Epochep·och (ˈe-pək, ˈe-ˌpäk) | an event or a time marked by an event that begins a new period or development | an extended period of time usually characterized by a distinctive development or by a memorable series of events | a division of geologic time less than a period and greater than an age
I knew the time was coming. And in many ways I was so very ready — to have my body back (more or less), to not be tied as intensely, as literally, to someone else. On a more practical note I am profoundly relieved to not have any more f*%#ing yeast infections on my nipples. Good times!
And yet, and yet … as I write this I feel the prickle of tears and have been a puddle of moodiness for the past couple of months as Gene weaned himself. And now it is complete. No more milk. He already forgets how to latch so when he tests out the boobs in a moment of half-sleep it feels weird for both of us and he smiles up at me and says, “done!” and snuggles in for huggy-loveies (how did I become the lady that says things like that?! But I did. Ah well.)
The end of an era, though “era” doesn’t seem like a big and juicy enough word for this event in my life. Inside it feels like a seismic shift, and the landscape of my body has altered quickly. My natural small-boob-ed-ness is returning, though things are settling a lot lower on the map of course! I walk around and feel freer, but also bereft. It’s evolution, I delight in Gene’s growth and enjoy his wee-man-ness as he finds his words and his sense of humour finds legs. He’ll be two years old in a few days. And yet.
Gene weaned in his own time, he was ready and he’s fine, I just need a little time to find my feet on the other side of this epoch in my life and body. Less than a period and greater than an age, I am ever grateful and powerfully changed for this time in my life.
A friend posted a link on Facebook to a lovely blog about mothering though somehow I found my way to this post accidentally, though so appropriately. It really moved me, it’s beautifully, hilariously written. Worth a read if you want some more on the topic.
May has been epically busy, and in addition to my usual exploits, I got inked! Yes, tattooed, me. I always wanted one when I was a teen. However, being a practical creature and an obedient dance student, I thought I might regret it and also piss a bunch of teachers and choreographers off. But actually, I regret not doing it. And since there’s no time like the present, I researched artists last year, found Angie Fey at Archive Tattoo in Toronto and fell in love with her work. You should check it out. Extraordinary. Whimsical. Colourful. Charming. I wanted 4 Matryoshka dolls; I love them, their secret stacking, their folk-arty-ness, all the symbolism potential.
And it has been started, my left forearm is officially hardcore. The outline is done and June brings colour. I am in love with my little dolls, representative of family, carrying images of things precious to me. Wearable art — and a great conversation piece I’m discovering already! Does the moustache not charm your pants right off?! And the flowers. And the variation in grey. The little cheeks. The pleats in the scarf knots. Sigh of contentment.
Other adventures this month included a bunch of dance work with Simcoe Contemporary Dancers for their show Departure. And, you know, I managed to choreographed a work, costumed a few pieces, do lighting design and assistant stage manage some shows. I love love love me a dance show, but honestly! Over-commitment is my middle name me thinks. Truly soul filling work though.
I’m also getting prepped for sewing commissions, which include: costuming the New Actors’ Colony Theatre company in Bala, ON this summer, a couple of dance shows in Toronto, and 2 wedding dresses! Plus my own sewing work (ha ha). And the usual mothering. Ahem. Working from home with an one-and-a-half-year-old is insane. I constantly over-estimate how much I can get done, but this period shall pass, I know. So I mostly put aside my own work and just hang and nap and do things that don’t involve pointy objects during the daytime! My shop can happen any time, the little man will grow past needing me like this very soon, never to return to this magical/overwhelming time.
Hello my lovelies! It’s been a while, I think I’ve mostly been in Superhero Birthday Party recovery mode! Actually, I’m buried in costume jobs and my own sewing, a dance show next week that I’m costuming and choreographing for, plus the usual mothering … sigh. But I’m grabbing a moment because I want to share how this party went, it was such a blast! I wrote about the invitations a while ago, now here’s the main event.
I made Superhero Capes for each kid with his or her initial, using a free comic book font I found. I printed the initials out, one per page, and used them as patterns for felt letters. I then hand-stitched them to a nicely contrasting circle of felt and machine stitched the whole thing onto the capes I made. Ta da!
