Friday, March 31, 2017


On March 11th, I received a letter by email from a young woman named Sonia. She was writing to tell me about how she came to acquire an Ivaan ring in 1989 and 28 years later, it's a ring that she still cherishes.  This in itself is not unusual.  Ivaan's work is easily recognizable, and for people who are attracted to his work, it makes a big impression when they see it for the first time.

But I'll let Sonia pick up the story:

"Dear Eya,

It's been a great surprise and pleasure for me to have found you and your shop, on line.  I have spent time reading the love stories you've shared as well as perusing the photos of your beautiful pieces of amazing art.   Also, at the risk of sounding like a veritable weirdo, I've read many of your blog postings.   

I have had the privilege of owning a beautiful ring of Ivaan's since the winter of 1989.  I was a young 18 year old girl from Wawa, ON, staying in Toronto with my aunt's friend, Stepha. She had been so kind in taking me to the Japanese consulate so that I could then travel to Tokyo where I would be staying with my aunt, Laura.  Stepha was such a wonderful, stylish young woman who whisked me around to her favourite restaurants and also "gave" me the gorgeous ring!

As we rode the subway, she just took it off her finger and presented it to me, saying her friend Ivaan had given it to her claiming it wasn't anything of great value because he would run his pieces in silver, as trials before making the final piece de resistance...I was grateful and a little embarrassed by her extravagant generosity.

This ring has been such an auspicious token for years garnering many, many compliments and much interest.  Once, even, when I was about 22 I nearly lost it, but a gallant young waiter returned it to me, on the street.  I was playing that hand slapping game with my now husband, and because it hurt to be wearing it, while he slapped my hand, I had put it in the clean ashtray on the table of the restaurant...Fortunately for me, it came back!     

After reading about your trip to Sault Ste. Marie, I knew I had to contact you! First of all, you posted that lovely story on my birthday and I lived in the Soo from 1992 to 2008.  Both of my children are born there so it really does hold a special place in my heart as well.  The other interesting coincidence about all of this; your nephews Angus and Ivor attended the school where I taught.

Naturally, when I read about your visit to Sault Ste. Marie I was filled with nostalgia and awe. Your nephews must still remember that wonderful week of unadulterated fun with joyful hearts, as I am sure you do, too!  

Well, I hope this brings you a smile and a bit of a laugh, too.  I am forwarding a few photos of the ring.  

Thank you for your continued inspired work and legacy toward your dear, loving Ivaan.  Yours was a love affair of a life time and I know you must miss him, always.  

En espérant, un beau jour, de te rencontrer dans ton atelier!

Kindest regards, 

I couldn't help smiling when I read her letter and saw the photos, because no doubt Sonia was teaching in my nephews' school while Ivaan and I were staying with them in Sault Ste. Marie.  Because we picked them up for violin lessons and returned them to school afterwards, (wiping Boston creme donut residue off their chins), Sonia and Ivaan likely unwittingly came close to meeting each other in the hallways of the school.  And when I shared her letter and photographs with my nephews, who are now adults, they could hardly believe it (they say she hasn't changed a bit).

Here's Sonia, and here's her ring.  I'm so glad she tracked me down.  And hey, I'm always thrilled to know that someone reads my blog.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


We lived on Portland Street for most of our married life, in a three-storey house that resembled a shoebox tipped up on end.  It's right downtown, where few houses exist. We loved it there.  We had a backyard the size of a postage stamp. At night, our back yard would be lit up by flood lights illuminating the silhouettes of marauding raccoons.

Ivaan loved raccoons, but not as much as he loved our cat, Pinky.  The raccoons were cramping Pinky's style. At one time, there was a mother and father raccoon, whom we called Fat and Skinny, and their five cubs, all inhabiting our back yard. It was them or us. Ivaan rented a humane trap, and invested in seven cans of sardines.

He had heard that if you transport raccoons across a body of water,  they won't find their way back. The Don River was five or six miles away.  Ivaan figured we could catch them one at a time, take them across the Don River by cab, release them all in the identical spot, and return for the next one, until the whole family was relocated.

