Saturday, November 24, 2018


This afternoon, I tweeted:  "Dead slow at ATELIER IVAAN today."  An hour later, some longtime clients had come by for a visit.  We were hanging around talking and catching up and looking at jewellery when I noticed two people on the sidewalk out front.  I was perplexed: one of them looked startlingly like Ontario's Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

I opened my mouth to say to Jalani and Yasaman, "that woman looks exactly like the Lieutenant Governor!" when the door opened and my brain started doing that rapid-fire calculus wherein the left hemisphere says, "That IS the Lieutenant Governor" and the right hemisphere says, "What on earth would the Lieutenant Governor be doing here?" and the left says, "Maybe she's lost and she needs directions" and the right says, "Yeah, but how did she end up on Dupont Street of all places?" and all of a sudden, the Lieutenant Governor is standing in my shop and I'm just about having an asthma attack.

I have been a fan of our LG since she was appointed.  She always seemed so warm and human and gracious - not qualities that are easy to maintain in a role where one is the Queen's representative in Ontario and required to attend official functions every single day, often with a personalized speech to deliver. I first got to see her in action on February 28, 2018, when she presided over the Order of Ontario investiture at Queen's Park.  I was very fortunate to have been invited, as a guest of one of the people who was being invested into the Order, and even as a guest it was a momentous occasion.

Yet, the Lieutenant Governor presided over the event with such charm, warmth, grace and generosity of spirit that everyone in that room felt like an important participant in the evening.  It was easy to tell that each recipient of the Order fell under the spell of her warmth and keen interest in their accomplishments.  I was dazzled, and I felt so privileged to be there.

And all of a sudden, there's the Lieutenant Governor in my shop.  If I had known she'd be coming, I might not have been wearing slippers and my TOFU VS. EVERYBODY t-shirt.  I might have cleaned the place up a little, or put the kettle on, or worn make-up.

But I quickly came to realize that it absolutely didn't matter.  She'd been reading my Twitter feed and learned that I was a fan and that one of my
dreams was to meet her.  She'd also read my website and my blog, so she knew about Ivaan, and knew about me, too.  And she'd decided to come over and just say hi.

Well, we had a great visit.  Jalani and Yasaman took photos and we chatted about her work and my work, and Ivaan, and she was just as wonderful as I had imagined.  We were all chatting easily and all too soon the visit was over.

If I did not have the photos to prove it, I'd definitely think I'd imagined the whole thing.  It just seems incredible that on a perfectly normal Saturday in November, with no warning whatsoever, I got to meet one of my biggest heroes.  It would be like having Nelson Mandela, kd lang, Ry Cooder, Pierre Trudeau and Paul McCartney, all holding hands, decide to drop in on you at the same time.

I felt so thrilled and honoured that on this rainy afternoon, somebody I admire so much took the time to think of me and then acted on it by coming round to say hello. I know she's up to her ears in protocol and security and all those things, and she never goes anywhere without an entourage. I thought I'd had an incredible year already: winning a literary competition, turning 65, attending the Order of Ontario investiture ceremony, taking up beekeeping, harvesting my first honey, a laneway naming, and moving a bunch of newer projects toward completion, but this was completely beyond anything I could have expected.

And just in case you think maybe I did dream this up, here are a couple of photos, for which I sincerely thank Yasaman and Jalani.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Last Saturday morning, I woke up and immediately knew it was time to retire from Atelier Ivaan.  I'd been thinking about it, on and off, for the better part of a year, wondering when the right time was, wondering how I'd know when the time had come, but on the morning of Saturday, November 10th, 2018, I just knew.

I got up, worked all day in the shop, and had a great day.  Clients I really like came by, and it was fun talking with them.  But at the end of the day I hadn't changed my mind, so I went to the computer and typed a letter to send out to clients and friends of Atelier Ivaan.  I told them I wouldn't be taking on any custom orders after November 30th, and that I'd remain open till December 31st, but as of January 1st, 2019, the cash register would  be slammed forever shut - and then I clicked Send.

Next morning I woke up to a barrage of reply emails - so many that I had an anxiety attack.   But it was Remembrance Day, the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, and I was going to meet my brother Hamish at the Cenotaph for the ceremony, so I tried not to read too many emails before I left.

