theshophop.ca blogger Whitney Cruikshank takes you on a stroll through the art of baby wearing and tells the story of how she found her sense of freedom and empowerment from a nifty but age-old design. Photos by Christian Aires.
I never knew art until I began baby wearing. Much more like the sentiment behind Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, than Monet’s lovely Poppies in a Field, my daughter was born into the world after a 46 hour marathon of insomnia, pacing, vomiting, Popsicle eating and then more vomiting again. Had you asked me six years ago, at 19, if I imagined I’d be birthing a nine and a half pound baby at 24, I’d have called you crazy. Yet there I was, my perfect bewildered boyfriend and I, thrust into a whole new life, with a whole new sense of meaning and purpose for having been put on this planet.
I had grown up around babies, sure. I was a big time babysitter in the family, and sometimes in the neighborhood too. But never in my life had I been sent home, balloons in hand, to a crowded, once quiet apartment, with a simple bag of goodies, an over-sized stuffed dog and a screaming newborn creature alongside a life’s worth of expectations. Breathe. Cry. And breathe again. That was how that day went. (Me, not the baby. Luckily, she never forgot the breathing bit).
Labour was tough. Everyone’s heard bad stories about that, but nobody tells you that the birth is the least of your problems. Respecting your own body’s intuition and ability will get any dedicated mother through that bit just fine- it’s the days and weeks to follow that prove challenging. For me, anyhow.
Nevertheless, I was bound and determined, seeing as it was a beautiful sunny autumn day, when on day four of my daughter Wren’s existence, we planned a day trip to the Public Gardens.
I was sore, bruised and mentally drained, having spent ninety percent of the prior 80 some (or seemingly 8million) hours teaching myself and my daughter how to breastfeed, with some small, but excruciatingly sore success. Yet I knew the sun would do us all some good, so we wrapped that precious little bundle up in a cozy little wrap, and we waddled our way to freedom. Or I guess I should really call it the nearest bus stop.
Then and there, we were hooked. For all the self-doubting I had done, for all the paranoia and anxieties I had as a new mother, holding my baby close was something I was certain felt right. There was a sense of empowerment and pride in wearing her, as I was able to prove to myself, above all others that I was going to make this work. That I could slowly incorporate bits of normal life back into my routine, and that we could all cope with the adjustments.
She was cozy and content. I was ecstatic. Later in the day, Justin and I both found ourselves peed, pooped and spit upon, while taking turns wearing her through the Gardens, but the overall feeling of success of that day could never be touched.
For me, baby wearing is my expression of who I am. It is my art.
And just as it is hard to describe any given piece of artwork in a way that is understandable for others, it is equally difficult to put into words my passion for baby wearing. All I can say is that it brings me a sense of joy and serenity to do it myself, but just as much so when I see other parents doing the same. (And don’t even get me started on how much of a turn on it is to see men wearing their babies. I mean, come on).
I guess for me, it is that it always brings me back to day four. The day I found my power. And whether it be through babywearing or through stroller’ing, through a social group, a mom and babe exercise class or a simple singsong time, it is so quintessentially important for any new mom to find her sense of empowerment when embarking upon the parenting journey.
It’s not easy. And it doesn’t always feel natural. But parenting in a way that is comfortable, loving and well intentioned is all a precious baby could ever ask for. We all make mistakes, and we are often too quick to judge, but all of us, through different modes and mediums, are doing our very best to provide for our babes in the best way we know how.
For me, this has been it.
After nearly eighteen months, a wrap, a sling and a structured carrier later, we’ve persevered through winter hikes along the south shore, we’ve hung many a load of laundry on the line, we’ve dug and tended for a garden, meandered through many markets, camped at the national parks, tackled coughs and colds, and even made the return to work possible all with thanks to our mutual safe place.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to express my feelings and excitement for babywearing, among other things, through my current workplace at Nurtured Products for Parenting, where I get to meet new parents at every shift. There, the staff share the same compassion for the challenges of the parenthood journey. None of us claim to be experts, but we can say we’ve been there, and we’re good at listening if nothing else.