We set up the metal cage in the back yard.  As soon as it got dark, Skinny showed up.  It didn't take him long to smell the sardines.  Once Skinny was in the cage, the gate snapped shut, and immediately Ivaan was ready with a large contractor garbage bag, into which he slid the cage, sardines, Skinny and all.  He called for a taxi, requesting a cab with a large, empty trunk.  The taxi arrived.  Ivaan loaded the cage into the trunk and we headed east along King Street.  When we crossed the Don River, he asked the cab driver to pull over, got  the cage out of the trunk, walked to a little wooded area and carefully unlatched the cage.

Ivaan didn't have to ask Skinny twice.  Skinny acted like he'd just robbed a bank. He got out of there so fast, he didn't even bother to finish his sardines.

Ivaan got back in the taxi, returning the cage to the trunk, and we returned home.   So far we'd spent $30 on cab fare.

We set up the cage again with a fresh can of sardines.  Within half an hour, Fat came by with a nonchalant air. She looked like she was just checking out a new pop-up restaurant.  She barely fit in the cage, but free sardines?  She wasn't going to pass those up.

Things worked exactly as they had before.  We called another cab, headed east on King, stopped in the same spot, and honestly, it wasn't that easy to get Fat to back out of the cage.  Ivaan had to tip it up on end, so she and her sardine dinner were ignominiously dumped by the wooded area.  He got back in the cab and we went home, forking out another $30 to the taxi driver.

On round three, we caught one of the cubs, called a cab, went to the wooded area and released the cub.  Ivaan was starting to do the math.  If we relocated the entire family by taxi, we were going to have to spend over $200.  And we were getting funny looks from the taxi drivers.  So Ivaan persuaded me that our return trip, with the empty cage, should be by TTC.  "After all", he said, "the streetcar stops right at Portland Street."  So we paid the taxi driver $15, went to the streetcar stop and waited.  Just before we boarded the 504 streetcar, Ivaan handed me the contractor bag containing the cage.

Now that I was actually holding it, I realized the whole apparatus smelled strongly of angry raccoon mixed with sardine.  Ivaan got on the streetcar first and paid our fares.  I clambered up behind him with the cage, but Ivaan was already half way down the streetcar.  As I came close to him, he arched his eyebrows, looked disdainfully at me and the cage, and said to a passenger seated nearby:  "Some people!"  

It was a rather quiet ride back to Portland Street.  Once we were home again, Ivaan set up the cage for a fourth time, caught another cub, called a taxi, loaded the cage into the trunk and climbed in the back seat.  Instead of getting in after him, I just leaned in the door, said to the driver, "Some people!",  closed the car door smartly and went back into the house.

By the time we'd run out of sardines and returned the rented cage and tallied up our transportation costs, we'd spent nearly three hundred dollars.  Fat, Skinny and the kids got a waterfront property, and Pinky got his yard back. It was a memorable, if expensive, evening. But we like to think it was worth it, and we know Pinky felt the same.

Monday, March 20, 2017


I love getting fan mail.

I receive a surprising amount of fan mail, but I'm unlikely to get a swelled head as a result, because it's almost never about me.  I often remark on what a bad idea it would be for two artists to marry: the dishes would never get done, and what house could possibly be big enough for two egos in constant collision?

A big reason why Ivaan's and my marriage was so happy and successful was because only one of us was an artist.  Of course, there are plenty of other reasons, such as that I like creating peace, harmony and order, and I don't like putting unrealistic expectations - such as peace, harmony and order - on other people. (This might explain why Ivaan showed up at our wedding ceremony in a leather jacket and a silk scarf, but I digress.)  I'm not an artist and I've never wanted to be. If you asked Ivaan what role if any I played in his artistic life, he'd reply, "She's really, really good at sweeping."  And he'd have been right. It's one of my skills.

