My new digs — aka, Why you need to redesign your blog

Let’s backtrack a bit here: have you noticed this blog redesign? This entire new website? Are you kvelling the way I am over this new space? Because — I’m just going to say it — it’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

It was a long winter, as you may recall, and maybe the longness and coldness of that winter lulled me into thinking that I’d feel more like writing once things had thawed. And that may have been at least partially true, but a truthier truth was I didn’t feel like writing in large part because I had outgrown this blog’s old home.

When I first started blogging, 35 weeks’ pregnant with Isaac, who is now seven, it was a side project, an experiment with a platform and a technology and a practice. I began blogging as a way of creating a sustained personal writing practice, without much understanding — and how could I have known? — where it might all go. The short version is that it’s gone many, many places and that, now, blogging is no longer a side project but an integral part of my career and my (writing) life.

So I talked to writer, website designer (and friend and roommate extraordinaire) Elan Morgan over at about how to create an online space that reflects more accurately my creative and professional writing. And together, we (by which I mean mostly her) came up with this.

Early on in the process, Elan sent me a design questionnaire. When I couldn’t easily pick a single colour palette or choose the top 10 words that describe my writing (ironic, I know), I countered by sending her photographs of things in my home that I love to look at. Including several sculptures by my friend and client Sarah Link, a local ceramic artist with an international reputation.

I don’t think I’ve written yet about Sarah, which is a shame, because I’m constantly in awe of her work and amazed and grateful that I get to be privy to a small part of her creative process. I first became aware of her brilliance when Rowan was about two. You know when you’re at a gallery and for weeks after you regret not buying a piece that spoke to you? That’s what happened. In my defense, Sarah had gathered together a dozen or so delicate, creepy, ocean-inspired clay sculptures in a low wooden box filled with sand. And all I could think was, “I love that, but I have a toddler.”

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about those pieces. And I searched out Sarah online and made contact. And she very gently blew me off. And then, a few Octobers ago, I discovered that she was participating in a local home and studio tour. And that she lived two streets over. And so I gathered up Isaac (because what I really liked to do back then was to take my four-year-old to pottery studios) and hustled over. And Isaac was reverent. And so was I.

I don’t know if you know that one of my superpowers is getting artists to sell me things that they’ve decided to keep for themselves. I honed in immediately on two huge ceramic bowls in Sarah’s studio — the last two pieces, she told me, from a residency at the Medalta historic kilns in Medicine Hat, Alberta. (I love this fact: those tiny holes in those bowls? Made with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Over and over.) They weren’t for sale, she explained, because she needed to keep them to remind herself of that time. And I commented that maybe that was the key difference between her kind of art and mine: if I sell a story, I still get to hold on to it. And she said, “You’re a writer?”

And the upshot is that those two bowls are sitting on my kitchen counter, and Sarah can come over any time she likes to visit them and all the other wonderful pieces of hers that make my home more beautiful. I write articles about her and her work for various galleries and trade magazines, and she pays me in beauty. I’m totally winning.

But that’s not even the real point. The real point is that Sarah and Isaac have built their own friendship. The real point is her ridiculous generosity; the way she has spent hours with him at the wheel, showing him how to build pots, and glaze them; the way she takes his creative vision so seriously; the way he brings her pretty rocks that he thinks she’ll like and the fact that she displays them on her studio shelves next to her own work.

So when I sent those photographs to Elan, and she said, “You know, what really stood out were those sculptures,” I knew we were onto something. With Sarah’s permission, I set about photographing the various rocks and eggs and pods and other works around the house — many of them touchtone pieces that I hold in one hand while I’m trying to figure out an approach to an article — and sent the photos to Elan, who helped to shape them into what you see here, on this site.

So, sure: on the one hand you could argue that I sit alone in my office at my computer for hours each day. But the truth of the matter is that this so-called solitary writing life is always a collaboration. You just have to know where to look.

(P.S.: Shameless self-promotion, but in celebration of the relaunch of the site, don't you think you should sign up for e-mail subscriptions or — if you haven't already – like this blog on Facebook? You can do both with the handy links to the right. Thanks.)