D.I.Y Craft Projects: How to glamorize your wardrobe on a budget

Do you have an old pair of jeans or a t-shirt that you love, but they are looking a bit plain or out-of-style? D.I.Y fashion projects are a great way to revitalize your wardrobe while saving money! It can also turn into a fun afternoon with friends.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few fun D.I.Y projects that will leave you walking away with some great new pieces for your closet:


Bleaching your shirt with a funky phrase: Bleach can be a pain to work with, but it also has serious craft potential. Transform a simple, plain t-shirt or tank top into an original one-of-a-kind piece of clothing by creating your own quote or phrase.

  1. Place a flat sheet of cardboard inside your shirt. This will provide an even surface for your design and will stop the bleach from bleeding through. With a piece of white chalk, sketch out your design. Don’t worry if you need to smudge out chalk lines. They wash out once your painting is done.
  1. Secure your shirt by folding the sides under the cardboard, using elastics or clips to keep it from slipping. Prepare a small bowl with non-diluted, fabric safe bleach. Have your towel on hand to wipe up any drips.
  1. It’s time to make your design permanent! Dip your brush in the bleach and drag it on the edge of the bowl to eliminate dripping. Use steady strokes to trace the chalk lines of your design. For an even bleach line, you will need to reload your brush every two inches. You will quickly see your design appear, like magic!
  1. Continue to trace your design until you reach the end. Take a break, and return in a few minutes once the bleach has had time to react with the fabric of your shirt. Are there un-even spots or light areas? No problem. Simply go back in with your bleach filled brush and even out the design.
  1. Once you’re pleased with how your shirt looks, let the piece sit in the sun for an hour or more. This will allow the bleach to process and lighten. Depending on the cotton content of your shirt, the color of your design will range from dark red, to orange, to pink, all the way to white. Rinse and hand wash your shirt, and hang to dry. Your design is now permanent, safe to wash with like colors, and ready to wear.

Adapted from http://luneblog.com/



Studded converse shoes: Converse are a pretty hip shoe, but their plain-Jane style can get a bit boring after awhile. Here is a way to glam up your shoes on a budget and also cover up any mud stains if you have a lighter colored shoe.

  1. You’ll need around 40 studs per shoe for a 7.5 size shoe and some E6000 glue. This strong glue will ensure those studs stay on despite the rain and much it may travel through.
  2. In a well-ventilated area glue your studs onto the outer edges of your shoe, working your way from the bottom to the top. Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours before wearing them. Save a few extra studs in case you lose one at some point. If any are going to fall off they’ll probably go in the first day or two!

Adapted from http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2013/11/make-your-own-studded-converse.html

D.I.Y cut-up back: There is nothing sexier than a shirt that reveals a bit of your back. SweetCandyLine teaches D.I.Y lovers how to covert a regular tee into a masterpiece using a pair of scissors and a little bit of ingenuity. Watch the live video to learn how!

Posted by SweetCandyLine, adapted from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTO_Atwt8ThyDAvLrvAZ7kQ

DIY 3 headband12

Celtic headband made from old t-shirt: Here is a great D.I.Y that uses an old t-shirt to make a beautiful headband. It is a great way to recycle old clothing and create inexpensive accessories from your hair.

  1. Cut a strip from the t-shirt and stretch it until the material is thin.
  2. Cut the strip into two parts.
  3. Tie into Celtic knot (pictured above)
  4. Tie the headband together and as an extra option, cover with another piece of material to hide the tie.
  5. Enjoy your new hairpiece!

Adapted from http://www.jsonline.com/features/fashion/Old-T-shirt-becomes-DIY-headband-bracelet-230900631.html



D.I.Y CD Bling Collar: CDs are becoming a thing of the past and this D.I.Y provides a creative, easy, and seriously fashionable way to re-use the groovy tunes.

  1. Place CDs in hot water for five minutes to remove plastic covering.
  2. Cut CD in half.
  3. Remove plastic coating on the CD.
  4. Cut up CD into pieces (be careful not to hurt yourself).
  5. Use crazy glue to stick the pieces onto a collared shirt (or make a shape on another shirt).
  6. Voila! Here is your new blinged up shirt!

