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In the August 2013 issue of House & Home, we get to know style icon India Hicks a little bit better. Here are some outtakes from my interview with India, who proves to be frank, funny, as well as fabulous, from the tips of her turquoise-painted toenails to her highlights.

With the kind of impressive pedigree that descends from Queen Victoria no less, not to mention serving as Princess Diana’s bridesmaid, she’s a definite blue blood. But India’s heritage includes her father, the iconic British designer David Hicks. She left the pink sands of her Harbour Island, Bahamas home, which she shares with her brood of five children and partner David Flint Wood, for a Toronto appearance on HSN, to launch her new collection of bedding and accessories. Not surprisingly, the lion’s share of the collection sold out in one day, proving it’s pretty hard to resist the pull of India’s idyllic interpretation of tropical style.

Wendy Jacob: What do you like best about the new line of bedding?

India Hicks: “The price! Can you argue with a $130 quilt and two shams? No. What is so extraordinary about a platform with HSN is that you can achieve remarkable prices with very high quality because they reach 100 million homes. If I was trying to do this endeavour from my own website, or shop on the island, the price would be huge.”

WJ: What’s your inspiration for the line?

IH: “When someone says ‘OK bring your life into bedding,’ it’s terribly intimidating. I can’t design thinking ‘will the lady in Dallas like it?’ I just design something I like and hope the lady in Dallas likes it. I am so blessed to live where nature is magnified. We don’t have seasons in the Bahamas but interestingly I see the beach change significantly throughout the year. I joke that everything I do is completely fake: I either steal from my father, or from Mother Nature!”

WJ: What’s your favourite room, either in your home or anywhere in the world?

IH: “My own bedroom of course, just because it’s a relief coming home and sleeping in own your bed when you travel as much as I do. It gives me a sense of place, order, family, and more importantly, it’s where my daughter (that’s Domino, pictured above) climbs in and the Dachshund lies, even though the dog’s not supposed to.”

WJ: What’s on your bedside table?

IH: “Hand therapy from Crabtree & Evelyn, and my current read, Daughter of Empire (2012 Weidenfeld & Nicolson), my mother’s memoir. They are trying to persuade her to come to New York for a book launch but she categorically refuses, because she says she won’t be able to get her hair done properly.”

WJ: Did you learn anything new about her in the book?

IH: “Yes, lots. It was very revealing about a generation that kept their emotions in check, there were some extraordinary parts. For instance my grandmother leaves my mother with a nanny in Budapest during one of the many wars and loses the address of the hotel where they were staying, and she didn’t come back for six months. I say ‘our generation would need therapy’ and she looked at me and said ‘you are so over emotional.’ She just thinks ‘get on with it.’”

WJ: You have a jewelry line, run your boutique, The Sugar Mill in Harbour Island, have a home fragrance and body care line for Crabtree & Evelyn, and now this new launch: you don’t have much downtime but when you do, what do you love to do?

IH: “I love to write, I am a frustrated, rather bad, writer. Someone posted a complaint on my blog: your spelling and grammar are terrible. Of course they are, but at least you know it’s me. And I love Pinterest! It does bring the world to life when I am on a rock in the middle of nowhere, with no access to magazines or culture or the buzz of a city.”

WJ: How has beach style changed for you over the years?

IH: “I have lived here for 17 years, and your outlook changes. At first it was all puka shells, cut-off shorts and cowboy hats, then caftans and gypsy bangles. Now I don’t have time for any of that stuff, just a stripy tee and flip-flops. If the kids are on holiday and I am taking the day to be with them, then I will put on a lovely bikini, but I can’t be fiddling around with gold bangles anymore when I am driving them on the boat, or chasing the dogs who have escaped! My whole life is about no ironing. I have turned into that person.”

WJ: What’s next for you?

IH: “It’s like you give birth to a baby and someone comes to the hospital and says ‘when are you having another?’ We launch a whole new HSN collection in September 2013.”

