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Thanks for the ♥'s [10 Sep 2014|03:43pm]
[ mood | busy ]


Oh, I do love those ♥'s. Just a quick note of thanks: today, things from secret minouette places passed 2500 ♥'s which is truly amazing to me! Thank you!

It seems apt to say thank you in French. Though I know my French isn't perfect and I do occasionally make the accidental sin of the anglicisme like many anglophones, I do make a point to run a bilingual shop, to the best of my abilities. Now, most of my traffic comes from the US, Canada and France even ahead of the UK and Australia - which is statistically a bit unusual for an Etsy shop, and the sales do follow suit. So, I would also like to say merci à vous!

While I'm at it, I'd like to take a moment to thank the 920 Etsy followers, 1020 twitter followers, 2677 pinterest followers, 645 fans of the things from secret minouette places fanpage, and last but not least, anyone who follows this blog!

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Go Ahead and Do It [10 Sep 2014|03:22pm]

If you are in the Austin, TX area be sure to visit Art.Science.Gallery! I am really excited to take part in their show of portraits of women in science, technology, engineering, and math, called Go Ahead and Do It and I wish I could be there to see it. If you are able to go, let me know and then tell me all about it!

"The pioneers portrayed in this collection offer an encouraging look at what women can achieve in the STEM fields despite persistent obstacles. “If it’s a good idea,” computer scientist and U.S. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper once quipped, “go ahead and do it.” A portion of the proceeds from this exhibition benefit GirlStart, a non-profit that provides opportunities for girls to become involved in STEM fields."

Opening Reception Saturday September 13, 2014 7-10pm
Images of Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon Monday October 13, 2014 6-9pm
Ada Lovelace Day Party Tuesday October 14 6-9pm featuring a brief talk by guest curator Maia Weinstock at 6:30pm

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Æeolian Jellyfish [10 Sep 2014|11:54am]
[ mood | busy ]

Æeolian Jellyfish, linocut with chine collé and glow-in-the dark in, 18 cm x 18 cm, by Ele Willoughby, 2014

This is a whimsical mini lino block print of the Æeolian Jellyfish, a widely unknown, and quite possibly, completely imaginary creature. Unlike other jellies, the Aeolian Jellyfish floats in the upper ocean of air, which blankets our planet.

The printed area is only 10 cm (3.9 inches) squared. The jellies have collaged or chine collé fine translucent white Japanese paper with visible fibres. The jellies are printed in UV-activated glow-in-the-dark ink. If exposed to ultraviolet light, including direct sunlight, the jellies glow. Each sheet is 18 cm (7.1 inches) squared and printed on white Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper. There are 15 prints in this first edition.

The Aeolian jellyfish (Æolia noctiluca) looks much like its sea-borne cousin Pelagia noctiluca (where "Pelagia" means of the sea, "nocti-" refers to night and "luca" to light). Similarly "Æolia" and Aeolian come from the Greek Æolus, the keeper of the winds, and refers to its air- or wind-borne nature. Also, both jellies are bioluminescent. That is, they have the ability to glow in the dark. There are some important differences between the two, including, of course, habitat. While both animals have radial symmetry, the Pelagia noctiluca has a single body cavity, called the gastrovascular cavity. In contrast, the Aeolian jellyfish has both an outer gastrovascular cavity and an inner air bladder. This latter organ performs analogously to the swim bladder found in some variety of fish (though more closely related to the swim bladder found in Siphonophore colonies like the Portuguese man o' war). It is essentially an enclosed, impermeable, gas balloon, which can expand and contract to allow the Aeolian jellyfish to rise or fall in the air column by adjusting its shape such that the pressure in the air bladder matches that of ambient pressure. The Aeolian jellyfish also has a special adaptation to evade predators like birds; it can rapidly metabolize any food to produce a flash of heat in the gastrovascular cavity wall, lining the swim bladder. This allows the trapped air balloon to be heated, causing it to rapidly expand and the Aeolian jellyfish to rise. To move laterally, the Aeolian jellyfish employs its tentacles to ride the winds.

Æeolian Jellyfish, glowing in the dark

As you might expect for a bioluminescent animal, the Aeolian jellyfish is noctunal. During the day the jelly passive rises as it warms in the sun and its air bladder heats and expands. Thus it spends the heat of the day in the stratosphere, out of reach of predators. As temperature falls at sunset, so does the Aeolian jellyfish, disguised as a twinkling star to the flying insects who are its prey. Hence, while lulled to complacency by this lovely light display, it's death from above for these unsuspecting insects.

