A Good Home, Birdhouses, Collectibles, Faux fur, Furniture, Garden, Homes, Hooked Rugs, Interior Design, Log houses, Nature, Recycling, Teddy Bears

Handmade in Canada – Beautifully

Jessica Charnock is a stylish, beautiful woman – a former model – whose creativity is prolific.

She and her husband Jean live in the hills overlooking a sprawling lake east of Toronto. “Made in Canada”  is alive and well at their home – a house they created by joining two log cabins together. Gardens – bearing an abundance of fruit, vegetables and herbs — grow well here, as do evergreen,  oak and birch trees.

The Log House - Photo by H. Grange
The Log House – Photo by H. Grange

I love visiting with Jessica and Jean. They’re gracious hosts whose welcoming home embraces me with warmth. Visiting with them also gives me a chance to practice a few words of French – a language I once worked in, though now my skills are rusty.

A walk through their home reveals a large number of Jessica’s or her husband’s creations. Upstairs, Jean’s studio is filled with intricate wooden birdhouses, benches, and an assortment of other wood furniture, all handmade by Jean. A person could get lost exploring Jean’s creations.

Birdhouse created by Jean Long
Birdhouse created by Jean Long

Downstairs, one sees the results of Jessica’s own creativity. I always walk into her domain eagerly, wanting to see what new thing she’s created. A grand armoire that she made by hand decades ago stands in one corner of a room, its pine exterior mellowing with age. On some walls, beautiful hooked rugs hang, “paintings” made from wool.

Great Blue Heron hooked rug
Great Blue Heron hooked rug – created by J. Charnock
Lac Baker
Hooked Rug of Lac Baker  – created by J. Charnock

In this homestead, almost everything is made by hand (there’s even a clay bread oven outside). Materials are recycled.   Jean’s birdhouses are made of wood pieces left over from other woodworking projects.  And Jessica makes bears out of once glamorous fur coats. Yes, bears.

Brown Bear on Rocking Horse
Brown Bear on Rocking Horse – created by J. Charnock

She has cleverly recycled and re-purposed her old fur and “faux fur” coats – and turned them into bears.

Grey Bear made of recycled Persian lamb
Grey Bear made of recycled Persian lamb fur –  created by J. Charnock

She’s quick to point out that these large stuffed animals are not  the usual “Teddy Bears” designed for children to play with (although children will find them irresistibly cuddly, I’m sure).

Brown Bear with Blue Scarf
Brown Bear with Blue Scarf –  Created by J. Charnock

They’re cuddly, yes, but they are also large (24 inches) and are collectibles. The people who’ve been lucky enough to acquire one so far, are adults who bought them for themselves.

Jessica will also make the bears to order, and owners who want to supply their own fur or faux fur  coats for this are welcome to do so.  The hooked rugs may also be ordered; same goes for Jean’s birdhouses.

Congratulations to Jessica and Jean, for their exciting creations, all handmade in Canada.  If you wish to contact them, please email:  jenjes@mac.com

A Good Home, Art, Famous people, Furniture, Homes, Inspiration, Interior Design, Memorabilia, Nelson Mandela

Parting With Treasures


 For some of us, home is not a house or apartment, but our cherished belongings. Those personal belongings help create a feeling of home wherever we live.

Over the years, Sylvia Vollenhoven has collected beautiful pieces of art, furniture and memorabilia. She has an eye for beauty and history.

Bench
Riempie Bench

Blog - Ndebele ApronNdebele Apron

But the well-known South African journalist and television producer has decided to sell her cherished possessions.

“Tough times call for tough measures,” says Sylvia.  She says it without fuss or melodrama.

Blog - African dogon maskDogon Mask

People make sacrifices for all kinds of reasons: for those we love; for ideals that we believe in. And – sometimes – for the sake of being able to look at ourselves in the mirror and not gag. But it’s not as if this woman hasn’t made a string of big sacrifices already, many of them during the apartheid years when speaking out  against oppression or trying to do one’s duty as a journalist sometimes led to grave punishment.

After he was released from prison, Nelson Mandela told Sylvia that he’d admired her journalism and courage for a long time. Over the following years, he gave or signed for her a variety of memorabilia – precious items that she has cherished.

