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UPPERCASE magazine

The Suitcase Series Volume 2: dottie angel, now shipping!A Collection a Day by Lisa Congdon, packaged in a collector's tin! Work/Life 2: the UPPERCASE directory of international illustratorsDownload the FREE iphone app!An illustrated storybook for sophisticated children and whimsical adults.

NEW! Shoegazing Notecards curated by Janine Vangool and published by Chronicle Books.

Click here to purchase Shoegazing Notecards 




current inspiration


Guest Post: What do you like to do?

intuitive painting supplies
Part of the fun of designing a creative ritual for yourself is determining what you like to do. Sarah has a passion for photography, color, art, good design, embroidery, painting, and writing. She shares her method for creating a visual inspiration board below.

"A great way of defining your interests is with a visual inspiration board. Gather the following items:

  • your favourite magazines
  • glue sticks
  • scissors
  • 8-1/2 x 11 board (illustration board, poster board, it does not have to be fancy)
  • anything else that inspires you

Schedule a time to start looking through the magazines. When you find items of interest, cut them out and set them aside. If you find words that speak to you, cut those out as well.

Once you have gathered all your inspiration, organize the pieces on the board in a way that speaks to you and glue them on. You now have a starting point for your own creative journey. Place it somewhere that you will see it every day."

byw mood board

Up next: Appointments with creativity


Guest Post: Defining Ritual

When did you last take a moment for yourself & your creativity?

Sarah has found that as a creative entrepreneur she asks herself this at least weekly.

"Whether you work for yourself, for someone else or are just trying to find time to explore your creative side it is such a gratifying and fulfilling experience to allow creativity into your life. But how do you find that time when your busy life takes hold?

Like anything else, it has to become part of your daily or weekly routine. I have read many books, followed many blogs and asked many other artists this same question about finding the time and everyone has mentioned this idea of ritual. If you have a consistent exercise program, religious practice or the like you will find that it is much like those practices and can become an integral part of them as well.

Ritual is, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, “a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone”

Sounds easy enough, right? Not so easy if you cannot define a time in your day to create. However, with a little guidance, you can start NOW on a small creative journey of your own."

Up Next: What do you like to do?


Guest Post: Introducing Sarah

The daily grind, be it 9-to-5 or, as it often is for many, far longer that that, can make it hard to find the time for creativity. When Sarah G. Stevenson offered to share her thoughts on allowing time for creativity, we jumped at the chance.

Sarah is often found hidden behind her camera or otherwise indulging her muse. But, that hasn’t always been the case. In the past, she led interior design projects for some of the top interior design and architecture firms in Chicago.

"Like many artists just starting out, I craved a challenging and collaborative environment, where my creativity would blossom. Just like so many of you, I found the reality to be a bit more complicated."

In one project she was in charge of a staff of 20 and managing over 1 million square feet of office space redesign, furniture redesign, construction, and move coordination of more than 3,000 employees.

"Did I work on creative projects? Yes. I also worked long hours, often 90 or 100 hours in a week. I moved up very quickly, but I never had the space for my own creativity and art exploration. Does that sound familiar? As artists, we gravitate towards creatively challenging work environments, only to find they drain our energy. That’s why I now dedicate my work to helping artists and creative people in all fields carve out space in their day. I help you allow time for your own creative explorations — no matter how many hours a week you work."

Up Next: Defining ritual


Dispatch from London: Old Buttons at Spitalfield

Sylvia Llewelyn, author of the book "Old Buttons"

I've been home from London for a few weeks, but since I had my camera round my neck from the entire time I was in the UK I have a LOT of photos still to share! I already posted about the amazing time I had with Emily Chalmers, but after we parted, there were still more stalls to explore in the market.

Sylvia Llewelyn is a thespian, collector and author dividing her time between London and other European cities. She has over 300,000 buttons in her collection and recently authored a small but thorough book on the topic of old buttons. I purchased the book plus a few buttons from Sylvia and her booth at Spitalfields' Thursday afternoon antique market.

Most of the buttons reproduced in the book are at actual size, as Sylvia demonstrates. The book and an extensive array of buttons are available in the Old Button Shop.


Stitch: Amanda McCavour

I get a lot of email and lots of submissions and suggestions and genuine interest in the magazine. It can get overwhelming in that I don't have time to reply as personally or quickly as I'd like to, but I do review everything and it all gets categorized into Evernote for future reference and possible posting on the blog. I appreciate your submissions (keep them coming!), but be patient with hearing back from me...

Amanda McCavour sent some notable examples of her installation work this week. Using thread and dissolving fabric, she sews intricate scenes of domesticity.

In my work, I use a sewing machine to create thread drawings and installations by sewing into a fabric that dissolves in water. This fabric makes it possible for me to build up the thread by sewing repeatedly into my drawn images so that when the fabric is dissolved, the image can hold together without a base. These thread images appear as though they would be easily unraveled and seemingly on the verge of falling apart, despite the works actual raveled strength. 

