Monday, October 19, 2015


In 2000, I decided to sell my beloved red Kawasaki motorcycle.  It wasn't a hard decision.  Ivaan had his first stroke early that year.  There's a saying among Toronto motorcycle riders:  "If your front tire gets on a streetcar track, there's only one place you're going:  the Humber Loop".  For non-residents of Toronto, the Humber Loop is the western junction of several streetcar lines, and the expression means it's not easy to get your tire off a streetcar track, so you should only intersect with one at a right angle.

Strokes are a bit like streetcar tracks.  If you've had one, you can pretty well stop worrying about dying of anything else.  I knew Ivaan would need me to look after him in the years to come, which I wouldn't be able to do if I injured myself on my bike, so I sold my motorcycle and tried not to look back with regret.  But every spring, when the sun was out and the roads were dry and I heard the distinctive rumbling of someone else's motorcycle, I felt a pang of loss.

Five years and two more strokes later, when I left my career to take care of Ivaan full-time, one of my staff members who has a dark sense of humour wrote me a note: "The day after the funeral, you'll be the woman in the red dress at the motorcycle dealership".

In fact, six years after Ivaan's death, I had begun to wonder if my courage was failing me. Maybe I was just too old for a motorcycle.  But I did spend a bit of time online, researching what bike I'd buy if I were going to buy one.  And one day, I Googled the name and model of the bike I'd have liked, and up popped this perfect specimen.   Everything about it was right: the size, the colour, the price, the accessories.  Just to prove to myself that I wasn't impulsive, I waited a full 24 hours before I headed for the dealership - just to look at it, you understand.

I didn't even take it out for a spin. I did the math:  I already have a motorcycle licence plate.   I still have my helmet, and Ivaan's too.  I have a leather jacket and motorcycle boots.  In short, it would be a crime against economics not to buy it.  Or so I reasoned.

Yesterday I went down to the dealership with my original licence plate and my helmet, and left them there with the bike.  And today, there it was, outfitted with my plate,  just begging me to ride it. I was completely freaked out.  After all, I hadn't ridden once in 15 years.  I assumed it would all come back to me, but as I sat on it, I was reciting the checklist to myself:  Fuel. Ignition. Neutral. Electric. Choke. Clutch.

Suddenly, I heard a voice calling me. It was Doug, one of the owners of the dealership. He said, "You haven't ridden for 15 years.  You need to practise in the laneway before you head out on a main street."  It was like the voice of God bringing me to my senses. Doug wheeled the  bike round to the laneway behind the dealership and said, "Ride up and down the laneway a few times. Don't get out of first gear till you're comfortable with it."  I did what he said, but half way up the laneway, boom, I felt so comfortable, I shifted smoothly into second gear and just kept right on going.

Maybe tomorrow I'll bike down to the dealership again and thank Doug.  All things considered, he probably saved my life.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


The lofty goal I had set for myself was to have completed the first draft of 30 Pieces of Silver by Ivaan's birthday, which is tomorrow.  I'm pleased to report that not only have I completed the first draft, I have also finished the book design.  Just a little preview, Ivaan, in case you have been paying attention.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Ivaan considered this his preeminent piece.  It's large, it's heavy, it's gold, and it's set with 30 rubies, making it very appropriate as the final selection for 30 Pieces of Silver.

I think Ivaan made this heart in about 1999.  I wear it from time to time because one day some rich person will come along and buy it, and then I won't have a chance to.  Till then, it's mine.

There's a great story associated with this piece.  If you've read the whole series, you may remember the story of Ivaan's corkscrews, which he managed to convince himself I had thrown out.  Those flights of fancy were so characteristic of Ivaan that just writing about them I can feel my blood pressure rising.

In 2005, when his studio was in a warehouse building two doors away from our house, Ivaan reported to me that he'd left this heart lying on his mahogany work table, and that some workmen who had come in to install an HVAC system had stolen it.  Initially I believed him, because it's such a spectacular piece, and I could imagine how someone would be tempted. What I couldn't imagine was why he would have left it on his work table. After all, it was a finished piece.