Like many jellyfish (but not the Pelagia noctiluca), the Aeolian jellyfish begins its life as a bottom-dwelling polyp - where "bottom" refers not to the seafloor, but the ocean-air interface. They have been found on certain recently-discovered very shallow seamounts in the Pacific. Thus the polyps rest with their holdfast on these plateau-like features, bathed in seawater, while their "mouths" reach out into the air. When they metamorphose into the medusa form, the jellies float up into the sky.

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Hammerhead Hedgehorse [24 Aug 2014|03:41pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Hammerhead Hedgehorse
Hammerhead Hedgehorse, by Ele Willoughby, 2014,
Linocut mini print (printed area 10 cm x 10 cm or 4" x 4", on 18 cm by 18 cm sheet of Japanese kozo paper with chine collé blue Japanese tissue)

Linocut mini print (printed area 10 cm x 10 cm or 4" x 4", on 18 cm by 18 cm sheet of Japanese kozo paper with chine collé blue Japanese tissue)

Some believe that the hammerhead hedgehorse is imaginary. Who am I to say?

Though it appears to be an extraordinarily tall hedgehog, with hoof-like feet and uncanny peripheral vision, the hammerhead hedgehorse is not closely related to the hedgehog. Its nearest neighbour, genetically speaking, is the pygmy hippo. They may appear to have horse-like hooves, but they do in fact have four toes and are hence even-toed ungulates, like the hippo family. Over the millenia, the taller proto-hedgehorses proved more successful at scanning the rivers for predators. Likewise, through the process of natural selection, those animals with increasingly shorter, wider snouts and greater peripheral vision afforded by wider spaced eyes, were better able to spot and escape predators and hence more likely to pass on their genes. Their name, in fact, is inspired by their unlikely ressemblance to the hammerhead shark - also, not a close relative. The hammerhead hedgehorse is a semi-aquatic mammal, not a fish, despite the well-known folktale about the fisherman and the bag of hammerhead hedgehorses. It is believed that the folktale is the source of the collective noun for these animals: "a bag" and the expression "as crazy as a bag of hammerhead hedgehorses".

Adult males can grow to 15 cm in height (or 6 inches) and females are somewhat smaller at 14 cm (or 15.5 inches). They are covered in spines made of keratin, much like a hedgehog and can vary in colour from blue-greens to brown.


In other news, the pop-up sale at Hunt Club in Little Italy has been post-poned until further notice. I'll let you know when they have an opportunity to reschedule.
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Go Ahead and Do It [05 Aug 2014|10:26am]
[ mood | busy ]

Florence Nightingale portrait
'Florence Nightingale', 2nd ed., 12" x 12" on Japanese kozo paper with chine collé, by Ele Willoughby, 2014

I made a second edition of my portrait of Florence Nightingale. I wanted a simpler, darker colour scheme and to print it on larger sheets to allow more negative space around her. I'm gathering up and framing my female scientists you see, for 'Go Ahead and Do It: Portraits of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics', a group exhibit at Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, September 13 through October 14! This is the perfect exhibit topic for me and I'm pretty excited about it. I only wish I could be there. If you're in Austin, there's an Opening September 13, and a party on October 14th, which will be Ada Lovelace Day. The show is curated by science writer and photographer Maia Weinstock, who will be hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon for images of women in STEM on October 13, as well as gallery owner, scientist and artist Hayley Gillespie. Maia, Hayley and about 10 other artists will also be showing their scientist portraits in all sorts of media. The title of the show is a quotation from computing pioneer Grace Hopper, whom I've yet to portray, but who is on the to do list.

Speaking of going ahead and doing it, I'm also preparing for the Hunt & Gather pop-up market at Huntclub gallery in Little Italy, August 22nd to 24th, and the In the Round show at Graven Feather on Queen West this November. Not to mention the big one: I'll be doing the One of a Kind Show from December 2 to 7th! I have a 5 foot by 10 foot booth, which we have to design and build as well as all the preparations of things to sell. But, before that, there's Etsy:Made in Canada Toronto Edition at MaRS, which I'm organizing with my trusty TESTy & 416Hustler leaders, and where I'll also be selling. Cause nothing says "taking a year off for mat leave" like organizing a show for 120 vendors after a successful 30-vendor show, doing 4 art shows in two countries, 3 pop-ups,  giving a couple of invited public lectures, running a small art business, creating art, writing, blogging, and teaching on-line. Basically, I'm almost as busy as I was previously, but now with less sleep and greater likelihood that I have a baby-related stain somewhere on my person.1