When I came home, there were even more emails.  Some said, "What?  Are you sick or something?" Others said, "Impossible!  I wave to Ivaan every time I go by your store!"  Lots more said, "Okay, do what you must, but here's what I'm ordering"  (followed by a long list of items).

One said:

I hope this next adventure is full of everything that makes you happy.
Best always,

Another said:

I can't believe you are closing down the store!  Actually, I totally can, I just don't want to believe it.
Just a selfish bit of wishful thinking that your store and Ivaan's work would always be there.
You've done such an amazing job of continuing to share his legacy with so much love and dedication.
You are still my hero......
.....What are you planning on for your next act?
Well, that pretty much had me crying, because I find it hard to imagine I'm anyone's hero.  Hard working? Yes, I'll cop to that. Generous?  I try hard to be.  But Alice is one of the most remarkable women I know, heroic in every way, and I value her friendship and love her to bits.

Then I opened this one from a friend with a special connection to the Atelier, as she co-curated a massive retrospective of Ivaan's work in 2008 and 2009 and knows the pieces almost as well as I do:

Well, I opened the news bulletin. And while it's hard to imagine the Atelier wrapping up,I know you have so many other interests and talents that make this the right move for you. You created something amazing to honour Ivaan, and the book and website and all the beautiful jewellery will live on long after us..... 
....All good things for the future,

This morning I was downtown getting started on a bunch of jewellery orders when I received this email message from our friend Helen.
Helen is one of the "Czech Chicks", a group of talented, beautiful, fun-loving women who have known each other for decades, wear Ivaan's work proudly, and are among his most ardent fans.  Helen is tiny, impossibly chic, and so vivacious and full of life that nothing stops her.  She looks as glamorous as a movie star from the 1950s.  She's a force of nature.
I waited to read her email till I got home.  Just as well, because I needed a handkerchief.  Here's what she wrote:

Dear Eya,
Thank you for your sad "happy" news.
Sad as your love story  comes  to the end  - and  happy  that  there
is new beginning - more time in your life for yourself !
I would love to come, just  to  give you  hug  and see you......
Ivaan's  rings which  I have for many years, never removing  from my
finger, his legendary "Heart", which I  wear on the black robe, is always
my best  choice. There is "Immortality" in his designs .
He was so special!  And you Eya  -  you made  Ivaan immortal!
Your love for him and spreading his legacy all over .
Please be in touch.  With  love and many thanks.  
                                                                            from Helen  

Well, you can just imagine how I felt when I received that.  I "made Ivaan immortal."
I think it was the sweetest thing I've ever read.  Thank you, Helen.  Ivaan thanks you too.

Monday, November 5, 2018


It sometimes happens that a woman will contact me to enquire about an item she has bought or inherited, made by Ivaan.  Why is it always a woman?  I don't know.  It just is.  In fact, I can recall only one man, ever, who has enquired about a piece of jewellery he owns.  I remember this so well that I even remember his name:  Jimson Bowler.  He's an Indigenous artist, and he's terrific.  Look him up sometime.  I remember doing a blog post maybe five years ago about Jimson's very unusual Ivaan ring.

Anyway, this isn't about Jimson in particular or men in general, though a couple of men feature in the story.

A few months ago, a woman from B.C. whose name is Wendy wrote to me about an Ivaan corkscrew her brother had bought at auction. Her brother collects corkscrews.  From her description, I drew a complete blank. Eventually she asked her husband to photograph the corkscrew and send me the pictures.

I confess I was dumbstruck because Ivaan did not make many corkscrews and I was pretty sure I had seen them all.  So I wasn't able to give her much information except to say that the handle was pewter, and that it was undoubtedly from 1979 or 1980.  Wendy did a little more sleuthing and learned that the Art Gallery of Toronto had commissioned 50 identical corkscrews from Ivaan as a fundraising endeavour and they were very sought after.  This was one of them.

It's almost incredible that I've never seen another of the fifty.  But I'm willing to bet that as soon as I post this, somebody else is going to write to me and say, "My aunt has one of those" or - even better - "Would you like to buy one of those because I have one for sale".

Here's Wendy's brother's corkscrew.  It's pretty sweet.