I suggested calling the HVAC company.  I suggested calling the police.  I ought to have been suspicious when Ivaan insisted that this would do no good, that the piece was gone forever and he'd never recover from the loss.

A year later, I was in Ivaan's dressing room, sorting and cleaning out his dressing table.  In the very back of the top left hand drawer, where Ivaan kept his handkerchiefs, his cufflinks, his formalwear accessories and his yarmulke, there was the gold and ruby heart.  The devil got the better of me.  Hiding it in my hand, I went to Ivaan and asked, "Remember that gold and ruby heart that the workmen stole?"  Ivaan groaned.  "Don't remind me", he replied.  "It's funny", I began, but Ivaan interrupted me angrily.  "What's so funny about it?", he asked. 'I'll take the memory of it to my grave."

I paused for dramatic effect. "What's funny is that after they stole it, they broke in here and hid it in your dresser drawer", I answered, and opened my hand to reveal the heart.

"Oh", said Ivaan.  Just that one word.  "Oh".


This is Ivaan's fifth piece.  Comparing it to his first piece, Ivaan's learning trajectory must have been almost vertical.  There are a few other items that he made in the same time frame that are quite similar to this in style, but they tend to be functional pieces, as opposed to just simply beautiful.

What is so impressive is that, this early in his jewellery-making career, he has already adopted his lifelong practice of making sure his pieces were beautiful from every angle.  In this ring, one flower faces up and a smaller one faces sideways, enabling a larger and a smaller gemstone to be set in the mouths of the flowers.  Or not.  Either way, it's a masterpiece.


Perhaps the purest example of Ivaan's focus on making beautiful things solely for the joy of creation is this bronze piece.  I know it's from 1979, because I found a dated photograph of the original wax Ivaan carved.  What I don't know is for what, if anything, Ivaan intended this. Clearly it was intended to hang on a wall or around someone's neck, because those frills that appear at seven o'clock and nine o'clock contain holes for a chain or cord.  It's bowl-shaped and just the right size to fill the palm of my hand.

There are many marine influences on the piece, as well as a ginkgo biloba leaf. I can only assume that Ivaan was influenced by the ginkgo trees he might have seen in the cemetery where he is buried, as he used to play there as a child.

This is not a piece that can be duplicated, although one day when 3-D printing has evolved, perhaps it will.  I'm often tempted to wear it around my neck, maybe as an anchor on a windy day.  I used to see this piece kicking around among Ivaan's effects for years, and I deeply regret not asking him about it.

I marvel at it every time I see it, perhaps all the more because the little I do know about it is so insignificant compared to what I don't  know.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


In early 2011, I was sorting through a bag of gemstones belonging to Ivaan. Among the stones there was a large, very unusual specimen.  The sides and underside were smooth; the top surface was craggy and unpolished.  It was multicoloured and very striking.  The shape caught my attention, because one side of it was quite straight, while the other three sides were curved, giving it a unique assymetrical appearance.

I must have been in a sorting mood, because within a day or two I was sorting a tray of bronze ring masters, and among them was a ring of the same size and odd configuration. I began to wonder if Ivaan had made a ring to fit the stone.  So I retrieved the stone, slipped it in the bronze ring, and it fit perfectly. This was quite an exciting discovery, and I wondered why the ring had never been completed.

I decided to make a mould of the bronze master and to duplicate the ring in sterling silver.  This wasn't easy, because a certain amount of shrinkage can occur when making a mould, but eventually I was  able to fit the stone perfectly into the silver ring.  I showed it to  Ivaan's former partner, Tamas, who is extremely knowledgeable about gemstones and was astonished to learn that the stone was an opal.  I usually see opals as highly polished pale gemstones with a milky, almost translucent appearance, whereas the colours in this stone are quite vibrant.

Here is the finished product.  I had a very strong sense that this ring was destined for the finger of our longtime friend Vladyana, who is a great fan of Ivaan's work.  So I went out to lunch with Vladyana and Jack, showed her the ring, and she tried it on.  Just like my experience of trying the gemstone in the bronze master, the ring slipped onto her finger like it was meant to be there. And that's when I knew it had found its home.