1 When the baby was first born we watched all of Kingdom on Netflicks, cause other than baby care and attempting to feed ourselves, watching a gentle English TV series was about all we could muster. Basically it's Stephen Fry as tiny market-town solicitor being charming, and assorted English character actors trying to upstage him. Phyllida Law succeeds. Anyhow, there's one season with a baby where I heard the best approach to these issues. Young articling solicitor tells his boss Kingdom (Fry) that he has baby-sick on his suit. Fry's response? "Yes."
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The Batbearoo [16 Jul 2014|01:13pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Batbearoo linocut

Batbearoo (Dasychiroptera ursus)

The Batbearoo shares a common ancestor with the marsupial quoll family of Australia, and diverged from the quoll line in the mid-Miocene. While glider possoms are well-known, until the discovery of the rare Batbearoo in the wild and the fossil record, bats were believed to be the only true flying mammals. Unlike the glider possoms, but like the bats, the Batbearoo forelimbs form webbed wings and it does indeed fly, rather than simply glide, by flapping the outspread digits of its forelimbs - or, essentially, wing. This is an instance of convergent evolution; the Batbearoo fills a similar niche to the bats and hence their ressemblance, despite the lack of any close relation to placental mammals.

Batbearoos can grow to 25 cm (10 inches) in length and weigh up to 1 kg (2.2 pounds) and are usually mistaken for various members of the bat family.

Like all marsupials, the Batbearoo carries its young in a pouch, like this female. The young are born quite immature and spend up to 24 months being carried in their mother's pouch. When sufficiently grown to fly on their own, the mother batbearoo tightens her abdominal muscles and dives from a great height, causing the young to slip out of the pouch and instinctively spread its wings. It can safely glide for great distances before venturing to flap its wings and truly fly. The Batbearoo parents can be seen spiralling around, roaring and perstering their young to encourage them to flap their wings.

The Batbearoo is most active in the evening. Like their cousins the quolls they are carnivorous, preying on small mammals and insects. Their variable blue colouring makes them virtually invisible against the sky and rarely spotted in the shadows of the evening forest.

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The Cactibou [15 Jul 2014|01:06pm]
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The elusive cactibou linocut

Cactibou (Felis Cactaceae)

Unexpectedly, this strange and elusive desert cat has traded some genes with local cacti species. Like the golden jellyfish who live symbiotically with algae-like zooxanthellae in order to produce food from sunlight, this animal has evolved to feed itself through photosynthesis, in times of scarcity of prey during harsh desert droughts. Hence its strong green colour, indicative of chlorophyll pigments. Much like the camel, who thrives in the desert thanks to its water-filled hump, the cactibou carries its own water by adopting the cactus' water-storing strategy. Its outer, plant-like shell is rich with water. It has likewise adopted the cacti's defense, with its sharp spines. The brightly-coloured tail flourish, resembling a flower is used by the male of the species to attract a mate. Surprisingly, though the antlers do resemble miniature saguaro cacti, they are in fact antlers - bony extensions of the skull, like those grown by caribou and other deer. They apear to play a role in sexual selection, as large elaborate saguaro-antlers attract female cactibou, and the males employ them when fighting with other males. The antlers help cool the cactibou in the heat, by providing a large surface area of skin above a dense network of blood vessels, like the oversized ears of the jackrabbit or gerboa. The antlers are shed in the fall (insofar as there is a fall or autumn season in the desert) and regrown in the spring. Ethnobotanists report the widely-held local belief that the shed antlers can be caught in wind-blown tumble-weed and spread to a new location where they grow roots and a new cat emerges from the ground beneath the next spring. The veracity of this belief has been a point of contention amongst scholars since the Middle Ages.

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Dictionary of imaginary mini print creatures [06 Jul 2014|09:24pm]
[ mood | busy & tired ]

I used to regularly blog what I was reading, but fell out of the habit last year. Something about the heat of the summer, and feeling so pregnant, and then, having the baby in the winter. I did read last year... less than in some years... but I read and failed to document it. It's no longer fresh in my mind, but I have been meaning to try and catch up.

