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.