sounds of memory

The other day I was on one of many trips to the lower level of the building where I work. That floor is hard and smooth and showroom-shiny, unlike the quiet carpeted floors above where my office is. A woman was walking down a hall behind me and I could not help focusing on the sound her shoes were making – she had on fairly high heels, fairly dressy (yes, I call them lady shoes) – and she was at that “I have to get something done” pace.

I suddenly had a very distinct memory of my mum getting dressed to go out. She had a pair of shoes that I loved back then – I liked to wear them but they were one thing OFF the dress-up list. Red, shiny, snakeskin spike heels. Straps across the top of the foot. If she had those on, she and dad were going someplace nice. And the sound…Mum walking in those shoes was a sound that LADIES make (my mum was usually much more sensible).

I have no recollection of what she was wearing, only the shoes. Oh – those shoes. And the sound of her walking accross the kitchen into the vestibule…lady sounds. Legs with stockings sounds. Shoes-you’re-not-allowed-to-wear-until-you’re-grown-up sounds. Some kind of I’m-in-control sounds. A little bit of marching sounds. As soon as I hear heels like that….it’s a flashback.

It amazed me for a minute how that high heeled sound is so distinctive and loaded – it may mean something quite different to someone else, or it might mean nothing at all. There were platform boots that echoed in high school hallways, runners that squeeked and sneakers that…sneaked. Flip flops made that irritating sound. Kodiaks could drag and thud, but only when they weren’t tied up – then they’re quiet. High heels were something else altogether.

Maybe it’s because there was not a lot of lady shoe-wearing growing up. Not later, either – I do love lady shoes and a great heel, but I am mostly a Doc Marten person. My sister’s husband said he needed to build an addition for her shoes, and my oldest ordered a pair of terrifying 7″ heeled Union Jack boots online when she was 12…the beginning of HER shoe habit (she is equal parts Docs and too-high heels). There is some kind of fascination there to be sure. Mine is the sound, apparently.

My old lady feet don’t see lady shoes too much any more, and I think I’ve lost the ability to walk with that determined march in high heels. Hell, I probably can’t walk in them at all. I will have to be satisfied following strangers and listening to the sounds of their shoes – those heels never go out of style for long.


Say whaaat? A Glossary of frame style and decoration terms

gold leaf picture frame moulding samples

BOLECTION: a decorative moulding that separates two planes (or surfaces)

LIMEWOOD: easily carveable straight grained hardwood, European. Harder than it’s north American counterpart – Basswood.

ACANTHUS: a plant – as a design motif it often represents rebirth, or immortality. Used for centuries

SIGHT EDGE: the edge of the frame against the image area

SGRAFFITO: basically, it’s Italian for scratched. Scratching through a colour layer to reveal the colour underneath

PEARLS AND ASTRAGALS: a beading row or design with beads and bars – think morse code

FRIEZE: a panel of carved, sculpted or painted decoration,

FLUTES: shallow grooves across a surface

MEDALLIONS: discs or raised round decoration places evenly or as anchors to corners

OGEE: an s- shape, either soft or acute

SALVATOR ROSA: a 17th century painter, who has nothing to do with the frame styles named after him. The molding would have a high outer edge followed by a wider center swoop/hollow, and a rounded raised sight edge – it leads your eye into the center.

EBONIZED: the darkening or blackening of wood to look like ebony using an acid and iron solution that darkens the actual grain


At a picture framing seminar in Montreal years ago, a speaker talked about training in Italy where he apprenticed with a master gilder for a year. The day began at dawn, and they’d work non stop until about two, when they’d sit outside at a table for a long leisurely lunch, and enjoy a glass of wine while they talked of art and framing and gilding and life. Then back to work until dark. I never forgot his face as he told his story- and often thought how much I would have loved that life.

My studio in a renovated military unit at home is nowhere near Italy but there is a patio under some maple trees that is perfect for a break from work. When not at my day job supporting my bad habits, or crying over endless renos in my #crookedhouse, I am in that studio. Working on drawings, repairing old frames or building new ones…and now, making an interactive virtual Salon and gallery, complete with beautiful Italian frames made by someone else about 300 years ago 🙂 To have a better look, hover over any piece of artwork and click it….(use a back button to return here) Questions about the portraits? Inspired to sart your own Salon wall? Got an art joke? Send me a message! Visit the contact page.


