G-W Portraits: Josie Boyce

Sunflowers

Yesterday, local writer and artist Josie Boyce was my guest for the G-W Portraits series. She’s a long-time resident of the Commercial Drive area and a veteran of Vancouver’s writing, performing, visual arts, and film circles.

Josie spoke about her work, what she loves about this neighbourhood, and how she builds community here.

Here’s a link to Josie’s favourite hangout on the Drive: The Storm Crow Tavern, home of Patton Oswalt’s Sadness Bowl and some excellent beer.

And here’s a link to the Femme City Choir. If you’re planning on seeing them perform this year, buy your tickets early – their shows sell out.

Josie will be reading from her in-progress memoir and other works next week:

All My Empty Dresses: Memories of a Strawgirl
Spartacus Books
3378 Findlay Street, Vancouver
Tuesday, October 13th
7:00 p.m.

You can find Josie on The Josie Pages or on Facebook.

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Got Craft? Spring Edition 2015

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I was given free admission to Got Craft?, but received no other consideration. All opinions in this post are my own.

Craft fairs have come a long way since I was a little girl. Back then, there were tables full of simple knitted toques, sugar-stiffened lace figurines, beadwork, and Phentex slippers. Everything felt homespun and full of a grandmother’s love, but it wasn’t exactly the right place to find stylish gifts or exciting home decor.

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These days, craft fairs are where you look for the newest trends in the making, across a number of disciplines. You’re much more likely to find a unique, on trend item at a craft fair than you are in a department or chain store.

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In Vancouver, Got Craft? was a pioneer of this new style of craft fair. I’ve got them to thank for a number of my favourite pieces of jewellery, home decor items, and well-received gifts. And they’ve helped to establish a healthy network of craft fairs and shows throughout the year here, supporting a diverse array of makers and crafters.

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Today I visited the first day of the spring edition of Got Craft? and was happy to find lots of new things to get excited about, along with some that have been favourites for a while. And once you finish shopping, you can take in one of workshops led by local favourites like A Spool of Thread.

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They’re back at it tomorrow and here are some of my personal highlights:

  • Anonum Design, one of a number of vendors that repurpose materials that would otherwise be headed for the landfill. They turn rubber printing blankets into an array of colourful, useful goods.
  • Craft’ed‘s whimsical cards, magnets, and bookmarks.
  • Cabin + Cub‘s wooden accessories. (I came home with a bicycle crest pin for my partner, who was delighted.)
  • The Green Flamingo Design‘s dapper ties and pocket squares, for any gender.
  • Graveley and Sons‘ syrups and infusions

I could go on, but you can check out full list of vendors instead.

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You needn’t worry about getting hungry, either. The area around the Maritime Labour Centre may be light industrial, but there are treasures around every corner. You’re only a block away from Parallel 49 Brewing, and there are plenty of tasting rooms, restaurants, and coffee shops within blocks. You can find a list of many of them at the East Village BIA website.

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But, you don’t have to wander far to find something tasty – there are food trucks parked right outside and treats from the likes of Livia Sweets and The Lemon Square in the foyer.

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And if you can’t make it this weekend, the folks at Got Craft? are also behind Strathcona’s London Fields Shoppe, or you can head over to Tiny Finery in Hastings-Sunrise for a similar commitment to the best of local makers.

3There won’t be another edition of Got Craft? until the the end of the year, but thanks to them and the other entrepreneurs that support Vancouver’s vibrant craft scene, the city is full of markets and shops that will keep you busy until then.

Art in the Neighbourhood

I only had one day to enjoy the Eastside Culture Crawl this year, so I decided to concentrate on some of the smaller studios.

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I also took very few photos, snapshots with my iPhone, so I could give the bulk of my attention to the art. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and I loved hunting down studios through the quiet streets of Strathcona.

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I hope your weekend filled your eyes and hearts so well as this one did mine.

Chock Full of November

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Last Saturday, the Parade of Lost Souls inhabited Britannia Community Centre, leading the audience through a maze of performance, music, and interactive experiences informed by traditions acknowledging the waning of the year. I’ve told you about the parade before, but things have changed since then. The Public Dreams Society has, sadly, folded and Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret has taken over the stewardship of this event so it can live on. If you want them to be able to continue to do so, visiting their Indiegogo fundraising campaign would help a lot.

I’ve peppered the post with photos from this year’s parade, but it’s the rest of the month that I want to tell you about. My favourite event of November is always the Eastside Culture Crawl, which I’ve also told you about before. The Crawl is four days long now and well-worth all that tramping around the neighbourhood, no matter what the weather.