I am interested in the vulnerability of thread, its ability to unravel, and its strength when it is sewn together.  I am interested in the connections between process and materials and the way that they relate to images and spaces.  Tracing actions and environments through a process of repetition, translation and dissolving, I hope to trace absence.  My work is a process of making as a way of tracing and preserving things that are gone, or slowly falling apart.  


Alanna Cavanagh tea towel

Regular UPPERCASE contributor Alanna Cavanagh has a tea towel design available through The Bay. It's sold out online at the moment, but still available in shops around the country. Looks like a nice Mother's Day gift!


Featured stockist: Pink Olive

UPPERCASE stockist Pink Olive is turning five on May 5th and having what looks like a lovely party to celebrate. If you aren't lucky enough to be able to attend in person (they are having s'mores) check out their online shop. With two stores in East Village, Manhattan and Park Slope, Brooklyn they have built a successful business over the last five years. Congratulations on your fifth birthday Pink Olive!


Horn tooted

It's lucky that Janine has a team working with her now. It makes bragging about her nomination in the 2011 National Magazine Awards MUCH less awkward. Janine has been recognized in the Art Direction for an Entire Issue category for issue #9. The winners will be announced in Toronto on June 7

I know all of you know just how special UPPERCASE is. But, why not share this story with your circle of friends and tell them what you think of us. Or better yet, pick them up a copy.


Drippy babies

I hope you are as inspired as I am by all the different perspectives that UPPERCASE exposes us to. I love rubbing virtual shoulders with people and coming away with a new way of looking at things. When I read the information subscriber Dan Barry sent in about his first solo exhibition in Europe the phrase 'drippy babies' stood out. In my world, it often means a mess that I need to clean up, especially since my one-year-old has taken to drinking out of the dog's dish. Fortunately, I have a new frame of reference based on Dan's alluring work.

MondoPOP Gallery (Rome, Italy) presents:
A solo exhibition of artworks by Dan Barry

Opening Reception: Saturday, May 5th, 2012 from 7-10pm
On View: May 5th, 2012 – June 2nd, 2012

Combinatoria is comprised of several groupings of small mixed media works–ranging from anthropomorphic botanicals to drippy babies.



Anthropologie virgin

I have a confession for you. I have never been to Anthropologie. I occasionally take a quick hit off their site-but only for a few minutes. I know I will love it and walk through buying things and being totally inspired. And I will come home with another addiction. Like coffee. Or chocolate. Or yarn. I just don't know how many addictions one can have. Following this same illogical logic, I have never eaten poutine.

But, now that Anthropologie has shown us some love, and since I know they stock UPPERCASE, I will go in. And, I think I'll come out with many things, along with this shower curtain.


Cloudy Playlist


Landscape Music

Red Maple (1914), by A.Y. Jackson

Weather imagery is also a great way for songwriters to tap into a sense of place. Growing up listening to a lot of Canadian music, I enjoyed the way that the music I listened to reflected the world I lived in through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways. The weather (and particularly cold, northern weather) is a theme that runs through many elements of Canadian art, from literature to music to visual art. Songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot (who received a couple spots in the previously-mentioned Weather Channel tournament) and Joni Mitchell helped reinforce this element of Canadian identity. 

(Again, and I cannot emphasize this enough, Ice Ice Baby does not count as Canadian weather music!)

Going through my music collection, one of my favorite Canadian weather metaphors is from Blue Rodeo, who conclude Hasn't Hit Me Yet with the following lyrics: I stand transfixed / Before this streetlight / Watching the snow fall / On this cold December night  / And out in the middle of Lake Ontario / The same snow is falling / On the deep silent water / The great dark wonder / Into the waves of my heart.

However, there's another band and project that deserves special mention: In the early 1990s, the National Gallery of Canada commissioned the indie-rock band The Rheostatics to write music to accompany a retrospective of paintings by the Group of Seven. (For non-Canadians, these were a group of painters who focused primarily on landscape painting in the 1920s and 1930s.) The music that they wrote does an excellent job at evoking that nationalist imagery.  

The CBC produced a very good program on the making of this project. 




Weather Music

Weather is a powerful muse in a number of ways, and when it comes to music, it seems to fall into four categories: songs that evoke weather or seasons, but does not mention them directly; songs that uses weather as a metaphor for the themes of the song; songs that use weather as part of the background of a story of scene; and lastly, songs that are simply about the weather. 



