So, I was invited to the media breakfast/preview of the One Of A Kind Christmas Show which kicked off down at the Ex this morning. (I don't know why I get invited to this sort of thing, because I am a big nobody. And let me tell you, watching the vendors get excited by my media pass and fancy camera kind of broke my heart, but I digress.) Invited I was, and went I did. I mean, the show costs $12/$14 (online/in-person) to get in, and as press, I could get in for free. Between that and the offer of a free doughnut, I wasn't going to say no.

And for once, I did the show right. I went up and down EVERY AISLE IN THE PLACE. My feet are currently incredibly sore and I'm a little grumpy, but I feel like I saw everything and took note of everything that really caught my eye. And I took photos of all of it, which I will now share with you, but first, a bit of a caveat:

As huge as this post is, it features only a small fraction of what's on display. (I believe there are more than 800 OOAK booths/vendors this year.) My personality means I'm drawn to decorative objects, fine art, and that sort of thing. Things I generally avoid, and that you won't likely see here, but that are in abundance at the show: kids' stuff, woollens and knits, clothing, most wood and leather goods, art glass and most pottery, food and edibles. I also steered clear of most of the cutesy stuff (felted creatures, owls, bunnies, and the like), most of the jewellery, most of the furniture, and all of the body/beauty products. All of that stuff is amazing in its own right, but I only stopped to photograph the things that really jumped out at me, which may not be what will jump out at you. So... there. End caveat.

Now, some pro tips:

  • Work methodically. I saw every booth, starting at the east end of the centre (end of the alphabet) and moving west, winding up and down every aisle along the way. I know it seems a little anal, but making a plan for the path you want to take (and sticking to it) is a smart move. The show is overwhelming otherwise.
  • Wear comfy shoes. SERIOUSLY. I was wearing Toms and my feet are still killing. (I saw a couple over-zealous young "journalists" in 4-5 inch heels, and I bet they want to kill themselves right now.)
  • Give yourself a good three hours for your visit. Or even a full 1/2 day. It's better not to be rushed and if you want to see the whole thing, it's going to take you a long time. (Note: if you're bringing babies or little kids with you, as I noticed many did... well, you're crazy. What can I say? The rules don't apply. You may need 12 hours. Who knows?)
  • Eat, hydrate and let yourself rest from time to time.
  • CHECK YOUR COAT. It's hot as heck in the Direct Energy Centre. I have no idea why. Coat Check costs $2, but it's worth it.

Okay, enough with the tips. Are you ready to see what I saw? HERE GOES!
Stewart Jones: Booth R-57
These fine art paintings by local artist Stewart Jones were the very first thing that caught my eye. I stopped to snap this pic as I made my way along the back wall (before even making it to the first official aisle). Jones does "urban landscapes" and I'm sure his work doesn't come cheap, but I like the realness of his subject matter. Very Toronto.
Daniel Pollak Accessories: Booth T-54
I know I said I steered clear of most of the jewellery, but this booth was so glittery, it caught my eye immediately. So decadent, so sparkly, so over-the-top. It's fashion/costume jewellery, rather than fine jewellery, but I enjoyed it.
Kat Kaland: Booth Y-62
Artist Kat Kaland makes toys, illustrations, accessories, etc. She told me when I popped by that she's moving away from the toys and focussing more on art, and having seen the art -- paintings incorporating doll parts -- just my kind of creepy -- I think she's making a good decision. The pieces shown here, with the hands and the little 3D girl figures, go for about $200.
Moon Rox: Booth Y-20
Again, jewellery is hardly my thing, but it was early in the day and this gold-toned costume statement necklace caught my eye. Moon Rox is owned/designed by a woman named Monique V. Chan. 
Noelle Hamlyn: Booth W-43
Hamlyn has been at the OOAK show before, showing off her repurposed art/purses made from books and magazines, but she's also doing framed artworks now, using the insides of the books (paper, illustration, etc.) as opposed to the outsides. Now, in general, I'm a "READ BOOKS, DON'T CUT THEM UP" sort of person, but I like what Noelle does nonetheless. Her bigger art pieces are about $165, while the smaller ones are about $90.
iDENTITY: Booth W-09
I stopped at this booth because of the hipster-factor. Megan Irish makes these pillows from recycled blankets (vintage Pendletons, The Bay/HSBC classics, army blankets, etc.) hipsterified with prints on top. Her company makes tees and other apparel as well, I think. The pillows are $48 to $108. (The HSBC ones are more pricey than the others.) 
Heyday Design: Booth V-09
Hailing from Vancouver, Claire Madill makes these neat ceramic mason jars. You could achieve the same effect by painting a glass mason jar with flat paint, but nonetheless, these are nice as far a ceramics/porcelain go.
C Comme Ca: Booth V-43
Artist Cindy Cantin makes these bags and wallets from leather and wool felt and I thought they were super chic. 
Dapila: Booth T-15
This stuff looks like ceramic, but it's mostly made of cement, which is sort of neat. I know body-parts and surrealist stuff isn't everyone's bag, but I sort of love it. I like the idea of using some of the finger sculptures to hold everyday objects like makeup brushes or razors. 