Do I have any really nice, clear photos of the kids in their capes? Of course not! They move way too quickly, and usually don’t have time for posing when good times are afoot. Off the top of the party we played Musical Chairs (Rudi’s favourite game he informed us the day before, I don’t even know where he learned it!), and when you were out you got your cape. I have never seen so many 5-year-olds flopping and pretending they couldn’t find a chair — everyone was in a panic to get out and get a cape! Here are Rudi’s and Gene’s capes laid out on the floor so you can get an idea of the shape. The big one is for the 5-year-old birthday boy, the little one is for the 1-year-old side kick.
I winged the pattern after reading a few other blogs about making capes. I folded one metre of fabric in half for each cape piece (therefore two metres of fabric per cape), drew the longest diagonal that would fit on my fabric and a freehanded the neck line, made a paper pattern from that first one and off I went. I used snaps for attachement as I’d run out of time to sew velcro on — and I really like the result! And yes, I finished the 14th cape half an hour before the party. And yes, I made a friend iron a bunch of them. And pick the stitches out of the two I sewed inside-out at 12:30am. Because I am obviously not a procrastinator at all and am excellent at sticking to production schedules. Ahem. (Thank you over and over Kate!)
Each cape was a different colour with white lining, because Mr. Birthday himself was determined that we should also paint the capes! We ended up using fabric spray paint out on our chilly, barely-spring deck (it was early April and had snowed just two days before!). I cut out a few paper shapes — lightening and such — that way the kids could spray over those and leave a white shape in the negative space. Some, like Rudi, just wanted a glorious mess of colour as you can see here! Either way, it worked well, cheers Tulip fabric spray paint! Capes dried on the line within the hour and went home with each super kid by party’s end.
Loot bags, in my humble opinion, are important. So even though each little super kid got to keep his or her cape, they also got modest super bags and matching bean bags. So cute. And easy as pie. Actually I find pie really challenging to make. These were easier.
I simply folded a sheet of felt in half, machine stitched the bottom and side, and in the same seam stitched in the giant rik rak loop. I cut out a bolt of lightening for each and hot glued it on. Finishing touch: pinking shears to finish the sides.
For the contents: super-popping pop rocks in Green Lantern green, classic superhero stickers, a superhero candy stick (which I glued googly eyes to and attached a paper thank you cape to, ridiculous, I know), dollar store finger lights for super E.T. fingers, super bean bags for power tossing (which we used during the party) and a Kinder egg because even superheroes aren’t immune to their charm right?! For the bean bags: same idea as the loot bag. I sewed three sides, left a wee opening, funnelled some beans in, stitched it closed, all on the machine. Finished with pinking shears and a smaller version of the loot bag lightening bolt.
Lastly, the coup de gras, the very best part: super flying photos! In my birthday party planning post, I showed my sad but hilarious test run of the photoshopped “flying” photo idea. Turns out, a dear friend was here with his daughter for the party and has far madder skills on the photoshop than I. So I turned it over to him (thank you Tal!) and we set up a photo studio in Rudi’s room. He took one photo of the background initially and cut and pasted each superhero over that one. He also isolated the two clouds and the plane so he could place them appropriately for each hero. We took the photos from a tripod so that the distance was consistant and covered the stool with a big white comforter so it would be easy to cut out of the picture and more comfortable to “fly” on. I tied long threads to little safety pins and that’s how the capes look like they’re flying — you can see it being held by an adult in one of the before pics. So. Awesome.
Last night I got served. That’s correct, I was put-to-rights, read the riot act, shamed, however you like to put it. By a 4-year-old. Of course. It’s spring break (emphasis on the break part, it’s still very wintery here!) and so Rudi’s been home along with his teacher dad. Which is glorious, all my ducks boys in a row, makes me feel that all is right in the world. We’ve kept plans minimal, following our noses, playing with buddies, sewing and business work for me, finishing the home bar for Adam, and generally just being together.