Adapted From http://followfashion.nl/diy-fashion-report-pimp-je-kraag



“The clock so patiently waits on your song” – An ode to David Bowie

When I wrote the review of Blackstar last week and asked whether this was David Bowie’s ode to himself, an ode to his inevitable death, I did not expect such a literal response. Bowie passed away early on the morning of Jan. 10, merely two days after the release of his Blackstar album. I was devastated and couldn’t help but think that we’ve lost one of the greatest musicians of our time.

David Bowie was a musician, an artist, a film star, a performer, and a mime. He was an iconoclast and lastly, a self-proclaimed blackstar. The lyrics to the title song of his final album give his audience a final answer to his self-proclaimed public identity.

“I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the Great I Am (I’m a blackstar)”

The beloved spaceman left fans an epic goodbye in Blackstar, as we all should have expected. In a way, a concept album to help fans understand his death is so very “Bowie”, defining his entire ideology as a performer and as an iconic influence of pop culture.

In 1995, Bowie’s notes on his album Outside said, “We don’t expect our audience to necessarily seek an explanation from ourselves. We assign that role to the listener and to culture. As both of these are in a state of permanent change there will be a constant “drift” in interpretation. All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings”.

Bowie defined a cultural movement that allowed the fusion of art, performance, and music into a pop culture. Instead of creating a single public identity, he let the audience ascertain the meaning of his various works. His 27 studio album career began in 1967 with David Bowie and ended with  Blackstar in 2016.  Bowie was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Bowie3-above arguably though

Arguably though, Bowie’s character was not completely absent from his role asThomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth or Ziggy Stardust, his spacey alter-ego. Instead, Bowie’s success is that he managed to maintain a sense of absolute humanity and personality in his work while cultivating an air of mystery as to which direction he would take next as a performance artist and musician.

But, what makes a timeless icon? Perhaps it was Bowie’s ability to keep fans guessing while using his power as a pop culture icon to spread messages of love and acceptance. V&A researcher Dr. Kathryn Johnson, author of “David Bowie Is”, says, “this creative tension between power and empowerment is central to Bowie’s lasting cultural impact and enduring popularity”.

Bowie was a master of allusion. He created subtle references to reflect important issues — such as the blurring boundaries of gender and authenticity in creativity — thus enhancing his power as a relevant artist and musician. Bowie’s various works over the past four decades also highlighted and challenged “normal” ideologies.  In the essay “Out of this World: Ziggy Stardust and the Spatial Interplay of Lyrics, Vocals and Performance” by Barish Ali and Heidi Wallace, they make references to the power of allusion. “Allusions…lead the curious almost anywhere and thus expose the curious to culture that they might not otherwise have stumbled upon. These paths can amount to novel cultural genealogies, revealing connections where none were previously perceived.”

bowie-when david bowie played

For example, when Bowie played Ziggy Stardust, his alter-ego space alien messenger, he began to explore the idea of the “other” — either as a space alien or a person who dressed and acted uniquely. His androgynous costume style choices and performance techniques gave way for marginalized groups such as transgendered individuals to find empowerment in Bowie as a fearless cultural icon.

Bowie did not want his fans to get comfortable though. He abandoned his role as Ziggy Stardust suddenly and without notice on July 3, 1973.  In 1980, Bowie came out with Scary Monsters, which moved from the physical exploration of space aliens to the exploration of the trans-human experience. He dressed in stylized androgynous outfits and helped to create an important discussion surrounding the feminine and masculine. In 1983, Bowie shocked fans again with his release of Let’s Dance, where he embraced a more masculinized role, solidifying the idea that Bowie desired to exist as an impermanent cultural phenomenon rather than one defining impression.

images-Bowie's final album

Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, follows similar themes. It brings in the chaotic jazz influences last seen in his Scary Monsters album and pushes boundaries through the performative exploration of death. The final song of the album, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” defines the idea that Bowie was dedicated to giving his fans everything he could, but in the end the meaning was the audience’s to discover.

“When we hear Bowie’s voice, we do not hear the authoritative “Bowie” message or project. We hear the dramatisation of performative identity and culture in the making; we hear the fluctuation. And ultimately, we hear ourselves—our own responses to the indefinable,” says Ali and Wallace.

Blackstar is ultimately about death; yet, potentially, it is about the eternal life of Bowie’s work as well. He left his fans with a final goodbye, and one that can be cherished for years to come.  As Bowie prophetically stated in his role as Thomas Jerome Newton , “Well I know I’m not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity”.

See you in eternity Starman.


Are you adult enough for an adult colouring book?