Earlier this year, the Weather Channel had a tournament, NCAA style, matching 64 weather-themed songs against one-another to determine a weather music champion. Readers voted on songs in head-to-head matchups, and after 63-such matchups, The Beatles Here Comes the Sun was crowned champion. While the reader-voted aspect of the competition was always going to favour mainstream classics (like other contenders Over the Rainbow, Singin' in the Rain, and White Christmas), it's a little disappointing that more contemporary music wasn't featured, even in the early rounds. I think U2's Beautiful Day and Adele's Set Fire to the Rain are the only pieces from the last decade featured. One can also question whether some of the songs are really songs about weather. Is Ice Ice Baby a 'weather' song in any sense of the word? I'll save you the trouble of googling the lyrics: it's not. 

So, with the weather channel having taken care of the mainstream selections, what are your favorite underrated weather-themed music? 

I think one could probably identify an entire bracket of 64 Tom Waits songs that feature weather imagery in one way or another, with the comic musings of Emotional Weather Report (with tornado watches issued shortly before noon Sunday, for the areas including the western region of my mental health and the northern portions of my ability to deal rationally with my disconcerted precarious emotional situation); and the simple observations of Strange Weather (All over the world / It's the same / Strangers talk only of the weather) being a couple top contenders.



So, share some of your favorites in the comments!


Strike a pose

Designer: Kelsey McRaeIn issue #8 we featured a collection of matchbooks by Margaret Van Sicklen. We also asked our UPPERCASE community to participate and send in their own modern take on traditional European matchbox labels. Karin Jager of Capilano University and her student Mustaali Raj sent in images from class project along a similar vein.Designer: Mustaali RajKaren explains:
"My survey of design course begins with the industrial revolution and the Victorian era—a time of dramatic economic and social change—and eclectic ornamentation. As a way for students to experience the Victorian aesthetic and to gain some understanding about the social, economic and cultural impact of the industrial revolution, I assigned a 'matchbox' packaging project."Designer: Brayden EshuisMy curiosity was piqued by the information Karin sent along with the images so I did a little research of my own.

Early matches ignited with the slightest friction and their manufacture involved the toxic chemical white phosphorus. Consequently for the match maker, 'phossy jaw' was an occupational hazzard. In the later stages of this condition, where phosphorus accumulates in the jawbone and brain, the patient's jaw would start to glow in the dark, due to a chemical reaction between phosphorus and air. (Note to reader: Do not google phossy jaw.)

Some of the earliest known commercial advertising on matchbooks was created by guerilla arts marketers. In 1895 the cast of the Mendelson Opera Company created ads with photos, glue, and some mighty fine wordsmithing. The only surviving example of these creative evenings reads:

A cyclone of fun - powerful caste - pretty girls - handsome ward-robe - get seats early.


Cocktail Party Fact: Matches were invented in 1827 by John Walker but were first marketed by Samuel Jones as 'Lucifers'.


Dollhouse revisited

Heather Benning: The Dollhouse: Dusk #3, (2007) printed 2011, Kodak Endura Digital C-print, 20 x 30" ed. 10My husband's grandmother lives in a small town in Saskatchewan. So small, in fact, that she doesn't have a street address—sending her a letter requires her name only. On my first visit I was struck by the emptiness of a summer night on the prairies. We watched as storms rolled across the fields and heard the occasional train whistle echo in the distance. Although I knew we were still connected by wires to the outside world the sense of isolation was, for me, overwhelming.

The images of Heather Benning's installation The Dollhouse we featured in issue #8 rouse the same feelings for me.

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of Heather's work, Toronto's Telephone Booth Gallery will be hosting an exhibition during the month of May. The show includes never before exhibited images that document the creation of the project.


Dispatch from London: a little famous

The royal conclusion to this series of photos.


Dispatch from London: Donya Coward

Adjacent to Anthropologie King's Road is a little companion gallery. The current exhibition features the elegant "taxidermy" dogs of Donya Coward


Dispatch from London: Anthropologie

I had a meeting here, but this door and stairwell is as much as I can show you!The Anthropologie store on King's Road, London, is the most beautiful Anthropologie I have ever seen! My photos can't do it justice; here are some teasers. You just have to go soak it up in person—the light and atmosphere cannot be photographed. There was even a water feature.

Thank you to Anthropologie North America for their support of UPPERCASE and other quarterly magazines! Hopefully you'll see UPPERCASE in European stores sometime soon.

Ceramics by Ruann Hoffmann.

This book by India Flint looks intriguing.Headbands look amazing when styled by Anthropologie.


Dispatch from London: Venice

Actually, Venice Shone is the lovely name of this lovely person I had the pleasure of meeting at the Ray Stitch Meet and Greet in London a few weeks ago. You may recall a previous post about her work here.

In the photo above, Venice holds up the pretty print of a dress drawing that she gave me. Thank you, Venice! I'm going to hang it in my basement sewing room for some colour and inspiration.

I love drawings and paintings of things. Venice does these so very well:

Excerpts from some children's books illustrated by Venice Shone and some curious candies.


type tuesday: Heath and House

Combining the beautiful Heath Ceramics with Neutraface by House Industries makes for beautiful house numbers.