I was on the computer (surprise surprise) yesterday afternoon when I heard a scream. Rudi had squeezed his finger skin while closing the lid of a felt pen. He came into my work room, I gave him a big hug, kissed the very minor squish mark. He seemed fine, started to leave the room of his own accord, asked me about a broken trophy that I was preparing to glue for my husband (Adam got this ridiculous, chunky basketball trophy from a men’s league a few years back that makes us giggle and should therefore, obviously, grace his new bar. But alas, in the move, the “metal” painted plastic player’s arm broke in the move. Got out the Gorilla, my go-to glue, and we’re off to the races), I explained, he said, “oh,” and off he trotted, back to his drawing business in the basement.
Rudi emerged a few minutes later with break-your-heart kitten eyes and a tiny, remember-your-son-you-computer-prioritizing-mother voice and presented me with the drawing above saying, “this is what just happened mom!” You can see me, beautifully illustrated with my long, graceful model’s legs (very accurate to life of course!) at my computer happily typing away, the statue, impressively rendered from memory, with the broken-off arm to the left of it, and the hard-done-by Rudi on the far left — the first sad face and tears I’ve known him to draw! I had a pang, but mostly just screamed with laughter!
I’m happy to report that Rudi’s glum flipped to giggles and we had a laugh and another hug. And I asked him if I should hang out with him now but he told me no, he was busy with his drawing now thanks. Apparently I missed the boat. Note to self, step away from the computer next time and take just a minute longer with the boy. She says as she sits at the computer blogging about it, ahem … oh modern motherhood.
Served through art. This one’s on my bulletin board for good!
I am excited about this Rearview Fridays post — it’s a very old project, I made this felt pentagon ball when I was about 10! Earlier this year I wrote about some toys, balls and animals, that I’d made when I was in grade 4. And this is the ball I couldn’t find to include in that post, it’s the 5th toy I made that year.
This one is really precious to me, I was so proud of it. First I stitched the five-petaled flowers on each of the 12 pentagons and then sewed all 12 pieces together, by hand of course (it was Waldorf school after all)! It’s stuffed with fleece and has a bell in the middle. I’m sure there was a math lesson attached to this creation in addition to the sewing aspect! I do remember thinking I wanted to keep it for when I had kids (I was a planner!) and I managed that — both the having kids part and the keeping the ball bit! Gene and I tossed it around yesterday and he loves the bell.
I’m blowing kisses into the past towards my younger self, planning, stitching, filling a cold day with a delightful project, just as she would be 25 years later.
Hello Friday! Here you are again, it feels like you were just yesterday. Whew, these fall days are flying by. Here we go: Rearview Fridays is a regular post in which I share an artistic project I completed sometime in the past. However, today I’m going to share someone else’s project, because it’s too darn good to keep to myself! Baby Silhouettes by my friend Lindsay Zier-Vogel.
Three years ago, when Rudi turned one, Lindsay gave me this beautiful piece of art, a silhouette of a sweet baby. And then she revealed that it was a silhouette of my actual baby! SO special! She’d worked from a profile of Rudi after secretly soliciting a photo from my husband. Silhouettes have been gaining popularity in design of late so I feel a little extra hip having this on my wall!
I have to admit that when Gene turned one this month I was hopeful that Lindsay would remember and make one of him. And she did! I love how different their silhouettes are; Gene has way more hair than Rudi did at one, which she’s captured, he’s also a lot more jowly than Rudi, and she’s also got that down perfectly! I love that for these silhouettes Lindsay used white instead of the traditional black. And placing them in shadow boxes makes them chunky and significant. My boys silhouettes sit at the head of the stairs and always produce a smile as I go by.
I had to share this because it’s one of those simple projects that you wish you’d thought of! And anyone can do it, be brave and bold, get a profile photo of your favourite baby, scale it and go for it. And Ikea’s Ribba shadow box frame is perfect for a project like this. And make sure you credit Lindsay, this is such a kick-ass idea and gift. It drew happy tears, I cannot lie. Happy Friday.