Eric Seguin: Booth S-53
This is not a booth I'd usually stop at, filled as it was with knives and such, but I a few natural skulls caught my eye. These are otter, fox and mink, respectively. I have no idea why I like 'em, but I do.
Felt Factory: Booth R-19
These felt, mounted animal head pieces by artist Sabine Alpers are very well done. I love natural animal stuff (vintage, generally) but these might please the vegan in you if the real deal creeps you out.
Laurie Sponagle: Booth Q-31
These AH-MAZING charcoal drawings look like photographs. No kidding. That's how amazing they are. Artist Laurie Sponagle really stands out. Bigger pieces are priced at $1600, but there's a nice range of sizes available and the smaller pieces start at $250.
Tammy Shane: Booth Q-24
Tammy Shane is another stand-out fine artist exhibiting at the OOAK show. I would have bought one of her pieces in a heart beat if I could have. Gorgeous. Truly. I mean, look at those owls! Those birds! That sky! Love.
Yves' Drop: Booth N-06
Vintage neckties made awesome? Just my sort of thing. I kind of wish my husband would wear a tie every day. (And if he did, I get him a few of these babies.) 
Tat Chao Design: Booth N-34
These glass candlesticks were pretty fabulous - substantial, yet delicate at the same time. Very unique. Tat Chao is a nice new addition to this year's show.
Sarah Tacoma: Booth L-23
Photography artist Sarah Tacoma caught my eye. I love how she captures stark branches and winter trees. And her pieces have rustic wood frames/mounts that I liked.
Sarah Hillock: Booth K-24
Sarah Hillock's huge paintings of farm animals (mostly cows, from what I saw) done on mylar, were maybe the most striking, unique thing at the entire OOAK show. I've never seen anything like Hillock's work in person before, and I have to say, I've never wanted a huge painting of a cow more. I mean... they're cows. And I'm a city girl. Yet I want one. Immediately.
Pepper Mills: Booth G-03
The name Pepper Mills kind of speaks for itself. These handmade, OOAK wood objects by Cam Lavers Designs Inc. aren't new to the show, but I've always liked them.
Him by Shima Itabashi: Booth D-5
I know I said I was going to stay away from cutie-pie felted things, but this booth's wee decorations spoke to me more than the works of other felt artists doing similar things. There's something really authentic and adorable about Him pieces and designer Shima Itabashi seems like a sweetheart. Her English isn't perfect, but that just adds to the charm.
Ateliers des Cent-ans: Booth C-36
This booth was a bit spare, but what I saw of the porcelain and wood pieces inside definitely left an impression. The stuff I loved most was delicate and white, with slim blue nautical patterning. Very chic.
Grace Eunmie Lee: Booth C-44
Some of Grace Eunmie Lee's wee white ceramics are highlighted with bits of shiny metallic and colour, but her monochrome pieces are my favourites. I love their small stature and weird, offbeat cuteness. Some of these wee works are merely decorative, while others are functional (salt and pepper shakers, for example).
Evelyne Rivest Savignac: Booth I-37
Interestingly, while I initially passed this booth during my official "go down every aisle" run, I didn't stop at it the first time around. I'm not sure why. Maybe the crowds were too thick and I didn't get a good look. Happily, I needed to hit a bank machine before leaving which took me on a second trip down row "i" and that's when I noticed Evelyne Rivest Savignac's pretty ceramics. The artist told me she's been a vendor at the show for the last eight years, so if you've been in the past, you may remember her. I was especially charmed by her little leafy bowls. They have the vibe of something sold at Anthropologie (but are much more authentic, of course). 
And that's IT. Honestly, I saw some other stuff I liked (bow-ties by Genuine Article, for example.) but I just can't write about any more. This is already the most unwieldy blog post I've ever written. 