Three Years & Three Months Later

I love coming home, every single time. Especially when someone else has cleared the lane…..and it’s too cold for the Box Elder bugs to be out.

It is AMAZING how Life has gotten in the way of writing blog posts – yup, it gets in the way of everything.

I left the east end of Ottawa, bought a “fixer upper” in the country, did seasonal help at Lee Valley Tools (bucket list), did a stint at Carp Fair (also bucket list), dealt with flooding basements and sump pumps, buried my black Lab, learned to live with box elder bugs, became an (almost) enemy of the City over the storm drain in my yard, got a nice lengthy contract, left that contract, went to the Bahamas for my sister’s wedding, learned to cut 1/3 of an acre with a push mower, found out I can shovel a 75 m laneway, found out I can hate a 75 m laneway, had exactly one lesson on a tractor/snowblower (apparently my clutch skills leave a little to be desired), flew to Florida on a whim (thanks AirMiles) to go on a road trip home (ALLIGATORS), motorbiked a lot – all over from PEI to Pembroke (passenger so far, licence this year), drove through a tornado, fundraised for my hometown of Dunrobin, nursed my mother through dementia, cancer and strokes with my siblings…and soooooo much more.

Edith Carol (Dion) Spicer 1936-2018

I began 2019 writing a eulogy for my mother. She was….well, she was my mum. She worked and played and raised 4 kids pretty much on her own; to this day I don’t know how she pulled it off. She was smart, got shit done, and had a sneaky sense of humour. That sense of humour, and her optimistic outlook stayed in place even as her mind and body failed and hurt.

Throughout this time, I have been loved and supported by Thing 1 and Thing 2. The continue to grow, and amaze me with their strength, perseverence, and yes….even wisdom. I am in awe. Also, I love them a bit.

Thing 2, Me, and Thing 1 (drawing by Thing 1)

I have a renewed determination to make life good (gooder? It’s already pretty good, just takes lot of shovelling sometimes). I have been reminded about what’s important, (maybe more importantly) – what isn’t. I have learned that I am good at a LOT of things, and love to learn even more. To that end, I am beginning this year comitted to making more room for creativity in my life, alongside the usual worklife. I am happiest with a pencil in my hand, and a camera close by…and some time left over to spend in my workshop. I hope to post samples of what I’m up to every now and then – stay tuned.

I Have A Lot To Do So I Am Reading McSweeney’s And Laughing

My McSweeney’s Internet Tendency addiction is in control this morning. Some days you should not get at it. You should sit and read short articles until you are kind of crying from the laughing, and wishing someone would bring you more coffee and not point out your runny nose.

Today after a few other columns, I re-read I’M COMIC SANS, ASSHOLE. By Mike Lacher. You should read it too.

Annual Cyclelogik Christmas Show

This year’s theme was BLUE, and was entirely open to interpretation. I completed one work just for the show, and brought another I had on hand. Both works will remain up until the end of December and would make LOVELY CHRISTMAS GIFTS. Visit Cyclelogik at 1111 Wellington Street.


“Rayleigh Scattering” Graphite and pencil crayon on bristol. (Framed 340.00)

Blue Room: Graphite, pencil crayon, and conte drawing on vellum, layered over photograph - canon chromalife inks on Moab Entrada Rag paper. (Framed 450.00)

Blue Room: Graphite, pencil crayon, and conte drawing on vellum, layered over photograph – canon chromalife inks on Moab Entrada Rag paper. (Framed 450.00)

Today’s shot from the marymary archives

Wild fire, near Lytton, B.C. June 17, 2015

Wild fire, near Lytton, B.C. June 17, 2015

Driving through the Fraser Canyon, we could see this fire coming for miles…it was a surreal drive in so many ways, then we came up to the actual fire and could not stop watching – it was so beautiful, and so awful. We were struck by what seemed to be the hopelessness of these tiny dumps of water on a fire that was spreading for miles.