Photo credits:
1, 2, 4, 8. HSN
3. Lonny
5. Wendy Jacob
6. Daughter of Empire (2012 Weidenfeld & Nicolson) by Pamela Hicks
7. Cultivate blog, photography by Tom Munro
9. India Hicks blog

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

This past March, I was lucky enough to visit the Ikea headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden to get a sneak peek at the new Stockholm collection. In fact, I even had a chance to sit down with the lead designer Ola Wihlborg and chat about the collection (check out the September 2013 issue of H&H for all the details).

I love this new round nightstand.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you — that's velvet. Green velvet. Delightful! $1,099.

These nesting coffee tables have a gorgeous walnut finish. $299.

This cheerful flatweave rug would add a fun pop of colour to a dining room, living room or bedroom. $199 for 5-1/2' x 8'.

And my favourite of all the new pieces, this classic dining chair, also available in green. $149.

For more inspiration from Ikea, view our 2011 Ikea Kitchen Makeover and 2012 Ikea Kitchen Makeover videos.

Photo credits:
1-6. Stacey Smithers

Author: 

Stacey Smithers

Vancouver tech company HootSuite has a new nest. The social media management firm unveiled their fun, conceptual Mount Pleasant headquarters this past April and it's quickly joining the ranks of other state-of-the-art offices that are changing the way we do 9-5.

The 33,000-square foot space provides multiple communal workspaces for more than 300 employees, plus a yoga room, nap room and beer and wine on tap — not to mention a cool West Coast aesthetic. CEO Ryan Holmes worked with SSDG Interiors to create a Canadian, cabin-in-the-woods look. This idea translated into organic elements like log cabin walls, tree stump stools and even tent meeting rooms.

Let's take a peek inside!

Graphic murals are found throughout the entire space, like this West Coast-style piece at the front entrance. Tree stump side tables and log walls set the tone for the rest of the office.

Communal workstations make up the perimeter of the open-concept space, which was inspired by the open, exposed elements found in industrial spaces. "The space is designed to inspire spontaneous exchange and to truly support varied forms of collaboration," says SSDG interior designer Stephanie Gust. It's also dog-friendly, naturally.

Log-cabin style walls frame a cluster of meeting rooms found in the centre of the office.

Each meeting room has an original mural by a Hootsuite staffer, lending a gallery-like feel.

One side of a large, multipurpose room features small meeting tables and a tiered wood stage with a pull-down projector for lunch-and-learns and events. "Whether work is done in the middle of a corridor, on the floor of a stage, or on the edge of someone's desk, HootSuite's process becomes transparent and celebrated throughout their office. I think that's the best part of the project," says Gust.

Opposite the stage is the main kitchen and lunch area. Yes, this is where employees can pour themselves a pint after a hard day's work. Metal pendant lights, sleek cabinetry and picnic-style tables echo the industrial-meets-rustic look of the rest of the office.

A coffee bar and lounge lends itself to downtime. Tents act as meeting rooms, giving a bit of privacy but still keeping with the open feel of the space (there's only one private office with an actual door).

Long day? Take a siesta in the nap room. Camp-style cots, string lights and a painted sunset façade provide an escape for employees.

How could you not feel inspired in a space like this? My prediction is that more offices will begin to see the importance of an open, interactive workspace that spurs creativity. Interior design affects us on a mental, emotional level, at work and in the home — something HootSuite seems to understand well.

Photo credits:
1-8. Ema Peter Photography; design by SSDG Interiors Inc., Kenna Manley BADID RID, Registered Interior Designer and Stephanie Gust BADID LEED AP, Interior Designer

Author: 

Chloe Berge

Jillian Harris may have made a name for herself on ABC's The Bachelorette, but in the last few years she's had a lot more going on than dating drama. After stints on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Canada's Handyman Challenge, the designer from Peace River, Alberta, is now the host of Love It or List It Vancouver and runs her own eponymous design firm.

Her fun, eclectic style, which she describes as "traditional feminine with a vintage flare," and down-to-earth persona make her the kind of girl you can imagine becoming instant friends with — yes, I will openly admit to my girl crush on Jillian. At ease in stilettos or with a hammer in hand, her accessibility has made her a homegrown favourite.