I went on the longest road trip I’ve ever taken this summer. My boys and I drove all the way from Southern Ontario to Alberta — Prairies and Rocky Mountains and my family — then back again. We wondered if we might be insane to attempt such a drive with a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, but off we went, and it was truly a great adventure. There was only one roadside timeout for the kid (there probably should have been a few for me, ahem, lucky I’m in charge!), occasional nursing breaks for the babe and the usual gas/pee/food/photo-op stops.
I wanted to do something crafty with Rudi to keep him engaged along the way. So in addition to borrowing a portable dvd player (a total godsend) and the required colouring materials and books to read, we made a diary book for each day and prepared an antique glass canning jar to collect simple treasures along the way: Rudi’s Travelling Treasure Jar, a.k.a. The Jar!
The Jar itself is a beaut with its glass lid and metal flip attachment. And every day, once or twice, we’d gather a stone or pine cone from the roadside, parking lot or forest path of the day, or a coin from the US, or an arcade token from the movie theatre, or some grain or oats from the fields we were passing, or a beer cap from mommy and daddy’s adult pops in the hotel room (we drink beer with really cool caps okay? It’s all for the kid. Honestly) .
I only had to suggest collecting pieces the first couple of times, after that Rudi would gather things for his Jar in his pocket and in the evenings in our hotel, or at Granny’s house, we’d open The Jar and review the contents, talking about our journey thus far and then add the new trinket/s to the collection. A couple of favourites are the little white figurine of a man with a walking stick and rifle, his paint all but gone. Rudi spotted him in my aunt’s garden and she said, “take it! the bird’s are always dropping crazy things in here!” We can hardly imagine what adventures the wee old fellow has endured! And the mini horseshoe, which was smithed for Rudi right before his very eyes at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village where I worked in my teens.
The final result is a jar full of prairie flotsam and jetsam, a beautiful collection of the in-betweens from our trip. And those were my favourite parts — the in-betweens. Being cooped in a car with my husband and our boys for 5 days of driving each way was my favourite. Kicking stones in the hotel parking lot in Lake Louise and then running through a forest path to catch the sight of the passing train was my favourite. Stopping for an emergency pee on a prairie back road that looked so quiet only to be overwhelmed by the earsplitting cricket song outside was my favourite. Standing on the car to get a better view of the massive hoodoos in the North Dakota badlands … you get the drift, I could go on and on about the favourite moments that The Jar conjures.
Of course there were the standard squabbles between all of us, usually to do with hunger, exhaustion or sore butts (around hour 5 Rudi would always moan spectacularly and say, “my bum hurts!”) but really there was more harmony than I’d anticipated and I loved that it was just the 4 of us in our Toyota Matrix ship, rocket or pirate depending on Rudi’s mood, zipping across the miles and miles and miles and miles between my adult and childhood homes. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And I look forward to opening the jar from time to time with Rudi and remembering.
It’s time to revive Rearview Friday again, now that the summer is waning. For those of you who are new here, on Fridays I generally do a Rearview Fridays post where I look back at an old project, craft or dance or costume. I think it’s appropriate to share my best creation of all time* since it’s a year ago tomorrow that he began to breathe the air. September 1st, 2011, Gene joined us.
*Save for my other equally “best” creation, a little man who came to light on April 7th, 2008. His name is Rudi and he is awesome.
One year ago I went to sleep and had a restful night, dreaming about the little passenger in my belly. It was just 2 days til my September 2nd due date. I woke up to my waters breaking — just like the movies — and within 7 hours (an a beep-load of work, ahem, thank-you) little Gene-bean was born.
I am, more than ever, more even than at the moment of his safe arrival, overwhelmed with gratitude for this wee person. Our family is infinitely more rich with this addition. We see each other better, we are more harmonious than ever and I think and have more space for the joy — and the madness of course! The 4 of us are corners of out little unit in the world. I count my blessings, I am profoundly lucky.
And while I had pledged to myself that I won’t show photos of the boys faces here on this blog, I decided I want to share this one today. I was so inspired by the blog and photos of Adele Enersen on her blog Mila’s Daydreams, which I enjoyed while Rudi was a toddler. Enjoy my little postman, the scene is entirely made of baby blankies, hats, socks and washcloths!