Thursday, October 4, 2018


If you've read this blog far back, you'll remember the name Danny Izzárd. Danny and Ivaan were young men-about-town in the Yonge and Wellesley area of Toronto, where they were neighbours in the 1970s.  Over the years, they drifted apart and then back into each other's orbit, over and over again.  They were artists in different fields.  I suspect that too much proximity didn't serve either of them well.  One was always up when the other was down, and then the pendulum would swing the other way.  But they enjoyed each other's company on and off, and perhaps Danny, who was by far the more overtly emotional of the two, taught Ivaan by example that it was possible to express one's emotions with high drama, with tears, with loud voices, even, and not....fall apart.

This was an expression that Ivaan hated: fall apart. His sister, whom he loved dearly, used that expression frequently, and Ivaan would immediately start teasing her.  Nadia lost a favourite earring at a movie theatre?  "I completely fell apart!" she'd tell him.  And Ivaan would rejoinder: "Did they have to sweep you up?"

There were quite a few occasions over the years when Danny "fell apart", and I was invariably touched to see how immediately Ivaan reached out to help his friend, something that didn't exactly come naturally to Ivaan.  Once, when Danny was at the end of a long and stormy relationship, Ivaan received a phone call from the young woman to say Danny had disappeared.  Without a word, Ivaan got in the car and drove to every possible place he could imagine Danny going in distress, searching for him.

Another time, Danny had bought a really excellent building which contained his art studio.  Unfortunately, the owners of the property next door decided to open a laundromat.  The smell of scented laundry products made it intolerable for Danny to work there.  Impulsively, Danny put his building up for sale. Naturally someone bought it immediately.  It was harder than he imagined to find another building to buy, and Danny regretted having sold his building, but the new owner did not want to release him from the sale.

I dropped by one day to help out by moving some of Danny's possessions temporarily to our house, and found Danny at the dining room table in floods of tears. I pretty much ran out the door, drove home, picked up Ivaan, who directed me to Vinny's Panini, where we picked up some hot meatball sandwiches for him and Danny.  The two of them just sat there at Danny's dining room table in silence (with the odd snuffling sound from Danny) and ate their sandwiches.  By the time they'd finished, Danny seemed to feel better and we finished packing up the car.

Danny eventually met the woman who was to become his lifelong partner.  She was so different from Danny, but she wasn't in competition with him.  She seemed to draw out his strengths while being able to work around his moody side.  She was practical, and she was less concerned with material things than Danny.  Best of all, she truly loved him just as he was.  When Danny was anguishing about finding a new house to buy, I remember her looking at him and saying, "I would live with you in a tent", and she meant it.

Danny phoned us one day and invited us to come over to a party at their house on Christmas Eve.  I said we were busy, as we had family visiting.  Danny replied, "Oh, because I was planning on proposing to M that night" (his beloved).  My first thought was, "Wait.  We are jewellers.  What on earth is he proposing with, if not a ring from us?"  So I told Danny we'd be there, but if he didn't come right over and choose some rings, there would be trouble. Luckily I knew M's ring size, Danny knew what she liked, so Danny came right over and we got that sorted in a hurry. Two wedding rings and an engagement ring became our wedding present to them.

So they got married, were very happy,  and it seemed like things had worked out so well for Danny.

Recently, Danny became ill and in a matter of months, his life was over.   He was 69.  He left an impressive body of work, mostly in the form of large oil paintings, as well as his wife, his son, and a grandson.  I just wanted to post something in tribute to Danny.  Here's a photograph of him, a man about town, on one of his painting expeditions in Europe.  It's probably exactly how he'd like to have been remembered.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


This afternoon I'm heading over to Alvéole, the beekeeping company who have taught me most of what I know about honeybees, to extract the honey from my frames and bring it home in a pail.  I've opted to leave a fair amount of honey on the frames that still remain on my roof deck, to support the bees over the winter, plus I am planning to add a whole lot of syrup, because the hive and the bees are going to over-winter on the roof, carefully insulated against the cold, and I'm hoping the winter won't be too harsh, because I don't go onto the roof during winter and I won't easily be able to check on them.

Here are a couple of photos of my frames of bees.

So I'll participate in my extraction, bring home my pail of honey, and start figuring out how to get it into little jars without the entire kitchen turning into one sticky mess.