This year, when I get a moment, I'm usually feeding the baby and so I don't have two hands and have found trying to read a book awkward. So I've been reading copious amounts of non-fiction on my phone, rather than books. The one book I read when I have some quiet and two hands to gently hold it is the Codex Seraphinianius, written and illustrated by Italian architect Luigi Serafini from 1976 to 1978. It's a visual encyclopedia, of a foreign, paradoxical yet familiar, world, complete with its own language and obscure meanings. I've written about it and alluded to it previous to ever seeing a copy in person, a few times, in fact. An original first edition will run you about $5000, but a new edition came out last year, for a much more conceivable $200 for a large, beautiful, hardcover book. It comes complete with a new preface by the author, which I enjoyed. He describes how he made the book - the physical process - without destroying the beauty of the unknown why or what it really is about. He basically writes (and I should perhaps post a spoiler alert for the purist), I don't know, I was somehow compelled, maybe that weird stray cat 'dictated' the Codex to me? RJH gave it to me for Christmas. Wanting to get back into writing reviews of what I read (in the most generous sense of the word), I've been thinking about how one could review a mysterious tome, all alien illustrations and imagined alphabet or syllabary and language.

It occurred to me the best way would be something like this.

1. Codex Seraphinianius, written and illustrated Luigi Serafini.

The elusive cactibou linocut

I mean, it's sort of obvious in hindsight, no? What can one say to the Codex, but to reply in kind with an illustration of a bizarre, unknown creature, which nonetheless seems to be built of familiar parts (say, a cat, cacti and caribou antlers) and its own internal logic? No sooner had this idea had entered my mind than it grew into a series of mini print illustrations of fantastical creatures, beginning with my previous mini print, the winged walrus.

Winged Walrus

And before long, I needed to make a print of the Batbearoo (neither bat, nor bear, but a flying marsupial).

Batbearoo linocut
I was reminded of a couple of my other favorites. Harald Stümpke's Anatomie Et Biologie Des Rhinogrades — Un Nouvel Ordre De Mammifères, Masson, France (1962) is the most wonderful sort of fictional science (rather than traditional science fiction). The original was published in German as Bau und Leben der Rhinogradentia in 1957. There exists an English translation by Leigh Chadwick in 1967 called The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades, but I've only found my French edition. Stümpke created an entire new (imaginary) order of mammals, the rhinogrades (or "snouters") whose most remarkable characteristic was the nasorium, an organ derived from the ancestral species' nose, which had variously evolved to fulfill every conceivable function, notably including locomotion. It's written much like a regular scientific treatise, complete with footnotes, references, Latin species information and a straight face. He never actually says anything to suggest that this order of mammals, or their home the Hi-Yi-Yi Pacific Islands are anything other than real. As I explain here, this 'scientific' text is truly magical, and I even cried at the end. It is understandably a great favorite amongst zoologists.

The other favorite is "The Book of Imaginary Beings" by Jorge Luis Borges with (poor forgotten) Margarita Guerrero (who is often omitted from the author list), which I did review here. It's another sort of imaginary encyclopedia of sorts, though written in human languages (Spanish, and readily available in English translation). It's a miscellany of the marvellous, written in Borges' typical magical scholarly fashion.

It's possible I have also been influenced by reading my tiny son Mercer Mayer's Little Monster's Bedtime Book several times. It's a lovely little illustrated storybook of 15 poems about monsters he invented - and, importantly, defined and described, published when I was but a wee little thing myself.

It occurred to me that there is in fact an entire proud tradition of these sorts of scholarly or scientific treatises on the not quite real, masquerading as fact. You might consider the 15th century Voynich manuscript, to which the Codex is often compared. It too is written in an unknown script, appears to be a sort of illustrated encyclopedia, or possibly nonsense. It has long intrigued scholars. Just last year, an article on a new study, published in the journal PLoS One, argued that the manuscript has a real, decipherable message (as reported by the BBC here). A large portion of the what I think of as 'proto-science', both intentionally (usually to confuse competitors, if one was say an alchemist) or unintentionally fall into this category. During the classical advent of history, Herodotus and Pliny for instance, did not really distinguish between "I can attest that this is factual" and "some guy told me this half-baked story over beers". Or, at least, it's fair to say they compiled their works in the absence of modern methods to try and establish the veracity of natural history of any sort.

So my next project is clear. These works have given me so much pleasure, I need to write my own fictional zoological text, featuring the like of the winged walrus, batbearoo and cactibou! I plan a collection of mini prints, along with pseudo-zoological descriptions of these rare (and you know, possibly imaginary) creatures. After all, I think of much of my work as a sort of wunderkammer, and a true cabinet of curiosity is not just group of specimen of natural history both real and imaginary, but a proper collection, of ordered, organized and described things, in its own proto(pseudo)-scientific fashion.