From left to right: Charlie Ford Vintage co-owners Alyssa Dennis, Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer.

I caught up with the multitasking design maven over the phone while she was en route to Kelowna, B.C. where she is currently building a home, to talk about her new project Charlie Ford Vintage. Harris collaborated with her cousin, Tori Wesszer, and friend, Alyssa Dennis, to create Charlie Ford, a retail website specializing in vintage home decor.

The dynamic threesome have worked with vendors across North America on a carefully curated collection of antiques that takes the hard work out of antiquing. As a huge vintage lover, I couldn't wait to ask her a few questions about the shop:

CB: Where did the idea for Charlie Ford Vintage come from?

JH: Tori, Alyssa and I have been shopping vintage since we were 10 years old. There's so many great vintage finds out there and there's not possibly enough room in our homes to buy it all! I wanted to share the things that I was finding. So we found a way to curate our best vintage finds from all of our favourite stores. Tori and I always wanted to go into business together, but with the e-commerce world ever-growing and really making a huge change in how people shop, we felt that a storefront was doing the community an injustice. I have so many readers and I want all those readers to benefit from this idea not just the readers in one community.

CB: How did you come up with the name?

JH: Tori had just given birth to her son, Charlie Ford. It's just such a classic, timeless name and we kept coming back to it. We figured it's a really great little legacy for him!

CB: Who do you envision as the Charlie Ford Customer?

JH: Anybody who is struggling to find that perfect piece for their space to give it that final touch, that wow factor. I think it will be a great resource for designers, too, who don't have time to drive out to Princeton, B.C. and rummage through all the rubble to find something perfect for their client. Also, people who want to be eco-friendly. A lot of the time we don't realize how eco-friendly buying vintage is. You're saving the resources and the energy it takes to make a new piece.

CB: How does your curation process work?

JH: For me, it's a feeling. It's walking by something... those pieces that jump out at you. All three of us are different. Tori loves to find things that are very gently used and very dainty — almost Parisian. I like things that are decrepit and falling apart. I love it when things are hanging on to their last thread. Alyssa is very traditional. She loves beautiful blown glass, china and silverware. With the three of us we have a really eclectic mix. We want there to be a piece for everybody.

CB: What kind of items will we be able to shop for?

JH: Lighting, rugs, furniture, decor, jewelry, accessories. Anything from chandeliers to side tables, old clocks, chalkboards, mirrors, definitely a lot of amazing art. We have some really incredible, affordable art. Some is one-of-a-kind, some are prints, but all of it is really fun and very unique.

CB: Where did your love of vintage come from?

JH: My mom used to own an antiques store and her and Tori's mom, who are sisters, have always been so passionate about it. I remember being a little girl and going to auctions. I remember road tripping and going to abandoned houses in the prairies and finding old mason jars and rolling pins. For me, it was being in those old empty houses and smelling that smell of mustiness. I looked at those pieces and I felt like it would be so awful to let those pieces go. You think of all the different stories that could be told if those pieces could talk and that's when I get really emotional about antiques. They're conversation pieces and they're so unique. I love the idea of history and of stories.

CB: What kind of quality does vintage give to a home?

JH: It's all emotional. As a designer, I believe that the design of your home should be 85% emotional. I love it when I can create a space where someone will walk into a room and hold their heart and say, "Oh my gosh, that is so me, how did you know?" With Charlie Ford, I think you'll cruise the site and your heart will start to pitter patter and you will think to yourself: I love this cookie jar; look at this vase; that's the most beautiful broach!" Buying vintage is just a bit more personal. People love getting something old that's coveted and curated.

CB: Do you mix old and new a lot when working with clients?

JH: Absolutely. On the second season of Love it or List It, airing this fall, I'm so excited about the spaces. We have an incredible design team and I wanted to teach them how important it is to bring some of the past into a new space. I think people will see that the spaces are new and fresh but they look like they've got a heart beat. Adding some old vintage pieces and making it look like it has had a life can do wonders for a new space.