I've always considered myself the most urban person, but in the last two summers I have grown potatoes, garlic, ginger, Welsh onions, leeks, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, snow peas, arugula, rhubarb, but most of all what I have grown is my brain and my powers of observation.  This isn't much of an accomplishment compared to people who farm and grow things for a living, but it's going to have to sustain me for the long winter ahead.  Traditionally, I don't do well in winter.  I don't like the cold, hate sports, and though I have lots of scope for snow shovelling, because I have plenty of neighbours in addition to a wide sidewalk of my own, nothing really tempts me to want to go outside between January and April.  I'm a lot like the bees in that respect: warm weather has me hanging out at the front door or on the roof or doing things around town.  Cold weather has me hunkered down inside wondering if anyone is going to visit me, and if so, will they do it on a day when I don't have to wash the road salt off the floors?

I will post more photos of my actual honey and the extraction process later on today.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


This morning I received an email from a young woman named Julie who with her little son Ariel had been one of Ivaan's photographic subjects in the late 1990s on Queen Street West.   With Julie's permission, I am reproducing a portion of her email here.

Hello Eya,

I am writing to you after only now seeing a beautiful website and blog dedicated to your late husband Ivaan Kotulsky's legacy.

In 1998, I lived in the Queen Street area (right at Tecumseth) with my young son. I had the privilege of meeting Ivaan at his shop. He was so lovely to me and I enjoyed our chats. I think he knew I was a young mom with very little money that couldn't afford to buy his art, but he didn't treat me any different than a serious customer. But what touched me was the photographs he took of my son and I. I was 19 yrs old and I didn't realize the impact at that time. I only remember him taking a photograph on two occasions, but I am aware that 5 photos exist (one I saw listed as being part of the Toronto history archive - and I had never seen the photo in my life - so I was blown away. 

Ivaan personally gave me three photographs. I was truly thankful but it wasn't until years later that I began to digest the impact. These photographs are magical, and they represent a time of my life that I look back on so fondly. Ivaan's presence in the Queen West community was truly special. 

I hope you don't mind me sharing this story with you. In another photo I'm holding my son and the photo shows his face, but not mine (just the back of my head). I will take the photograph i found online.

I am truly sorry for your loss. Ivaan was a gifted and beautiful soul. I am touched by the blog you created in his memory.

warmest regards,


Julie and Ariel, circa 1997 ©City of Toronto Archives
It's always a real pleasure to hear from people whose paths Ivaan crossed years ago, so I replied to Julie right away.  She sent me a second photo of her and Ariel.  It's kind of daunting to hear that Ariel is now 21.  I've invited them to come by the shop and choose a couple of pieces of Ivaan's metal art to "close the loop" as it were.  He'd be thrilled to know Julie took the trouble to look me up and get in touch with me and he would definitely insist that I give each of them a gift from him.

Here's a screen shot of the second photo of Julie and Ariel.  It must have been taken on the same day. I can't wait to meet them both.

Julie and Ariel, circa 1997 ©City of Toronto Archives.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Sometimes I look back over the last decade and can hardly believe all the things I've done.  This December I'll be marking ten years since Ivaan's death, and February 2019 will be ten years since people started asking me if I could reproduce a piece of Ivaan's jewellery for them.  It took me ages to start describing myself as a jeweller, and I still feel like a total fraud when I say that, so mostly I just say, when asked, that I own and operate a jewellery studio.  If pressed, I'll add that it is devoted to the metal art of my late husband.

It's now over six years since ATELIER IVAAN moved to Dupont Street.  I was really lucky with this building.  When I first noticed it was for sale, I was gripped with a passion to own it so strong I could hardly sleep at night.  My offer to purchase it was accepted on Valentine's Day, 2012 and I will never, ever forget the thrill of unlocking the shop door for the first time ever, knowing it was all mine:  no mortgage, no conditions, no co-owners, no tenants.  For better or for worse, it was mine.

Why was I so lucky?  Because the previous owner had done the really tough renovation work on the main floor, and the basement was in fine condition, too. The shop and ante-room had beautiful bamboo flooring.  The electricity had been updated. She has really good taste and she was a decent human being about the entire process. We worked out many of the details ourselves.   She was also generous with advice for a fledgling shop owner about things to look out for, how to handle things, and how to deal with walk-in clients: things I never knew could be a problem until I was confronted with them.

