Friday, July 18, 2014


Decades before the "selfie" (a snapshot taken by ourselves and of ourselves) became an actual noun, Ivaan had invented and mastered the technique.  I never thought about it until a few days ago, when I was contemplating the unforeseen effects of digital photography.  Ivaan disapproved of digital photography and only ever bought one digital camera.  He predicted, accurately, that digital photography would bring about the end of skill in taking a photograph, because it was so easy to "destroy the evidence" of a bad photograph.

In film photography, the good, the bad and the ugly were all there on your negatives, so there was a good reason to ensure you were taking a worthwhile shot in the first place.  In digital photography, skill was replaced with chance: just delete the images you don't want anybody to see, and no one will ever know they existed.

So, taking a "selfie" with a film camera was an act of bravery, as well as a test of skill.  Here are a couple of selfies of us, taken by Ivaan back in the late 1980s.  Not sure why my hair looked so black in this first photo, because it wasn't, but my blue mascara was pretty impressive. The second one has a kind of Dr. Zhivago vibe to it.

Ivaan, you were truly the selfie pioneer and the undisputed master of the art form.

Friday, July 4, 2014


This afternoon, I was in the slave shop, trying to preserve my manicure while polishing a ring, when the store door opened.  In came a woman who was delivering an incredible floral arrangement.  Architecturally, it's a marvel, so tall that it nearly touches the ceiling, and when she set it down, we both had to stand  back and catch our breath because it looked so breathtaking against our green wall.   It's so Ivaan-like in its riot of colour and form, just like his most extravagant work.  I only wish he were here to show me how to photograph it well.  In order to fit the whole arrangement into the camera frame, I thought I would have to go outside (it's a small store and there is nothing small about these flowers).

Walking around it, the arrangement is quite different from every angle, and it reminds me strongly of Ivaan's aesthetic sense: every side is its best side.  Every single person who came into the store since then has been pretty much stunned into silence.  One guy forgot what he came here for. It dwarfs the enormous paintings on the wall behind it. I gave up polishing jewellery for the day, because I just wanted to hang around here and bask in the glow, and it would have felt all wrong not to have perfect fingernails at a time like this.

If you are out and about in Toronto tomorrow, you might want to drop by Atelier Ivaan.  But I guarantee you won't be looking at any jewellery.
To my friend and benefactor, thank you for your flowers and your note.  You really touched me. I'm not often short of words, but I was today.


The first time I ever saw a Ginkgo Biloba leaf was on a piece of small sculpture made by Ivaan.  I honestly thought it was one of his fantastical creations, not an actual leaf that existed in nature.  This is his ginkgo leaf, running up and down the left side of the sculpture:
©1979 Estate of Ivaan Kotulsky

The second time I saw a Ginkgo Biloba leaf was on an actual tree, at the entrance to the cemetery where Ivaan is buried.  I knew he'd played there as a child, and perhaps that's where he had first seen this magnificent tree.  I didn't even know what it was called.  As soon as I found out, I ordered a Ginkgo and planted it in the back yard.  It seemed to thrive, and it was a bit tough, leaving it behind when I sold the house.

There's a concrete planter on the sidewalk in front of Atelier Ivaan, and ever since I've been here, a diseased Ash tree has occupied it.  I decided to ask the City if, when they removed the Ash, I could buy a Ginkgo and plant it there.  I was thrilled that they offered to supply a Ginkgo.  Today, the men from Urban Forestry arrived with two Ginkgo Biloba trees and they let me have my pick. It's a fabulous one.

I likely won't win any awards for my photography, but here it is.  The Ginkgo Biloba is an ancient and very slow-growing tree that is believed to have originated in what is now China.  It is able to thrive in less than ideal conditions and is known for cleaning pollutants from the air. I promise to water it faithfully every evening this summer and to admire it and be reminded of Ivaan every time I pass it.  So much beauty would have escaped my eyes, had it not been for my good fortune in learning to see the natural world through Ivaan's eyes.

And in case you, like me, have been living in ignorance of the beauty of the Ginkgo Biloba, I've plucked a couple of leaves and photographed them for you.