24 December 2009

Happy Christmas Eve!

packed for shipping

I've never had quite so much chaos and packaging things up in December and none of it Christmas related. I did have pangs when I saw the movers take away our 13 boxes. I hope they show up intact in Amsterdam. During the packing, I did manage a brief moment of decorating for the solstice with some glow sticks that we decided to play with, rather than toss.

decorating with glowsticks

Wishing everyone much love and happiness in the New Year!

glowing heart

04 December 2009

Nearly Almost Done!

on to the binding!

Deadlines can be stressful, but they're also great motivators. I had to seriously dig in and get on with my quilt in order to finish the machine sewing portion before I had to pack up my sewing machine. But I've done it. This morning, I finished attaching my binding and did the scary fitting part (joining the ends of the binding and then sewing the last bit up, hoping it fits just right).

This quilt binding tutorial by Heather Bailey was really helpful. My Mom sent it to me in one of her many, patient emails answering all my questions about how to square up the quilt and do the binding. Since I'm a visual learner, the excellent diagrams accompanying the descriptions made it all clear for me. On my Mom's advice, I did 3/8" seams (rather than 1/4" ones) and so I cut out 3" wide strips for binding.

Now I've just got to hand-stitch the binding to the quilt back and my very first quilt will be done! I can't wait to use it ... on my bed. I have been admitting lately that it may not be used for picnics after all, despite that being the inspiration. I'm not sure I can bear to get it all dirty. Maybe my next quilt will be for picnicking...

01 December 2009

farewell .qc.ca, hello .nl !

Schipol Airport

I've practically had to sit on my hands for the last couple months not to mention this, but now it's finally Official. We're moving to Amsterdam!!

We love Montreal, but this was an unmissable opportunity for an Adventure! We are boldly going forth to bicycle, eat cheese, and travel. This is one major reason I haven't been at all artistically productive of late. Most of my time has been taken up with organizing the move. It's incredible how much STUFF we crammed into our apartment in the 4 years we've lived in it. We've been vicious about getting rid of books (that was hard!), clothing, furniture, and household goods. We're actually both really grateful for this forced opportunity to examine all our things and de-clutter. Since it's so much work, I'm not sure we ever would have done such a thorough job without a move overseas to compel... ahem, I mean inspire ... us.

It's amazing what a deadline will do. The one bit of productivity, motivated by the fact that my sewing machine will soon be packed away, is that my quilt is nearing completion. I've finished the quilting and just have to square it up and do the binding. I say "just", but since this is my first quilt, I imagine it will take me some time. I will hopefully be onto the hand-finishing over Christmas and be able to take a finished quilt with me on the plane in January!

I probably won't be posting much until we're over there and settled, but then I'm sure I will have new adventures galore!

19 November 2009

Button-y Goodness

blue and green buttons

Last Saturday was a button-shopping trip with a friend. I said it last time and it's still true; digging through the button trunk at Rubans Boutons is like sifting through jewels in a treasure chest. They're now up on St-Hubert in the fabric district, so not such a neighbourhood treat, but it's still just $4 for a medium bag of selected buttons. I got 2 this time, and managed to cram in over 550 buttons.

pink and purple buttons

I had a great deal of fun sorting my buttons after I'd washed them. I now have 3 jars full, including some that my Mom gave me from the family button tin. After spending a couple hours digging through buttons, it's easy to forget exactly what you've chosen. I always find it satisfying to sort by colour. Perhaps it's something to do with being a visual person, but I've always like sorting my pencil crayons or selecting new colours of pencil crayons. Is that just me? Certainly for me, the same appears to be true of buttons.

white and brown buttons

There were some nice surprises of ones that matched buttons I'd selected the last time (as well as some I remembered and specifically chose for that reason). I'm looking forward to dreaming up projects for buttons. Maybe part of mixed media pieces? Or sewn in patterns to make my clothes more quirky? Or used to make button jewellery? Unlike my more disciplined friend, I did not go with much real purpose other than the delight of scooping through pretty buttons. So I just picked and chose where my eye was drawn.

pink button square

I mostly chose within my preferred spectrum of blue, green, and purple, though a bit of red and pink were also included. I did have my eye out for a variety of white and cream buttons with a view to a monochromatic project with the variation in texture of different buttons for interest. Oh, the multitude of possibilities is delightful.

