Thursday, June 23, 2016


Ivaan would never have admitted it, but the best thing about being married was that it drastically reduced his almost infinite capacity for losing things.

Some people lose things and are quickly able to accept the fact that the item has vanished from their life.  Ivaan was not one of those people.  When he lost something, he tortured himself about it.  And he wasn't one to suffer in silence, so there was usually plenty of torture left over for me and for anyone else who would listen.  The average person would recognize that their uncanny ability to lose track of things was hindering their progress in life and develop a system for not losing things as often. Nothing about Ivaan was average, however, and this tendency of his was one of the many quirks that I would just have to accept, because trying to change Ivaan would be like trying to change the weather.

In 2003, when we moved his studio to a warehouse building a couple of doors away from our house, I had a set of narrow shelves built to accommodate his rubber jewellery moulds.  While a few moulds dated back to the mid 1970s,  Ivaan didn't start making moulds of his work in earnest until 1979.

Normally, if a client came and wanted to order a piece of jewellery that already existed, Ivaan would have to start searching randomly through heaps of rubber moulds. His only concession to order was  his habit of drawing a little picture of the item on the side of the mould.  His drawings were so good that it was usually possible for him to identify a mould by the illustration. Still, it was a hit-and-miss endeavour.

So I decided to add a layer of organization to the rubber moulds by sorting them by year.  Ivaan thought this was an insane waste of time, but as the years went by, and more and more it was me being dispatched to find a mould, I heard fewer and fewer complaints. Anyway, while I was sorting his moulds according to year, Ivaan was busy losing people's diamonds, trying to build a jewellery tumbler out of an old stereo turntable, and imagining things had been stolen because he couldn't remember where he put them. (It's worth pointing out that jewellery tumblers existed and were readily available at every jewellery supply company in town, but Ivaan would not give in and buy one.  He figured if he made his own, he wouldn't have to admit that someone else had had a good idea.

Some of Ivaan's jewellery is specific to a particular year or two.  Other styles transcend the years and exist in several decades.

Last week, K and her husband P dropped by.  We've known and liked them for ages. K had bought a yellow gold ring from Ivaan over a decade ago.


  She was so attached to that ring, it was like a member of her family.  She asked if I could make her the identical ring in white gold.  Sure, said I.  All I have to do is find the mould.  I knew Ivaan had made me a similar ring for our second anniversary, so I figured 1997 would be a good year to start my search.  No luck.  Not 1998, 1999 or 2000.  Doggedly, I searched through until 2005.  Still no luck.  In case I'd misfiled it, I searched right up to 2016.  Nada.

I reversed direction, and searched again, all the way from 2016 back to 1987. Then I realized I'd skipped 1989, so I searched that year.  The second last mould in that bin looked very similar, and it was even her size, a 6 1/4.  I refused to let myself get optimistic.  I picked up the last mould in the bin.  It looked a bit similar and it was the same size.  I turned on the wax injector, injected a wax - and there it was.

Its taken me three days.  I've opened over 4000 moulds in search of this one.  I have found some terrific other rings during my search. Best of all, tomorrow I get to phone K and P and tell them with as much nonchalance as I can muster that I've found the mould.

I suppose you'll want to see what it looks like, after all that.  I made a whole lot of waxes, and the most perfect of them became K's new ring.

I feel like someone in a fairy tale who undertakes an impossible task and when she succeeds, she gets to marry the prince.  Except I'm already married to the prince.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Ivaan never went anywhere without a camera. He had a massive collection of classic cameras, mostly from the 1940s and 1950s - over 700 film cameras, not including the various lenses, flashes and accessories that accompanied them.  To say he was an inveterate collector was an understatement.  He subscribed to magazines devoted to reselling camera equipment, and in 2005 when we got our first home computer, Ivaan discovered eBay.  He'd often buy the same camera he already had, forgetting what was in his inventory.  He rarely sold one, but several times I've had people tell me they treasure a camera Ivaan gave them.