CB: Do you have a favourite vintage piece?

JH: I have lots! My new favourite is a piece I picked up in Maui. I have a little condo there. I went to an antique store in Paia and there was an old glass buoy and it was still covered with the rope, which is hard to find. It was so big and so beautiful. I put it on a table underneath a framed piece of coral, styled it with some old nautical books and I've created the most incredible vignette. That's my favourite piece because it's very interesting, very beautiful, but it tells a story of my trip to Hawaii. For me, it's a reminder of a happy time in my life.

CB: We recently published our first Advice Issue. What is your best piece of design or decorating advice you could share with our readers?

JH: The funniest is the one I reiterate all the time that ties into my past as a Bachelorette, it's kind of a joke but it speaks the truth: A great piece of furniture, accessory or even a paint colour is just like going out and searching for the perfect guy. You might think it's perfect and you might love it until you get it home and after a few days you realize it's not perfect, but you can just return it for something new! People over-think their space and they stress out about it. You have to give things a shot and be drawn to what speaks to your heart. At the end of the day, when it comes to design we're not saving lives, we're being artists. Just go for it, and if it's not right it can always be changed!

Charlie Ford Vintage launches today. Happy virtual antiquing!

Photo credits:
1-2. Karolina Turek
3-4. Charlie Ford Vintage

Author: 

Chloe Berge

Photographer: 

Karolina Turek

I often wonder if designers have "Aha!" moments. Do they know when they create something special? Does time stand still while an ethereal beam of light shines down upon them? I like to think so, but perhaps a piece of art's originality is only apparent when sanctioned by critics and public acclaim.

Either way, I know for certain that as a design lover, I have moments when an object takes my breath away — be it a piece of furniture, a painting or a dress.

I still haven't made it to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York (think IDS on steroids) but I feel like it would be full of ingenuity. If I had been there this past May, these five exhibitors would have stopped me in my tracks.

This sculptural Parabola Chair — yes, chair — looks more artwork than furniture, but its real beauty lies in its functionality. Designer Carlo Aiello managed to create a seat, armrests and chair back without them resembling anything in our design repertoire. Its soft, parabolic curves form a comfy nest.

I love the bubble chandelier by Jean and Oliver Pelle of Brooklyn-based design firm Pelle. The airy clusters of glass spheres really capture the delicate, ephemeral quality of bubbles about to burst. Their Dorit Candleholders are also worth a mention. Made from imperfect, knotted wood and finished with metallic paint, they look like rough, colourful geodes.

This biologically-inspired table is a custom piece by Nervous System made with their radiolaria app. The app allows customers to play God (or designer) and create furniture, jewelry and housewares using an interactive screen that mimics genetic biology. Watch the video here.

StudioKCA's bronze Firefly chandelier is like something out of a dream. The multitude of tiny lights and fluttering shadows mimics the movement of fireflies against a dark landscape.

The Hialeah Table by Iacoli & McAllister is less conceptual than the above designs but I had to include it for the simple fact that I really wish I could take it home. It has that rare quality of being timeless yet new and I love its mix of materials — sigh.

What have you come across lately that's made you take a second look?

Photo credits:
1-2. ICFF
3-4. Pelle
5. ICFF
6. Faktura
7. StudioKCA
8. Iacoli & McAllister

Author: 

Chloe Berge

Workspace planner and furnishings designer Florence Knoll Bassett (known as "Shu" to her friends, for her maiden name Schust) was a design pioneer. At the pinnacle of her career in 1965, she withdrew from the design world after completing the interiors of the CBS headquarters.

Under her leadership, many modern masters created iconic pieces for Knoll, including Eero Saarinen's Tulip chairs and pedestal tables (his tables sit in front of a Knoll sofa in her Miami home), Isamu Noguchi's coffee table, Harry Bertoia's wire furniture and Richard Schultz's outdoor collection. She bucked tradition, attributing design credits and paying royalties to designers, an unusual practice in the furniture industry.