I wouldn't say I'm really cut out for retail.  For one thing, I find it really hard to stay put in the shop when the weather is nice, or I want a snack, or a nap, or a pedicure, or someone asks me to lunch.  And the roof garden is only 27 steps away, so going up and visiting my beehives is irresistible.

A few years after opening the store, I decided to start a little side-hustle, which I named NAUFRAGE, the French for shipwreck.  I like things related to the ocean: ocean liners, lighthouses, marine equipment, even the colour palette of the maritimes.  And I am fascinated with shipwrecks.  Naufrage is  the name of a town on the north side of Prince Edward Island with a beautiful lighthouse, and a restaurant that makes excellent breaded zucchini.  I'd go back for the breaded zucchini alone.  But I digress.

Atelier Ivaan is not a large shop, so only a portion of Ivaan's work is on display in the showcases, and they tend to be things that are a bit tame.  But the more exotic pieces are still around and available as custom orders.

Recently, I've been toying with the idea of having a contrasting line of jewellery here.  Problem is: much modern jewellery design is what Ivaan used to call "stringing beads on wire" jewellery.  Not much skill, not much art in that.  But I know how to make pieces from scratch, and I confess I'm a bit curious to know how pieces of my own design might turn out.  Ivaan left a collection of interesting gemstones and I'd like to make some jewellery around these stones.

The other evening, I started looking through the boxes of Ivaan's bronze masters (the originals from which copies are made) and I was so struck by the beauty of his pieces that almost never get seen that I began to cringe at my own conceit in imagining that I could make anything half as worth looking at as his pieces that are hidden away.

So I'm at a fork in the road.  I found the bronze master to this quirky pewter fork among Ivaan's art the other day.  I used to wear it as a decoration on one of my hats.  I just love it and know that no matter how hard I try, I'll never make anything half as beautiful as his work.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


A few years after Ivaan's death, I donated a very large collection of his photographs to the City of Toronto Archives.  These photos were taken primarily between 1990 and 2000, a decade during which Ivaan took out a different camera every day and shot a roll of film, often black and white,
but sometimes colour, of whatever interested him in an area of downtown centred on Queen and Bathurst Street, extending as far east as Parliament Street and as far west as Ossington Avenue.  He rarely went north of Dupont Street or south of Front Street.

Ivaan photographed the regular people who lived their lives in the public domain, often close to Queen Street.  They weren't necessarily homeless, though some of them were.  He also photographed particular genres: mother and child photos, young couples often in goth attire (see my previous post about Ryan and Corrie, as they were frequent photographic subjects), indigenous men and women who spent time at The Meeting Place, a
drop-in centre housed in a former bank at Queen and Bathurst Streets, street performers, plus non-human subjects such as manhole covers, abandoned shoes, graffiti, derelict bicycles and old-timey storefronts such as pizza shops (with the pizza painted on the shop window), barbershops, hairdressers, junk stores, rows of pay phones and the people using them, laneways, and old garage doors.

The beauty of his collection of photos, which number in my estimation about 20,000, was that he photographed the same people, the same scenes, over and over as the decade wore on.  Looking at the photos was a bit like time travel, because you began to look out for Lester Pawis, the indigenous man who was such a favourite of Ivaan's, of Lance, the young man with an impressive mohawk hairdo, and as Ivaan came to know them (because he regularly gave them copies of his photos) he learned a bit about their lives.  Often, he learned of their deaths from someone else in the neighbourhood.  He'd find out where their funeral was being held and would show up with photographic prints to give to the family.  Often there was no family.  On one occasion, the funeral of Jimmy Croxon, a Nova Scotian who played drums on some upturned buckets at the corner of Queen and Bathurst, Ivaan was the only mourner and he had no one to give his photographs to.

Donating his photographs to the Archives was a fortuitous decision, because it put them under the curatorial control of Patrick Cummins, an archivist and photographer whose work so closely mirrored Ivaan's it was astonishing they had never met.  Patrick's specialty was photographing old buildings in their various iterations over the years.  And Ivaan's specialty was photographing the people standing in front of those buildings.

