Monday, July 10, 2017

Makers: Doris Wai of Lovelettering

 The Makers series of posts highlights the artists that make the products we sell, a peek into their workspace and process as they create beautiful things. 

In this Makers post I'm delighted to introduce you to Doris Wai, creative director of Lovelettering, who creates amazing and beautiful handlettered pieces as well as a line of adorable handlettered "pose-cards" that we sell in the shop.  I sent Doris a few questions about her creative process and creative space:
Toronto maker and creative Doris Wai of lovelettering talks about her creative space

Jess: Tell us about your work space- do you have a dedicated studio or do you carve out space where you can when you need? What does it look like?

Doris: I never intended to start this business, and could have never imagined but I have always had a room dedicated to my creativity, but since Love Lettering took off, it seems that my home is almost my entire studio!  I have multiple work spaces for different purposes!  In the basement is my work room, where I store all my supplies, big printers, shipping materials etc, if I am going to get down and dirty, into the basement I go!  On the main floor I use a portion of my living room as a place to letter the items that are brought to me on a daily basis, you will find 2 easels that literally support me as a hand lettering artist.  And on the top floor is my airy office, where I handle my emails, invoicing and accounting, there is a loveseat in here that I frequent to write Instagram posts, its a lovely space and I enjoy it very much. 

creative handletterer Doris wai's workspace

Jess: what are your tools of the trade?

Doris: Any instrument in which I can create a letter is a tool to me, in my line of work, I letter on so many different surfaces so I like to know what pens work best on what surface, what pencils work on all surfaces?  But some of the items I cannot live without is painters tape, my Stabilo All pencil and my Sharpie paint pen.

posecards by handletterer Doris Wai

Jess: Share a little about the process involved in your work?

Doris: For signage, my work is so vast and tailored to each client, wording is almost always different, surfaces are different so there is never a repeat of anything.  However with the Posecards, it thrives upon repetition.  I hand letter each design and then print onto card, where they are hand cut, coloured, and assembled.  I created Posecards, a line of photo prop greeting cards, as crossover product between a gift tag/greeting card and a photo prop, in the age of the selfies, we can use photo props anytime with our cell phone, why not mark the occasion?  I will continue to use my lettering to create products because I know one day I will be old and want to ensure I have created things I can continue to sell.

Jess: Where do you look for inspiration?

Doris: I am a visual sponge, I can look any anything and transform it in my head, some times lyrics from a song creates a painting in my mind, sometimes its a persons personality that drives me to draw, there are not enough hours in a day to accomplish what is going on in my mind. But my daughter inspires me to work hard, be diligent, but enjoy life too.  And Instagram, the black hole of inspiration, its like taking a trip without going anywhere, you can step into a hotel lobby, you can visit the desert, you can learn to letter! To be inspired all I really have to do is look around.  

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 Not only is Doris insanely good at what she does, but she is also a super sweet lady too, and I'm so happy to know her. You can find Doris online via her website as well as follow along with her beautiful work on instagram And, as if this lovely lady didn't have enough going on, she also has a book filled with gorgeous handlettering projects coming out in November, which you can pre-order here!!!!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Behind the scenes: an editorial shoot

This past March I was lucky enough to be a part of a gorgeous editorial shoot at Bob Rumball Manor, here in Toronto. Editorial shoots are interesting things, wonderful opportunities that need to be carefully considered and managed. The main idea is that you get a group of creatives together to bring an idea into reality for a day, and then have a talented photographer get shots of it all. Then those photos get submitted to blogs and magazines in the hopes of getting a feature. There's no guarantee going in that this will pan out, everyone is working on faith. Everyone pitches in their particular area of talent and creative genius for free, and in return we all get to not only reap the benefits of any feature the shoot does garner, but we also all get to use the gorgeous images for our social media feeds.

BTS: Canadiana Styled Wedding Shoot from Summerfield Films on Vimeo.