It’s arguably the biggest new trend of 2015. With spots in Amazon’s Top 100 book list, as well as rave reviews from critics all across North America, adult colouring books are the perfect Christmas gift for the creative person in your life.

I couldn’t help myself when I went Christmas shopping the other day. I just had to pick up a copy. Anna Karenina: A Colouring Book Love Story includes images reminiscent of the Elizabethan era, complete with chandeliers, gowns, princesses, and princes. As an English student, this was the book that spoke to me directly.  I knew I was about to start something exciting when I found myself grabbing a pack of coloured pencils the same day to start ‘expressing myself’. Plus, at an average cost of $10-$15, they’re actually affordable.


I came home that night and sprawled across the living room floor with a cup of tea and my hair in a messy bun, taking the persona of my version of a stereotypical artist. I took out my pencil crayons and hesitantly put a mark on one of the paintings. Surprisingly, it took a lot of effort and concentration to fill in the red lipstick I wanted the woman in the drawing to be wearing. The drawings are done in a rather intricate way and is definitely not meant for children (despite what some people may say!). I found the process rather calming, as I deliberately thought out which colour would look good in which area of the drawing. I was careful not to go past the lines- as difficult as that was -and did my best to make my work look artistic. In the hour and fifteen minutes that I spent behind this colouring book, I not only recalled my childhood, but I was distracted from my technology. I also confirmed a lot I knew about myself — I am a perfectionist with the attention span of a three year old.

Despite not having any professional background or experience in fine arts, the effort I put behind my artistic piece(s) would lead anyone to believe I was prepared to release them in an art gallery. I expressed utter disappointment when my colouring tactics were looking less than par, and put a little too much thought into each colour. Because let’s face it, what difference is there between a light green leaf and a dark green leaf? I went back to each flaw and tried fixing them using blending techniques and filling them in more deeply, thinking I could obtain the artistic abilities of Picasso in a matter of one hour — without natural talent, an instructor, or thousands of dollars of tuition. I used my fashion sense to try and colour bloc flowers and patterns.

The precision and perfection that these books encourage was definitely a huge barrier for me. I started more then five drawings without completing a single one. I can’t say that I’ll go back to finishing them either. I learned that the expectation of perfection is the first thing you have to let go of. Letting things flow naturally is the only way to acquire the therapeutic feeling that is said to come out of these colouring books. Because in the end, the result of my hard work and precision was a flower on one page, a sun and sky on another page, and half a lady on yet another page.


Since my full fledged art session, I’ve only gone back to my colouring book a few times more. The pages are rather overwhelming for the average person, although the drawings do help create a sense of direction. I mean, let’s face it – I would never purchase a sketch book for myself and expect to freestyle. A colouring book, however, seems like the perfect activity for when you have a lot on your mind and would just like to relieve some stress. As my exam season winds down and my family and friends have started to come out of hibernation for the holidays, I am no longer as interested in my book as I was when I purchased it in the midst of deadlines and exam schedules. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s another aspect of #studentlife.

After trying our these adult colouring books, I came up with the following conclusion: Maybe I just don’t qualify as an adult yet.  However, I do not regret my purchase. It’s aesthetically pleasing and helps keep you away from your phone for at least 20 minutes. But, if you don’t Snapchat your progress, are you even colouring? Besides, colouring is not something I would usually take up as a hobby, so the thrill of trying something new is rather refreshing in the midst of my mundane routines. I’ve decided to take this project up as an opportunity to let go of my perfectionist ways and just let the drawings be what they’ll end up being. If that means colouring a horse pink, then so be it! Quick tip: avoid googling finished adult  colouring book images, because you’ll most certainly be disheartened at your lack of colouring abilities. Despite this, I did come across some drawings that I will eventually want to colour (to its full potential)  because of the sheer gorgeousness that the artist has captured using mere ink.


The overall verdict: give in and purchase yourself and/or your loved one a copy. It’s a fun way to do something childish while still being an adult. Plus it’s trendy, so why not?

Featured Image

Wowie Cowie

By Kevin Somers


We were visiting a cottage on a Muskoka island earlier this summer and between the ideal setting and toys that float, it was picture perfect.  Inside, large windows provided spectacular views from every glance, but amidst nature’s best, an oil painting by Ellen Cowie stood out.  It is a commissioned piece of canoes on the dock, with the lake and a neighbouring island in the background.  The sun is twinkling off rippling water and tranquility emanates from the canvas.  There’s a photographical precision to the piece, yet a surreal richness that couldn’t have come from a camera.  All the guests stopped to admire the work and agreed it was something special.


