Saturday, January 31, 2015

Blanche Macdonald - Tia Bai, Funky and Special

Runway photography by Peter Jensen.

Everyone who knows me knows I like to be surprised at shows - it's one of the joys of attending those featuring student grad collections. The best nights are a mix of beautifully made garments interspersed with more conceptual offerings or those with fun silhouettes.  The last Blanche Macdonald show hit the mark.

The fun element started when I headed in to view the portfolios. What I am personally looking for is interesting fashion illustrations.  WHY? Because it gives me an idea of the creativity this designer is bringing to the table. At this stage of the game, their concepts often exceed their construction ability no matter how strong they are - something internships post grad bring out. So it's here I see the depth of their vision.

Right away I was drawn to Tia Bai. This is not traditional fashion illustration. It's young, quirky and truly something I've never seen before. I marked this designer down pre-show to take special note. The pieces on the runway were as unusual as the illustrations, so I wanted to share them with you. While only 3 looks were presented that night, the mix of runway photos with fashion illustrations offered here let you see the wild range of designs created for this collection.

This young designer is firmly in position to reach a new generation of fashion enthusiasts.  It will be fun to see how Tia Bai grows over the next few years as she gains experience and matures in her design work. I'll be watching!

= = = = = = = =

Where were you born, where did you grow up?

 I was born in Tibet and I grew up in ChengDu.

What you like when you were young?

 I was very sensitive to fashion and very interested in it.

What were your interests in High School?

When I was in the high school, I wanted to be a fashion editor working in famous magazine like Elle or Vogue.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design.  Was you family supportive?

 I have a big passion for fashion so when I came to Vancouver I decided fashion design was the best program for me . My family was very supportive and wanted me to enjoy my time while I was a student.

Why did you choose to study at Blanche Macdonald Centre

I saw several advertisements on websites and many friends told me great things about Blanche Macdonald, so I decided this school was the best choice for me,

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design.  What was hard for you, what was easy for you, are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?

Looking through my whole program, pattern making was the hardest for me.  Fashion Illustration was the easiest because I always have many ideas I want to work on.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? 

The inspiration for my collection comes from nature of human beings which has both dark and light sides. I might use a poisonous mushroom for inspiration to create a charming coat in widely contrasting colours to show the beauty outside, but the dark inside. The beauty attracts and yet the mushroom can kill you.

Describe your collection

It’s hard to find one word to describe my collection, I like to create clothing that is funky and special. Everyone can wear my designs and different people wearing the same design can offer it in a unique way that makes them stand out. More than anything, I want the people who wear my clothes to feel  happy .




























What is the palette?  What fabrics did you use?

I choose contrasting, strong colours. For the fabrics, vinyl is the main focus with wool fabrics used to create the bright details .

Do you have a favourite look?

 My favorite  look was my first look , the long vinyl baseball jacket with pompom sleeves.

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

I offer one of a kind, funky designs for people to wear that will put a smile on their face.

Where do you go from here?

I’m a stylist in a concept store now and hope to launch my own line in this next year.

Give me a quote on what fashion design means to you if possible?

Fashion easily disappears, style forever —— Yves Saint Laurent

= = = = = = = =


To contact Tia Bai please baizhen312@gmail.com.

For more information on the Fashion Design Program at Blanche Macdonald go to www.blanchemacdonald.com/Fashion.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Vancouver Community College - Nikki Niknam, It Comes From Within

All images courtesy of Lindsay Elliott



Have you ever heard Tim Gunn share on Project Runway. Edit, edit edit.  Then there is the well known axiom that less is more. There is nowhere this is more true than in fashion design. Truth be told, sometimes I really enjoy unusual, busy designs.  I love to step out of the normal and into the complicated. But it's with the full knowledge that I disappear.

When it comes to being seen, your clothing needs to be well-cut, complimentary to your colouring/figure and draw people to you without becoming the focus. They should enhance what you have already - creating an ambiance to compliment who you are.

Enter Nikki Niknam!

For her collection this evening, Vancouver Community College (VCC) grad Nikki Niknam brought all the elements: great construction, strong silhouettes and a simple palette (all white) so we could focus on her design work.  My favourite is probably the layered outfit above with short jacket, soft longer top and to finish it off, skinny pants with an inside split. I would absolutely wear this - just not in white. My track record in white is very poor.

Niknam's collection also offered a great selection of separates to mix and match - top, pant, skirt, short and jacket - as well as a softly draped flowing dress with spaghetti straps. I think her line is on-trend with the needs of the growing 25 - 35 professional market. Versatile, well-cut and understated. You could walk in anywhere and present well.

Want to know more?  Here is a brief Q and A with the designer as well as contact information. Enjoy!

- - - - - - - - -

Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born in Iran but raised in Japan, and Canada.

What you like when you were young? 


I think I was shy. At lease that's what my mother told me.

What were your interests in High School?

Mostly art. I honestly don't think I was was interested in much else. I was part of a lot of clubs and social committees but my favorite class was art class.

Looking back, can you remember any signs that you would end up in fashion? 

Hmmm.... My mother sewed quite well so she would always made me little outfits. As soon as I was old enough to draw and to contribute my ideas she was able to make my designs for me. So I guess that's how it all started.

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was you family supportive?

A part of me always knew I would end up in fashion, I just wasn't sure which part. I thought I would be more into the business side but I actually love designing clothing and figuring how to make my designs. It's a very thrilling and satisfying experience.