I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a series of interviews with some lovely creative types I want to share with you. Since I’m heading to Alberta this summer maybe I have gold rush on my mind, but truly, each of the women I’ll feature here is a golden nugget of excellence in the career she’s carved out for herself! Therefore, I am delighted to present the inaugural:
Pocket Alchemy Nugget of Awesome Interviews: eight interviews with eight inspiring, artistic, self-starting women over the eight weeks of summer. I am proud to call each of them friend and am delighted to share them and their work here. Please note that I am replacing my regular Rearview Fridays posts with these interviews over the summer.
SUSIE BURPEEis someone I knew as a performer first. I remember her joining Dancemakers (a contemporary dance company in Toronto) in about 2000 while I was still at dance school and being mesmerized by her performances. The intriguing lady with the blond bob, gorgeous calves and insane technical and interpretive skills. In 2005 we presented dances on the same program at the Atlantic Fringe Festival. I was totally intimidated to meet Susie having kind of totally revered her for her stage work. Yet she turned out the be the most lovely, down-to-earth lady ever! I loved watching her work on the very beginnings of the fussy, hilarious, heartbreaking character who would grace her work The Spinster’s Almanac. In fact I often ignored my own studio time to quietly tuck in beside the piano and take in her thoughtful creative process, the best kind of education. Since then we vaguely knew and circled each other in the Toronto dance community until we managed, conveniently, to be pregnant at exactly the same time and to have the same midwives, fortuitous coincidence all around! So we decided we should start hanging out. And it’s been the best. Our 11-month-olds play in one another’s vicinity and occasionally grab the other’s ear while we share parallel motherhood victories and woes, ideas and hopes.
Susie Burpeecreates “fully human characters, struggling for connection” (The Toronto Star). Her work has received Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Performance, and she is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Dance. Her performance works have been commended for their skillful use of contemporary movement to transform individuals on stage and showcase human complexity.
Susie Burpee was a company dancer for Dancemakers, Le Groupe Dance Lab, TRIP dance company, and Ruth Cansfield Dance. She now performs in her own works and continues to work closely with innovative choreographers Serge Bennathan, Lesandra Dodson and Tedd Robinson. She completed her professional training at the School of Contemporary Dancers (Winnipeg), augmented her studies at the Limon and Cunningham schools in New York, and trained in character and Bouffon at L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier (Paris). She teaches technique classes and workshops for professional dancers and students across the country, notably, 10 Gates Dancing La B.A.R.N. Summer XIntensive, Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, and Dancemakers.
Pocket Alchemy Question: Tell me about your artistic work.
Susie Burpee: I work in contemporary dance. It’s been 20 years now. I started in ballet as a kid, and by the time I was 12 I was doing ‘modern dance’ at Winnipeg’s School of Contemporary Dancers. So I’ve been rolling on the floor, running in circles, and falling (purposefully), for a very long time. I did professional training, danced for some great Canadian contemporary dance companies and choreographers, and now work as an independent dance artist. What does that entail, you ask? Well, I wear a backpack and ride a bike, which gets me from pilates to dance class to the studio. My studio work varies from contract to contract. Sometimes I choreograph commissions for other dancers; sometimes I teach dance class or a workshop. Most recently, I’ve started to work in theatre, choreographing and sourcing movement for contemporary plays. I also perform in my own choreographic works.
PAQ: what is currently sparking your imagination?
SB: I have a new full-length production called Road Trip,which premieres October 18th, 2012 at Enwave Theatre in Toronto. It is created in collaboration with my longtime colleague Linnea Swan, and the two of us perform the work together. What sparks my imagination about the work is the fact that our longtime-colleague-ness means that we can do things other performers can’t.
We can anticipate each other’s actions, and respond in a way that elevates the work to a place of intimacy that is rare. And it means we can do weird and wonderful things that make people laugh. There are few things I enjoy more than making people laugh. It’s really difficult and really easy at the same time.
PAQ:How do you structure and manage your days/weeks/months to get it all in? Do you have micro/macro plans that you stick to?
