A Pied à Terre is in our future

It’s been more than a month since we left Spark Box Studio in Picton and our friends Chrissy and Kyle. We promised to elaborate on our month-long residency when we last posted here… We have been pretty busy since then. We immediately moved over to Cherry Valley for a few days to chicken sit for our friends John and Lily which gave us time to return borrowed items to generous folks around the county. Special thanks goes out to Baxter Arts for lending us their super-duper video projector; to Kate Golding and Johnny Lam for lending us a video projector, 60s-era table lamps, strings of Christmas lights and macramé lawn chairs for the installation; to Alex Fida for allowing us to use the coveted Eriba Titan camper which he co-owns with Chrissy and Kyle as a projection screen and for more patio lights. And the biggest thank you of all goes out to Chrissy and Kyle who gifted us time and space which allowed us to focus, work, be inspired and imagine the future. They are two of the most creative, tireless and inspiring people we know. We are so incredibly grateful that they chose us to be the recipients of their National Residency Award and first Annual Dawson Bursary! Our biggest surprise was just how much we would enjoy cohabiting with the other residents. It was incredible to witness their various work practices and mediums. We got to know each resident, some more than others simply because we overlapped for a longer period. We will always remember the Picton Fair, ‘baby parts’ and Tony from ‘The Shining’ with Bernat and Deborah! Scheduling Willona Sloan’s residency to coincide with ours was brilliant! Our common themes of home, memory and the open road made for great conversation around the dining table and her writing workshop was the icing on the cake. Sharing Mario’s apple pie and music with Kelly, Chrissy, Rebecca and Joanna around the campfire on the second night of the installation made for a very memorable evening. It exemplified the spirit of our journey.

From Prince Edward County we made our way to Toronto to Amherstburg to Toronto and back to PEC again where we worked on a grant application from a gorgeous little guest house belonging to friends Sarah Crawford and David Kirkwood. We worked away and each evening they invited us to join them for a delicious meal and spirited conversation. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place from which to continue building on the work we started at Spark Box. The sidebar to why we returned to PEC to work on our grant application: to look at properties! Having spent a little more than a month in ‘The County’ we realized that we like the community. A lot. We have been considering the idea of a home base for a while: a base from which to work; settle the stuff that has been residing in a storage unit in Scarborough for nearly two and a half years; and to live when we aren’t galavanting around in the van. The month at Spark Box clarified two things for us: we miss a dedicated work space (that can accommodate things like a large video monitor for editing, a sewing machine, a printer or two, etc) and community. While we aren’t ready to live a sedentary lifestyle we do appreciate the benefits of having a home base.

We left the County without having purchased a property, made a pit-stop to look at some prefab homes at Green Terra in Trenton, stopped briefly in Toronto before picking up Julie’s dad and his dog, MacDuff, in Amherstburg and returning with them in tow to celebrate Thanksgiving in Toronto. It was the first holiday in three years that our family was all together. Back to Amherstburg where we loaded up the last of all the belongings we had been storing there since we moved into the van and carted them to one of our (cringe) two storage units in Scarborough. Over the course of two days we consolidated the two units into one 300 sq ft unit. Our 17-year-old nephew, Jakob, helped us on the second day and perhaps saved our lives. Moving stuff doesn’t get any easier as you get older!

We made an appointment for the van to have some pre-emptive maintenance done while we were in Toronto in preparation for heading south on the open road where we intend to escape winter. While in the care of our mechanic it was the victim of a hit and run. Our four-month-old paint job and restoration! More than $1,600 damage NOT including the immense hassle and numerous other expenses that have arisen from the resulting delay. We had to drive the van back down to Amherstburg (a boring four-hour drive on the 401) to our amazing auto body shop for the repair and then return to Toronto. Again. This drive is getting to us. Try as we might to appreciate the changing sky, the autumnal colours and the landscape the drive is at best repetitive and at worst soul destroying. The bad news is that we will be making this drive regularly for some time to come so we better perhaps work on an attitude adjustment.

Also while in Toronto we learned that a 500 sq ft co-op apartment overlooking High Park was going to be listed for sale. We looked at it pre-MLS, without any expectations whatsoever and ….. we bought it. It will literally be a pied-à-terre and checks off a bunch of boxes for us: 1. a mailing address 2. storage (carries for less than our current storage unit) 3. home base 4. work space 5. good location                     6. underground parking that can accommodate the van 7. close to family, friends, doctor, dentist, etc. 8. low or zero maintenance 9. cheap! What it is not is our dream space. We have come to think that a dream home is overrated. For us life experiences and travel are the priority. That said we will make the space our own. It will require that we get rid of most of what we own and have been paying to store for too long. Most people do this in their 70s, 80s or leave it to their children to deal with once they are gone. Here we are, further paring down our lifetime of accumulation in our 50s! We have at least 10 file boxes containing samples of our work; more art than we will have walls; books, boy do we have books; and ephemera/ family history/ our history. This is where we will find it difficult!


When we initially sold our home and studio we had this idea that we would be downsizing and simplifying. In Toronto. And that our next home would be our last. The place where we would likely spend the rest of our days. And then instead we decided to travel in a van. For six months or a year. We thought we had really pared down our belongings and 26 years of design and printing work as far as we could and we did. We didn’t know how moving around North America in a 60 sq ft van would change us and our priorities. We don’t feel like we have any more answers than we had two and a half years ago. We may in fact have more questions. We aren’t exactly happy with the purchase of this apartment but we aren’t unhappy either. It is probably the right thing. For now. Sometime in the new year, probably March, after renovating, we will move into our new old apartment and make it a home where we can once again welcome our friends and family and work on projects that excite us. We look forward to that!

Pied à terre implies a temporary second residence and is usually a small living unit in a large city some distance away from the owners primary residence. 

And now, we can’t wait to get our primary residence back on the road!


PS – There are many wonderful people who have hosted us in their homes this past two and half years. To all of you THANK YOU! We have loved spending time with each and every one of you and appreciate your generosity and friendship. The biggest thank you goes out to Julie’s sister, Tina, and her husband, Mark – they have hosted us more times than we can shake a stick at, often without a whole lot of notice. We are eternally grateful.