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.

16 November 2009

My idea of "success"

art not ads
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I've been thinking about what it means to be a successful artist. It started in the middle of the night when I woke up and for some reason was thinking about a post I'd read on someone's blog about some new products that were being made with their art. There was something that made me wonder if that would feel like "success" for me. It's such a subjective term, that it bore more half-asleep thinking and then I woke up this morning with lots of thoughts on the subject.

It always sounds like a 1980's self-help concept to me when I hear some version of the widely accepted idea that "you have to visualise where you want to be if you're going to get there". But then again it sounds a bit mystical to me to accept the idea that you just do things and "the way will open up and the path will become clear as you go". I think I fall somewhere in between these two philosophies. I want to have some idea of what I'm trying to do, but not a fixed roadmap. You can't really know or plan anyway. The universe seems to take great delight in showing you otherwise. Have you noticed that? But all my thoughts about "success" start with my art, my ideas, and being able to create what I envision. They're not so much about the business aspect, which I think is a good thing, if a bit impractical. My dream is to be an artist, not a business. Of course to make money from art, you do have to do some things that make it a business, but that's a necessity, not the dream.

I'm starting to feel from a number of blogs out there that making money has become too much of the focus. They fill their blog sidebars with ads from "sponsors" (a weasel word for advertiser) and have frequent promotions from them. Something about this bothers me, perhaps particularly because these are artists whose blogs I enjoy reading otherwise. Of course artists need to eat too... but the commercialism of it does bother me a little. I dislike the omnipresence of advertising (just as a general principle, I think we're over-exposed to it) and it seems to have become quite common amongst those who can, to choose to make money like this. To use my voice for promotions like that is definitely NOT my goal. I really appreciated Keri Smith's posts about why she doesn't have advertising on her blog (here, here, here, and here (this last is the post I was actually thinking of when I googled and found all the earlier ones) and for the short version, the ad-free blog faq). The concept of drawing a line around what space is not for sale to corporations really resonates with just how I feel on the subject. It's not that all ads are evil all the time. It's that ads are EVERYWHERE now and I've drawn a line about where I think they should be in my life and my work and I won't move my line for money.

I don't mind when people are talking about their own art/ideas, but it's when their blog becomes a forum for advertising other businesses that I start to be a bit put off. While some of my thoughts may seem critical of how other artists who blog are choosing to make some income, that's not so much the point of it. This is more me figuring out what is consistent with my beliefs and what is right for me. I don't at all mind mentions of stores that they like to go to or friends who are also artists, or even the occasional review (of a store/product/whatever). It's all about the volume and intent... ie. low volume of endorsement and intent to share information/opinion, not advertising. That is certainly what I aim for.

I'm still so much at the beginning of my artistic journey, that I'm seeing the choices that others who are already more known, more "successful" have made, and trying to see how I want to be. I'm not really sure at this point exactly where I want it all to go, but I'm starting to get some idea of where I don't want it to go. It wouldn't be "success" to me, though many would see it that way, to end up making money from ads. I just kind of think ugh. I want to write, and create, and make things that make people really happy to have or see or read. To make the world a little bit more beautiful, a little better, to provoke some thought. And I want to have that beautiful feeling of creating from idea to finished product. That's what I'm aiming for, that happy feeling.

Success as a full-time artist does involve making money from my art, and I do need to figure out how I want to do that. But when I think of success, it's not just the money, it's also about success AS an artist, in the process of creating things. The funny thing is, I don't say this from some high morals against commercial or graphic artists (how could I with a sister who is doing her PhD on Canadian illustrators and has talked about how illustrators are often seen as somehow lesser artists because of the commercial element). It seems perfectly reasonable to me to make a living being paid to make art with a specific intent and even creating art that IS advertising. If we've got to have it, it would be nice if it was beautifully photographed and illustrated! I think it's defining success solely in terms of income that I dislike. It's a corollary that making money from advertising (and I mean by providing the forum for it, not creating the advertisment itself) is something I see as a symptom of that money = success mindset. Accordingly, since I think we are over-bombarded with advertising, that to me is what I think of as "selling out" or losing your artistic integrity by doing something for the money regardless of the effect.