Why did you choose to study at Vancouver Community College (VCC)?

I chose to study at VCC because it was a two year program and it was quite affordable. I'm really glad I went there. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot. The instructors are so supportive and knowledgeable.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you, what was easy for you, are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?

Lots of stress, fashion school isn't for everyone, it takes dedication and superb time management skills. Many of the students would break down in tears. If you don't love it it can be really difficult.

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

My inspiration was my muse, the women I always envision when I design my collections.



Describe your collection.

My collection is items you can wear during the day to full of evening wear. I wanted to show versatility in portfolio because I think that's important. It's contemporary women's wear with a sense of sophistication and modernity to it.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

I stuck to a subdued and refined color palette. Lots of greyish blue with dusty pinks. And lots and lots of white. White is my favorite color so I used it a lot in this collection. I used silks, cottons, crepes and even some upholstery fabrics!

Do you have a favourite look?

Hmmmm - no, I worked so hard on each look that it's hard for me to choose a favorite.

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?
I'm not sure yet, ask me in a few years. I think I need to be the industry for a few years and see what is lacking and to see if I can fill a void but with my aesthetic and sense of style.

Where do you go from here – are you going to work for others for awhile, launch your own line, take a break and travel?

Definitely work for someone else first. Learn as much as I can then start my own line, but not till I have a solid foundation built under me.

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you if possible?

"Fashion is about something that comes from within you." - Ralph Lauren

= = = = = = = = =

To contact the designer, email nikki.niknam@gmail.com

For more information on the fashion design program at VCC go to http://www.vcc.ca/programscourses/program-areas/program-highlights/fashion/

Monday, January 26, 2015

Life Outside The Box - Julie Salisbury Excerpt

Image by Peter Jensen

Just in time for the Holiday Season - a brand new second edition of Life Outside the Box with additional content!

Print and e-book available!

In Canada -
Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2e93lNc

In the U.S -
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fLIMqA
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2fphhyK

Author signed copies are available for purchase through the author's website at www.marilynrwilson.com/books

= = = 

This final excerpt is very special to me.  In some ways it is the final note and in some ways the beginning note.  Let me explain.

I began my journey as a writer by answering a Craigslist ad for submissions.  My career as a writer expanded when I co-owned a Vancouver magazine from 2007-2012, Here we featured articles on exceptional individuals who were a part of the local fashion industry - designers, models, hair-makeup-styling artists, fashion week/event producers, boutique owners and more. It wasn't a fashion magazine - it was about their journey to embrace this career.

It was a wonderful but overwhelming time as I learned to write, edit, be the face of a magazine, sell ads, mea culpa for faux pas's and more - all in the public eye. Then in May 2012 the magazine folded and I entered a very dark space.  I felt lost. I still had my writing for Raine Magazine in the U.S., but that was only a couple articles every quarter. There was one glimmer of an idea - to write and self publish an e-book of my favourite interviews.  But I just couldn't seem to find the information I needed or get a schedule set. I didn't know where to start.

So great to see not only Julie Salisbury but fellow
writers Eugenea Couture and Alyson Jones at my launch.
Image by Peter Jensen
One day an invitation arrived to attend a women's networking event where the speaker would be Julie Salisbury - founder of Influence Publishing. I didn't have the foggiest idea who she was, but decided to take a chance and see if I could finally get some idea of a direction to head. Some guidance that would point the way. Right up to the moment I left the house, I felt the urge to toss in the towel and just sit home and relax.  I am so glad I didn't as that evening changed my life forever.  I have a book in print that is an Amazon best seller. WOW! Dreams do come true!

I really don't remember a lot of what Salisbury talked about as from the moment she started speaking, I was overcome with a strong emotion. I just knew that this was the mentor I had been seeking who would be able to support me on this journey.  When I met with her to discuss a contract a few weeks later the same thing happened. This still happens every time I hear her speak.

Although a lot of steps on my writing journey came before this moment, this was the true beginning of my commitment to write #LifeOutsideTheBox. It has been a journey of highs and lows - even a moment I wanted to throw in the towel - but Salisbury and her team were always there in support.




So while Julie Salisbury is the final chapter in my book, she was also there at the beginning to open the door to a path that led me to fulfill my life purpose. I love interviewing people on their lives and I love sharing these stories with the world.  From the bottom of my heart - thank-you.

As one of her mantras is about finding your purpose, I decided for this excerpt to share a moment when Salisbury realized all her achievements didn't make her happy - they were a list given her by others. To find out what happened after this moment, you're going to have to read her chapter.

video
                                                      On stage speaking at TedXGastownWomen

Excerpt from Chapter Ten - Julie Salisbury of Influence Publishing

"A position opened up in a company called Fine Arts Developments when Salisbury was in her thirties. The new job required constant travel to the Far East for up to three weeks at a time—the Philippines, Bangkok, Thailand, and Taiwan. Some might consider it fun, but for Salisbury it became a chore and a wake-up call.

With husband and business partner
Greg Salisbury
'The last trip I was on was to the Philippines. I flew first class, arrived at night, and took a taxi to this luxury hotel. When I woke up in the morning I felt disoriented, so I went to the big glass window and opened the curtains. Outside was a slum with kids running around in bare feet. I remember thinking how can this be? I am cocooned in this safe, luxurious world, and right outside the window—right in front of me—is poverty.'