SB: I have an almost-1-year-old now, so organization is key. Being an indie dance artist is already full of multi-tasking and planning. Adding Alice in the mix has actually clarified things and made me streamline what I do. I have lessened my activity because I’d like to stay home with her more than less. I am fortunate to have the option to do this.
Macro: I think about what projects are desirable and feasible and might have an extended life. If they are self-initiated projects, I think a couple of years ahead and organize funding strategies, as well as potential partners, well in advance. I have a part-time administrator that I pay out-of-pocket/project to help with things. Other projects that I’m hired for usually come to my door a couple of months to a year before they take place. Training is difficult to fit in these days. I have worked up my “kitchen barre class,” and head off to Pilates before the girl wakes up. I have never been that great at MACRO MACRO. I’ve never been one of those people who could say “In 10 years I want to run my own company”. I’m not sure anymore if that’s because my personality is a bit go-with-the-flow, or if I’m too scared to dream like that. It’s funny because I AM a big dreamer.
PAQ: What is a current favourite resource or material?
SB: People. People watching. Thinking about the people I’m watching. Always has been. I am just so interested in people and what they do and why they do it. Ask my husband. We’ll pass someone on the street, and when we’re out of earshot he’ll turn to me and say, “Ok, so what’s his story?” I think I would have been a great hire for CSIS. My work has always been about people. A lot of people call it “character work.” I find there’s still great value in illuminating humankind through live performance.
PAQ: What about your work keeps you up at night (for good or ill!)?
SB: One quality about myself that’s not so compatible with creating work for audiences is that I really love to please people. And when you make work, you can’t please everyone. A small but big vulnerable part of me always wants to make people happy. So the nights I’ve laid awake all night are the nights I’ve felt that somehow, through performance, I’ve let people down.
PAQ: How has your aesthetic evolved over the years?
SB: Oh jeez. Well, let’s look at the two ends of the spectrum. My first performed piece, at 14, was choreographed to Dead Can Dance, and had lots of running and drama and bum rolls. And this latest piece, Road Trip,has, let’s see … lots of running and drama and fainting. I’ve evolved from bum rolls to fainting.
THE WRAP UP
Susie Burpee and Linnea Swan’s show Road Trip is being presented by DanceWorks in Toronto from October 18th to 20th. For more info on that you can check out DanceWorks site, I wager it’ll be a worthy show to attend! For more info on her performance and teaching work, check out Susie’s website, she is a gem.
This morning I got up early to make a quick gift for a wee girl. It’s a soothy/pacifier/nuk-nuk/chooch/you-name-it holder, a key piece if you use these things so they don’t get lost or dirty. And it might as well be charming!
I’ve been trying this lately, the up-early-to-get-some-work-done bit that is, and sometimes it works with my sleeper-iner boys! The time is finite and my ears tense for waking sounds, but so far I’ve some fair success, as long as I don’t plan too big a task.
I tend towards the Night Owl side of things, always have. I revel in a quiet, still house and come alive creatively after 11 o’clock pm, loving the possibility in the hours that lie ahead and not being interrupted (except perhaps to nurse). But the danger is that I’ll easily work almost all night and that’s not great when those hours are meant for sleeping. And it isn’t particularly compatible with present, conscious mothering, so I’m trying to choose sleep when there’s sleep for the taking and not to get seduced by long stretches of quiet, velvety, night hours I could use to sew and sew and write and think!
One of the things I miss most from my before-kids days are the long chunks of undivided, dedicated time I could carve out for projects. I definitely couldn’t appreciate what a freedom that was. Sometimes, nay, often, keeping so many balls in the air is not the most effective or satisfying way to get things done. But I’d rather be juggling in order to still be creative and creating alongside my lovely boys than not. And I wouldn’t trade them, don’t mistake this for a complaint. Rather, their presence in my life has taught me to use my time way more efficiently. And to value quiet night hours like gold.
But I am an Owl in Robin’s clothing. The early worm tastes okay, it’ll definitely do. But there’s no doubt I’ll still succumb to the night now and then … hoot hoot!
I’m loving this easy soother strap design I’ve settled on and recently picked up some great ribbon so I can make a bunch for Etsy. Cute, non?