In my time there, sharing in the subtle successes of parenthood, whether it be with a single mom, an established couple or even a doting grandparent, is what brings me happiness at the end of the day. Many times, it’s more about a parent to parent conversation than it is a customer to employee question. Because expressing your feelings with someone else feels good. When all is said and done, raising human beings is pure insanity. Relishing in the quiet, cozy moments however is redeeming.
For more information about baby wearing products check out www.nurtured.ca or visit their store on 2571 Robie Street in Halifax.
Whitney Cruikshank and Wren
Photos by Christian Aires.
theshophop.ca blogger Whitney Cruikshank chats with local street artist Jei Jei Steeves about stray cats and the art of telling stories in your city. Photos by Christian Aires.
Jei Jei Steeves is in an exceptional love triangle with the city of Halifax and some grumpy cats.
It had all started with a childhood craze of kitty doodling.
“I think the first thing I said I wanted to be when I grew up was a cat,” the 27-year-old cheery street artist recalls, from her cozy apartment.
And although that didn’t quite pan out the way she imagined, Steeves is working on the next best thing – making curious art and taking advantage of her feline sense of exploration. On any given day, you can find her splashing poles, signs and various other nooks and crannies of the city with her kitty sticker art.
As it turns out, the Antigonish native has it bad for city life.
“It seems to happen with every one I visit. It’s weird and disarming to leave my heart in every city I live in,” Steeves says, of her fondness for the places she’s been. Along with taking with her some awesome memories, she’s left some pieces of hers behind all throughout the country, the United States, and even in western Europe.
“I think it’s the complexities of really close living, the intense concentration of people living on top of each other,” she says of her love affair with city dwelling.
Today Steeves holds down a small studio downtown, where she illustrates, among other things, comic style cat stickers with speech bubbles. Some speak about porn, others about loneliness, there are some speaking of her war stance, and then ideas about alternative lifestyles. All depends on her mood.
“I want people to try to take a moment,” she says of her art. The fun for her is in knowing unassuming eyes can share a similar experience. Through the use of a sharpie marker, she’s found her voice, which, as a shy cat crazed lady, was not always something she could do so publicly.
“Trying to tell stories became who I had to be,” Steeves says. “It wasn’t something I had set out to do, but it was the only opportunity I had to fit in,” she says.
Although many may think her choice of street art unconventional, she wants to steer clear of middle of the road artistry.
“It’s a totally different place out there. Art galleries are still important but it’s time to recognize different kinds of art,” she says.
Whether you’re an average citizen and you wear your art on your t-shirt, or whether as a professional you make your mark on a wall, she believes it is all valid.
“Art is critical because without a narrative you’re not starting a dialogue with your city.”
As Steeves reflects on her decade of artsy contributions, she is more certain about the importance for every one, everywhere, to find a voice and use it.
“My art used to be more just coming from the heart, whereas now I’m trying to understand the balance of power in our lives,” she says, as she explains her goal to better understand Canadian politics.
“We need to speak publicly on it so we can end up with a country we’re proud of.”
And so, Steeves will continue to roam back alleys and give power poles a passing graze. And although chances have it that any one particular piece of art may be covered up, taken down or rained upon soon after its arrival, you can’t mess with feline fervor.
That cat will come back … and it may just be the very next day. So the next time you’re roaming the streets, keep your eyes peeled for unexpected scraps of artistry on unexpected venues. Because hey, dumpsters don’t discriminate, and neither should you.
Photos by Christian Aires
theshophop.ca blogger Whitney Cruikshank visits Plan B Merchants Cooperative on Gottingen Street to meet some of the people behind the taxidermy and amazing selection of independent arts, crafts, collectibles and treats. Portraits by Christian Aires, photos by Meredith Ann Brooks.