Patrick retired from the Archives some months ago and partnered up with a young man named Alex Jansen who had the idea of developing a web application that would enable people walking along Queen Street West to be notified via the app when they were at the location of one of Ivaan's or Patrick's photographs, and to see the photographs they had taken.   It seemed like a brilliant way of keeping Ivaan's photographs in the public eye. A Toronto-based broadcast journalist, Garvia Bailey, came on board to narrate the stories associated with the various pictures.

It seems that Lester Pawis and Jimmy Croxon and "Mr. Pins" and Lance and all of Ivaan's characters are going to have a whole new moment in the sun. Best of all, Ivaan, who never once used a mobile phone, eschewed digital photography and wouldn't have known an App if he got it in his porridge, has somehow been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Because, as it turns out, there is an App for that.

Lester Pawis and Friend (top)
Lester Pawis outside Red Indian Shop
© 2012 City of Toronto Archives

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Several months ago I had an email from a guy called Ryan Worden.   Ryan and his girlfriend Corrie used to be frequent photo subjects of Ivaan's on Queen Street West in Toronto.  Ryan worked in a tattoo parlour and was a regular fixture of the Queen West neighbourhood in the 1990s.

Cut to 2018:  Ryan and his wife Corrie are now the parents of four girls.  They live in Lindsay Ontario where they have their own tattoo shop.  Ryan is now 45.  They just wrote to get in touch and tell me how much they treasure this photo that Ivaan took of them just around the time they started dating when Ryan was 20 and Corrie was 19.

They were a striking looking couple then, and I'll bet they still are.  I can't wait to meet them one day when they and their daughters make the trek down to Toronto and stop by for a visit.

Corrie and Ryan Worden
©2009 City of Toronto Archives

Saturday, July 14, 2018


I'm quite exhilarated to see the cover of the 40th anniversary issue of Prairie Fire with my name on the cover.  I haven't received my copy in the mail yet, but anticipation is always at least as pleasurable as the event itself.

I issue this disclaimer to anyone who is thinking of reading my story, The Bath Lottery.  It's l-o-n-g, as short stories go, and while it's a story about women, it's not an upbeat story of women's empowerment and solidarity, and there are no hearty laughs in it.  But it's a story about the basic goodness of human beings in desperate times.

If you do read it, I'll be interested in hearing what you think.


Last year, I was overcome with what I can only describe as "land hunger": the dawning realization that I owned not one square inch of land that wasn't covered by concrete or masonry.  It hadn't really bothered me for years.  I have a black thumb and the only things I had successfully grown were trees.  I've planted a catalpa, a weeping mulberry, a cherry tree and a ginkgo biloba, and as far as I know, three of those four trees are still alive.  But that's the extent of my agricultural skills.

I had a hatch installed in my kitchen ceiling to give me access to my flat roof. It was a terrific idea, because it added significantly to my living space. The first time I went out onto the roof was quite unnerving and I thought, "I'll probably never, ever do this again, unless my building catches fire and I need to escape". That feeling lasted one day. Ever since, I'm out on the roof about 20 times a day in good weather.  However, once I had access, it made good sense to re-do the roof.

Once the new roof was installed, I needed to make it legal by having a perimeter railing added.  I had it set back from the actual perimeter of the building, so I could walk around the outside of the wooden railing if I needed to.  Now that the roof was sheltered by a tall railing, I started planting like a mad woman.  I'm not so much into flowers.  I prefer vegetables, because you get the best of both worlds: some flowers and then something to eat.

My crops this year include potatoes, garlic, leeks, basil, lavender, arugula, snow peas and rhubarb.  I've since been informed that the potato is basically the cockroach of vegetables, and potatoes do not require the use of any actual brain cells in order to proliferate.  I counter this received wisdom with the response that my potatoes, at any rate, are organic cockroaches.

Last winter was unbelievably long and tedious.  I suffered so much that I nearly purchased a decommissioned church with a couple of acres of land about an hour away from Toronto.  I was only dissuaded from buying the church by my friends Neil and Carolyn, who pointed out that since I wanted to plant fruit trees on the land, I should buy land that already had fruit trees on it, and if I were doing so, I didn't strictly need a church, either.

Winter ended eventually, and I became enamoured of the idea of having a beehive on the roof.  Luckily a business called Alvéole had opened up nearby. They teach beekeeping and sell supplies.  And that's how I came to have an AirBee&Bee.  Here's Hilary from Alvéole, setting up the first level of the hive.

