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