now is the start of many new adventures. only hours ago, i left my two precious tots in the capable hands of my mother, who must be half saint, half crazy to willingly volunteer to assume their care for an entire month. i know. and while i already have an ache in my heart created by their absence at every turn, i have many plans.
for weeks, i’ve been adding items to the list of things to accomplish at record speed without the constant hum of parenting toddlers, and i checked off the first few items last week on a trip to ontario, the journey itself a major hurdle in reestablishing some ties with my former self. on my first solo trip in five years without a child in my belly, on my hip, at my side, or some combination thereof, i crossed the canadian border to visit some old friends, and make some new ones.
this is karyn, the exceptionally talented force behind the workroom, an amazing fabric shop and creative space in toronto. i’ve been a huge fan of her blog for months. while i have a handful of blogs on my reader, hers is one i return to between projects or during quiet moments, just to scan the archives. her projects and photos are so inspirational, and she generously shares tips and tricks (teaching is a cornerstone of her shop) so the rest of us can attempt to achieve a fraction of her craftsmanship. she has fully mastered the elusive skill of creating modern quilts, has a closet full of gorgeous dresses, can make a mean coin purse, and sets some impressive creative goals for herself that make me look like a total slacker.
it should come as no surprise, then, that her shop is just pure loveliness. i shot her a nervous email a few days before my arrival, including my plans to pop in, luggage and all, directly from the bus. she warmly indicated she’d be present that day, and a date was made. and so, after 7 hours on a packed bus followed by 30 minutes on a rush hour street car and a sweaty walk for good measure, in i staggered, probably not smelling my best, greeted first by a friendly dog (which must always be a good sign, no?). the shop was abuzz with the last in a series of quilting classes, and as i soaked in my surroundings, i was quickly drawn into a large embrace from the proprietor herself, sweat and all. she graciously stowed my luggage, offered me a beverage, and proceeded to answer all of my (numerous) questions about herself and her shop.
while i didn’t feel comfortable pressing her for many details (she was, after all, in the middle of running her store), i gathered roughly that, after feeling her creativity stifled in a more business related job in manhattan years ago, she resolved to return to her native toronto and embark on a creative adventure. assessing her surroundings, she concluded that (at the time) no shop in the city existed with a casual teaching component or sew by the hour opportunity, and the workroom was born. she had no shop owning experience, but says that her brain “just works this way” and running a business “makes sense to her.” i wish my brain worked that way as i feel my community is similarly lacking such a fabulous space, but alas. anyhow, six years later, i’d say she’s done quite well for herself. i’m sure the story’s a bit longer than that, but those are the highlights. how many of us have dreamed of doing something similar, but couldn’t-wouldn’t-shouldn’t? i told you, she’s something special.
i spent the next hour browsing at my own leisure without two tiny dictators exercising their will over me. in that time, i developed an immense respect and admiration for karyn that can’t be fully constructed through her blog or the shop site, as impressive as they are. the space appears cozy when you first walk in, and you notice the big ticket items–a rainbow of expertly selected shelved fabric, a row of sewing machines, a giant cutting table in the center equip to handle a queen sized quilt. but then, on closer inspection, you see beautiful details all above, beneath and around you. no space is unused, no surface is without a collection of some sort, perhaps some ribbon, or embroidery floss, quilting rulers, a wall of patterns, another full of practical sewing room tools and notions, shelves and tables stacked with craft books and magazines, both common and not. big, rustic furniture pieces hold delicate, colorful bins and stacks of quite possibly everything you might need for your sewing room, seamlessly blending antique and modern. and of course, projects color the area without overwhelming; a small quilt top here, an ottoman there, even the kitchen is beautiful. and the space is totally organized and efficient while appearing inviting and charming, feeling as personal as someone’s sewing room, but obviously so carefully executed with the precision of a seasoned museum curator. the whole place is an amazing work of art. i was totally dazzled by her brilliance.
i’m pretty inept at buying fabric in person after a lifetime of online purchases, so after a brief tete-a-tete with karyn, i picked out a pattern (for me!) that i’ve had my eye on for some time (only to find the fabric for said pattern hours later, in a most unlikely place…but more on that another day). promises were made to stay in touch, encouragement received to join the instagram phenomenon (her to me), insistence delivered to blog more often (i to her), photos were taken, embraces were shared, a new friendship established. i left the shop with palpable regret, wishing that time and social norms would have permitted me to *really* pick her brain (e.g., how do you make underwear?!), but she assured me it would totally not be weird to maintain contact, so hopefully this really is just the beginning. she even emailed me the next day to thank me for stopping in. a class act, that one.
anyhow, the rest of my canadian adventure looked a lot like this. bonded in adolescence by the semi-freedom of summer camp, some of my oldest friends and i relived days of yore at their family cottage in northern ontario, a trip i hadn’t made in 10+ years. something special grows when a seed is planted during those formative years of middle and high school, and even if we routinely go years without conversing, we always seem to find each other again.
so, it was a fitting first sojourn for me after so many years of companion travel. i revisited a place and memories that predate what now so thoroughly consumes all my time, thoughts, energy. there was local beer, swarms of mosquitos, african tomato stew, total wilderness, shelves upon shelves of books and so much quiet. we are women now where once we were girls; husbands, children, careers now plentiful between us, so different, yet not different at all. i wanted to go somewhere new in its oldness, somewhere secret in its familiarity, somewhere i could be an adult where i’d only previously been a child. a weekend full of juxtapositions; it was magnificent.
in addition to a unique opportunity to totally unplug, my hostess’s mum happens to be a successful textile artist and interior designer, who along with much advice and pep talking, sent me stateside with a bag full of probably hundreds of dollars worth of silk scraps (!). i’ve been meaning to mention the exciting news that i was recently invited to have a booth at our local holiday art fair this december. i did not realize while applying that this fair lasts three days and has over 5,000 visitors, so i have an exciting and terrifying task ahead over the coming months–advice welcome! this application was the first in a series of goals for myself to continue pushing the envelope, growing as a person and an artist, and seeking authenticity.
so, as i said, exciting things lie in store this month and beyond, a to-do list comprised of projects big and small that i’m excited to share with all of you. so many people have been asking, “WHAT are you going to DO without kids for a MONTH?!” let’s find out, shall we?