Salisbury was stunned. For years she had been travelling the world, but hadn't really seen it. She had been isolated in a glass bubble of protection that kept her carefully walled off from poverty. She finally began asking herself the questions that had been slowly bubbling up, 'Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing with my life? What does all this mean? Why am I here?'

For Salisbury, it was a defining moment. 'I think this realization of a disconnect was my epiphany.' Up to this point, her life had been lived according to a checklist defined by society. It hadn’t brought satisfaction. It was time for a drastic change and the one that presented itself was totally unexpected.

= = = 

Update November 2016 - It's been twenty months since the launch of Life Outside the Box and I find myself immersed in the process of writing book two in this series. Where does the time go?

The journey for me of writing Life Outside the Box  was extraordinarily difficult—terrible self-doubt was a constant companion. What a relief that reader response and industry reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It has affirmed for me that the timing was right and continues to be right to share with readers the different ways people choose to live their lives. People are bombarded as never before with societal expectations. We need to be reminded the journey we are on is ours alone. There is no one right path to follow; there is no one correct way to live—we are each extraordinary in our own way.

Be sure and keep your eye out for Life Outside the Box #2, tentatively due for release in the Spring 2017. I can't wait to share ten new and amazing stories with you.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Life Outside The Box - William Orlowski Excerpt

Just in time for the Holiday Season - a brand new second edition of Life Outside the Box with additional content!

Print and e-book available!

In Canada - 
Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2e93lNc

In the U.S -
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fLIMqA
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2fphhyK

Author signed copies are available for purchase through the author's website at www.marilynrwilson.com/books

= = = 

William Orlowski is a Canadian icon.  He founded one of the very first dance schools in Canada dedicated entirely to tap. And he launched the National Tap Dance Company which offered truly cutting edge choreography and toured internationally dancing to the accompaniment of a live orchestra. There were exceptions. One innovative piece was even performed to the oral recitation of World War I poetry accompanied by the sound of machine gun fire

I feel so privileged to have met him way back when my daughter was attending his workshop at the Vancouver Tap Society's annual festival  This was a few years before I began interviewing and writing so I was just Danielle's mum.

Orlowski and I had the chance to briefly talk after the class and then my daughter and I decided to buy tickets to the evening show which featured all the festival teachers on one stage. We wanted to see him dance. What a surprise.  The tap I usually saw performed by the today's young tappers seemed to use a lot of sheer muscle. It was a delightful surprise to see someone so highly trained produce small sounds with the slightest movement of his foot and ankle that carried all the way to the back of the theatre.  I was impressed.

When I began interviewing, Orlowski was always on my list of those I wanted to write on and the opportunity came in August 2010 to do a very small column for The Dance Current. We had to do all the interviewing over the phone  as he lives in Toronto and I in Vancouver - not my first choice - but it was still amazing to hear his story. This article was just a short side bar in the magazine though, so I decided to write a longer piece for Olio By Marilyn called William Orlowski - A Canadian Tap Icon. When I decided 18 months ago to begin work on #LifeOutsideTheBox, I knew one chapter needed to feature him. I have said to Orlowski many times he needed to write his story - so hopefully this chapter in my book will start the wheels turning.

For the excerpt, I decided to pick one from his first years as a professional.  It's hilarious and I so wish there was a video I could see of this moment.

Excerpt from Chapter Nine - William Orlowski

"By age eighteen, he had scored an audition and landed a part in Ann Murray’s first television special with Glen Campbell. From then on, the jobs started to roll in. There were tons of commercials including ones for Orange Crush and Pepsi, as well as numerous shows for television. He continued training, now with top names in Canadian tap—icons who went on to become mentors—such as Paul Draper, Jack Lemen (not the actor), Bob Van Norman, and Alan and Blanche Lund. The memories of this time are still strong. 'Those were the last days of variety television and I got hooked into it. There were a group of us that were constantly employed by people producing special shows or musicals. I’m glad I had that experience because it taught me a lot about choreography, watching, listening, paying attention, and learning...'

Sometimes things ran smoothly with few retakes. Other times, it was a long process. And unfortunately, sometimes things went horribly wrong. There was one Pepsi commercial in particular Orlowski would love to forget. The dancers were in full costume, working hard under the hot lights. They were dancing, going up and down escalators, and the pop bottles were being shaken in the process. In the midst of it all, he dropped his bottle, which exploded on impact. 'I’m a butter fingers as anyone will tell you and I dropped the damn bottle. There was disgusting Cola flying everywhere. I was so embarrassed. It got all over everybody’s costumes and unfortunately cost them a lot of money.'”


= = = 

Update November 2016 - It's been twenty months since the launch of Life Outside the Box and I find myself immersed in the process of writing book two in this series. Where does the time go?

The journey for me of writing Life Outside the Box  was extraordinarily difficult—terrible self-doubt was a constant companion. What a relief that reader response and industry reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It has affirmed for me that the timing was right and continues to be right to share with readers the different ways people choose to live their lives. People are bombarded as never before with societal expectations. We need to be reminded the journey we are on is ours alone. There is no one right path to follow; there is no one correct way to live—we are each extraordinary in our own way.

Be sure and keep your eye out for Life Outside the Box #2, tentatively due for release in the Spring 2017. I can't wait to share ten new and amazing stories with you.

Life Outside The Box - Caroline MacGillivray Excerpt

Just in time for the Holiday Season - a brand new second edition of Life Outside the Box with additional content!