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Happy Canada Day! [01 Jul 2014|09:47pm]
Canada, by minouette available here
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Pollinators [21 Jun 2014|03:12pm]
[ mood | busy ]


In the US, the Pollinator Partnership is celebrating National Pollinators Week, so I thought I would share some bees and butterflies. You've probably heard about the plight of the bees and the declining populations of pollinators in general. Pollinators are vital to our ecosystem and even if we are to be purely self-centred, our own food supply. I made these prints for a show on the biodiversity of bees. As I've mentioned before, there are some great resources for fostering our own local native bees on Resonating Bodies as well links to Sarah Peebles' sound and installation bee art.

I've noticed that my flower garden is attracting bees daily and I'm looking forward to luring more! I got the Bee Friendly Garden Seed Set from TEST member, printmaker and organic farmer Laura of cubits at our Spring Marketplace.

In other news, I lent some artwork to a science outreach program, planning an event on a vital topic... more on that later. Also, much to my surprise, I'm working on some logos for a cafe in Saudi Arabia.  Some sort of theme this week...

Happy summer solstice (or winter, if you happen to be south of the equator)!

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Etsy: Made in Canada Day [18 Jun 2014|12:09pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Along with my fellow leaders of the Toronto Etsy Street Team, and our colleages at 416Hustler, we've been planning a massive 100+ vendor show at Etsy Canada's home, the MaRS building in Toronto at College and University, for this September 27! Our show will be one of more than 30 simultaneous shows from coast to coast, complete with a nation-wide media campaign. We're really excited about it.

If you are a Toronto-area vendor, you should apply to our show! Follow news about the show on our event page. If you are an Etsy vendor elsewhere in Canada, check out Etsy's portal to all the shows here.

If you are an artist (or vintage collecting maven) whose been toying with the idea of opening a shop (ahem, you know who you are, yeah you, I'm talking to you) now is the time! Here, you can even use our promo code to get your first 20 listings free and if you sign up for Etsy Newbie Bootcamp, we'll walk you through everything you need to know. Plus, you can then apply to be part of our awesome show.

Maybe I'm still thinking about my little baby freedom fighter, but to borrow the words of John Lennon, "Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now."

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A message from Baby Monkeytoes, for Father's Day [15 Jun 2014|01:23pm]
[ mood | busy ]

baby power

'Baby Power' by Ele Willoughby (aka minouette), 9.5" by 12.5" (24.5 cm by 32 cm)
three colour linocut on Japanese kozo paper

cornerThe sentiment is our son's, though I helped him express it in linocut form. I'm afraid I haven't quite done him justice. He's much cuter in person. His uncle asked whether he was a 'sock nudist', and yes, like most tiny people I've met, he's no fan of socks. He really does hold his fist up like that and always has, from when he was only days old. I've always joked it's his 'baby power' salute, as he cries 'freedom for the babies!' Perhaps I should not be surprised, knowing his parentage, that our son is the sort of baby who thinks he should be in charge, and free to make decisions. Thus, was inspired RJH's father's day gift. We looked at a lot of propaganda posters from the thirties, and the Anti-Fascist Songbook, cause that's the way this baby rolls. He's grown up (to his now advanced age of 6.5 months) seeing his father's photo of Nelson Mandela every day. Apart from snapshots, the only photo of a person we have hanging in our home is RJH's first front page news photo. When he was very young, he got himself an internship at our national newspaper, and took this photo of Nelson Mandela, during his first trip to Canada after being released from prison. It's a great photo of a great man, and it hangs in our dining room. My image of the framed photo doesn't do it justice either. (I wanted to write about this image when Mandela died, but Monkeytoes was only days old and I never found the time.) I hung the photo kittycorner from my 'Raccoon Greetings' linocut, with the raccoon giving a high five, so that the two images would connect to one another. One of our neighbours came by and said, "Ah, yes, I see, the raccoon is high fiving Mandela" and I was surprised that someone else saw it the way I secretly did. Regardless of whether it's the images he sees, or the music he's heard prior to and since birth, or innate, our little Monkeytoes strikes me as a baby freedom fighter and resolutely anti-socks. So I thought this might make an apt first Father's Day gift.

RJH also got a tie pin stamped 'Gabriel's Dad', though he rarely wears ties, I thought he might need to brag about this role at speacial occasions which call for ties from now on. We had bacon, eggs and pancakes for brunch. I helped Gabriel with that too. Then we went out for a nice long walk before RJH had to go to work.

So happy Father's Day to all the Dads and honourary Dads out there. I hope you're enjoying nurturing the next generation, sockless rebellion and all.

p.s. I made 12 prints in the edition, so there will be other sockfree rebels available soon.