Reverend Bob Chiasson is a bone collector.
“Just as long as I can pay the bills then I can still get my mummified cats,” he says with an honest shrug, gesturing to his 250-year-old mummified cat, a source of his pride and joy that guards the door of the Plan B Merchants Cooperative on Gottingen Street.
Adding to the twinkle in his eye, a bag of cow bones, a heron and a seagull skull, have also just found their way into the building.
Reverend Bob Chiasson photo by Christian Aires
For Chiasson, dead stuff has been tickling his fancy since he can remember. He has a lot of other knick-knacks here too, but these are the real conversation starters. This curious collection is otherwise known as The Monkey’s Paw Curio Shop, and is the only collection of its kind in Eastern Canada. It seems only appropriate that it be housed and sold at the only store of its kind, maybe ever.
He flits around the retail space, highlighting just some of the 51 vendors who keep the joint running, including Toxic Blossom, Black Buffalo Records, Fancy Lucky Vintage, Kilt Raven Collective and Devil You Know, in just the first swoop of the place. Items range from Harajuku- inspired frocks, to vintage video games, tie dyed onesies to Gothic fascinators, and vintage houseware items to a hanging moose head, all made or owned by passionate creative people.
Plan B functions by teaming with aspiring artists and collectors, including cooperative president Chiasson, who pay as little as twenty dollars a month to sell their things. By selling as a collective group under one roof, artists split the financial burden of opening up a business. They also take turns with shifts.
“It gives people the opportunity to create, do and express themselves in a way they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Chiasson says. Professionals and homeless youth alike are featured in the shop.
For Chiasson, working retail was never something he had aspired to do. In his punk youth he wanted a reverend’s miter hat, so he studied and got his reverendship, then opened his own church. He also had dreams of being an architect because he loved the idea of digging up weird stuff, but felt he could achieve just that in a more local way. From then on he’s worked on movie sets, where his passion for curiosities blossomed. Six storage containers worth later, it’s safe to say he had enough to share.
Chiasson traveled with his things to the Harbourview Weekend Market in Dartmouth for a while, but yearned for a larger retail space. That’s where the idea for Plan B evolved.
And as Chiasson carries his own unique past, within these walls everyone, and every thing, has a story to tell. Although taxidermy and pink cupcake aprons aren’t typically placed side by side, the true strength of the co-op is in its diversity because it brings a diverse crowd into the place. The place has taken on an interesting life of its own, Chiasson explains.
“It’s become a centre, a home base of sorts for all sorts of people,” he says. Those like the Gothic Lolitas, the vampire cults and the My Little Pony Loving “Bronies” meet in the space. Taxidermy isn’t the only thing coming out of the woodwork here.
For Josh Teasdale, it was a breath of fresh air coming in last winter.
Josh Teasdale photo by Christian Aires
He walked in as a 23-year-old business student looking for an impressive pea coat to keep warm. He walked out as a small business owner of a café, which he has since named 99One, now nestled in the building’s rear.
“Sharing food and coming together around food is what creatures do… to create community,” Teasdale says, as he sits cross-legged on the floor, sketching a spontaneous project.
He says he has always had a vision to create such a space, but limited funds kept the idea on hold. Teasdale says now that he’s a business owner, he is at peace. It certainly seems the case as his small frame curls over a spontaneous sketch on the checkered floor of the café. In the corner, someone sits felting. And before, others battled it out over Scrabble.
Teasdale explains he wants customers to feel at home in the space. It has an edgy look with its reds, blacks and whites, but its vibe is low-key, as people stop in to buy a locally roasted cup of Puddle Jump java, a Cookie Cravings treat or a locally deliciously fashioned banana soda. The menu changes constantly, but the theme is local, healthy and affordable.
Moving into the future, plans include pushing the spot’s boundaries by hosting a free school of sorts, where average Joe educators can sign up to share their knowledge of everyday topics for attentive ears. Lesson ideas include baby sign language, personal hygiene and even precision flicking.