Knoll's distinctive furniture designs (her signature bench is among several of her designs still in production today) were marked by sleek silhouettes and geometries that reflected her architectural training. Knoll won four of the Museum of Modern Art's "Good Design" competitions, and the company's designs are still displayed today on MoMA's top floor.

Florence Schust was working at a New York architecture firm when Hans Knoll asked her to design an office for the U.S. Secretary of War. In 1943, Florence convinced Hans she could boost business by expanding into interior design and working with architects. After they married in 1946, she became a full business partner and together they founded Knoll Associates. When Hans died in a car accident in 1955, Florence took over the company and designed chairs, sofas, tables and casegoods. She founded Knoll textiles and designed the company's regional showrooms.

This Mad Men-esque image of a lone woman in a 1950s boardroom depicts Florence surrounded by insurance execs in dark suits scrutinizing her paste-ups. Her vision for the new office was clean and uncluttered, and the corporate boom of the 1960s provided an opportunity for her to change the way people looked at the workplace.

Florence's open-plan layouts were the ideal venue for her furniture. Because texture was a significant element in Knoll's designs, she placed swatches of fabrics on the paste-up board to reinforce her vision of stimulating, humanized interiors.

This 1961 marble-top credenza was influenced by Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building and Corbusian columns. Florence mixed woods and metals and incorporated laminates as they became more popular.

This 1954 Knoll showroom in San Francisco embodies the look she championed for modern office spaces: the lines are clean and spare, and textiles add life and vivid colour.

Outside of reception areas, Florence Knoll Bassett's classic sofa remains a staple of good design in homes, and still looks fresh despite being over 60 years old. Today, on May 24, the ground-breaking designer herself turns a magnificent 96.

For more timeless designs, see our gallery of Iconic Furniture A-Z.

Photo credits:
1. The North Elevation blog
2. Florence Knoll Bench, Knoll
3. Suite 101
4. Arredativo
5. Miniature Chair Man blog
6. Knoll Low Filing Cupboard, ArchiExpo
7. Material-life.co.uk
8. All Roads Lead to Home blog

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

Yesterday I attended the 26th annual Through the Garden Gate Tour, hosted by the Toronto Botanical Garden. This year, the 19 privately owned gardens are scattered within Toronto's Forest Hill and South Hill neighbourhoods. As media, we had the opportunity to see five of the gardens ahead of the scheduled tour, which runs from June 8th to 9th. Visit the Toronto Botanical Garden website for advanced tickets.

The gardens were all stunning in their own way. I was particularly impressed with the mix of species within each garden. The peonies were absolutely gorgeous — some in full bloom and others ready to bloom any day. Irises were in full bloom too, and the Japanese maples added stunning spectrums of reds. The colours were endless!

I love the mix of tropical plants (Monstera) with more traditional plants, just like in this planter. The height of the Monstera plant and the jagged outline of the Coleus leaves gives the planter a edgy feel.

I also loved the walkway of Alliums in the same garden, mixed with grasses and Chinodoxa.

The garden with the greenhouse was exceptional. I didn't get a chance to speak to the owner, but I did overhear that it's not just for show — the owner is an avid gardener and starts all his plants with seeds. The greenhouse complemented the Arts & Crafts-styled house perfectly. It was obvious the owner took great pride in his garden — every aspect of the yard was attended to with care. I love that.

It must be my English roots, but I'm always drawn to Wisteria and Clematis. In the last garden we viewed, this Clematis was growing along the stone wall. It was beautifully pruned to trail along the wall just so. The soft pink was so delicate! Side note: If you're in Toronto, make a point of driving by the Korean Consulate at St. Clair and Avenue Road — the Wisteria along the iron fence is absolutely stunning.

If you don't already have plans for June 8th or 9th, call up a friend and spend a day touring these beautiful backyards. You will not be disappointed!

Browse our gallery of Gorgeous Gardens for more inspiration.