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June so far [11 Jun 2014|01:43pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Swallowtail and lilac It's been a busy week for us so far. On Saturday, it was the TEST 5th Annual Spring Marketplace. RJH dropped me off at the show and then took the baby for some men's only time. Thanks to blythechild for coming to hang out! It was great to have company and catch up. The weather was a little too nice. It was hard going to try and lure people indoors for the sale, so it was a little quiet. You really saved me. In your absence I might have talked the ear off my neighbouring seller and eaten far too much of the bake sale goods. Plus I'm all for exciting new plans... and hope that certain illustrations will be available to the masses soon.

There were all sorts of garage sales on the Danforth, so my men wandered around and got some loot. Our neighbour found a free second-hand ExerSaucer (it's a little baby gym, in which he can stand, supported... something my sister-in-law likes to jokingly call the 'circle of neglect' because it keeps babies occupied long enough to try and do something) which she kindly hauled home for little Mr. Monkeytoes.

Sunday was our first wedding anniversary. Though it was a bit cool and overcast, we all went to Ward's Island. We showed the baby where we were married and had a lovely picnic. It was a great day!

Since then, RJH has been spending his week of vacation busily working on replacing the horrid insulbrick on the back of the house. He went and bought some cedar shingles (from the maritimes of course). There were some discoveries: the wood beneath my studio window was completely rotted, and has now been replaced. Dad came by yesterday to help stain the shingles - on both sides- before installing them. We have a rain warning today, so RJH is staining shingles in the garage. He hopes to be able to complete this project by the end of the week.

On Monday, I sent off a large package of prints, and a couple of handprinted pillows, to Ambergris Gallery, on Block Island (also known as New Shoreham), Rhode Island. They're hosting a show called 'From the Depths' this summer, so my sea creatures will be exhibited by the oceanside!

I did get to take a bit of a walk with the baby Monday too. We spotted that lovely swallowtail butterfly on a large lilac while we were out.

We just finished our Spring show, but our Toronto Etsy Street Team never sleeps. We're already working on preparing for the fall show. Etsy: Made in Canada Day will be September 27, at MaRS, at College and University streets, here in Toronto. There will be simultaneous shows in at least 30 other Canadian towns and cities and we're planning on a national promotion campaign. Our own show will be a big one: we're thinking of hosting 100 vendors!

Biggest news personally on the artistic front: I'm going to be selling at the One of a Kind Christmas show this year! I'm going to have a 5' by 10' booth from December 2 to December 7. This is a huge show. I did their spring show last year, but wasn't up for either the Christmas or spring show since. Little Mr. Monkeytoes was born during the Christmas show last year, and was too small and in need of too much attention during the 2014 Spring show, but he'll be one (one!) by December, so I'll be able to get some help with the childcare. In the meanwhile, I have to plan and build my booth and gather a lot of stock. There are tens of thousands of visitors, so I'll need a lot of items. This is a big investment too, but I think it will definitely be worth it. Wish me luck! I'll let you know how my preparations are going.

Right, nose back to the grindstone. ;)

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Year of the Salamander, Talk and Hearts [05 Jun 2014|04:57pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Axolotl linocut

Axolotl, linocut on blue Thai paper with a deckle edge, 8" by 10", (or 20.3 cm by 25.4 cm) by Ele Willoughby

My Axolotl linocut is currently part of the Year of the Salamander show at Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, TX, which runs through to June 21. Gallery founder Dr. Hayley Gillespie is an artist/herpetologist, who specifically studies salamanders, so this exhibit and working with Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) to raise awareness of salamander conservation issues are clearly a perfect fit for her. If you are in Austin, not only can use see how 22 international artists interpreted the salamander theme, you can even attend her lecture or take Herpetology 101. Get your art and science all in one place! The the amazing axolotl, by the way, known as the Mexican salamander or Mexican walking fish, is an endangered amphibian which originates in lakes near Mexico city. Unlike other amphibians, they do not usually metamorphise and develop lungs. Rather, they remain gilled and aquatic. Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate limbs, and in some cases, portions of their brains! They appear to have crazy hairdos, with their three pairs of external gill stalks (rami) which come out behind their heads and are used to move oxygenated water.

June 18th, I've been invited to speak about balancing art and science careers (or, what I've gleaned in my quest to be a modern-day Renaissance woman), by the Neighbourhood Arts Network as part of their 'Making A Living Making Art: Creative Business and Social Media Strategies for Artists' series at the Lakeshore Arts Gallery. They asked me to give them my Top 5 Tips which they've published on their site. If you are in the city, you can join us Wednesday June 18th, 2014 at Lakeshore Arts Gallery, 2422 Lake Shore Blvd W at 6:00 PM and hear me and Arounna Khounnoraj of Bookhou speak. I'm quite flattered to learn that NAN, which is part of the Toronto Arts Council, had me on their radar, knew I am both artist and scientist and captain of the Toronto Etsy Street Team.