There’s certainly more groupies to be found, and made.
In its one year lifespan Plan B has made its mark, no doubt. And although neither Chiasson nor Teasdale are getting rich quick at this enough to have it be their only job, both see the cooperative movement as being the way of the future.
“The whole concept of community is one of the strongest business models,” Teasdale says. “It will just take time to prove that.”
There’s just something about a Saturday. Ya gotta be happy no matter if it’s ten below – especially when there are crafts to be had.
December arrived brightly and briskly on the first morning of the Halifax Crafters Society Beary Merry Market. I knew I wanted to try and beat the market rush so I wrestled my way out of a cozy cocoon of flannel, made my way over the chilly tiled floor to Wren, my 14 month old, and then to the coffeemaker. After two cups of coffee for me, a bowl of yogurt over the head for Wren, I got ourselves dressed in lovely layers of knits ready to face the first day of official holiday shopping.
After a quick ceremonial stop to the Seaport Farmers Market we made our way to the crafters market. Smiling fresh faces greeted us with handmade mittens, posters, sewn stuffies, Christmas cards and jewels. Vendors and customers alike sipped on hot teas and cider. Could this place be any cuter?
All throughout, people slowly peeled away their layers and got comfortable at the tables set up for snacking. There were newborns wrapped under protective arms, as well as grandparents, and all of the ages in between.
While it was quite packed, and at times congested, nobody grumbled under their breath or seemed perturbed when hips rubbed and shoulders bumped. Nobody referenced pen and paper, in a systematic ‘that’s off the list’ sort of way. Everyone was simply chatting, admiring, and most definitely, buying.
Kayla Francis Pottery & Glass
Reindeer cupcakes by Gateaux Rose
Strolling down the aisles, I started to feel the added weight of the sleeping babe on my back. I knew then it was time to get down to some serious shopping business. I got totally smitten with some amazing kitty cat pottery works, some practical but beautiful wooden utensils, some funky and fun spatulas, stunning fool’s gold earrings and awesome hand drawn cards. Oh, and then there were the hilarious bacon magnets, Canada’s Heritage Moments’ needlepoint work, and brontosaurus planters.
Kity Kat cups by Bread and Butter Pottery
Terron Dodd hand crafted wooden spoons
Hello Pineapples needlework Heritage Minutes
Despite it being the first day of what can sometimes be perceived as a hectic month, the mood at the fair was calm, although busy, and it was the perfect way to kick into the season. I was able to catch up with friends, met some seriously amazing people and got some treasures to bring home. For me buying local is amazing because I’m able to support a neighbor – you just feel so darned good doing it! Tis the holiday season after all.
So a big thank you to all you Hali artists out there for having the guts to pursue what you love – and, for being so seriously good at it!
Written by Whitney Cruikshank – a twenty-something baby slinging, sometimes singing, coffee guzzling, library loving mama of one. Photos by Meredith Ann Brooks.
Fish Bone Prints
Unforgivable Art & Annie’s Place coffee
OBB is hosting a Black Christmas party this evening as part of the Glitter Walk celebrations. Stop by 2010 Gottingen Street for more information or to pick up your invite.
We checked in on Caitlyn Rose Jewelry during her install at Charcuterie Ratinaud in preparation for her opening tonight, part of theshophop.ca’s inaugural Glitter Walk. Doors open at 5pm.
Bring your holiday shopping lists – as well as your taste buds! There will be charcuteries from Ratinaud and wine from Avondale Sky Winery.
Photos by Meredith Ann Brooks
Gottingen Street will come alive on the night of November 23rd with the first ever Glitter Walk! Visitors to the area will stroll down this historic street and take in the many local specialties it has to offer.
Kick off for the nights event will start at Chacuterie Ratinaud at 2082 Gottingen where there will be a jewellery show and sale by Caitlyn Rose Jewellery and wine tasting by Nova Scotia’s own Avondale Sky.