 This particular shoot was on a rather chilly ( but frustratingly not snowy) Sunday. We gathered together at the Bob Rumball Manor on Bayview ave, feeling somewhat bleary at the rather early start. Wendy Lee, the event planner behind Asian Fusion Weddings and the powerhouse behind this shoot,  had given us all the brief of creating a Canadian themed wedding, but with the caveat that it should still be an elegant, glamourous affair, rather than too rustic. The colour scheme was red and white, to  match the Canada Flag of course, with black and silver as accents.

I struggled a bit at first, red and white is my least favourite colour scheme of all when it comes to flowers. But I've been learning over the past couple of years that I've been doing editorial shoots that it all works best when each vendor involved takes the brief and adds their own sprinkle of genius in there. I know as a floral artist that a straight two colour theme falls flat, it has no depth or richness to it. So I gave it a little tweak and organized myself with blooms in deep red tones with some dark plummy black and here and there the odd hit of rich hot pink. Just a little. No white in sight with the floral elements. A colour scheme doesn't mean everything needs to include those colours- there were plenty of other parts of the day that pulled in the white.

Wendy and I started setting up the main table, creating a headtable-scape with lots of added elements. The two models arrived and the team of makeup artists, hair artist, clothes stylists and accessories went to work getting them shoot ready.  Shirley from Shirley Sweet Creations set up her delicious dessert table, and all the while Matt from Hawley Crescent Culinary was in the kitchen putting together plates of charcuterie along with other dishes to feature ( including the best poutine ever!).

There's lots of milling about at times, it's hard to get timing just right, and everyone ends up pitching in- I spent a fair bit of time led on the floor in one of the upstairs rooms holding wrinkles down on a blanket being used for a flat lay backdrop for example. Eventually  most of the prep work was done and the photographer Anita (Rhythm Photography) as well as the cinematographer John (Summerfield Films), were able to get to work taking the shots they needed to get. All told, it was a full and long day's work by a fairly large team of people.

The models were great sports. Anyone who thinks they just sit around getting their photo taken and that their job is easy should spend a day watching a shoot. The outdoor shots had them freezing their butts off- what you don't see in the gorgeous photos is all the rest of us standing just out of frame , fully bundled up in our parkas in the subzero temps. Between each shot set up the stylist, Hilary, would race in to cover the poor bridal model with a coat to try to ward off the cold.

We've gotten some amazing press with this shoot, Wendy did wonderful work getting us featured. It was so hard holding off till now, but the timing worked so perfectly as Canada celebrates it's 150th birthday this week.

The full shoot is being featured on some amazing wedding blogs, and you can see the full catalogue  of the beautiful photos by Rhythm Photography of all the lovely details that Wendy included int he shoot on these posts-

Mountain Side Bride
Wedding Opera
Style Inspired weddings
Elegant Wedding Magazine
Aisle Society Blog

Here are the talented people involved in the shoot:

Bridal Stylist – Hilary Cameron

with thanks to Anita of Rhythm Photography for the stunning images you see here, as well as John at Summerfield Films for the wonderful behind the scenes video.

Monday, June 26, 2017

5 flower farmers to follow

Recently one of our amazing Ontario flower farmers was by the shop dropping of some gorgeous buckets of blooms. She introduced me to her assistant, saying that she was " helping out at the farm, learning the ropes" to which I could only reply " good lord, you mean- she's living the dream!"

Thanks to social media, we can all take in the beautiful fields of flowers, artful pickup truck beds filled with buckets and summer bloom closeups that these hardworking farmers get to work in, but without going through all the slogging through the pouring rain, getting our trucks stuck in fields of mud, and enduring the heartbreaking, crop ruining changes in weather.

Here are 5 of our current favourites to follow ( click on their names to see their beautiful instagram feeds):

Antonio Valente Flowers
flower farmer

This guy is the sweetest. So gentle and so humble, Antonio's micro farm is just north of the city. We interviewed him a while back, you can read that post here

Floralora Flowers

We just started buying from Sas, the farmer behind Floralora, this year. Her farm is in beautiful Prince Edward county to the east of Toronto.
Find out more via her website here

La Primavera Farms

flower farmers
This farm brings us gorgeous blooms that blow us away every time. We wrote about this farm in a post you can read here. 
Visit the website here


This U.S.flower farmer will amaze and inspire you with her gorgeous photographs and gentle narratives. You can learn more about flower farming, growing your own cut flower garden and see scenes from their gorgeous property on their blog here.