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Now that you’ve set aside those four days for the Crawl, you can finish filling your calendar for the month – here are a few of your choices:

You look like the well-read sort; I just know you have a library card. So, I also know you’ll be thrilled that you can show it at the door for free entry into Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalists. Your appetite for captivating presentations properly whetted, you might want to check out Interesting Vancouver next. There’s also a few days left of the Heart of the City Festival. Or, you can get in on the act (well, workshop) at this year’s CircusFest – I’ll be sticking with my role as audience member, personally. For a less strenous look behind the scenes, you can listen to some of the Culture Crawl’s artists at HOT TALKS: Eastside Culture Crawl.

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There are more exhibitions and performances this month than I can reasonably mention, so I’ll just give you a taste of a few more that caught my attention.

You can pick up some original art while supporting the Seymour Art Gallery at their ‘Art Party!’ exhibition until November 8th. Kevin and I are big fans of Portland’s The Wonderheads and their latest show, Loon, sounds like another instance of their signature blend of magic and bittersweet. Museums matter and are more relevant than ever, as spaces like MOV are proving. On November 14th, I Came to See the Beautiful Things will celebrate museums with music, performance, and discussion.

So, by now you might be looking for a little bit of fun in this list. Doctor Strange’s Future Think Dinner Show might fit the bill. Or maybe all this activity just worked up your appetite. In that case, the Ocean Wise™ Chowder Chowdown will fill your belly while supporting sustainable seafood simultaneously. And with that out of the way, you can concentrate on some pre-holiday shopping therapy at a few of the MANY craft fairs that November brings.

Blim is always a good bet and The Province has a nice list that extends all the way into December. I’m also going to put in a good word for the craft fair that my mother is helping to put on at Sts. Joachim and Ann’s Parish in Aldergrove. They have some great crafters and artisans lined up.

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And before I go, I’d like to remind you that this month, civic elections are happening across Metro Vancouver. The Broadbent Institute has started an interesting initiative to increase voter participation. Feed Democracy is a non-partisan awareness campaign that has some of Vancouver’s favourite spots to eat and drink signed on to help get the vote out. In Vancouver, advance polls opened today (though, rather maddeningly, not on the east side) and the big day is November 15th. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, there are at least three more all candidates meetings to go.

November, you are no wallflower.

Autumnal Anticipation

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We’ve had the first big rain of autumn here in Vancouver and though it seems we’re going to have at least a week’s reprieve, it’s got me thinking about hunkering down with cups of tea and bowls of soup. It also means there will be less outdoors and more books, music, and video to explore, until springtime rouses us.

So, my question to you is what are you looking forward to this fall and winter? Is it the big blockbusters like the latest installments of the Hunger Games and the Hobbit? Or are you itching to get your hands on books like Sarah Waters’ latest?

Here are some of the things I’m curious about this fall:

Film

Jimi: All Is By My Side promises to be more than the usual blockbuster biopic.

Dear White People is a satire that challenges persistent stereotypes.

Rosewater is Jon Stewart’s directorial debut and already getting good reviews.

The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch as a genius brutally betrayed by his country.

Wild features Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed and Amy Adams stars as a wronged artist in Big Eyes – a feminist double shot for the end of the year.

Finally, there’s Into the Woods – can Rob Marshall do Stephen Sondheim justice?

Television

Because it’s an Amazon production, I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to see it, but Transparent looks like it could be a winner.

This is the year of comic book overload on the small screen – my pick is Agent Carter, for some much needed female presence, even though it’s not due to appear until 2015.

What’s with all the 2015 in my fall television picks? I guess there isn’t much that moves me, so let the countdown to Downton Abbey begin.

Of course, there’s The Walking Dead. I don’t care for horror much, but the writing on this show has made it one of my favourites.

Music (brought to you by Kevin)

Look for mandolin master Chris Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer’s new release, Bass & Mandolin, on September 9th.

That’s the same date as Ryan Adams releases his first album in three years. Until then, you can listen to it here.

Ólafur Arnalds gave a charming performance in Vancouver a few months back and we’re looking forward to a new release from his project with Janus Rasmussen, Kiasmos. And his label-mate Douglas Dare has a new EP coming out on September 22nd. And in case you hadn’t guessed we’re talking about Kevin’s favourite label here, there’s another Erased Tapes release worth checking out coming from A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

Books

Love Enough by Dionne Brand promises to be beautiful and heartbreaking by turns.

Eula Biss’ On Immunity: An Innoculation is a much-needed and wide-ranging exploration into the distrust of what were once thought of as revolutionary life-saving medical breakthroughs.