But back to the fan mail. I get letters from people telling me how they acquired a piece of jewellery by Ivaan, how they treasure it above everything else, asking questions about it, sometimes asking for an appraisal, sometimes asking how much I'll offer for it, sometimes asking if they can get a duplicate. I get letters from people who want the exact same piece of jewellery they have admired on someone else.  I get letters from people, distraught because they've lost a piece of Ivaan jewellery that they treasure, or else they've had a break-in or been robbed. But pretty much everyone who contacts me is awash in admiration for Ivaan.  If heads could swell vicariously, I'd have had to install double doors at Atelier Ivaan, to fit my enlarged skull.

Then there are people who contact me for an entirely different reason, and we coincidentally find a connection to Ivaan.  In fact, one of these just happened last week.  I was engaged in a discussion online with a man in Calgary about a particular Group of Seven piece of art that has had a long and intense meaning for our family.  We concluded our very interesting conversation. A couple of days later, he contacted me again.

Incredibly, he had come across Ivaan's name in another context: his love of late 1960s music, including the music of Jimi Hendrix.  And of course Ivaan had photographed Jimi Hendrix in December 1969.   So Steve (because that's his name) continued his internet search, found my blog, found our website and felt strongly connected to Ivaan's metal art.  This is where he realized that Ivaan was of Ukrainian origin.  Although Steve is not Ukrainian, he had in fact lived in Ukraine for a year, met and married his wife there (Svetlana is Ukrainian) and now they live in Calgary, where he is a geologist.  In fact, Steve had grown up in Grimsby, Ontario and often travelled with his Dad through the area of Ontario where this Group of Seven work of art was painted.  The memory of those travels and that countryside resonated deeply with him.

So now we're at Six Degrees of Separation, because we've got the Group of Seven, Jimi Hendrix,  Ukraine, and our love of Ivaan's metal art in common. Best of all, Steve travels to Toronto for work from time to time, and we have plans for him to come by Atelier Ivaan next time he's in town.  It will be like meeting an old friend, and not at all like meeting a stranger, because I asked Steve to send me a photograph of him and his wife.  And here they are.  It's a great photo.  Just slightly vertiginous.  Ivaan would have loved it.
STEVE AND SVETA © 2016 Steve Harding

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Everyone who knew Ivaan really well knew how connected he felt to animals.   Except for dogs, whose company he never enjoyed, Ivaan loved all God's living creatures.  He was a veritable St. Francis of Assisi.

A traumatic event in his boyhood was the pivotal event in developing his compassion for insects, birds, rodents, cats and pretty much everything that moved.  His father had made him a bow and arrow.  Ivaan went out into a wooded area near their home in Cabbagetown and took aim at a little creature.  I can't even remember what it was, because whenever he recalled the incident he became so inconsolable that he could hardly speak. Suffice it to say, he wounded some small creature, but did not kill it, and he was so disgusted with himself that he broke his bow, threw it away and vowed to atone for his unkindness for the remainder of his life.

When I first met Ivaan, he had a polydactic kitten named Thumbs.  It was a very sweet little cat, a very dark grey, and he was deeply attached to it.
Here's a photo of Ivaan and Thumbs.

I never met  his next pet, but I heard about it frequently.  Her name was Peggy.  She was a Praying Mantis with one leg.  Ivaan, who had recently started working in metal, was worried that Peggy wouldn't thrive with just the one leg, so he carved down a toothpick, and using jeweller's wax, attached the wooden leg to the stump of Peggy's missing leg.  He must have done a good job, because Peggy went on to have a surprisingly long and active life.  Her name, Peggy, derived from the fact she had a peg leg, not because of any certainty that she (or he) was a female.

Sadly, no photos of Peggy have survived.

The longest-surviving of Ivaan's animal companions was Pinky.

We found Pinky on the garage roof in June 1991, chirping like a baby bird.  He looked to be about three months old, so we assigned him a birthday of March 31st.   Pinky wasn't a bird; he was a cat. We wouldn't have named him Pinky if we'd known he was a boy, but I had heard that Benazir Bhutto, later the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, was nicknamed Pinky, and our cat had a little pink nose.  By the time we had lured him off the garage roof with saucers of milk and he became part of our household, we began to suspect he was a boy.  We felt it would be too traumatic for us to change his name, as he was already answering to the name Pinky, so we called him Pinky at home, but if we had to call him in from outside the house, we gave him the street name of Ned.