Blog - Sylvia and Nelson Mandela

Blog - Signed First Edition copy of N Mandela's book

Blog - Mandela 80th Birthday2

Today, Sylvia’s courage and her journalism have landed her in a costly legal fight.  The journalist who survived the vice-grip of apartheid is now fighting the national broadcaster, the SABC, for the right to broadcast a story about apartheid-era corruption.

The fight comes in the middle of the biggest project of her career: a multi-media project (a book, play and movie) that Sylvia’s small production company plans to start releasing next year. To keep fighting, and to keep producing, Sylvia’s company needs money.

I suspect that the sacrifice that hurts her most is having to sell the Nelson Mandela memorabilia. But for Sylvia, being “at home with oneself”  — and having the freedom to tell the stories of S. Africa that most need to be heard — are more precious to her than even the beautiful and historically significant belongings in her home.

With courage, strength and grace, Sylvia has announced the sale of her prized possessions. She says it will make her happy if each item finds a good home.

Blog - Masai Warrior PaintingMasai Warriors Painting

For further information:

http://whoswho.co.za/sylvia-vollenhoven-4794

VIA -Vision In Africa: + 27 21 762-4921

p.s. Some items are being auctioned at:

http://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/118971762/Mandela_Signed_Book_Notes.htm

A Good Home, Architecture, European furniture, Furniture, Globe and Mail, Homes, Inspiration, Interior Design, Photographs, Restoration

The Canning Factory: Cliff Smith’s Vision

You’re looking for a place in the country.

You come across a derelict old building – infested by wild animals and, sometimes late at night, wild teenagers.

Blog - Country Road and Canning FactoryPhoto by Andrés Hannach

You have a choice: get the heck out of there, or look at the place – a massive former canning factory – and visualize what it could become.  Cliff Smith chose the latter.

8 years later, the building, surrounded by nearly 4 acres of land in the village of Grafton, Ontario, is a wonder to behold.

Blog - Canning Factory main floorPhoto by Peter Sellar

It’s home on the weekends for Cliff and his wife, Yasmin.  During the week, it’s a showroom for the Vincent Sheppard line of modern furniture Cliff distributes across Canada through his company Augustus Jones Inc.

Blog - canning Factory yellow bench and fireplacePhoto by Peter Sellar; Vincent Sheppard chairs with Daybed by B&B italia

My husband and I were  invited to visit with Cliff and Yasmin after a reading from my book A Good Home  in nearby Cobourg. We were grateful to rest and dine with them before heading back home.

“Go try out the various sofas and chairs till you find one you’re comfortable in,” Yasmin, an osteopath, encouraged me soon after we arrived. “Rest up a little.”

The problem was that they were all comfortable. But then I found the perfect seat: a beautiful red chair. Oh, wow! I sank into it, feet up on the matching ottoman, and didn’t want to move.

Blog - The Red comfy chairPhoto by Peter Sellar: TOGO Red chair and ottoman by Ligne Rosset

Cliff Smith and I attended the same school in Mandeville, Jamaica:  Manchester High School. We’d been educated by great teachers and an outstanding headmaster named Gerry German.

A world away from those days, as we sat with our spouses and another schoolmate, Paul, in Cliff’s astonishingly beautiful space,  we reminisced. “Gerry”, our principal, knew the name of not just every student, but our parents as well. Gerry believed that every child had great potential, and a duty to live up to it. If we didn’t,  there was a good chance he’d pay our parents a visit.

Cliff became a top-notch art director and book designer in Canada’s publishing industry. But as the industry faltered, he decided to do something different.

Blog - Cliff answering clients questionsPhoto by Gerry Taylor.  Cliff talks with potential clients about the Vincent Sheppard furniture.

The old canning factory in Grafton excited him. He saw what it could be: a weekend home for his family, a large space for cultural events such as book launches, art shows and other things, and a huge, airy showroom for modern indoor and outdoor furniture.

Cliff is a visionary willing to work hard to realize his big dreams. As his former schoolmate, I am intrigued, guessing at what he’ll do next, and enormously proud of his achievements.

Blog - Upstairs at Canning FactoryThis photo and the next by Peter Sellar

Cliff and Yasmin’s city home was featured in the Globe and Mail newspaper in late summer and the canning factory was featured in Azure Magazine.

What a remarkable space. What  an exciting selection of modern furniture. And what a distinctive home.

Bravo, Cliff Smith. Gerry would have been proud.

Blog - Canning Factory exterior