All this started as vague thoughts at 3AM. It jumbled around in my head and didn't really make sense nor did I even know exactly what it was really about until I wrote it out. Sometimes it takes trying to explain some random feeling or thought to someone else to really understand what it was all about. So success for me is making a living by creating the things I envision and exploring and developing the skills to bring my ideas to life. An important part of my artistic integrity is to not compromise on what areas of my life and work I let the corporate world intrude on. And if you made it through this whole long post, thank you for your attention. I hope it was interesting and thought-provoking, even (particularly) if you don't agree with me.

13 November 2009

Autumn in the country

I spent Thanksgiving with family in the countryside. Eek, that was already a month ago! Here's a few of the pictures I took.

fall colours

sumac on a grey fall day

I thought the sumac was especially beautiful.

sumac study

One of my favourite Thanksgiving "chores" has become the tradition of me snipping some things from the last of the garden remains to make pretty flower and leaf arrangements for the table.

flowers on the table

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.

29 October 2009

Fabric Eye Candy Report

effiloche fabric

Yesterday I went fabric shopping with lainevierge. It turned what was a "to do" item into a lot of fun. I had promised to buy my Mom some more of a fabric she had purchased while she was here. And I decided that going fabric shopping for her, was an excellent excuse to have an outing with a friend and buy fabric for ME too! I bought 6 fat quarters.

effiloche fabric

While I tend to be drawn to blues and greens, I made an effort to focus on some other colourways so that my fabric stash has a good spectrum to choose from for whatever projects I dream up.

effiloche fabric

And while I was taking photos of this fabric I decided to take some of a few remnants I picked up awhile ago. My local fabric store has big bins of remnants that are fun to dig through and everything is pretty inexpensive.


I don't have any specific projects in mind at the moment, but small pieces of fabric are low in calories, and guilt-free!

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.

19 October 2009

Amsterdam bicycles

I couldn't skip posting about bicycles when talking about Amsterdam. They are everywhere. IN HUGE QUANTITIES. And it's brilliant, awesome, and so much fun. We rented bicycles for two of our days there and it was so easy to zip around. I had a wonderful postcard holiday montage moment when we were riding through a park, side by side, along a tree-lined avenue. I just felt like I was in the romanticized movie-version of my life for a moment.

Here's a few of the pictures I took featuring bicycles.

green bicycle

bicycles by the canal

lots of bicycles

cyclist controlled lights

bicycle path

study of a bicycle

If you ever visit Amsterdam, I recommend renting from the somewhat incognito black-bikes.com.

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.

17 October 2009

Amsterdam architecture

A little selection of some of the architecture we saw in Amsterdam...

canal houses

buildings along a canal

rooftop in the sun

canal view with houseboats

down the canal

neat drawbridge

Amsterdam rooftops

Have you noticed what glorious weather we had during our holiday? Amsterdam is usually a very rainy city (so I hear), but it was sunny almost the entire time we were there. The web of canals through the old part of the city created many beautiful views. We spent a lot of time walking along them, looking at the infinite variety in the canal house roof shapes. And quite a bit of time sitting in little sidewalk cafes looking out at them (and all the people and bikes passing by).

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.

06 October 2009

Amsterdam markets

A little selection of some things I saw while perusing the street markets in Amsterdam...

stunning hydrangeas
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

sea urchins
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

fancy notions
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

colourful textiles
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

03 October 2009

My Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

D reaching for a cookie
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

After much experimentation, I have developed the following recipe. These make the sort of chocolate chip cookies that my sweetie and I favour: slightly chewy, not too thin, lots of chocolate chips. Oh are these addictive! The recipe can be doubled and these cookies freeze well.

Allison's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream together:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1-2 tsp tia maria (or vanilla extract)
Mix in:
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Stir in:
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet)

Put tablespoon sized blobs on the baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. They're better once they've cooled a bit.

You don't need to smush them flat since they'll melt down in the oven. I love the sort of uneven lumpiness that results. I always cook mine for the full 10 minutes because if the middle is still too undercooked, the cookies will sink as they cool. I can't say as it was exactly "hard" for us to taste all the variations on this recipe when I was experimenting. The main thing I discovered is that if you add too much butter (the recipe I started with had 1/2 cup), then they'll go all flat. If that's what you prefer, by all means, add more butter. I always use tia maria (a coffee flavoured liqueur), but there's honestly probably not much difference if you use vanilla or whatever booze you have on hand for flavouring baking. Happy baking (and eating)!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

30 September 2009

Monet's Garden pillow

Monet's Garden pillow
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

So you know when you have energy for a new project that's just bubbling over? That's what happened with this pillow. I was obsessed with it and kept pondering the layout in the pictures. The funny thing is that I ignored the results of the poll (and the pictures)... both my sweetie and I preferred the border layout and I think it has something to do with seeing it in person. It's just not so photogenic when gloomy weather forces me to use a flash. I think it makes the contrast of the light squares with the border seem more pronounced than it actually is.

