter who combined traditional techniques and motifs with her own distinctive artistic flair. I learned that her work was highly respected and valued and that she had been commissioned to make a piece of pottery as a gift for Queen Elizabeth II.   Although Elda was no longer alive, I was able to make contact with her son, Steve Smith, himself an acclaimed pottery artist in the Brantford area.  Steve was thrilled when I offered him the photographs and negatives, because although they had a copy of the Chatelaine article, they had few, if any, photographs of his mother.  So I packaged them up and sent them to Steve.

A few months later, I received a large box in the mail.  Here's what it contained:

I was overwhelmed.  It looks beautiful in the photograph (and you can see the other side of it reflected in the mirror behind it), but nothing compares to seeing it up close, and actually holding it.   It took a while for me to realize that there was some paperwork rolled up inside it, fastened by a leather thong. I untied it, and read this letter:
This beautiful vase is proudly displayed in Atelier Ivaan.  I look at it every day. I know Ivaan would have appreciated my efforts to "close the loop" by giving these photographs to Steve Smith, and I know he would have loved and cherished this piece of art as much as I do.  It will be with me, as will Steve's letter, for as long as I live.  Thank you, Steve, for this magnificent gift. I feel honoured to accept it, in memory of your mother, and on behalf of Ivaan.