Go to the show. Enjoy. Support your indie artists and crafty friends. And remember, wear comfy shoes. And if you're not too exhausted afterwards, tell me what you got! 

P.S. Sorry about the lighting in some of these shots. I'm no photographer and since artists provide their own light at each booth, dimness is an issue.

P.P.S. Shout-outs to my web friends Jen @ Rambling Renovators and Staci @ Switch Studio for letting me talk their ears off at breakfast, Pam @ Cherish Toronto for being my favourite person to run into at these things, and House & Home magazine staffer/editor Margot Austin (who I may or may not have terrified when I declared "I'm obsessed with you!" - because I'm the sort of weirdo who says things like that, apparently). Sigh.
The no-sew t-shirt necklace project I did recently went so well, I was inspired to keep the crafting going. This week, I attempted a chunky pearl necklace, as inspired by Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This. (That girl has the BEST ideas.)

I started with a string of junk store pearls that I've had kicking around for the past ten years.
I looped the pearls around three times.
I tied off the loops with cotton ribbon (from DeSerres). One piece of ribbon per side,  leaving long bits loose to create the tie-closure.
That's it! You too can upcycle an outdated piece like this. And you don't have to use pearls. Any long string of beads (in any colour) will do. Easy peasy.
For me, the best thing about this necklace (and the t-shirt necklace I made a couple of weeks ago) is that neither contains metal. I have a contact allergy to nickel and as a result, I can't wear most costume jewellery. I can't even wear a watch (because even the most expensive ones with gold or titanium bands tend to have a stainless steel back plate).

This necklace is soft, light and, as I said, the closure is fabric. (You just tie the ribbon off in a bow.)

Finally... a fun necklace I can wear without breaking out in hives. Love it.
It's been awhile since I posted about a good, old-fashioned craft, so today I bring you this piece about the necklace and scarf I made out of an old soft-cotton shirt/dress, inspired by A Pretty Penny and Threadbanger.

Here's the inspiration shot from A Pretty Penny:
Here's how you do it: get any old tee shirt in an appealing colour and cut it into strips with sharp scissors. Don't worry if the edges are jagged. Pull on the ends of each strip, stretching them out. Stretching the strips will cause the cotton to curl up into a kind of tube and will hide jagged edges. Tie the strips together (just make simple knots) and....

Ta-da! Awesomesauce necklace. Seriously. It's that simple.
I started with an old shirt that had a few small holes. I still liked it, but the holes have kept me from wearing it lately.