Print and e-book available!

In Canada -
Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2e93lNc

In the U.S -
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fLIMqA
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2fphhyK

Author signed copies are available for purchase through the author's website at www.marilynrwilson.com/books

= = = 

Caroline MacGillivray came into my world through fashion events in Vancouver where her charity organization - Beauty Night Society - was the focus of fundraising. Soft-spoken and with a warm smile, I wanted to get to know her better, but these noisy events are not the best place to try and make a deeper connection.

As I was looking at who to include in this first book, I felt there was an element missing - the journey of someone who chose to turn their talents 100% on raising others up. She fit the bill perfectly and is one of the few new interviews included in #LifeOutsideTheBox.

In Vancouver, MacGillivray is heavily branded as the founder of Beauty Night Society. It was surprising in our interview to learn the wider scope of her work. What drives her is a desire to help as many as she can to connect their mind and body - to integrate all the pieces into a healthier whole - to accept and love themselves.  This goal has taken her to embrace many different disciplines including:



Trying to find a time to meet face-to-face for an interview was difficult, but well worth the effort. MacGillivray's calm, gracious demeanor is paired with a strong, confident, focussed core. An unusual combination, but one that perfectly suits the life purpose she has chosen. Her passion for her work is evident. The life journey she shared included bullying, a passion for acting, joy and struggle - things we can all relate to.

The excerpt below is a glimpse of MacGillivray as a tween pursuing her over-whelming passion at the time - ACTING - and how some of this early training came to benefit her work on behalf of Beauty Night Society. Enjoy!

.

Excerpt from Chapter eight - Caroline MacGillivray




“'I was doing the kids chorus in TUTS by the time I was twelve. I absolutely loved anything to do with musical theatre. My first role was in Damn Yankees and I had a oneline solo, but by the first performance, had memorized everyone’s lines'....Giving their daughter permission to participate in TUTS offered her parents leverage to keep the actor on track in other areas. Adding the much-desired singing and jazz lessons rested solely on keeping grades up in school and staying in ballet.

Singing lessons are the first order of the day for anyone hoping for a career in musical theatre. Learning how to use your voice properly, to create phrasing, and to know when to breathe are important to the quality of a singer’s performance. These same skills would prove important years down the road when running her charity. 'You’ll laugh. When I first started doing public speaking for Beauty Night, I used to use the same technique. I would go through my speeches and put check marks in so I knew where to breathe. The other thing that is interesting is that Cantonese was my first language. [As a result] if I’m not warmed up, my voice is soft and in my throat.'"

= = = 

Update November 2016 - It's been twenty months since the launch of Life Outside the Box and I find myself immersed in the process of writing book two in this series. Where does the time go?

The journey for me of writing Life Outside the Box  was extraordinarily difficult—terrible self-doubt was a constant companion. What a relief that reader response and industry reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It has affirmed for me that the timing was right and continues to be right to share with readers the different ways people choose to live their lives. People are bombarded as never before with societal expectations. We need to be reminded the journey we are on is ours alone. There is no one right path to follow; there is no one correct way to live—we are each extraordinary in our own way.

Be sure and keep your eye out for Life Outside the Box #2, tentatively due for release in the Spring 2017. I can't wait to share ten new and amazing stories with you.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Life Outside The Box - Lisa-Marie Mazzucco Excerpt

Just in time for the Holiday Season - a brand new second edition of Life Outside the Box with additional content!

Print and e-book available!

In Canada -
Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2e93lNc

In the U.S -
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fLIMqA
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2fphhyK

Author signed copies are available for purchase through the author's website at www.marilynrwilson.com/books

= = = 

I first met Lisa-Marie Mazzucco - during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  She and her husband, photographer Raphael Mazzucco, were in town promoting a collaboration they did for Lancome Canada's Olympic Gold Fascination campaign. The unique images they produced were used to create collectible boxes for Lancome's products sold to international visitors during the competition.

Event producer Vernard Goud of LuvNGrace invited me to a meet and greet with the couple held downtown in one of the big department stores.  I took my turn sitting on the couch to get my picture taken and have a brief chat, then handed them a copy of the first 2-year print collectible edition of my magazine and said, "If you're ever back in town, I'd love to interview you."  It was so early in my career, I felt I was very small potatoes and was sure their schedule was packed tight with bigger named media sources. To my surprise they were ready and willing to meet after this event for coffee. Bless the rep from Lancome's heart - which I'm sure skipped a few beats. Somehow it all came together.



Sitting at an outside table next to the Opus Hotel where they were staying, I was given 30 minutes by the Lancome Rep - which turned into almost an hour.  Still, in the beginning I wondered if I could finish in that small time frame. After all, I was interviewing TWO people, not one, and was honestly not that experienced yet.  Raphael and Lisa-Marie could not have been warmer, and that made me relax immediately. Raphael went first telling his story with Lisa-Marie adding in details. Then Lisa-Marie shared hers with Raphael doing the same.  I loved the synchronicity. They blended their stories perfectly, made time for each other to have their moment in the sun, and chimed in to add praise.

The first article was on the Olympic Fascination campaign and their joint journey for my local magazine, but I was privileged to write a piece on Lisa-Marie a year or so later for Raine Magazine. She had come back to Vancouver for an event and was fortunately able to make time in her busy schedule for a one-on-one second interview.  She is a truly fabulous story teller with a resume that includes make-up, hair, styling, photography and retouching. I was on the edge of my seat throughout. From that moment on, I never doubted that her story would be a part of Life Outside the Box.