Photo credits:
1-7. Sarah Hartill

Author: 

Sarah Hartill

On Tuesday night I got my Skinnygirl on with yummy cocktails and eats at the brand's summer party at the Rosewater Supper Club. Hosted by the original Skinnygirl, chef, author and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel, and eTalk's Traci Melchor, the evening benefited Dress For Success.

Skinnygirl Margarita was launched by Frankel in March 2011. The low-carb, low-cal drink became an instant success and the brand has now expanded to include seven ready-to-serve cocktails, a vodka collection and a wine collection.

Party-goers were greeted at the door with White Cranberry Cosmos, followed by the arrival of Bethenny and Traci, who treated guests to a fun Q&A about summer entertaining.

Ready-to-serve cocktails like the Skinnygirl Sangria, Peach Margarita and Mojito make summer entertaining easy. Frankel recommends sticking to classics with a twist for party food, like turkey burgers with wasabi mayo served alongside Mojito cocktails — her go-to for parties this season. The new White Cherry Vodka is a must-try, says Frankel, just add soda or serve over ice.

I'm partial to the Skinnygirl Mojito — my favourite summer drink! At only 90 calories a glass, it's a refreshing and guilt-free patio cocktail. I would still add some fresh mint to it for flavour and aroma, though.

Guests were given a tour of four cocktail tasting rooms featuring different summer entertaining tips. The White Peach Margarita room was all about home decor! Event stylist Marla Brown talked about outdoor decorating.

If you're throwing a patio party, Brown recommends setting the mood with torches, lanterns, votives, or hanging cafe lights, making sure to illuminate the walking path. Add bright colours like this turquoise and tangerine combo to your neutral furniture with vases and throw pillows, says Brown.

I could definitely spend some time lounging here with a glass of sangria! Brown also recommends bringing the indoors out. Don't be afraid to bring your indoor chairs and tables outside for your party, she says.

Chef Lauren Mozer, founder of Toronto's Elle Cuisine, passed on tips for summer entertaining with recipes that are big on flavour and small on prep time. Keep it simple and light, always use fresh ingredients and pay attention to presentation, which accounts for 75% of any food experience, says Mozer.

These chicken satays were marinated in Skinnygirl White Wine and served with a red pepper chimichurri — yum!

I'll be lounging on a patio in Vancouver this weekend, Skinnygirl Mojito in hand, if anyone asks. Cheers!

Photo credits:
1-8. Chloe Berge

Author: 

Chloe Berge

Superstar Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, founder of Moooi, touches down in Toronto this Friday, May 3rd, to unveil his latest designs for Klaus, the exclusive Canadian dealer of Moooi furnishings. On May 4th, he will speak at the Hair of the Dog Brunch hosted by the Design Exchange from 11 to 1:30 p.m.

Wanders is a product and interior designer who shot to fame with his knotted chair design for Droog in 2006. Since forming Moooi in 2001, he has gone on to design products for Ålessi, Christofle, B&B Italia and Target, and very hip architectural projects and interiors. We asked Wanders about some of his latest endeavors, and reveal some of his new Moooi offerings at Klaus.

House & Home: You have said that product designers should make fantasies real, and your designs and interiors — particularly the trippy South Beach Mondrian — really illustrate this philosophy. Where do you think your whimsical sense of play stems from?

Marcel Wanders: If you want to give people a new experience, you have to kind of surprise them with something they have never seen, it gives them a sense of euphoria. Whimsical things are unexpected, you understand them as being very fun and beautiful, but I think the idea of fantasy should be meaningful. I don't feel fantasy plays an important role in a lot of design, and I think it should. I am trying to put fantasy on a higher level in my work.

H&H: You're a judge for the upcoming DX emerging designer contest. What kinds of things do you look for when assessing a young designer's work?

MW: It's difficult because you get only a little part of the story of design. I try to understand the reasoning behind the work, and why people are doing something. Ultimately, I don't love to criticize someone else's work, I want to support and excite these people.

H&H: You set up a program at Moooi to teach designers about business. Why is mentoring young designers in this area important to you?