(For the record, this shirt was originally from H&M, but I got it from a clothing swap. I try not to support the sweat-shop brands. I suggest you get your tee second hand.)
I'm actually not a huge jewellery-wearer, so I didn't make a hugely chunky necklace. I wanted something a bit more understated. Here it is:
I didn't use the whole shirt and I didn't want to waste the fabric, so I trimmed the remnants and fashioned a pashmina-esque scarf from the leftovers.
This project is super simple, I swear. I wore my new necklace to the CityLine bloggers party last week (which you can catch airing today on CityTV Toronto).

*Edited to add: here's a shot of me with Shannon from What's Up Whimsy and Pam from Cherish Toronto at the CityLine Blogger's Tweetup. Note the necklace and pardon my bust. I'm kind of busting out. Oh well.

This isn't really along the lines of what I usually post, but I just had to brag... I mean, share (ahem) news of my latest Goodwill find: An incredible little hat, made by Toronto's own Karyn Gingras of Lilliput Hats.

It's a designer original, yo! And it's local, one-of-a-kind and completely handmade! It's the sort of hat that retails for hundreds!

And I got it at GOODWILL.

How much did I pay? Funny you should ask. Cheeky too. I paid...

a cool $1.50. That's one dollar and fifty cents, thankyouverymuch. It was supposed to be $3, but I bought it on 50% off day.

Believe it. And see it for yourself:
Hats aren't usually my thing. Even though I'm told they suit me, they call to mind memories of Mayim Bialik, Blossom and the early 90s. Memories I've tried hard to forget. 

But when I saw the Lilliput label inside this little beauty, I just couldn't pass it up. It was actually in the cart of the lady in front of me in the checkout line and I was eying it and lamenting not having seen it first, even before I knew what it was. Something about it just called to me. And luckily, at the last minute, she decided not to buy it.

I swooped in. I had to stand in line a second time to pay for it, but the wait was worth it.

For out of towners and those who just don't know, Lilliput Hats is basically the very best traditional milliner in Toronto. The College St. store/studio is absolutely adorable and just packed with unbelievable style. Some of Karyn's pieces would  make even Philip Treacy jealous.

And I got one for $1.50. Yes!

I don't care if I do look like Blossom. I'm gonna wear this baby.
Hey all.

So yesterday I mentioned that I was going to be featured today in this wishlist series that is currently running on the blog What's Up Whismy. It's happened. I'm there.

My pick was a piece of jewellery by NYmetals. They make plenty of stuff in gold (which means I'm not allergic -- hurray!) and it's all very wearable, affordable and everyday.

But special too.

Here's just a selection of what's currently available:
Bird charm necklace, $25 USD.
Orchid earrings, $21 USD.
Tree of life necklace, $26 USD.
Personalized disc necklace, $37 USD.

I really think this store is something special. Consider stuffing a stocking with one of these beautiful baubles this Christmas. Or, you know, buy something and send it my way. I'll be your best friend.
Hey friends! So, I'm working on something and I need your input. It's one of those ribbon/chain necklaces things. They've been everywhere of late. And making one seemed like an easy project.

I started with some chain from my local hardware store.
I made it into a looped necklace using a small key ring to secure the loops at the length I wanted (not shown).Then I added some black ribbon and one or two little dodads from my toolbox for added interest. Here's where I am right now:
What do you think? Am I done? Does it look too DIY? What do I need to add or change to make this work?
Hey readers. So I've been away from awhile. That's 'cause I went to New York.

I would have said goodbye, but I didn't want anyone to hear that my apartment was unoccupied, lest they come and burgle me.

I do not wish to be burgled.

Anyway. I'm back now and ready to rave about all things Manhattan! Are you excited? (You know you are. Don't even pretend you're not.)

Okay. So.

I knew New York would be chock full of all that is chic. I've always known that. But after five days in the city, I really was overwhelmed by it all. Mostly, by the diversity of chicness. And I think that's saying a lot. I live in Toronto, okay? I know it's not Manhattan, but it's probably the most diverse city in the world.

Anyhoo, in honour of this blog's title, here are the three "chicest" things I experienced while in Manhattan proper.

