Our First Anniversary at Black & Smith Country General

Three years ago (as Facebook reminded me, with one of my "memories") we put an offer in on our first home.

I joke (only partially) that buying this house was both the best and worst decision that we ever made. The worst decision because it has been a HELL of a lot of work to fix up (and we're still fixing it), with just about every conceivable problem arising at some point in the process. It has been an exercise in patience, a challenge for our relationship, and continues to be a project that we spend hours on each week. We are two people who are driven by growth. Our home is growing, it's thriving, it's changing. It's not what either of us had expeceted. But that's why buying this place was also the best decision we ever made.

Though an exercise in patience, our workshop/store/home/garden has taught us a lot, and given us a purpose - many goals to work towards, milestones to meet, and barriers to break down. Sometimes when I look at pictures of this place when we first bought it, I don't even recognize it. I don't really recognize me at that time either.

Last year (after two years of paying commercial property taxes, and staring at a giant empty room) we decided it was time we did something with this space of ours. We opened a shop. It started as a showroom for my pottery and a space to highlight the work of some other local makers. We had organic jam and nut butters, soaps, pillows, some wooden toys, coffee and tea. That was about it.

Since this time last year, the shop has expanded to carry a wide and carefully curated selection of all the things we love, all the things that (I believe) will help you to live a more beautiful life. These objects bring joy to the everyday, delight to the mundane. They brighten up your living space, and (I speak from experience on this one) can bring hope to some of the darkest days in your life. They are made by Canadians - handmade by artists with families and homes of their own - lives they are supporting by creating beautiful things.

We're celebrating our first anniversary of being open, our "First Birthday" if you will, on December 3 + 4.

Please join us for the celebration. Help us to celebrate the good work that all our makers do.
Join us in celebrating Canadian craft.
Sharethe love of handmade this holiday season.

... and tell a friend! (:

Holiday Sale / Open House 2014

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Our annual Holiday Sale is this coming weekend (December 6/7) from 10am - 4pm both days. We have been working tirelessly to set up a great shop space filled with handmade gifts by local artists. At the sale you will find beautifully crafted bags, scarves and pencil cases by Toronto-based textile designer Fionna Hanna, quirky and thought-provoking original artworks by fellow Hamiltonians Sean Gadoury and Caitlin Eady, hand illustrated letterpress cards by Papillon Press (Westmount ON), and of course, lots of quality porcelain pottery by yours truly. Along with several sizes and shapes of mugs and bowls, this year I've designed brie bakers, serving trays, wine cups, spoons, creamers and more - you will find something for everyone!

Come visit and cross some of those names off your shopping list, check out the new studio and enjoy some refreshments!

Thank you for shopping handmade this holiday season, and for supporting your local artists. (:

The Crawl

I've been an official Hamiltonian since February when we moved into the old general store, but I never truly felt one with the Hammer folk until September's annual Supercrawl. I must begin by expressing my love for Hamilton - I have long been a fan of this city and the people in it. I have fostered many relationships at the Ben Thanh, enriched my life through programming at Cathedral Place on James St N, and the monthly art crawls are always on my calendar. The city is full of life and love, excitement, entertainment and best of all, art.

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"Art is the new steel!" they say of Hamilton, ON. Once the home to a booming steel industry, the city is now a hub of arts culture and events, live music, street performance and craft beer. It is home to hundreds of galleries, vintage clothing shops and specialty food stores that sell cupcakes, organic goods and vegan smoothies. Every month James St N hosts an art "crawl" where the studio artists open their doors to the public, galleries put on sweet spreads, buskers serenade the passersby and vendors spread their wares across picnic blankets.

In September, the street completely shuts down to host Supercrawl, a weekend long crawl that brings in traffic from across Ontario. This is the crawl of all crawls. Art is hung on every alleyway wall, fences are decorated with chalk art and graffiti murals, large installations take up intersections and at night there are acrobats riding giant tricycles that shoot flames into the sky. Over 150,000 people descended up downtown Hamilton to share the experience. supercrawl I had a booth this year, to start my relationship with the city as a TRUE Hamiltonian. The feedback from the crowds was excellent, the weather (if chilly) was merciful, and I even got to play some music with my band inside the beautiful Cathedral.

Thanks to everyone who helped make Supercrawl an enjoyable and successful event!

Huddling up for Warmth

I'm at Studio Huddle watching the shop with Aaron Oussoren, glass artist and co-founder of this amazing studio space and collective. It's pretty wintery out there, but I braved the wind and snow from Burlington and am now comfortably shop-sitting, waiting for eager patrons to stumble in off the street and spend some time with lovely handmade goods. So far, it's pretty quiet here. But I can't blame the public. It's the perfect day to stay inside, cuddled up with Earl Grey and a cozy blanket. Toss in some Friends reruns, and/or a good book (Storm of Swords) and the day is made. The blizzard outside only adds to the magic.

But if you're feeling so inclined, come by for a visit (97 Niagara St. Toronto). We are here until 6pm. The wind is only a little chilling, and the snow only slightly deep. Plus, maybe you could pick up a lovely handmade mug to drink your Earl Grey in later tonight. Or, a handmade flask - to keep your insides warm on the transit-ride home. Here's one of Sally McCubbin's "Holy Water Flasks":

holy water flaskIf you can't make it today, there's still time to come and visit! The shop is open until December 24th.

Studio Huddle

Toronto's group studio "Studio Huddle" is having its annual holiday shopping event this month. I am very thankful to have been invited to participate in this show, with many artists I admire. Jesse and I attended the opening shopping night last Thursday, to shmooze with other artisans and see how they had displayed the work. Margaret Lim did a fantastic job with the display, and the mulled wine was delicious. I always love attending openings but I don't often make it to many because I don't live in the city. When I do get the chance, I try to spend a long time catching up with my craft-peers, and absorbing the quality of the work. There is still so much to learn and exhibitions are one of the best places to be inspired! I'm thankful Jesse is a trouper and joins me on these ventures, even when I spend the night chatting with other artists.

IMG_4737 It was very comforting to see my work alongside these other fantastic artisans. To say I am delighted would be an understatement!

If you haven't had the chance yet, check out the show this month (it runs until Christmas Eve). I'll be there this Saturday from 2:30-6pm, watching the shop and absorbing the greatness. You could stop and say hello! The work is exceptional, and what better gift to give that special someone, than a one-of-a-kind piece of art?

I picked up one of Brad Copping's "Stumpware" candle holders at the opening (featured below, next to my mugs and espresso cups). I have added it to my personal collection because, well, sometimes it's nice to treat yourself (:

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Studio Huddle is located at 97 Niagara St. in Toronto, ON. For more information about the show, visit my NEWS page for the event postcard, or the Studdle Huddle Pop-Up Shop event page

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