Electric Daisy Flower Farm

A U.K. flower farmer, her instagram feed is unbelievable. A fantastic mix of flowers with a creative vision that will inspire you. On a sweet side note, this flower farm is located close to where I spent my childhood in the south west of England! You can see more via the website here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weddings: A soft and sweet late Spring wedding

Not all the weddings we do are full scale events. Case in point, the wedding flowers we made for Helen and Aric's special day recently. The couple celebrated their wedding at Sunnybrook Estates. They put together their own centerpieces - interactive games for guests to play at the tables- but had us design and make all their personal flowers.

I was thrilled to have the talented photographer Samantha Ong send me some of the gorgeous light filled shots she captured of the day, and you can see more on her blog here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

How to know what light level you have for plants in your home

How do you know what type of light you have in a room? It's important you think about this before choosing a plant. Too low or too high a light level can result in poor growth at best, a dead plant at worst. But how do you know what light level you have? Well, here's an easy way to figure it out.

Think of each room as a rectangle. The front third or so closest to the window is going to get the most light. If you can sit in this area of the room for a good few hours of the day and read easily without turning on any overhead lights, if you almost want to draw the curtains a bit sometimes because it's just too bright, then this is your zone of high, good quality light.

Plants that will do well here are succulents and cacti, and anything blooming such as orchids and azaleas. Keep in mind that some plants don't like to get scorched by direct sun, so  don't want to be right up against the window in this space.

The next zone is the middle third or so. In this space you can read pretty well if the sun is coming directly in the room, and in general you can sit here without feeling you need the overhead lights or a lamp on in the middle of the day. You don't ever feel the sun is too strong or too bright here though. This is your zone of medium light. Plants that do well here are ones that are used to growing in filtered light, such as under the canopy of trees. Ferns, ivy and airplants are three types that need this good light that isn't too overpowering. They tend to be plants that like to be kept moderately moist and not dry out so be careful to monitor the soil moisture well.

The back third of the room, furthest from the window, is the section with the lowest light. If you sit here in the daytime you can't really read a book without turning on a lamp. It feels too dark during the day to be here without some supplemental light. This is the low light zone. There aren't many plants that do well here, ZZ plants, Sansiveras and pothos are three that can handle lower light well. In general plants that live in low light don't use up water as quickly so be careful not to let them get too wet, wait a little between waterings.

And, if you are in a room that has no window at all, so you have to turn on overhead light just to be in there, then  that's a no-light zone. Plants aren't going to live well there, lamps and overhead lights just don't give off the right spectrum of light. Your best bet is to either buy a special grow light or do as I do and have a low light tolerant plant there for a while, but replace it after a few months once it starts to do poorly.

But wait, most importantly you need to consider each room carefully to determine if your highest light there is actually high light or not. Just because you have a window at one end, that doesn't make the area by it automatically a high light zone. If you can't sit and read easily without turning on a lamp during most of the day, then you aren't in high light no matter how close you are to the window. My house is a good example of this- my main living space is a long thin rectangle with a big double glass sliding door at one end- you'd think that means high light, right? But it faces into a garden with a large maple tree that throws down full shade, and has an awning overhanging a small patio that shields the light even more. I can't comfortably sit and read in this space without a light on, it always feels a little too dark. So at best I have LOW light towards the window, and no light from the middle to the back. The only plants that do well here are the ZZ, pothos and Sansievera, and they need to be in the end nearest the window.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shopkeeper's diary:The merry old month of May

A new feature that I hope will be monthly, Shopkeeper's diary is a series of posts sharing a little about life behind the scenes of a local brick and mortar shop.Keeping it real, pulling back the curtain of social media perfection to show the grubby, dirt under nails side of floristry and small biz.