For her chapter excerpt I chose one of my favourite moments from her early years shooting classical musicians.  Enjoy!
Images from Gold Fascination Campaign
Excerpt from Chapter Seven - Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

"One of the things Lisa-Marie learned early on was not to touch the instruments. It was a lesson she would never forget. 'Soovin Kim was my first violinist. I didn't know much about classical instruments. I played the piano and that’s pretty sturdy. We were shooting on the beach and back then I didn’t work with an assistant, so was on my own. I had my camera, my bag, my hair and make-up stuff around my waist—I’m doing everything.

I needed him to get up on this big rock to do this silhouette photo. I said, ‘Here, I’ll hold your violin while you get up on the rock.’ He gently gave it to me and I didn't think twice. I stuck it between my knees so I could hold my camera. He went pure white. I swear to God right there on the spot. The earth stood still for a moment. His violin was worth five million dollars and I had it just sitting between my knees.'"


= = = 

Update November 2016 - It's been twenty months since the launch of Life Outside the Box and I find myself immersed in the process of writing book two in this series. Where does the time go?

The journey for me of writing Life Outside the Box  was extraordinarily difficult—terrible self-doubt was a constant companion. What a relief that reader response and industry reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It has affirmed for me that the timing was right and continues to be right to share with readers the different ways people choose to live their lives. People are bombarded as never before with societal expectations. We need to be reminded the journey we are on is ours alone. There is no one right path to follow; there is no one correct way to live—we are each extraordinary in our own way.

Be sure and keep your eye out for Life Outside the Box #2, tentatively due for release in the Spring 2017. I can't wait to share ten new and amazing stories with you.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Life Outside The Box - Shane Koyczan Excerpt


Just in time for the Holiday Season - a brand new second edition of Life Outside the Box with additional content!

Print and e-book available!

In Canada -
Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2e93lNc

In the U.S -
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fLIMqA
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2fphhyK

Author signed copies are available for purchase through the author's website at www.marilynrwilson.com/books

= = =

My interview with Spoken Word Poet Shane Koyczan was not like many of my others. I usually either arrange interviews with people personally, or Raine Magazine sets them up. After the initial interview we stay connected through email and Facebook. One designer even came from South Africa to stay with me for a week.

With Koyczan, I had just come across his Youtube video - To This Day - and was floored.  All three of my kids had been bullied in school. One time the police were called in. His words spoke to me profoundly. I was part way through writing Life Outside the Box, but the idea I needed to hear his story kept rising to the surface.  I finally listened and emailed his Vancouver agent so see if an interview could be arranged. It took a little back and forth, but a date was set - I would get one hour.

If you know me - you know I rarely manage to finish in one hour.  I also usually try to find a relaxing place we can talk. This interview we were led into a small meeting room at his agency, introduced, the door closed and the clock started. Despite the more formal nature of the setting, by the end of the hour I had been captivated by his journey and by he people he had met along the way.  Several weeks later I found a quote of his that so spoke to my insecurities, it's my go-to on days I feel inadequate, “If you can’t see something beautiful in yourself, get a better mirror, look a little closer, stare a little longer.” Amen.

I never had a chance to connect with Koyczan again, but am grateful to have had that hour and hope at some point there will be a second chance to meet.  So much has been shared about his experience with bullying, that I chose instead an excerpt on how he first stepped onto the stage. Enjoy! Oh - and in case you haven't seen To This Day yet - you'll find the video available at the bottom of the excerpt!




Excerpt from Chapter Six - Shane Koyczan

"Life stepped in during his last few years of high school to give that first firm nudge down the path to Spoken Word Poetry. The drafting class he had signed up for was overbooked. Drafting was a comfort class as it was solitary work. You sit at your desk and draw lines. The school bumped him to the next class available alphabetically and that was Drama. With no social skills and inept at talking with other students, Koyczan felt his life was over. He was wrong. The change was a blessing in disguise...

...Koyczan’s first drama teacher forced him from the shadows by demanding participation. It was just what he needed. 'I was the guy sitting in the class not wanting to play any of the reindeer games.' The second teacher built on that foundation with a more nurturing touch. In fact, she was the first to take a chance on him by giving him the lead role as Edward Llewellyn in The Attempted Murder of Peggy Sweetwater. His initial reaction was not positive, but that quickly changed opening night.

'At first I was cast in a minor role, because I didn't participate very well in the theatre games. Then I did a bang up job and she moved me to the bigger role saying, ‘I think you can carry it.’ I was terrified. It was a long play. Who wants that responsibility as a kid—memorizing all those lines? But the role was a confidence builder. It was absolutely amazing to go out on stage and hear people laugh at what I was saying or doing. Being on stage led to the burgeoning of my own confidence.'"


Update November 2016 - It's been twenty months since the launch of Life Outside the Box and I find myself immersed in the process of writing book two in this series. Where does the time go?

The journey for me of writing Life Outside the Box  was extraordinarily difficult—terrible self-doubt was a constant companion. What a relief that reader response and industry reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It has affirmed for me that the timing was right and continues to be right to share with readers the different ways people choose to live their lives. People are bombarded as never before with societal expectations. We need to be reminded the journey we are on is ours alone. There is no one right path to follow; there is no one correct way to live—we are each extraordinary in our own way.