I also noticed that my shop things from secret minouette places hit 2400 hearts today! I really do love the ♥s.  Honestly, I harbour a possible absurd fondness for them. A second round-number milestone, I hit 900 Etsy followers. So, I'd like to take a moment to thank each and every one along with 960 twitter followers, 2077 pinterest followers, 633 fans of the things from secret minouette places fanpage, and last but not least, anyone who follows this blog!

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Toronto Etsy Street Team 5th Annual Springtime Market [03 Jun 2014|07:30pm]
[ mood | busy ]

I will be selling, and in fact have been busily helping organize the Toronto Etsy Street Team 5th Annual Springtime Market, June 7 from 11 am to 5 pm at the Church of St Stephen-in-the-Fields at Bellevue and College, in Kensington Market. Please stop in, say hello, and check out the latest minouette wares.
I can tell you the selection process wasn't easy. We have some talented people to choose from. Seriously, check our our Spring 2014 LookBook here or peruse our Etsy Page!
Hope to see you there! I was looking forward to hanging out and sharing a table with a friend, but she's gone and smashed her head on a brick wall (don't do that, by the way, I hear that concussions are not fun). While she promises to stop by and show off her stitches, she has been ordered to rest by her doctor. So come hang out with me and keep me company if you're around on Saturday. Monkeytoes will be there to entertain you at least part of the time too.
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This is lacking only one thing. [03 Jun 2014|01:56pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Why no lion muppet?

Otherwise, Fossy Bear and the Wailers is perfect.

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Mae Jemison, Astronaut [30 May 2014|04:13pm]

I'm working on my series of women in science protraits for the show in the fall. The latest in my scientist portrait series is American astronaut Mae Jemison. Astronauts are generally extraordinary, but I love that not only was she a trailblazer, she is someone with twin passions for art and science, who danced professionally, was well as being a chemical engineer and medical doctor.

Mae Jemison linocut
Mae Jemison, linocut on Japanese kozo paper, 9.25" by 12.5" (23.5 cm by 32 cm) in an edition of eight by Ele Willoughby, 2014

Mae Jemison (born October 17, 1956), is a physician who became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour for NASA, on September 12, 1992. She also has a B.S. in chemical engineering, served in the Peace Corps, is a dancer and choreographer, formed and runs her own company researching the application of technology to daily life, and even appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Inspired to join NASA by Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, she was the first real astronaut to appear on any Star Trek show.

Jemison is a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College from 1995 to 2002. As well as her own company the Jemison Group, she founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence with projects like The Earth We Share (TEWS), an international science camp for students, ages 12 to 16, and biotech company BioSentient Corp.

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Yesterday, in history [30 May 2014|09:24am]
quebec 518 I meant to post his yesterday, but I ran out of time.

In the early morning fog of 29 May 1914, the ocean liner RMS Empress of Ireland was steaming down the St. Lawrence on its return trip to England, just offshore Rimouski, Quebec, when it collided with the Norwegian collier SS Storstad, or more precisely, when the Storstad collided with her (though there is evidence to suggest both Captains made errors of judgement). Both Captains should have known to maintain their headings due to the dense fog - both, it seems did not. Of the 1,477 persons on board the ship, 1,012 died, making this the largest of any Canadian maritime accident in peacetime, and second only to the the sinking of the Titanic at the time - though now something largely forgotten by most Canadians. The Storstad did not sink.

quebec 517The immense lost of life was not a failure to provide lifeboats or a design failure like the Titanic, but a combination of where she was struck, a failure to close watertight doors and the fact that so many pothole windows were left open to try and air out staterooms, despite maritime regulations requiring them to be shut once the vessel left port. The ship went down rapidly.

quebec 526While doing fieldwork sailing to and from Rimouski in 2010, we allowed another research group some shiptime to test their multibeam bathymetric system. The RMS Empress of Ireland make a logical target in just 40 m of water. Seeing the undisturbed wreck apear on the screens in the lab was really a fascinating experience.