To keep honeybees calm when you're working with them, it helps to have a smoker.  It's a bellows attached to a burner unit into which you put pieces of untreated burlap.  The smoke from the burner dissipates the pheromones in the air which would otherwise cause the bees to be nervous, feeling they were under attack.  Hardcore beekeepers do not use a smoker.  I am not hardcore.

Here are a couple of photographs of my frames. 
Even though it's been incredibly hot on the roof, the hive is thriving.  I now have seven frames absolutely coated with honeycomb, so we added a second storey to the hive last week.

The beekeeping season does not end till October or November, so it's not impossible that I'll be able to add a third storey to the hive.  I'm starting to learn the names of beekeeping equipment.  I have a bee brush, a queen excluder, and although I don't have one of those netted hats yet or a hive tool to pry the individual frames apart, I'll no doubt be getting my own, plus my own smoker, this week. 

Ivaan would have pointed out that bees were the symbol of the dei Medici family, the wealthy Renaissance patrons of the arts, and I kind of consider myself a micro-scale patron of the arts, so my bees seem extra appropriate.  

I know what you really want to ask:  have I ever been stung by my bees?  No. They seem to like me, actually, and come and sit on my arm as I'm working on the hive.  But I have a calm demeanour and I'm careful not to bother them for more than ten minutes at a time. 

It's hard to tell how many bees I have, but I'm guessing 50,000.  They are all named.  For ease of reference, they are all named Sam.  Except for the queen, whose name is Her Majesty.  Here's a photo of the queen.  She's the big golden one in the middle, without the black stripes.

All that to say, if you've been by Atelier Ivaan lately during the afternoon and wondered why it didn't seem to be open for business, fear not. I was probably just up on the roof, communing with 50,000 Sams.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Lately I've been thinking about our cat, Pinky.  We found him as a tiny, feral kitten on the garage roof, a few years before we were married.  We'd heard a chirping sound and wondered if there was a bird's nest up there.  There wasn't.  There was a kitten. I guess all he'd heard were birds chirping, so he learned to chirp instead of meow.   We lured him down, over the course of several days, with saucers of milk positioned closer and closer to the back door of the house.  Within a week, Pinky moved in.

He was a tabby, and we thought he was a girl cat.  His nose and paws were very pink.  We named him Pinky in honour of Benazir Bhutto, who had just become the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, and whose childhood nickname was Pinky.  It was some time before we realized Pinky was a boy cat. By that time, he was already answering to his name and we didn't want to traumatize him, so we kept on calling him Pinky.  As he got bigger, the neighbours started to laugh every time we called him in, so we gave him the street name of Ned.  But at home, he was Pinky.  Or Mr. Pink.  Or Jean-Marie Le Pinq. Or Pinkerton. Or Pinsky, on Jewish holidays.  Or Pinky McBinkey, whose ancestral home was in Bonehead, Sussex.

Pinky loved Ivaan, and the feeling was mutual.  Ivaan trained him to do tricks, something not all cats willingly do.  I wanted to take him for walks on a leash, but every time we put a leash on him, Pinky would flatten himself on the floor, like a fur rug.  So that wasn't happening.

Pinky was the cat of legend.  One mystery at our place was where all the cat food disappeared to.  He only ate the deluxe kind, that comes in tiny cans.  Or else baby food.  Or else cooked broccoli.  Or ginger snaps.  We decided that while we were away at work during the day, Pinky was running a restaurant on our back deck.  It was called The Cat Cafe, and it served tiny little cans of cat food.  But it also had a specialty dish on the menu, Salmon Philippe.  This is because two of our nephews are named Sam and Philippe.  The dish was named after them.

In the legend, Pinky rode a motorcycle.  His helmet was carved out of a tennis ball.

Ivaan, in moments of great affection, called him Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa.  Our other nephews, Angus and Ivor, always wondered what Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa meant.  So one day I wrote a children's book to explain how he came to have the name Pinkooni Ma-Sa-Sa.  It's called:

 © 2018 Eya Donald Greenland

(I have deleted the text of the story, but I assure you, it's awesome.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


In about 2005, Ivaan was telling me about the Siege of Leningrad.  He loved history, and it really came alive though his retelling.  Honestly, I couldn't even have told you when the Siege of Leningrad was, never mind what it was all about.