In 1995, a young man we knew named Laas Turnbull, who was making a big name for himself in the print media industry, mentioned Ivaan to John Macfarlane, the editor of Toronto Life magazine.  He explained that Ivaan took a different camera out every day and shot a roll of film, just documenting who he saw on the streets of Toronto.  These weren't necessarily homeless people, but they were the people that who are part of the urban streetscape. People we pass by every day. We don't know their names but we've all seen them.  Ivaan did this every single day for a decade: a new roll of black and white film, which he then developed and printed.

Over the years, he came to know many of his subjects and gave them copies of their photographs.

Laas Turnbull borrowed some sample photographs from Ivaan, showed them to John Macfarlane, and suggested that Ivaan do a first-person account of his photographs for Toronto Life magazine.  John agreed.  Photographs were selected and the accompanying text was written.   It was published under the title No Fixed Address by Toronto Life magazine in July 1996.  Ivaan wasn't happy about the title.  He had wanted it to be called World Class City: an ironic commentary on Toronto's well-documented inferiority complex, as well as an acknowledgement that his subjects were not necessarily homeless.  But Toronto Life felt its readers would be offended by Ivaan's choice of title.

I was pretty excited.  We were newly married, about to head to the UK on our honeymoon, which was a dance holiday in Torquay with our ballroom dance friends, so I could bring copies of the magazine to show off to all my relatives. Best of all, Ivaan had asked me to photograph him for the masthead of the magazine.   It was extra sweet that Ivaan wanted to ensure that his wedding ring was prominently visible in the photograph: not solely to signal that he was married, but because he had made the ring, and he figured that it would be good advertising.



The following year, No Fixed Address was nominated for Canada's National Magazine Awards.  We attended the awards banquet. I am usually pretty well behaved in public, but it's no exaggeration to say I was screaming with excitement when it won both a Gold and a Silver.  I remember Ivaan going up to the stage - twice - to collect his awards.  He thanked Laas Turnbull most particularly for having championed his work, and he thanked John Macfarlane and Toronto Life magazine for having the courage (well, that's not actually the word he used) to print his photographs.

The photographs were controversial, and people wrote letters to the editor saying that Ivaan was exploiting his subjects. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth.  The one thing that people lack when they are on the margins of society is photographs of themselves.  Years later, when Ivaan was in a wheelchair, I'd be wheeling him along Queen Street West and people he'd photographed would rush up to us, hug him, and pull out of their pockets large folded photographs of themselves taken by Ivaan.  These were among their most prized possessions.  When you have photographs of yourself, it's proof that you exist.

In 2001, Toronto Life published a 25th anniversary edition entitled Great Reads.  It was a compilation of the best articles that had appeared in the magazine over a quarter of a century.  No Fixed Address was one of them.

The previous year, Ivaan suffered the first of five strokes and he was feeling uncertain about the future.  The success of his article buoyed him up immensely, and in 2003, following his second stroke, we decided to mount an exhibition of his photographs as part of the Contact photography festival.  The photographs from Toronto Life magazine were the foundation of that exhibition, which was called - you guessed it - World Class City.

The most prominent photo in the exhibition was the one above.  I got to have a small supporting role in the exhibition, as Ivaan asked me give titles to each of the photographs.  This one was called World Class, My Ass.

After Ivaan's death, his collection of street photography was acquired by the City of Toronto Archives.  It formed the backbone of their highly successful 2014 exhibition, entitled Life On the Grid.  I appreciated the irony in that choice of name, because at the time Laas Turnbull, who had put the wheels into motion, was the publisher of an excellent Toronto newspaper called The Grid.  I ran into Laas on the street a few weeks ago. He lives in the tonier end of my neighbourhood (a few zeros away, as Ivaan would say). I thought of Laas in recent weeks, as Canada's National Magazine Awards were again in the media.  I realized it has been 20 years since Laas stuck his neck out for Ivaan.

Ivaan and Laas,  this blog post is a tribute to the pair of you: two people who were never afraid of a little controversy.