On the surface, there was nothing to see but river and fog, and the one buoy to warn of a shallow obstruction. Below, clear as day on all our screens were bright reflections on the depth sounder and multibeam screens, indicating hard surfaces. It was so unusual to see straight lines, and in fact, the clear outline of a ship, despite the near century of sediment build up, decay, and any incursion of life. Most of what we see has the organic, smooth lines of naturally formed and eroded geology. Even when we do see human-made objects (like our own equipment), it's never so large that you can read its very shape. It was haunting to see the clear outline of the Empress, silently lying on the seabed.

quebec 529 The St. Lawrence is deceptive. In French, we have the word Fleuve to better describe this mighty river which drains into the sea. We do say 'seaway' in English... but river is insufficient. While sometimes calm, the waters are brakish, the tides surprisingly large and the currents stronger than you would imagine for a protected river. I certainly made sure my porthole window was shut. But, a cruise liner is filled with passengers with little to no experience of being at sea. In the dense fog as we surveyed, it was easy to imagine the chaos, especially in the early morning dark. Many passengers may not even have awoken. The story of the sinking, and subsequent inquiry makes for some dramatic and in fact scandalous reading.

The crew of our vessel viewed the ship somewhat solemnly, not so much because they felt the connection to events of a century previous, but because more recently, the wreck itself had claimed more lives. In only 40 m of water, skilled scuba divers can explore it. But in cold water with low visibility, it is a dangerous dive. In 2009, the year before our survey, six divers had died.
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Cat woes [21 May 2014|02:57pm]
[ mood | exhausted ]


I haven't posted much lately, because baby - and now cat. Our beloved, if persnickety cat Minouette is getting to be a certain age for a cat. She is 17.5 years old. She started demanding a lot of water. Then we noticed puddles of clear, odorless liquid in the kitchen, which we did not immediately recognize.  We thought she had spat up, as cats do. It turns out that these are common symptom in older cats: peeing on things, especially cool, flat, surfaces like kitchen tiles, and drinking excessively. The odorlessness confused us. After a couple of trips to the vet, we've discovered she is diabetic. This is serious, but it is a liveable disease, and there is no sign she's in distress. It could have been worse. We were scared we would get a diagnosis of kidney failure, and it was stressful waiting for her test results. Cause, we love that damn cat. So, she's now on a high-protein diet and gets insulin twice a day, subcutaneously. I'm happy to report that I am able to administer the insulin, despite my anxiety about needles. I can't even watch someone get an injection in a movie, but luckily these needles are so small that I can handle it.

On the flip side, she decided to pee directly into the air vent in the kitchen, which is bad news for us. 'Odorless' is a relative term. RJH turned the heat on the other day (it's been that sort of spring) and guess what? Even watered down cat pee sure stinks when heated. We have done all we can to clean the vent, but we may have to tear down the ceiling in the basement and replace the vent altogether. Worst of all, while she is adjusting to the diet, and barely notices the injections, she has kept up the wayward peeing.

Also RJH and I got some terrible cold, from my nephew I think. RJH actually took some time off and he never does that... so that tells you how dreadful it's been. I just hope the baby doesn't get it!

To top it off, our internet was down for the better part of 2 days, which may be a mere 'first world problem' but it is a bother.

That's an older photo of Minouette, above, by RJH, but it's one of my favorites.

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Etsy Summit [03 May 2014|03:50pm]
[ mood | tired ]

Team Captain Summit

It was a busy week! Monday and Tuesday, along with Etsy admin, sponsors and team captains & leaders from across Canada, I took part in the Etsy Summit at MaRS. In fact, Etsy invited me to give a short talk about how to grow your team, and lead some break-out group discussions too. I started my talk by apologizing for not sticking around for extra meals and maybe being a little distracted, since this is the first time I left Gabriel with a sitter (Mom) and logical or no, it's part of the job description of a mother to worry. (I joked Tuesday that I wasn't sure if I should be relieved or hurt to find him happy and relaxed when I got home.) I got a lot of positive feedback, so I think I managed to give a good talk despite any concerns or distractions. The meeting was a success - we have some exciting plans. We're working on a pan-Canadian extravaganza! September 27, there will be simultaneous marketplaces in 30+ cities from coast to coast, called 'Etsy: Made in Canada'. You can read more on the TEST blog. I think it's a great idea to actually gain some national attention.

The rest of the week was filled with some doctors appointments for baby (who is healthy and "robust", thank you, it turns out). Apart from that, I had another birthday, so there was sushi and multiple chocolate cakes. There was some actual sunshine on Mayday, so we managed to go outside, which is great, because most years it rains. RJH has been busy photographing (and playing in) a charity hockey tournament, and the baby and I are just taking it easy.  I think we'll just eat cake and giraffe toes, respectively, and maybe take some photos with my exciting new camera. If it stops raining, we might go watch the bonfire down the street, but it's nice some days to have no bigger ambitions than cuddling.

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