Monday, September 29, 2014



A few years ago, I wrote a story entitled Flat Broke: Just Hitched From Vancouver.  It was about the black and white photograph Ivaan took in 1993 of a young woman playing the flute in a downtown doorway.  Her cardboard sign read: "Just hitched from Vancouver. Flat broke."

Ten years after he took the photo, he ran into the same young woman, now married with children.  She inquired about the photo, and he said he'd saved her an enlargement.  He invited her to come by his studio on Queen Street and pick it up.  Three days later, Ivaan suffered a massive stroke.  While he was in the hospital, the building in which his studio was located was sold, and we had to pack up the contents and move to a new location. Ivaan's partner Tamas was packing up when the young woman came by to collect her photo.  Tamas knew nothing about it, and the young woman went away, very disappointed, not leaving her contact information.

Before he died, Ivaan asked me not to give up on finding the young woman and giving her the enlargement he'd been saving for her.

Last month, I learned that LabSpace Studio was preparing a video installation, entitled The Things We Lose, to be displayed on 292 video
monitors on TTC subway platforms throughout the month of October.  They were soliciting stories about things people lose and never regain - not just physical items, but experiences and life events.  I decided to apply to participate, as I felt Ivaan and I had lost the opportunity to give this photo to the young woman.  Happily, my submission was accepted.

A few days later, Laura Mendes and John Loerchner, the owners of LabSpace Studio, came over and filmed me telling my story.

If you are in a TTC subway station during the month of October, look up at one of the video screens.  Who knows?  Maybe you'll see my video.  And - who knows? - maybe someone who knows this young woman (she'd be about 40 now) will see it and tell her I've got the photo for her.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Last year I posted a story about three identical bronze plaques Ivaan made to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine.  He'd hoped to present them to St. Volodymyr Cathedral, partly because they depicted St. Volodymyr, and partly because he wanted to honour his parents, his favourite Priest, and his favourite Priest's wife.

The plaques are beautiful, and last year I was proud to present them to the Cathedral on Ivaan's behalf.  It took some time for the Cathedral Board to decide where to mount the bronzes, but the other day I learned that the first of them had been mounted in the vestibule,  on a column just to the left of the centre doors leading into the Cathedral.  So this morning I put on my Sunday best and packed my camera, eager to take a photograph of one of the bronze plaques in situ.

I arrived just at the right time.  Father Sencio, Ivaan's favourite Priest, to whom one of the plaques is dedicated, was conducting the Sunday service, there was a full house, and the Cathedral smelled wonderful.  One of Ivaan's favourite aftershaves, Angel, by Thierry Mugler, smells exactly like church incense, so I felt like I'd come home.

And there, on a column to the left of the centre doors, was Ivaan's St. Volodymyr.  I started to laugh when I looked at the photograph below, because I suddenly realized that Ivaan had given his own uncommonly handsome nose to the very Ukrainian-looking St. Volodymyr.  It lends him an air of distinction.

As we approach your milestone birthday, Ivaan, beloved husband of mine, I'm thrilled to have been able to fulfill another of my promises to you.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


I've been contemplating our upcoming "milestone" wedding anniversary (April 1, 2015, in case you care) and what advice, if asked, I'd give to any couple contemplating marriage. After some consideration, I realize I'd give the same advice to any couple contemplating divorce.

First, I'd tell them a little story about Ivaan and me:

The morning of our wedding day, Ivaan announced he was going to work. That seemed a little over-zealous, since he was self employed, but he assured me he'd be back in plenty of time.  So off he went, and I busied myself getting my hair and make-up done.  He arrived home in plenty of time. I expected he'd go upstairs and put on a suit, but he said, no, he was planning on being married in the clothes he was wearing: black trousers and shirt, his black leather jacket and a black and white scarf.  A number of thoughts raced through my mind, the most prominent among them being, "If you don't put on a suit, we're not getting married".  Then I looked at his face.  He looked terrified.

So instead, I asked myself, "Look, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"

I chose happy, and I said, with as much equanimity as I could muster, "All right, then, let's go".  And we did.  An hour later, we were husband and wife.
Our wedding reception was scheduled for the following day.  My new husband got up, put on his tuxedo and looked gorgeous as always. Best of all, he looked radiant. I dressed up a little, too, in my first haute couture dress, but neither of us could hold a candle to our Princess Bridesmaid, the lovely Nicole Madeleine Duke, age five, resplendent in a Jessica McClintock gown and a golden tiara.  She outshone the bride and groom, by about a mile.
Nearly 20 years later, I reflect on the advice I gave myself on my wedding day. It was the best advice I've ever given anybody. If you are contemplating marriage, or divorce, and you want some good advice, just ask me. I'll tell you the secret to a long and happy marriage:
"Never Choose Right.  Always Choose Happy."

Friday, September 5, 2014


Every so often, I'll get a commission from a client who has inherited or collected jewellery from family members which, though of sentimental value, are really not wearable "as is".    Often, the pieces of jewellery have been sitting around in a jewellery box for many years, unseen, unworn, but not unloved.

I think it takes some courage to be able to say, "I would like to wear all this; can you remake it into something I'll absolutely love?"

And sometimes, that client will be looking through sample rings by Ivaan and just fixate on one particular item.  I'll pull out more and more options, but they always come back to their first crush.

I just love it when the ring they are attracted to happens to be a signature Ivaan piece, and it also happens to look perfect on their hand.  That's what happened recently:  our good friend D brought her good friend M in to see what we could do with her collection of family jewellery, M fell in love with Ivaan's "Lana" ribbon ring, and I got to work on a ring that incorporated all her gold and all her diamonds.

Here, then, is M's new ring.  I hope she screams when she sees it.  On days like this, when I've just finished a ring that practically made itself and came out perfectly, I feel I'm basking in Ivaan's reflected glory and I am pretty sure he's rather proud of me.
White Gold & Diamond "Lana" Ribbon Ring © ATELIER IVAAN