I had tea with Ellen recently and she’s as lively as her paintings.  “Family is everything to me,” she said.  Indeed, the second youngest of 10 children, Ellen and husband, Brian, married for 25 years have 6 kids of their own, between 23 and 14.  “They’re all wonderful people,” she said of the extended clan.


Ellen has paint in her veins: her mother’s mother worked in oil and her father’s brother was a gifted sketch artist.  Grandmother, Rose McGuire, raised 10 kids during the depression and didn’t begin painting until she was in her 60s.  Although she began late, Grandmother was talented and prolific.  “Her paintings were always around,” Ellen said.  “Her style was more towards realism.”  Ellen’s uncle, was not a professional artist, but, “He drew and sketched everyday.  One of my strongest memories from childhood is him coming on Sunday and sketching with a pencil or a piece of charcoal.  In a few seconds, and with 15 lines, he could capture a portrait.  He was a truly an amazing artist.”


Cowie has taken something from both, combining the realism of her Grandmother with the startlingly swiftness of her Uncle.  “I go straight to work,” she said, “no sketching or measuring, I just start painting with oil.”  Although deceased, Ellen’s ancestors speak to her still, “Sometimes when I step back and look at my painting, I hear my uncle say, That’s enough, Ellen, and then my grandmother says, Maybe a little more over here, Dear.”


Because of higher obligations, Ellen has only been painting full time since 2001.  “I always knew I would be an artist surrounded by family,” she said, but how she’s arrived at this point is the stuff of legends.  “I got married when I was 18.  I loved Brian Cowie and wanted to have a family with him.”  Brian’s career meant the family has moved 15 times.  “There were times when I’d go months without painting,” she said.  Laughingly, she explained how her family would force her to go and paint because her withdrawal from creating made her irritable.  “I always came back feeling better.”


After misdiagnoses, it was discovered in 2000 that Ellen had severe thyroidosis and her nodal gland was removed.  The three years previous, while raising her family with a wonky thyroid, Ellen had also been parking cars at Casino Rama.  “I was exhausted all the time.  In the hospital, a light came on.  I thought, what am I doing?” and she gave up parking for painting.


Brian is Native, so Ellen has full status and received assistance from Kagita Mikam, an organization dedicated to helping First Nations people.  “Their financial and moral support really helped me get started and I’m so grateful to them.”  Another break came from Ellen’s brother, Jim Donnelly, owner of Foot’s Bay Marina on Lake Joseph in Muskoka.  In 2002, he provided Cowie space to take part in the area’s annual studio tour, The Big Art Thing.  The show was a success and later that summer Jim asked Ellen to return to the marina because he had a surprise.  Jim had converted part of his business into a seasonal gallery.  “Go home and paint over the winter and fill the gallery with nice work,” he said.


It was a daunting prospect, but when opportunity knocked, Cowie answered with enthusiasm.  Along with her talent and work ethic, the gallery provides Ellen with an ideal location.  During the summer, she paints outside the gallery and the public can watch her work.  “Wayne Gretzky’s family watched me paint every day for 5 days while they were on vacation,” she said.  When a young man commented to Janet Gretzky that Ellen’s painting was like a photograph, Janet, who knows Greatness, replied, “No, it’s better than a photograph.”


Person, place, or thing, Cowie is confident; “If I see it, I can paint it.  I’m not afraid of the canvas.”  She prefers commissioned work, “It’s challenging.  If someone wants me to paint something they are passionate about it, so I have to find inspiration in it too.”  You can see that inspiration at www.artincanada.com/ellencowie/.  This may be the ancestors talking, but I think Ellen Cowie is going to be BIG.

Exploring Toronto’s artistic side to improve your home

Toronto is full of colour, culture and creative flair. If you are in the process of finding the right painter to decorate a new pad but are stuck for artistic and interior design ideas, Toronto is known for its vibrant side, which offers creative inspiration to its residents and visitors all year round. Here is a look at some of the points of interest in Toronto to look out for.

The Art Gallery of Ontario

This towering structure houses 80,000 exciting exhibitions from works which celebrate the past to modern performance pieces and sculptures. It is one of the largest art museums in North America and was expanded further in 2008. The new building alone – designed by Frank Gehry – offers interior design ideas and inspiration for your own pad, including how to manipulate more natural light into a space using the right material.