Vikram Chandra’s Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty sounds like the kind of peripatetic exploration of ideas I love.

Kathleen Winter travels Franklin’s path in Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage.

Those are just a few of this fall’s literary offerings. I suspect that I’m going to run out of holds at the library, working my way through the many I want to read.

Theatre

There’s too much to choose from at the Fringe Festival, which runs from September 4th to 14th this year, so I’ll just send you to their site.

2nd Story: Blood Alley is as much experience as performance.

The Wonderheads’ Grim & Fischer was a highlight for us last year and their new production, Loon, sounds just as good.

Last year’s inaugural East Van Panto was a huge hit. This year they tackle Cinderella and I’m guessing it will be the holidays’ hottest ticket.

I’m hoping I’ve whet your appetite for more exploration. After all, there’s visual arts, dance, museum exhibitions, seminars and lectures, workshops and guided tours – much more than I can detail here.

Now it’s your turn: What have I missed and what are the experiential gems coming up where you live?

Artistic Exploration – A Round Up of Public Art in Vancouver

Chair

Public art can be controversial or beloved, corporate or community-driven. At its best, it focuses the viewer’s attention on the space it occupies, contextualizing it in a new way. Now that spring is turning into summer, it’s the perfect time to explore the city, looking for these interventions along the way.

Here are a few places to start you off:

The City of Vancouver’s map of public art installations

Our City. Our Art.

Vancouver Biennale

100 in 1 Day

Tight City

The Year of Reconciliation art project

The Dude Chilling Art Exchange

Now, tell me what I’ve missed in Vancouver if you live here, or if you don’t, let me know what the public art scene is like where you live.

The chair in the photo at the top of the post was part of the Chair Project YVR project, which took place this spring.

Some Autumnal Distraction

Rocks along the ocean, with a marina and a bridge across the water.

September’s nearly over and I’ve started to do a fall cleanup of my backyard and garden beds. (You can guess at the state of my yard right now, since I’ve tried to distract you with a nice ocean view, instead of sharing a photo of my garden.) I’ve got an extra incentive to get that clean up done, as we’re having a patio put in starting Friday and the contractor’s also going to build me a raised bed along the fence. I think my days of fighting with blackberry cane and morning glory will soon be done. There’s still a little life in my vegetable garden, with beets and swiss chard going strong. I even found a few more cucumbers today. I’ve brought the dill in to dry, but should have several more weeks of the other herbs. The warm, sunny days aren’t quite over, but the nights are cool and damp. I like to think I embrace the changing of the seasons, but sometimes I need a little distraction from winter’s approach. Luckily, it’s going to be a busy autumn.

This weekend’s particularly busy, starting with Knit Social‘s yarn sale and swap. It’s also Culture Days weekend, a cross-Canada celebration of arts and culture. The CBC is kicking it off on Friday, with a day-long outdoor festival. The Vancouver International Film Festival starts on the 29th, which is so good that some folks plan their annual vacations around it. Saturday’s Faeries’ Ball looks like a lovely way to recapture youthful fantasies and will be just a taste of what we can expect at their House of Faerie Bad Things later this month. I think that haunted house might give the Secret Souls Walk a run for its money. Sunday mixes cycling with art appreciation for BIKENNALE, a free tour of the Vancouver Biennale sculptures.

Perhaps after the weekend’s over, I’ll be too tired to notice the turning of the seasons.

A little something to heal the spirit

It’s the day after our federal election and I’m in need of a lighthearted post – it was an extremely dramatic election night.

So, here’s a small round up of some of the things that are happening in this neck of the woods:

On Thursday, the Museum of Vancouver opens its Bhangra.me exhibition, about the history of Bhangra in Vancouver. Their programming has become absolutely stellar, both in the museum itself and in the ways it takes its exhibitions beyond that space.

This coming weekend, the Ederlezi Balkan Brass Festival puts on a bunch of high-energy shows. Or, if crafts are more your thing, you can go to Got Craft? and do some last-minute Mothers’ Day shopping.

The next weekend, the 2011 Northern Voice Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference is happening. I’m looking forward to the photo workshops, especially as the conference is on the same weekend as this.

I’m happy the Vancouver Farmers’ Market summer season is beginning again soon – I’ve been missing the convenience of going to the Trout Lake site.

Throughout much of May, you can check out emerging artists at Emily Carr University’s Degree Exhibition.

That’s only a smidgeon of what’s going on, of course. Here are a few links to sites that can tell you about even more:

BeeVancity

Vancouver is Awesome

Georgia Straight

I’d love to know what’s happening where you are. Or, if you’re from here, anything I’ve missed that you’d like to share.