Be sure and keep your eye out for Life Outside the Box #2, tentatively due for release in the Spring 2017. I can't wait to share ten new and amazing stories with you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Life Outside the Box - Pamela Masik Excerpt



Just in time for the Holiday Season - a brand new second edition of Life Outside the Box with additional content!

Print and e-book available!
In Canada -
Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2e93lNc

In the U.S -
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2fLIMqA
Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2fphhyK

Author signed copies are available for purchase through the author's website at www.marilynrwilson.com/books

= = =

I have been truly blessed to sit with Vancouver artist Pamela Masik twice now for face-to-face interviews.  The first interview was for an article in Schon Magazine in London. The second for this book - Life Outside the Box.  Each time I was touched deeply.

There is a raw honesty in how she shares her story that I find refreshing. No spit polish, no attempt to gloss over details, just her journey as seen through her eyes.  This matches my way of approaching how I share myself with world when asked. Here I am, this is who I am, this is my work.

Masik is an artist who creates work that she believes in with strong messages for the viewer.  It is definitely a tougher path than one who creates work for commercial sales. And sometimes the very nature of her message has brought censorship such as with Requiem and The Forgotten. It's not an easy path, but the art she creates comes from the very core of her life experiences.  It's a call that must be answered truthfully.

Each new series created often offers a variety of mediums - paintings, sculptures, multi-media and performance works.  It's not a linear process with one canvas being created after the other - more like an orchestra where individual notes are developed alongside each other. It looks chaotic from the outside, but not so for Masik. She moves easily from piece to piece working on one after another for a time, without losing her creative focus, until all works are complete.

At the very end  of this article, I have included two videos. The first is about creating The Forgotten and the controversy surrounding this series. This journey was also documented in a film called The Exhibition which has been well-received at festivals and is available for viewing on Super Channel. Crossing my fingers The Exhibition will become more widely available soon. You can view the Hot Docs Festival trailer for The Exhibition on YouTube by clicking HERE. I also included the video of her live performance piece shown at Art Basel 2008.

I had a hard time choosing this excerpt, but in the end settled on a section talking about one of her first performance pieces. The internet was in it's infancy when it came to art and this experience tested her to the fullest.



Excerpt from Chapter Five - Pamela Masik

"In 2003, Masik conceived another unique performance piece designed to explore the idea of finding her true self. She built a soundproof box, installed a port-a-potty in the corner, and sealed herself in for five days. Internet viewers vicariously shared the experience through a live feed. It
was a form of sensory deprivation that stripped life to its basic elements.

She remembers, 'There was a random timer on the light so I lost track of the time. In the beginning, I was trying to grasp onto the normal things we hold onto, but all of these illusions started falling away. I kept a big journal and in it you can see where I’m trying to track time. I lost. I seriously started hallucinating and went a bit nutty. In moments of darkness, I would meditate, sleep, or sculpt. I painted the walls and called it the Fall of the Apple and the Ascension of Man. I had the most monumental experiences of who I was.'

It took weeks after coming out of the box to be comfortable in groups. Even colours initially looked surreal. An unexpected side effect was that her ability to express herself artistically exploded. Before this experience she was creating five paintings at once—afterwards, she was working on twenty to thirty at the same time."

Update November 2016 - It's been twenty months since the launch of Life Outside the Box and I find myself immersed in the process of writing book two in this series. Where does the time go?

The journey for me of writing Life Outside the Box  was extraordinarily difficult—terrible self-doubt was a constant companion. What a relief that reader response and industry reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It has affirmed for me that the timing was right and continues to be right to share with readers the different ways people choose to live their lives. People are bombarded as never before with societal expectations. We need to be reminded the journey we are on is ours alone. There is no one right path to follow; there is no one correct way to live—we are each extraordinary in our own way.

Be sure and keep your eye out for Life Outside the Box #2, tentatively due for release in the Spring 2017. I can't wait to share ten new and amazing stories with you.

The Forgotten - 

video

Performance at Art Basel 2008 -

video

Suzann Kingston - Touch The Art Exhibition

I first met Singer/Artist Suzann Kingston through her daughter Shay Leah (owner/designer at Occulto Masks) at VALT (Vancouver Alternative Fashion Week) in 2013.  Her looks are exotic - her smile 1000 watts strong.  After being introduced I think our conversation was limited to hello and a few brief sentences. I had no idea what a talented artist she was in her own right - she was just Shay's mum.

Then when attending a charity event at Hycroft Manor I was blessed to hear her sing several opera selections. Amazing. It's always a great surprise to find out a chance encounter has brought someone new and interesting into your life, especially when you love interviewing.  Unfortunately with my upcoming book launch, I haven't had time to sit face-to-face and hear her story.

Three days ago I received a poster advertising Kingston's upcoming art exhibit called Touch The Art. I had no idea she was also a talented painter and I loved her concept for this exhibit (explained in her own words below).  That was it - I instantly went into plan B - a Q and A. Fortunately she is a lovely story teller. What you'll find here is her journey from childhood to singing and finally to her new exhibit.  

I enjoyed reading about her life immensely, as I know you will. Be sure to read all the way to the end as her concept for this exhibit is unusual. And consider this your personal invitation from Kingston to come to her launch on January 25th at the Havana Gallery on Commercial Drive.

= = = = 

 In front of a floor to ceiling mural of Van Gogh's
Starry Night she painted in her hallway
Where were you born where did you grow up?