1. The Jonathan Adler store in Greenwhich.
The space was tiny, and I couldn't really afford anything in it, but I didn't see one thing in the Jonathan Adler store that wasn't totally freakin' chic. From the llamas wool rugs (hand-loomed in Peru by weavers associated with Aid to Artisans) to the bits of pottery that made Adler famous, I wanted it all. I especially like his whale stuff like the pitcher shown below, but didn't notice any of it in stock. Sad. Still... it was darn chic.
* Store image from The Shophound, whale from JA website.
2. Bergdorf Goodman
* CC licensed BG store photo by mi michelle from Flickr.).
My Bergdorf experience was chic, not because of the merch, but because of who we saw there. See, Nathan and I popped into BG on a whim. I felt like terrifying him with a bit of opulence. (He's a socialist who only really buys fair trade clothing, so I knew a pair of $1500 Louboutin's would blow his mind.)

We stumbled off the escalator, looking dishevelled (he was carrying a backpack, but hey, at least it wasn't a fanny pack). We ended up smack in the middle of a Manolo's New Shoes book signing event. It was obvious we didn't belong. We were not wearing black. My bright orange Goodwill jacket was like a neon sign blinking "I am middle class!" Nathan's beard and plaid shirt competed with a loud "I am Canadian!" Nonetheless, we hovered. Why not? The next thing we knew, a lovely young waiter was taking pity on us and giving us glasses of champagne (bless you, sir, whoever you are).

THEN, I noted a flash of crocodile green to my left. Who was it?  None other than Vogue's André Leon Talley, perched on a throne-like chair, looking like a huge Queen. (In the royal sense, not the homosexual sense.) And just beyond him was Blahnik himself, decked out in a shiny purple suit and hot pink loafers (which I think he's worn to multiple signing events. You can check out some AP photos here . God I wish I hadn't been too chicken to snap a few of my own. The only pic I took is this one:
Free champagne with the fashion elite? You just don't get more chic than that. Nonetheless, we felt a bit awkward and out of place. We downed our ill-gotten drinks and skedaddled in short order. It was awesome. (Click here to read more about the celebrities and actors spotted on the trip.)
3. Housing Works Thrift Shop (Grammercy)
I expected the thrifting in New York to be a lot better than it was. I thought there'd be Goodwills. Salvation Army's, junk shops. There were a few, but they were small and expensive. And grody. I was bummed. That is, until I found the Housing Works Thrift Shop. Ah-mazing. If I lived in Manhattan, I'd shop here all the time! We hit up the Grammercy location, because that's the one that was near our hotel, but there are shops all over the city, AND you can even browse online.

Best of all, the whole thing is a charitable endeavour to help with what they call the "twin crises" of HIV/AIDS and homelessness. From the store's website: "Since 1990, we have provided the highest quality services for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS in New York City and beyond."

You had me at homelessness, Housing Works.  In fact, you had me at HIV. I'm officially in love with you.

* Housing Works images from the org website .
The store wasn't exactly cheap, but prices were reasonable and the selection was good.  They had lots of great stuff from clothes to marble top coffee tables to old pianos. (I saw an old upright for a mere $125.) The Robert Rodriquez Jacket (shown here) is $65, and mall-brand stuff is significantly less than that. 

I helped a very cool-looking lady with a massive synthetic afro button up a vintage dress from the 70s and fingered some dining chairs before remembering that I was visiting New York, not furnishing my new loft. It was a sad realization.
Anyway, there you have it. In my decidedly inexpert opinion, the three chicest things I saw in New York, where even the bedbugs wear Manolos. 
You know how crazy I've been about birds lately. I can't shut up about it. But after seeing a preview of Dwell Studio's new stuff (the result of a partnership with Robert Allen) via Traditional Home on Dwell's blog yesterday,  I got to wondering if snakes might really be decor's latest fauna du jour.

I'm thinking they're not.