Glitter Walk is about about staying close to home, reminding yourself of where you come from and supporting what we have right here in our very own city. So come out and enjoy a unique collection of Halifax businesses including Propeller Brewery, One Block Barbershop, Chacuterie Ratinaud, Eyelevel Gallery, (((Parenthesis))) Gallery and 99ONE cafe, all doors will be open to share in a festive celebration of local delights.
Friday night’s walk will commence at 5pm and run until 8pm. Caitlyn Rose Jewelery will be showcased at Ratinaud from November 23rd – December 20th so if you don’t make it out this week you’ll still have all of December to plan your own Glitter Walk! Hope to see you out and about!
Photo & graphic by Christian Aires
Map by Colin Canary and Gabriel Parniak
Propeller Brewery launches a revolution today! The Revolution Imperial Stout that is! It is available at Propeller and will hit the private stores early next week. It will trickle in to NSLC & LCBO stores soon after that.
This beer was born for greatness. Sent by English brewers via the Baltic Sea to the court of the Czars, Russian Imperial Stout was brewed to very high gravities and allowed to ferment on the long voyage. The result? A dark, strong and bracing brew.
Propeller’s version weighs in at a whopping eight percent alcohol content, with a deep, rich, black colour. The taste of alcohol is well masked by the intense hop bitterness, extreme roasted malt and dark fruit notes.
Propeller Brewing Company has brewed and bottled this unfiltered ale each year since 2006, and it has become a favourite for Nova Scotia craft beer lovers. This seasonal offering is only available at the Propeller Cold Beer Store on Gottingen Street, and select private retailers in Halifax.
Russian Imperial Stout – imbibed by Peter, adored by Catherine and now reclaimed by you, the People. Za Vas!
Check out more of the Propeller Brewery line-up here!
With the holiday season upon us, Ratinaud is the perfect place to have cater your holiday dinner. Just about everything on the menu comes from local producers who care about their food as much as much as Owner and Head Chef Frederic Tandy does.
His meat comes from Oulton’s Farm in Martock, all the bread is made by the folks at Boulangerie La Vendéenne in Mahone Bay, and the seasonal vegetables are purchased at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. And in some cases, specialty products like fresh Foie Gras, come from our friends in Quebec.
And of course, the right wine can make a meal even better. If you require pairing suggestions and aren’t sure where to start, Frederic is here to help. Upon request, Cristall & Luckett Wine Merchants will design the perfect matches for the menu you’ve selected.
To find out more about Ratinaud and the catering menu click here.
Not so much into the holiday festivities? Why not enjoy a private dinner prepared for you in your own home. From start to finish your dinner is a full service, which means your kitchen is cleaned at the end of the evening, left just the way Frederic found it.
More information about having your very own private dinner can be found here.
Eyelevel Gallery is pleased to announce its third annual fundraiser, The Semi-Formal: Silver and Gold 2012! Mimicking previous installments, Silver and Gold 2012′s main focus will be a silent art auction. Works have been and will be donated to Eyelevel Gallery from local Halifax artists.
Accompanying this year’s auction, there will be some GREAT door prizes donated by local businesses, such as Dee-Dee’s, Taz Records, Strange Adventures, the Halifax Mooseheads and more! There will also be a 50/50 draw and the musical stylings of DJ KZ and DJ KW, as this year’s event will feature a post-auction dance party!
Fundraising is an integral part of any non-profit organization. Eyelevel Gallery is no different. While Eyelevel does rely on federal and provincial grants, funds raised through events such as Silver and Gold comprise a huge chunk of our operating budget, allowing us to remain a staple in the Halifax Arts Community.
Stay posted for previews of work to be auctioned and all the Silver and Gold news!
We look forward to seeing you at the event on December 7 (tickets go on sale November 22 at $5 each) and appreciating some of the incredible talent exhibited by the incredible people that support us!
More information can be found by clicking here.