Here's me and Pinky, looking like we were getting our passport photo taken.

I remember when Pinky bonded with us.  A large black feral cat in the neighbourhood was bullying Pinky.  Ivaan's protective nature took over.  He borrowed a humane trap from Animal Control and set it up in the front yard, baited with a can of sardines.  In the middle of the night, we heard a yowling sound as the feral cat walked into the cage for a sardine snack, realized he was trapped and began to complain loudly.

Ivaan brought the cage inside, lay it on a thick pile of newspapers and we went to bed.  Next morning, little Pinky was luxuriating on the floor, just beyond the reach of the large black cat's claws. Pinky felt like the Big Man on Campus. He looked gloatingly at the black cat, as if to say, "I had salmon for breakfast today.  What did you have?  Oh...nothing?"  After Animal Control came and took the black cat away, Pinky was so bonded with Ivaan that nothing could keep them apart.

They had their own language.  Ivaan taught him tricks.  They were a team. When we moved into our new house, Pinky was very upset and kept on walking back to our old house, until he realized that he actually wanted to be wherever Ivaan was.

Pinky was a cat with a personality.  As he got older, he developed the persona of a bachelor uncle, and his identity was fleshed out with a surname, McBinkey, and an imaginary family back at his ancestral home in Bonehead, Sussex.  Our own nephews became the McBinkey nephews:  Oliver, Lionel, Angus and Ivor McBinkey.  Our niece Nicole became Lucy McBinkey.

The only thing Pinky was unsure about was the nephews.  If they came to visit, Pinky moved to the back yard and wouldn't come back in until they went home and we stood at the back door and said emphatically:  "Pinky! There are NO NEPHEWS!"

Pinky lived to be 14 and a half.  He died on October 13, 2005. Ivaan was so upset that he had to go out for a long drive with his friend Mike, and he didn't come back into the house until I had already conducted funeral rites for Pinky in the back yard of our house.  Pinky was the last pet Ivaan ever had.  They were really attached to each other.  Like Ivaan, Pinky had had a rough start in his early life, and they recognized a kindred spirit in each other.

As Pinky's obituary read, "RequiesCAT in Pacem".

Monday, March 6, 2017


When people are having their home renovated by professionals, there comes a time when the designer shows them the finished product. It's called The Reveal. All the reno mess is removed, all the dust is vacuumed up, everything is in place, and the whole house gleams.

When I am restoring or completing a piece of jewellery, we also have a reveal.

In my last post, I told you about the 1978 IVAAN ring that had been purchased at an antique store.  Here's what it looked like.

When I first saw it, it reminded me of the ring we call the Connie ring, which was quite a coincidence, because the name of the new owner of this vintage ring happens to be Connie as well.  Here's a Connie ring, made in yellow gold, so you can see the resemblance.

The Connie ring is about one third of the size of the vintage ring, but there's definitely a common thread, and I can't help speculating that the vintage ring was an early prototype of the Connie, which was made in 1980.

I have just finished restoring the vintage ring, and I am rather thrilled with the result.  There were some small holes in the side of the ring top, so I decided to drill them out and set three cabochon garnets in them.  Just like three little punctuation marks.  Now, I'll bet you don't think my efforts were a total waste of time, do you?  So, to the "new" Connie, and her husband Nik, who gave me such a thrill by buying the vintage ring in the first place, and then by letting me restore it, a very big thank you.  I hope you wear it in the best of health for many years to come.

And Nik took this phone of the lovely Connie and Lola, their daughter,  with me when they came by to pick up the restored ring.  Nik and Connie have a wonderful vintage shop in Hamilton called Vintage Soul Geek, in case you are ever out and about in downtown Hamilton.

Photo by Nikola Bulajic2017