Don't get me wrong, I love what Dwell Studio is doing with snakes (and their trellis in particular). I can't wait to see more of the line. I just don't think snakes will ever be as popular in contemporary decorating as birds have been. They're just too... well, snakey.

That said, I'm not trying to argue that snakes aren't making a comeback. Consider this jewelery:

Elizabeth and James:
Vintage deco from Bliss Street Jewelry on Etsy:
Jewelry, I get. I think the more avant garde among us will always be attracted to this sort of thing, but as for snakes that slithering all over our homes? I just don't think it's likely. I might do a single sculpture or objet d'art like this one from Michael Healy, but I can't imagine going hog wild for reptiles in the way I have for birds.

There's so much negative symbolism associated with snakes, especially in Judaic and Christian traditions. (Consider Harry Potter and the house of Slytherin.) Snakes freak people out. They give folks the shivers, the heebie jeebies, the willies, if you will. As a result, though gritty nature may be a hot decorating theme right now, no matter how many snails appear in terrariums, no matter how many rats become chefs in the movies, snakes will always be a little too much for many.

Ssssssssssso there.

This guy on my softball team wears Kung Fu slippers. Like, the ones you see in Chinatown for $3.99. Like, the ones with the all-cotton sole. Like, every day. Even on the subway.

Whenever I ask him about them he shrugs. "They're not really shoes," he says. "But they're really comfortable."

It's kind of an understatement. I know this footwear staple is hardly an innovation, but I bought my first pair recently and MAN, they ARE comfortable. They are more than comfortable. They are literally the most comfortable things I've had on my feet ever. Ever!

Confession: I prefer to go barefoot. I love shoes to look at, and I love what they do for an outfit, but I've never had a pair of shoes that was really and truly comfortable. Like, comfortable for more than ten minutes. No matter how long they're on for, actually. No matter how far you have to walk. The Kung Fu is. The Kung Fu shoe stays comfy.

And it's chic. Really, it is! It's black, and not unlike a loafer. When worn right, it has a sort of Audrey Hepburn vibe about it. It might become my go-to shoe.

I know what you're thinking: how can I wear a shoe with a cotton sole around the grubby city? What about the rain? What about the broken glass? What about the urban quicksand? Well, they come with rubber soles too, you know. And sometimes, the ones with the rubber soles are even cheaper than the basic cotton ones.

Regardless, they are comfy comfy comfy. The simple cotton construction lets your feet breathe and the interior cushioning isn't bad.

I know, I know, I know. I'm going on and on about a slipper. A cheap slipper. But it's a chic slipper. I swear.

I'm no Diane Keaton. In addition to being thirty years younger and significantly more jiggly (in all areas), I just don't have what it takes to rock the menswear look.

Nonetheless I am addicted to vintage ties these days. ADDICTED. Even if I only have five minutes, if I pass a Goodwill, I will pop in just to take a quick peep at the ties. (If I only have five minutes, I try not to look at anything else, because if I see something I can't have or can't carry out I know it will only annoy me, but I a tie I can get for the price of a coffee, and if I find one in my bag, I can be sure it will fit in my purse.) Anyway.

Ties. I found this clover-motif one just last week. Price? $2.99. Designer? Paul Smith. Original price? Not sure, actually, but ties on the current website sell for a minimum of 59.00 British pounds, which is over $100 Canadian dollars. Deal? As always ... YES!

Paul Smith is a fashion guru I don't  know much about. (See menswear/jiggly thing, above.) He's a white guy, aging, dapper. I'm not sure what line this tie comes from (do you?) What I know is how much I love it. The graphic pattern, the sheen, the heft of it. It's a beautiful thing. My man wore it to Christmas dinner. But he's really not much of a tie guy, so maybe I'll ultimately include it in some sort of create design project. I'll let you know.

More tie finds to come. (Including a HUGE bounty of ties by Elsa Schiaparelli, also snagged at my local Goodwill.)