I was born in Montreal and moved to the Maritimes when I was 5. I grew up on Cape Breton Island minutes from the vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean which explains why I have such a passion for water and why nature shows up a lot in my work - even if it is abstract nature.

What were you like as a child? As a teenager? 

I've always been an introvert/extrovert (typical artist's nature). I've always been shy but I've also always put myself on one stage or another so people never believe that I could be shy because of my strong stage personas. I fake being outgoing very well.

I loved to draw and sing from an early age. So art class and high school musicals made me happy. I had no other hobbies, didn't do sports, wasn't popular. I was a gawky, awkward, lonely and shy teenager who spent a lot of time in my head and in my art. I would get lost for hours just drawing pictures. My mother used to get the National Enquirer magazine and there was often a full page photo of some wild animal. I would spend months creating large reproductions of those photos in pencil and ink. In fact, I still have one that I did when I was in grade 9. It's a picture of a mother and baby tiger. Took me 3 months to complete. 

Left - The Sky is Falling #2, Right - Perfect Storm

Looking back can you remember a story from your child/teen years that are an early sign you would choose a career as an artist?

I have been artistic since I was a teen. I wrote short stories. I drew pictures (I used to draw portraits of my classmates from their grad photos). I sang in high school musicals. In high school, I took a correspondence course in art: If you can draw this picture, maybe you could be a commercial artist! I never made it through the whole course but the seed was planted in my head. But the real choice of trying to pursue a career as an artist was simply my way of escaping an unhappy home life.

When I graduated high school, I applied and was accepted to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. I was going to become a 'commercial artist'. I didn't even know what that was but it meant I got to leave home and that was all that mattered to me. When I got there, I studied photography, design and took lots of courses but I was clueless. I felt there were real artists there but I didn't consider myself one of them. In my eyes I was simply cash flow for the college. So, after a couple of years I quit and started to pursue what got me really excited - singing.

In opera costume ready
do hit the stage.
I think you are most known locally for your career as a singer. Can you talk about your journey to this profession? What is the most rewarding and the hardest in pursuing a musical career?

My family was musical - both my father and brother played guitar. My brother is an amazing guitarist. My first singing performance was singing, 'Born Free' in a beauty pageant when I was 15. I won the pageant - to my utter amazement and became Miss Black is Beautiful. When I left home to go to art school, my brother gave me a guitar and taught me some basic chords. I spent a lot of my time in my dorm room with my guitar singing Barbara Streisand songs. I taught myself to sing by copying her vocal stylings. I loved singing more than anything.

When I quit art school, I applied and was accepted into the music program at Dalhousie University in Halifax. This is when I was introduced to classical music and opera. I had an amazing voice coach who helped to build the foundation of the voice I have today. I fell deeply in love with opera. A few years into this, I married and had my daughter. My voice coach was encouraging me to go to Baltimore to study opera seriously. I couldn't imagine being anywhere but with my daughter, so I declined the offer and have never regretted it.

In the years to come I would perform opera, musical theatre (I sang with the Charlottetown Festival for several years), dinner theatre, I sang in churches, at conferences, weddings... you name it. I wrote my own material. I competed in vocal competitions and found my way to Vancouver where I fell in love with the city. I moved here (as a single parent) and tried to make my way. I eventually married again and we tried to build my singing career. I recorded an album of songs I'd written, made a music video, demo tapes, did endless self-produced concerts, sang in churches, submitted myself to record companies. I was never a flavor of the month and experienced a lot of rejection. What to do with a black woman who sounds like Barbara Streisand? :) 

In the 1990's, I stopped singing and performing because of a personal crisis. I literally lost my ability to get up on stage and sing. It was a devastating experience and time in my life. I truly believed I would never sing again. I was pretty lost. That effectively was the end of my pursuit of a 'musical career'. I dealt with it all by writing (therapy) and ended up writing several books. More art - just a different expression. 

Left - River #2, Centre, another in front of the floor to ceiling mural of Van Gogh's Starry Night
painted in her hallway. Right - Midnight Rapids

Several years ago my daughter encouraged me to start singing again. She said I had finally come far enough that my music could now simply be about sharing my love for the craft. I ended up joining a small opera company here in the city and became a principal lead. My love for opera was reborn. The best thing was that when I started working my voice again (and singing opera is pretty hard work) I discovered it was better than ever - bigger and stronger than it had ever been when I was young.

The most rewarding aspect of singing is that you get to transport people to another place with your voice and storytelling. You tap into their emotions and make them feel things. Most people are so fiercely in control of their emotions at all times but music sneaks in and ambushes them when they least expect it. They listen to music, are touched by it and then they get to bask in those feelings and blame it on the music. Knowing that you can touch people and make them feel is the sweetest joy.

These days I've returned to being a solo performer. Now my singing is purely a selfish pursuit. I sing only when I want to and because I love to - no other intent but to share music with people who enjoy the kind of stuff I sing.

With daughter Shay at
her Hycroft Manor performance.
Image by Norm Lee
I knew you sang opera, but recently noted a reference to you singing jazz. They are quite different styles. What draws you to each?

When I first started singing, I was listening to Barbara Streisand and Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Cleo Laine, Porgy and Bess... I loved the way these women told the stories with their voices. Lush and intimate, passionate and precise.

