Monday, November 30, 2009

In a Heartbeat, Advent, and Good Fairies

The gallery is looking lovely. The creatures and characters from Woodland Christmas and Woodland Nutcracker are beautifully displayed and despite dreary weather we had a busy weekend at the opening. It is a real pleasure to see these pieces together again, and in a setting reminiscent of the summer cottage that inspired the Woodland books.

Fairy art and books are on display too,

And between the fairies, keeping them company, is the last of our Gund Woodland Nutcracker bears that were produced for Eatons reopening in 2000.

It was a brief reopening for Eatons, a chapter of Canadian retail history in which our Woodland Nutcracker played a decorative role. While the Titans of retail wrestled for supremacy, our lovely bears and woodland friends were recreated as life-size figures for in-store Christmas displays. A phalanx of Woodland Nutcrackers was commissioned and the 9-foot bears were positioned at store entries, and more bears and Woodland friends twirled inside in animated displays.

I wonder how many busy Torontonians in 2002, crossing at the intersection of Yonge & Dundas, noticed Clara and Prince Nutcracker?

When the displays were taken down for the last time the Woodland figures were dispersed. Some went to libraries and many of them to the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, where they are brushed up and set out every Christmas. I can't think of a better place for them and occasionally I make the trip to see them on display.

Making for a longer than usual post, also happening this first weekend of Advent was "First Light" at St. Marie Among the Hurons. It is believed that Canada's first Christmas Carol, The Huron Carol, was written by Father Jean de Br├ębeuf at Sainte-Marie in the 17th century. Since 2007 St. Marie has celebrated the Huron Carol with a pictorial gallery featuring my illustrations, plus a video presentation. First Light is a magical event. Although closed to unscheduled visits during the winter, for these three evenings St. Marie is open to the public and the paths around the mission buildings and longhouses are lined with candles.

There is a sense of timelessness, walking under the stars here. In 400-plus years the cold and snow have not changed. Inside the longhouse and in the recreated mission buildings there is heat, if you are close enough to the fire, but it is a compelling reminder of the isolation and challenges of those earlier days.

Which way to go, the darker paths that lead away between the trees, or the blaze of light that leads back to the museum, to crowds and warmth, music and celebration?

A brief glimpse of part of the Huron Carol display, above. In the twenty years since I worked on this beautiful carol it never fails to move me. Many thanks to the people at St. Marie who made this lovely exhibit happen.

There is a generosity from artists to other artists in blogland ( of which the talented Valerie Greeley and Gretel Parker are outstanding examples) that enriches the experience for all. Recently a lovely review of our Illustrated Fairy Gazettes was posted by Tangle Catkin/Bryony Whistlecraft at Fae Nation. This beautiful site is truly "your virtual portal to faerie" and many are the enticements to visit and linger awhile. Thank you Tangle, from the fairies!


  1. How lovely your artworks look, in all aspects - and how thrilling to have one's work reproduced at such sizes!

  2. My, what a beautiful post this is! I am learning that you've worked in many differing scales and media, and that each has that unique quality of yours.

    I do wish that I could see that exhibit. It is wonderful to think how those large figures are still able to delight children and adults, too!

    And...the candlelit walkway is magical!

    It is really beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

    I also completely agree with you about the generosity of Valerie and Gretel.


  3. Thank you for posting the photos Frances. We were disappointed we weren't able to make it to the showing. It would have been memorable.

    Linda and I have been to St. Marie Among the Hurons but always in the summer. It looks so different and magical in its winter light.

  4. Such an interesting and beautiful post! Thanks!

  5. Now that I have one of your books I can more fully appreciate all the hours of work that went into their creation. How lovely for you to see your work showcased in a shop display. I actually visited Canada once in 1980,we went to Toronto and to a shopping Mall called Eatons, I am sure that was the name.

    Oh yes, thanks for the mention!

  6. I found myself wondering the strangest thing while reading this post, "I wonder what she sees in her dreams?" It's just that images you create are so wonderfully fanciful and gateways to other, imagined worlds. What a lovely gift, and thank you so much for sharing it with us here.

    I hope you are able to dream images that do the same thing for you, or to appreciate the ones around you. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being transported elsewhere, to a magical world, and it is so fitting for the season. Thank you for doing that for me.

  7. Frances,
    I wish I could have gone to both the events you wrote about. We are going to try to at least get out to In a Heartbeat soon. Ste. Marie looks so gorgeous... stars too! I love your art. There is a great sense of "wonder" about it and also on the faces of the fairy folk. Just lovely!

  8. Thank you PG! It was very exciting, very beautifully done. Imagine - I could have purchased (for no small sum) one of the giant Nutcracker Bears to bring home!

    Thank you Frances, I always enjoy seeing New York through your eyes and hope you'll be showing us some of the Christmas scene there.

    Dear Valerie, it is the same Eaton Centre! Now run by Sears Co., once the dust settled.
    Speaking of hours of work, I can only imagine what goes into your detailed scenes. (Looking forward to something in my stocking, I think)

  9. Dear PT & E,Thank you for dropping by! (Where do you find the lovely art that tops your posts - it is always something quite unexpected and beautiful).

    Dear Linda & Barry, Drop by any time, virtually or in person!

  10. Dear L-o-S, I have been meaning to leave a comment on your "Candide" post, so very evocative that I start to write too much back to you and have erased it! My parents lived through austere and very non-commercial war-time Christmases and appreciate the froth and fun of Christmas non-essentials. So (1) ornaments seem like a very sane, healthy approach to me! (2) Inventiveness - I still make the Christmas crafts my mother showed me, smoothing out the colourful patterned foils of Christmas chocolates (rationing stimulated the original "re-use/recycle" ethic!) to make more ornaments, making something out of nothing for the fun of it (about which more in a coming blog post), which is truly the life and mind of an illustrator. (3) My dreams are mostly too silly for words, but with my pencil I try to go somewhere beautiful, merry (if appropriate) and true.

  11. Now I have discovered this second blog of yours (perhaps your main one). I left a comment on the other and will read back through this one as soon as I have a moment. Magical art - I love it; it fits with the medieval romances I am re-reading at present, and post-Roman Britain.

  12. Wild Somerset Child,thank you for dropping by. I have neglected All Around the Palette but may get back to it yet.
    Have you read The Heaven Tree trilogy? Those and Rosemary Sutcliffe's novels are well-worn on my bookshelf here.