In any case, my enthusiasm for this cushion continued unabated. First I sewed the front together and thought I'd stop there and maybe take it fabric shopping for the backing. But then I started thinking about using fabric I already had, so I draped a couple options on it. A little later I picked the purple flower vintage sheet (used to back another cushion already).

I wondered whether I might buy a zipper and wait to finish it. But my mind couldn't let it go, so I planned a button-envelope style back. Quick as you please, and I'd cut it out and sewed it together. The needle-position dial on my sewing machine is broken, so I thought I'd figure out button-holes another day. But a little pause, and I was at my machine with a scrap of fabric, figuring out how to fudge a button hole. The button holes turned out a little homely, but they're mostly covered by the pearly buttons I picked out of my button jar anyway. So with several pauses, I finished the whole cushion today and I feel ever so pleased with the result.

You may notice another vintage-sheet-based cushion cover behind it... I didn't make that one. Anyone looking at my flickr stream will have guessed that I recently visited Amsterdam, and this pillow cover was a find in a vintage clothing/goods shop there. I'll post about Amsterdam eventually, but I took a monumental number of photographs and I'm still working on uploading them all.

Rijksmusuem Garden Lion
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

29 September 2009

Which layout is nicer?

Monet's Garden patchwork layout #1
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I've washed, ironed, and cut squares out of my chosen fabrics and now I just need to choose a layout. I'm calling it my Monet's Garden patchwork pillow because the palette reminds me of Water Lilies (The Clouds) by Monet. The first layout is random, the second one has the darker squares forming a border. So which do you think is better (see poll in sidebar)? I'm totally torn at the moment.

Monet's Garden patchwork layout #2
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

27 September 2009

Patchwork projects

Monet's Garden patchwork
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

Naturally, as progress is made on my picnic quilt (half done the quilting!), the more new ideas and projects occur to me. Right now, I'm really wanting to make a large patchwork cushion cover to replace the boring navy-blue IKEA one that I've had since university days. I recently ordered the "very blueberry" bundle of fabrics from the oh-so-craftily-talented rosehip, so I pulled a bunch of those new-to-me fabrics out along with a few things from my stash, and thus was born my plan for the Monet's Garden patchwork pillow.

very blueberry bundle
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

And since I was already digging through fabric, I couldn't resist putting together a little set I call "Strawberry Surprise". I'm not sure what (if anything) I'll do with the latter, but it was fun to just play.

strawberry surprise
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

23 September 2009

Yogourt-fruit parfaits

yogourt parfaits
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I've been sort of obsessed with making these little parfaits for dessert lately. They are delicious and quite healthy, so a guilt-free treat to indulge in. The basic idea is to layer fruit and yogourt and fruit syrup in a glass (use a wine glass to look extra fancy). I've been using mango, banana, and some of my homemade raspberry syrup, some cassis syrup, or a bit of juice. They look awfully pretty for something so simple. No reason you couldn't add nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, or anything else that took your fancy.

14 September 2009

Restaurant Reviews

young garlic
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I've noticed a number of google queries landing on this blog looking for my Montreal Restaurant Reviews, so I thought I'd provide a direct link. There's also a list of favourite restaurants in other cities.
Update: We've added a page for Amsterdam Restaurant Reviews.

what I did on my summer holiday

heart by the water
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

On my summer holiday, I left behind some hearts and towers made of stones.

tower of stones
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

stacked stones
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I saw pretty wildflowers in purple ...

Originally uploaded by allisongryski

and white ...

Originally uploaded by allisongryski

and pink.

Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I watched misty sunsets across the bay.

misty sunset
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I saw an abandoned house ...

abandoned house
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

and an old graveyard.

old graveyard
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

And now it is very decidedly Autumn, with a bit of a chill in the air and brisk breezes.