MW: We have a young designer program to give feedback from professionals in — and outside — of the design world. I don't know if I am a role model but I think everyone in the universe is either an example or warning, it's up to us to choose which we will be. Designers working within the industry convince companies to invest, produce and sell their ideas, to make sure that people working in the company will still have a job tomorrow. It's a responsibility for a designer. If you aren't interested in listening to what companies need, then do a different job.

H&H: You've made a shift from product design to large-scale projects like commercial spaces and hotels (the Miami Mondrian is shown above). Is that a natural progression from product design?

MW: For me it's kind of a logical step, I don't want to do the same type of thing over and over again. Design is the study of relationships more than anything else. It's always interesting to see the relationship of objects to their surroundings; I am exploring this within the interior designs I am doing.

For more insight, read interviews with Jonathan Adler and Vicente Wolf.

Photo credits:
1. Yoox.com
2-4. Moooi
5. CubeMe.com

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

If you've never bought art before, it can be hard to know where to begin. Some of the best advice I've heard is to forget about expert opinion and buy what moves you. Now a new art event may just give you a chance to support a cause that moves you, too.

Buy Art Not Kids (B.A.N.K.) is a new charity art auction in support of Ratanak International, a Canadian organization aimed at rescuing and rehabilitating victims of child sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Artist Rachelle Kearns, whose piece Joy in the Wilderness is pictured above, was inspired to create the event after learning about the plight of Cambodian children through her friend Lisa Cheong, who left a Bay Street finance job to work with Ratanak, sharing the stories of sex-trade victims through her blog. Kearns and her husband, Steve, were "heartbroken" by what they read in Cheong's blog. "The idea popped in my head, 'I can do something about this,'" says Kearns, who was determined to use her love of the arts and community of friends to help Ratanak give young people a way out of the sex trade, and the support to build new lives.

Thanks to a committee of 13 women comprised mostly of other moms on her street, the inaugural B.A.N.K. auction will take place Thursday, April 18th. The event is hosted by Erica Ehm, of MuchMusic fame, now publisher of the popular website Yummy Mummy Club.

B.A.N.K. takes place at Toronto's Havergal College. "We had the idea to partner with a girls' private school to connect girls of privilege to the situation in Cambodia," says Kearns. "It's a somewhat difficult topic and I was very impressed with the school's courage in that regard. The girls in the school are really elevating themselves and becoming more involved."

The auction is co-curated by Kearns and artist Marjolyn vanderHart, whose piece Pathfinder is pictured above. The two set out to find established artists to donate pieces, first creating A-, B- and C-lists of desired contributors they hoped would donate pieces. "We wanted art that was inspirational in one way or another. We were looking for artists that we felt aided the viewer in looking differently at things, or celebrating an aspect of life. We definitely wanted uplifting pieces and were looking for a positivity in the work. Everybody on our A-list said 'Yes.'"

There are 31 pieces by established Canadian artists for the event's live auction. But what makes this event unique is that there will also be 37 pieces by senior art students at Havergal available through a silent auction, putting art on offer at a variety of price points. "Most of the art auctions that I know of are somewhat inaccessible to the average person who might want to take a stand against child sex trafficking," says Kearns. "Our idea was to make this art auction a little more accessible to someone who might not necessarily attend art auctions on a regular basis."

Nava Waxman, who recently participated in the Verge Art Fair in Miami, is contributing her encaustic piece, Figure and Bird, above, to the event. Some other artists of note include Michael Levin, whose work is included in Hasselblad's upcoming 2013 coffee table book titled Victor, and Emily Filler, an up-and-comer who has burst onto the Montreal and Quebec scene with great success.

Asked about the light shed on human trafficking through a recent Toronto Star investigation into sex tourism, Kearns says, "It feels like there's a groundswell of support and awareness happening across Canada."

She hopes that support is reflected with attendance at the B.A.N.K. auction. For tickets, visit the B.A.N.K. website here.

Photo credits:
1. Joy in the Wilderness, Rachelle Kearns
2. Pathfinder, Marjolyn vanderHart
3. Figure and Bird, Nava Waxman

Author: 

Brandie Weikle

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