Oh, you don't know either?  Well, in 1941 the Nazis surrounded the City of Leningrad in Russia (now called Petrograd, or St. Petersburg), blockading it so that no one could enter or leave.  They wanted to take control of the city and they didn't want to waste ammunition by killing the inhabitants, so they basically just starved the citizens of Leningrad.

The Siege lasted for two and a half years.  Millions died of starvation.  Food was rationed at 125 grams per day per person.  Eventually one winter it was so cold that the lake on the border of Leningrad froze over and supplies were able to be smuggled in, but the death toll was tremendous.

Stories about the Siege of Leningrad are always told from the point of view of men.  Films show tanks and guns, fighting men and barking dogs.  Little is said about the lonely, desperate lives of women during the Siege and how they coped.

After Ivaan had told me about the Siege, he asked, "If you had to give up everything, what would be the hardest for you to live without?"  I instantly answered, "A hot bath.  I would rather do without food than a hot bath".    So we started telling each other a story, back and forth, about women during the Siege and how they managed.  We called our story The Bath Lottery.  We had always envisioned writing it as a play.

Life got complicated and we never got our play written.  Part of the reason was that neither of us knew how to write a play, but another part is that we kept on adding to and subtracting from the story, so it was a pretty fluid project.

Last year, I was moaning to my friend Mary Ann about wanting to write this play, entitled The Bath Lottery, and explaining that the reason I hadn't done it was because I did not know the mechanism for writing a play.  I wondered if I should take a course in playwriting.  Mary Ann wisely suggested that I write it as a story,  adding that once I had a story on paper, I could easily see if it could become a play.

So I wrote the story.  In fact, it poured out of me surprisingly quickly.  I sent it to my sister, who often reads things I write.  She was generally encouraging, but found it hard to understand why the story was so bleak.  She was hoping for some laughter and some female bonding at the end.  Clearly, this woman has never lived through a siege!  I've been hearing stories about the Holodomor, the forced starvation imposed by Stalin on Ukraine in the early 1930s, all my adult life, and I've witnessed first hand the Soviet-induced paranoia that is bred in the bone of everyone who has ever lived in Ukraine.

I then sent it to my friend Norah, who is a writer and whose parents were of Ukrainian heritage, so she understands the culture.  Norah forced me to clarify and to simplify.  It was so helpful to me to see the story from her perspective and I was grateful for her skill and generosity.

Having finished editing the story, I had to decide what to do with it.  I didn't even know if I liked the story any more.  I subscribe to a literary quarterly, Prairie Fire, and as they had a literary competition in conjunction with the Banff Centre and McNally Robinson Booksellers, I decided to submit the The Bath Lottery.  After sending it in, I was cringing, thinking it would be so amateurish compared to the offerings of the professional writers who enter and win literary competitions.  Eventually, I forgot all about it.

Last Tuesday, coming home from university, I saw a flashing light on my answering machine and started listening to the message as I was doing household chores.  It wasn't until the message was nearly over that I realized it was from Prairie Fire Press.  They were asking for my email address.
I thought they probably just wanted to send me a list of the winners, but I replayed the message and was dumbfounded to learn that I had won Second Prize in the short fiction category.  I had to play the message one more time to be sure I'd heard correctly.  Then I phoned Mary Ann. I was slightly hysterical: crying and laughing at the same time.  When I awoke the next morning, I just assumed I had dreamed the whole episode, so I played the message again, and there it was.

Then came the fun of having to compose a short bio of myself:  "Eya lives in Toronto.  She enjoys ironing.  She has terrific friends."  Then I needed a photo of myself.  My good friend Crystal sprang into action and came right over with her camera.  She took a whole lot of very professional photos of me.  I'm so glad I didn't submit that 'selfie' I was planning on using.  She made me look like my best self.  She's an excellent  friend that way.

So this summer, The Bath Lottery will appear in Prairie Fire.  Then there's all the other things: the prize money, the publication money, the book tour (only joking about that bit) and sharing with all my friends the excitement of this total coup de foudre.   Here's my picture, as it appears on the Prairie Fire Press website.  I've realized that The Bath Lottery will never be a play.  Not enough dialogue, too many scene changes.  But it's done, and I imagine when summer comes I'll be feeling pretty chuffed.