Sunday, November 29, 2015


I've been working up the nerve to start on the chalice restoration project. It was hard to know where to begin, but once I'd disassembled it, I knew there was no turning back.  Five different elements made up the chalice: the cup, the stem, the base, the underside and the connector, and it was clear that only one of those five parts - the stem - was incapable of ruining my life, because it would be hidden inside the base. The other four?  There were infinite things that could go wrong as I restored them, and most of them would be visible from a mile away.

I've often found that starting a complex project at the beginning is not a great idea, because it's too easy from that vantage point to make excuses not to continue.  In situations like this,  the best place to start is in the middle.  Then, as you view the boatload of work you have ahead of you, there is one island of peace and tranquillity in the distance: the part you've already done.

Now, Ivaan would not agree with me on this approach.  Being an artist, Ivaan actually loved the first steps of a new project.  All he saw was potential.  I am not an artist; all I see is the potential for disaster.

I started in the middle.  At the connecting point between the cup and the base was a wooden section that looked as though it might originally have been part of a lamp.  I'm embarrassed to admit when I first saw that wooden connecting piece, I was less than gracious about it. In fact, it was quite an inventive solution to the problem of how to connect the base to the cup portion, especially since Ivaan made the base of the chalice in 1973, when he was 29, new to metal arts, and broke.  (He used to describe his status as self-unemployed).  Here it is:
And clearly it stood the test of time, because 42 years later, it's still there and it still works.  So mea culpa for my sarcasm, Ivaan.  And since I am neither 29, new to metal arts, nor broke, I decided that I would replace the wooden connector with something more sumptuous.  I settled on a two-inch ball of lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone.

Today I took the chalice to a shop owned by Claude, a man who cuts and polishes stones.  Claude persuaded me that an egg-shaped piece of lapis would work best, and that seemed to make good sense, because it would weigh less than a round ball, and because eggs are an important theme in Ivaan's work and in the Ukrainian Orthodox religion.

With some trepidation, I left the entire chalice with Claude for the afternoon, forced myself to go shopping while he worked on it, and when I returned three hours later - voilĂ . Claude had drilled out the centre of the lapis egg just wide enough that the stem slid through it, and flattened the top and bottom of the egg so it fit perfectly against both the cup and the base.
Thank you, Claude.  This was a really satisfying day. And Ivaan, I bet you're proud of me.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Recently, Ivaan's favourite priest from St. Volodymyr Cathedral brought me some liturgical vessels that had been used in church services for many years and were in need of maintenance.  Except for the chalices, I did not even know the names of the various pieces or precisely what the items were used for.  Father S. asked me if I could get an estimate on the cost of having them re-goldplated and, in some cases, repaired.  One of them, he told me, was actually an Ivaan creation.

I actually did not even recognize that it was made by Ivaan, because it was incredibly ornate.
The cup part was dented and I was pretty sure I could remove the dent if I could figure out how to separate the cup from the base.  That's when I realized that the base was an original creation by Ivaan in 1973, and he had built the very heavy base over an existing chalice, connecting the base to the cup by a wooden piece that had likely been part of a lamp.

Once I realized that this was an early Ivaan piece, I knew it could never be sent out to someone who repairs and replates liturgical vessels. I would have to do it myself.  I might add that in the Ukrainian Orthodox religion, women are not permitted to handle these items.  I think it is safe to assume that Father S. decommissioned them before handing them over to me.

It will be a multi-step process but a total labour of love to restore the Ivaan chalice to its former byzantine glory, including re-goldplating the cup, replacing all of the stones on the base with new ones, and perhaps replacing the wooden connecting piece with something more eyepopping.  My goal is to finish it in time for the seventh anniversary of Ivaan's death, December 6th, which happens to fall on a Sunday, in the hope that it can be used in the Cathedral for that church service.

That is my mission (should I choose to accept it).  Mission accepted.  Stand by for the big reveal.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Sometimes I wonder why people trust me to make their wedding rings.  

Today I was working on a fabulous engagement ring, and I opened a little package that I believed contained a fair-sized solitaire diamond I wanted to fit into the ring.  Nope.  It actually contained six small diamonds....until I opened the package, that is.  Three of the diamonds instantly went flying.  You have no idea how far and wide diamonds can travel.  I spent the afternoon looking for them.  One actually landed behind my motorcycle.

Here's my motorcycle, just so you get the picture.  (My friend Kai is practising leaning into a turn).

I was so exhausted from searching for the three diamonds, I took a break, checked my email and there was a message from my friends Bernie and Mimi in NYC.  In replying to their message, I decided to send them a photo of my new ride (see above).  Now, rewind to before I foolishly opened the package of diamonds. I'd just been on Twitter,  blathering on about the tiny and delightful Wolf convection oven I'd bought this morning, and so I sent Bernie and Mimi this photo instead:

Well, Bernie couldn't resist.  "How many miles per litre does your Wolf toaster oven get?" he asked.  And that's when it clicked, that I may not have sent him the correct photograph.  Grrrr.

So right now the engagement ring is 75 per cent finished, the new Wolf oven arrives on Monday, Bernie has probably picked himself up off the floor from laughing, all the diamonds have been located, and I'd consider going out for a motorcycle ride to celebrate, but with my track record today, I'm pretty sure something would go wrong.

You know how they say husbands and wives start to look more alike the longer they're married?  I'm beginning to think that in our case, I'm becoming more like Ivaan.  As in, more chaotic.

And seriously, who'd trust him to make their wedding rings?

Sunday, November 8, 2015



Today I received an email from a guy named Bob, who had lived in Ivaan's Yonge and Wellesley neighbourhood in the 1970s.  He sent me this snapshot of Ivaan, taken in 1974.  It's fortuitous that the photo arrived just at this moment, because I'm editing the text for my upcoming book, 30 Pieces of Silver. One of the chapters is about Ivaan's sculpture of his nose.  I couldn't confirm what year the sculpture was made, because I didn't know what year Ivaan renounced his moustache.  The moustache played a painful part in the story of the sculpture.  If you want to read about it, you can scroll back through the blog entries to the post about the  nose sculpture.  It's Part 26 in the  30 Pieces of Silver series.  It's also interesting because Ivaan is wearing the exact same outfit he wore in the photograph heading the Contact page of our website,, so  it's possible the two photos were taken on the same day.

So now I know the answer to my question: the nose sculpture dates from 1974. Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.  Thanks, Bob!