Toronto International Art Fair

More than 100 fine art galleries take part in Toronto’s annual art fair, Canada’s only contemporary visual art event. Its exhibitions include the NEXT gallery, which showcases emerging artistic talents, and FOCUS ASIA, which, as the title suggests, focuses on ornate, traditional and modern Asian art.

The great outdoors

Take advantage of Toronto’s beautiful surroundings to transfer to your own space, inside and out.

From classic topiary and geometric shapes at Edwards Garden to unspoilt landscapes in Toronto Island Park, have some fun picking out natural colours and bold plants. Cross over to the Beaches neighbourhood with its mazes of stylish colonial houses with planted sidewalks as well as beachside views. Nearby is the lush Kew Park and Gardens, with a myriad of planting ideas for your garden.


St Lawrence Market is a must-visit moving landmark in Toronto. This farmers market is a perfect chance to pick up some great kitchenware whilst having a bite to eat and partaking in some people watching. Alternatively, have a wander around the little boutiques and outside stalls at the Kensington Market, a colourful bohemian hub by Spadina Avenue. Be warned, parking is nonexistent.


Where better to find new decorative items than in the safe and sure environment of a mall? Toronto boasts many malls which have little boutiques alongside recognizable larger stores including the Eaton Centre with more than 320 stores in Downtown Toronto as well as the Yorkdale Shopping Centre which has rave reviews from past visitors. If you are looking for bespoke, designer interior design items, Toronto has premium stores dotted around its streets including Made which showcases young, fresh designer items and the larger Kiosk store which has floors of inspiring furniture collections.


Women of the Week: Alison Dalglish-Pottow

For Alison Dalglish-Pottow, FPI Gallery is a labour of love.

“Art has always been a passion of mine, fostered at a very young age by my parents who took me to important art galleries and museums around the world as part of our summer family vacations.”

The greatest sign that she was meant to enter the art field was when she was admitted into Sotheby’s  prestigious Works of Art course. Attending the course meant leaving Canada for England, but this would prove to be a wise decision.

“Studying in the historically, architecturally and culturally rich city of London gave me a heightened appreciation for pursuing art as a possible career,” she says. “The art scene was vibrant and thriving, far eclipsing what was happening in Canada.”

Although the next several years would see her pursuing other career opportunities, working for companies such as IMG and CANFAR, she would eventually find her way back to the art world.

“Sometimes we sideline what we enjoy in favor of more practical, and oftentimes more prudent choices in life. It’s nice to discover that it’s never too late to revisit what we enjoy if a better time to do so comes along. That time came for me and when it did, I didn’t hesitate to run with it.”

Her baby, FPI Gallery, is a gallery for the new digital world. The idea for the gallery was born from Alison’s interactions with an emerging artist, Dean West.

“Dean West’s images were so captivating and compelling that I immediately knew he was a rising star in his field. All he needed was a little help in getting in front of the right collectors.”

Thus, Alison decided to create a completely online gallery. Why online? “A bricks and mortar gallery can be territorially restrictive,” Alison says. By focusing on a digital gallery, her clients’ works can be seen by collectors worldwide and news of the emerging talents can spread much more easily.

The gallery focuses solely on contemporary fine-art photography “where collectors can find the world’s best emerging fine art contemporary photographers in one place, without getting lost in the volume of art available on other websites worldwide.” This makes her site easier to navigate and much less time-consuming than galleries with wider ranges.

One of Alison’s major goals at FPI Gallery is to ensure the gallery is about the artists, not her. Unlike other online art websites, she keeps no standardized menu of dimension sizes and allows each artist to set his or her own price and edition size.

Knowing that many artists are uncomfortable with the typical gallery agreements, she designed a business model that would better suit their needs.  And by choosing to represent no more than 10 artists at a time, Alison ensures each will get the attention and promotion they deserve.

“At the end of the day, it’s about preserving value. I’m not going to permit profit to lead over sustainability of the artists and future appreciation of their work.”

This devotion to artists and their craft is clearly Alison’s greatest purpose. She stresses the need for people “to support the arts and the artists who dedicate themselves to pushing the frontiers of thought and influence.”

“Art is a living legacy of our history, politics and culture,” she says.


Alison Dalglish-Pottow

President, Flash Photography Inc.

E: alison@fpigallery.com