I love singing opera because of the passionate storytelling (no place like opera for drama!), the difficulty of the pieces (they challenge me to work really hard in order to make it sound like it's easy to sing this stuff) and the sheer beauty of the sounds I get to make when I sing opera arias. I go to a place where I become the character, get lost in the story and pour out my heart and emotions via the written music.

I love the old jazz standards because where opera is big and dynamic, jazz is intimate and luscious. You bring it down and make it small and tell your story in such a way that you bring the listener into your lap, into your eyes, into your arms, wrap them up in the music and take them to another place for just a few minutes. Then you gently put them back in their seats... like pouring warm honey over them.

Do you have a favourite performance or a funny moment from your singing career you can share?

I think my favourite performance was when I was singing with the Charlottetown Festival when they put on the show about Elvis Presley called: Are You Lonesome Tonight? It was controversial at the time because there was swearing in it (on the Anne of Green Gables stage - imagine). I played Maryanne (his maid) and sang the opening number and a duet with Elvis later in the show. On the night that was the anniversary of his death, the theatre was packed (as it was for every show). We had just finished the closing number, the lights had gone out, the theatre was pitch black and our announcer said: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building." (This is something that was said after Elvis' live shows.) We waited for the audience to applaud... we waited and waited and waited. The theatre was dead silent and the silence went on and on and on... People got caught up in our performance, in their own memories of Elvis and the realization that the King, was indeed, gone. The emotion was palpable. You could have heard a pin drop on the carpeted floor. It was magical.... Then they finally burst into applause that seemed to never end. I've never forgotten that.

When Autumn Leaves Start To Fall.


You are holding your first solo art exhibition on January 25th at the Havana Gallery on Commercial. How long have you been painting and what mediums do you work with?

I have been painting for about 8 years and I work with acrylic paint on canvas and sometimes wood. This will be my first indoor solo exhibition, but for the past 2 years, I have been displaying and selling my paintings outside at English Bay during the summer. I set up a large, semi-circular, open-air art gallery on the grass near the seawall at English Bay. This allows people to basically walk into my 'gallery', explore the art and then continue on their walk along the seawall. It's a fascinating experience and I have the greatest time.

I started painting as a moment of impulse because I was feeling creatively stagnant. My daughter and I had been to see the Masters show at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I saw a couple of Van Gogh's works (my favorite painter and inspiration) and was enchanted - as always. When we walked out of the gallery, I said to her that I wanted to try painting. So she brought me some paints she had and I went and bought more and got canvas and then came home and set everything up on my balcony in the sunshine. I looked at all of those colors and just about lost my mind with happiness. I let my instincts lead the way and just dove on in. My style evolves as I go... I just give my imagination free reign.
Left - Anxiety, Right - Blood on the Water









What do you love about painting - what is challenging? How do you approach inspiration for a new work and/or each new series?

Color excites me, stimulates me, triggers my imagination. I am inspired not so much by the things I see but by the colors of the things I see. Texture and movement is equally important to me because the heavy textures I create allow me to engage my sense of touch when I explore my art... a flat canvas turns into a 2-dimensional art piece.

I love painting abstracts. With abstracts, I never know what the finished product is going to look like until it's done. I like that. I like being surprised. The challenge with my work is that every painting is completed in one sitting. My main goal is have the colors blend seamlessly while they are still wet. So I paint fast and furiously! I let my instincts tell me when it's done and then I force myself to walk away from it. I don't go back to make corrections because they are not necessary. There is no such thing as perfection in life and I don't want to create 'perfect' works of art. In the 'flaws', I find beauty.

The goal is to embrace a moment in time and during that moment, let my mood, emotions, the selected colors, canvas and tools create a work that is begun and completed within that window - however long that window is open. When it's done and viewed, everyone sees something different. I want the paintings to be touchable - so that people look at them and instantly want to touch them to see what it feels like. When I create a 'series', they come into being only because I've created something that excites me and that I want to create more of with different variations. 

Dancing For Joy
















I know there is something very special about your current exhibition. Can you fill us in on what to expect?

My current exhibition is called 'TOUCH THE ART'. The interesting thing about this exhibit (which will always be an aspect of every exhibition of mine) is that I invite the viewers to actually touch the paintings. My art is interactive.

There is a barrier - seen and unseen - between works of ART and the people who gaze upon them. We are told to look but not touch because presumably, ART is too 'precious' to be handled by mere mortals. I have removed that barrier with 3 simple words: TOUCH THE ART. To fully experience my art, you need to see it and touch it.
People of all ages instinctively reach out to touch my paintings when they see them and I am happy to let them. When they touch the smooth and rough surfaces, feel the thickness and thinness of the paint, see the sensuality of the colors, many people get this look of wonder and awe on their faces followed by smiles of delight. And for a moment, they are kids again - exploring something new.

I want people to experience ART in a different way so I give them permission to do something that is forbidden: I invite them to TOUCH THE ART - a safe little act of rebellion. I think a little rebellion is good for the soul especially if it spurs you on to start thinking outside of the box. We have had the wonder beaten out of us on so many levels. I just want to bring a little of it back.

Anything else you want readers to know?

People are always surprised when I tell them they can actually touch the paintings. Sometimes I have to work hard to convince them it's okay. So, when you come to the show and see the signs that say: Yes, you can touch the art. I'm not kidding! Please touch the art (clean hands please) and enjoy the experience. The paintings all have a protective finish on them.

For more information or to check out Kingston's art, books and music please come visit her website at www.suzannkingston.com