We've been catapulted into May already. April was busy, but May even more so. In the shop we are enjoying the change in flowers. Tulips and ranunculus are beginning to wain, but  we've gotten to enjoy snowball viburnums and lilacs which help fill the gap. Late spring into early summer is a hard time though, because the beautiful seasonal blooms like the lilacs etc are so short lived in southern Ontario. One small string of too warm days and it's all over.

Mother's day was mayhem. Absolutely nuts, which I've heard was the case across the industry. The weather was cool and rather grey leading up to it, which always gives flower sales a boost. The whole team was in and it felt more like a party in here than real work as we got to enjoy the happy colours of spring and several days working together as a team. My staff are such a talented creative bunch, and such nice kind people. It really is a pleasure to spend time with them here. We suffered a major glitch with our software system on the Saturday morning, causing us to loose all our data from the 24 hours before. We had all our orders on worksheets, as we know better than to rely solely on technology, but it made for some extra work and a difficult morning. Our couriers were overwhelmed that weekend too. Always the weakest link in the chain and the one we have the least control over, delivery is a difficult job at the best of times. The added volume of a major floral holiday makes it even harder. 

As shop owner, I usually feel a bit schizophrenic.While running through May I'm actually working on and thinking about June and July. We have weddings starting up in June, and this year I'm so blessed with brides that have chosen really inspiring colours and that share a similar vision with me on the flowers. Every year gets better and better and I'm excited to get started on them, as they are such a different animal than regular shop orders.

And remember this post a few weeks ago, where I share how excited I am to have learned a new way of designing wrist corsages, one that actually appeals to me ascetically?  Well, I tested and tested them, wanting to be really sure they would work and hold up. Corsages are one of the things we have the most issues with. It takes a long time to take an order for what is a very small dollar purchase, the customer is usually hyper concerned over the exact flower and look ( although, weirdly everyone pretty much ends up choosing white. I find most canadians are very afraid of colour!) and they are something that once made has no water source at all and has to try to hold up in warm conditions while being waved around on the end of an arm all night. So, I tested the new designs. I made a whole bunch on separate occasions. I wore them in the shop all day to see how they did and was really happy with the result. And then we heard that two that went out fell apart while getting put on. We can't explain it. I've sobbed it out on a florist facebook group, and heard a wide range of answers- some florists  say the same has happened to them, others say they've used this technique for years with not a single issue. We've compared  notes, and traded secrets. And I have no idea why the two at issue failed, but I don't' feel confident enough in the new way to continue. Two is two too many, especially in this modern world of online reviews ( which, I think should be better termed online complaints and vents). So, it's back to the old wire and tape technique for now. I feel frustrated and chastened  but am trying to remind myself that there are no failures, only opportunities to learn, and that nothing ventured means nothing gained.

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Click above to join my weekly email group- each month you receive a pretty  digital wallpaper, a chance to win free floral goodies and insider info about all things flowers, makers and pollinators!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Current Obsession: tiny things

Tiny things have become a new obsession for me. Little handmade pots and bowls especially (the ones above and below we've just started stocking at the shop, made by local artists Akai Ceramics).

With an entire flower fridge to choose from, I find I'm taking home the teeny tiny blooms and setting them into teeny tiny bowls in my bathroom and at my bedside (my two favourite spots to have fresh blooms at home). Big bouquets don't interest me, it's beauty on a micro scale that holds my attention.

Tiny plants do it to, teeny wee ones set into teacups. Add in a miniature animal figurine that messes with the scale and I'm in heaven.

If you are the same, I bet you'd enjoy these links to some creative folks making and sharing tiny things online:

Jon Almeda- almeda pottery on instagram

A shop favourite, Toronto maker Janet Hinkle of Hinkleville Handmade on instagram

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Click above to join my weekly email group- each month you receive a pretty  digital wallpaper, a chance to win free floral goodies and insider info about all things flowers, makers and pollinators!