Labyrinth of Light

A labyrinth is not a maze. While a maze is devised to confound you, a labyrinth leads you into its heart and out again.

For seventeen years now, The Secret Lantern Society has marked the longest night of the year with its Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. This year, the festival included processions, dances, drumming circles and more across five Vancouver neighbourhoods. At Britannia Community Centre and The Roundhouse, the Society also hosted Labyrinths of Light, for walking meditation and contemplation.

According to the website:

“The labyrinth has long been used for meditation, prayer and sites of ritual in various cultures around the world. Created with over 700 pure beeswax candles, the winter solstice labyrinth invites you to warm yourself in a self-guided ceremony intended to help release old attachments and envision new possibilities as the darkest night of the year births a new season.”

The labyrinth at Britannia was held in a darkened gymnasium. On one side of the room, a stereo played sacred music, including plainsong and Buddhist chants. On the other, didgeridoos sounded quietly. Low benches were set up a short distance from the labyrinth for contemplation.

Walking the labyrinth meant negotiating the narrow spaces defined by the paper sacks which held the candles providing most of the room’s light. The way into a labyrinth is also the way out, so polite shuffling became a part of the experience. The design led you far inside and then back to the outer edges of the labyrinth again and again before you truly reached the centre. Then, after some contemplation, it was time to wind slowly out again. The heat from the candles, the music and the darkness helped to create a solemn atmosphere, but many people moved through the labyrinth with joy and one young woman danced back and forth through its passages.

It is a beautiful way to honour the year’s end, acknowledging grief and joy while opening oneself to the new year’s offerings.

If you’d like to experience labyrinth walking meditation, the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator can help you find one near you.

Art Anchors the Eastside – Culture Crawl Weekend

The place where you live can be an anywhere or it can be somewhere very specific, especially in Canada and the United States. It’s very easy, even in cities, to replicate the experiences you can find across the continent; there are the same chain stores and restaurants in every city and town. Or, you can populate your mental map with places that are unique to your location. It’s the second map that makes someone a real resident, I think. Knowing where to find gluten-free ice cream sandwiches, a stationery store with its own letterpress, or a shop where you can learn how to tune up your bike yourself. Such places add up to home.

Every place also has its rites of passage. I know someone who started to identify as a Vancouverite long before she moved here, because she flew across the country each year to attend the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. She has the same stories as I do, of attending in years of torrential rain, heat waves or unseasonably cold weather at the Festival, along with stories of the amazing performances that happen there.

What’s interesting about all of this, for me, is that the same place is really many places. There are certainly several Vancouvers. Your Vancouver depends on who you are. It can include the Folk Festival or Under the Volcano, both, or neither. Whole neighbourhoods may not exist in Vancouver as you experience it. I used to work in a corporate office, where many of my co-workers drove in from places farther up the Fraser Valley. For them, it was as if the east side of the city didn’t exist. Which is a shame, because some of the best things about Vancouver occur east of Kitsilano and downtown.

The Eastside Culture Crawl is definitely part of my Vancouver. Thousands of people tour hundreds of artists’ studios that are thrown open to the public one weekend a year. This past weekend was Crawl weekend and the weather was milder and drier than it has been since I can remember. There’s been snow, sleet and rain in the past and it doesn’t stop people from climbing up makeshift warehouse stairways or into backyards and basements in search of art.



                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
I didn’t get very far off the beaten track this year, concentrating my one free afternoon along Venables, Clark and Parker. I saw some beautiful pottery at posAbilities on Venables, great jewellery at the Onion studios and then I wandered over to the Mergatroid Building and Parker Street studios.

Some of my favourites this year included:

Melk’s burned bamboo and etched steel pieces;
Arleigh Wood’s new series;
Su Foster’s delicate filigree work in her twistedandhammered line;
Flight Path’s leather accessories;
Russell Hackney’s amazing teapots;
Sonia Iwasiuk’s paintings;
and Silvia Dotto’s crows.

There’s much more, of course. Browse the website and you’ll get a virtual taste of the Crawl. What you’ll miss by doing that, and why you should make sure you attend next year, is the ambience of the Crawl, along with the opportunities to talk to artists and other Crawlers. It was worth going just to see the beautiful branches hanging from Melk’s ceiling and to have a conversation about photography with a jewellery-maker. Also, seeing so many works, in so many mediums, really helps to pin down what you’re looking for when you buy art.

The best part of attending the Crawl, for me, is the knowledge that I carry through the rest of the year – everywhere I walk in my neighbourhood, there is something being created.