Dragon Alley and the Shadow Portraits


The garage sale season is pretty well over so, for the last two weekends, we’ve been giving ourselves little gallery tours. Interesting things happen when you do this, especially if you are artistically inclined. You start to really notice more around you. Looking at art recharges your creative batteries and we found ourselves taking in our surroundings with a bit more interest, a bit more spark.

For instance the lovely carving in the header was in Bastion Square and I honestly don’t believe I’d noticed it before.

Although our little tours took us all over Victoria downtown, Fort Street and Oak Bay Ave. today I’m just going to focus on a little corridor of live/work condos in Dragon Alley. Dragon Alley is in Chinatown, and on our way to Chinatown by way of Fan Tan Alley, we noticed this sign in the window of a coffee shop.


Now, we are a couple of old hippies ourselves and got quite a laugh out of this sign, obviously a collectible. But it made me pause when I think of how back in the 60’s and 70’s we were really into organic and all those values like fair trade.   We had such a hard time finding those kinds of products. And now, here they are, ubiquitous. I like to think that those hippie ideals are finally coming to fruition. Took a while but all the signs are here at last.

Ok, on with my little tour. The first thing you find when entering Dragon Alley from Fisgard St is Lyle Ink Gallery. It’s actually in the former dining room of the occupant’s condo. It’s tiny but full to bursting with exuberant art, most made by Lyle with a few pieces by a good artist from the 60’s, Roy Lichtenstein thrown in too.


The architects who designed this space had the artistic sensitivity to keep the flavour and texture of the place. This wall created from rusty panels becomes an abstract art installation with it’s rusts and color and texture.


The Alley is full of all sorts of little businesses, even a gift shop for dogs! Right next to it, we came upon this water feature wall in the space between two condos. Love the plantings and the quiet water falling into the pool below. But couldn’t help feeling that it really could have used one of our Summer House Studio cast stone sculptures. Maybe I should have dropped them a card…..


You enter Dragon Alley through a long brick lined corridor between two buildings. You exit the same way. I had to catch this long view as we left the Alley.


Leaving the Alley, I just happened to look down as I crossed the street in the bright sunshine and really noticed my shadow. It sparked a little impromptu art photography. Bill and I quickly got into the fun of it, playing and creating portraits with our shadows. See what a little gallery hopping can do?  The last one is my favourite.




I leave you with a few of the relatively new galleries, not in Dragon Alley, but all eclectic, experimental, and fun that we re-discovered and in one case, discovered for the first time. One is View Art Gallery on, you guessed it, View Street, also in a condo main floor. The other is Polychrome Fine Arts on Fort Street. And the last in Oak Bay, a photography gallery called Luz Gallery.  And thinking back to the Hippie sign in the window, maybe just my imagination, but all these galleries sort of bring to mind those “hippie” days so full of new ideas and new ways of thinking.


Time Traveling on a Saturday Morning

It was really too early for garage sale season. But the column in the paper did have a couple of possibilities. One, a “Giant Jumble and Plant sale” looked promising. Just say plant sale and I’m there. It was at Point Ellice House, and was a fundraising sale for this little gem surrounded by what is now an industrial area.

We were so lucky to arrive, just as a woman dressed in a long black dress and a black straw hat with feathers, invited anyone interested, on a free tour of the house. Bill and I gave each other a glance and both quickly fell in behind the lady in black, the tour guide by the name of Gail.

Now hopefully I’ve got my facts right.  Ellice House was originally built by the Warks for their son and his wife as a wedding present. Later, in 1867, it became the property of Gold Rush magnate and Commissioner, Peter O’Reilly.


In 1974 the house and all its contents were sold to the BC government. When they said all its contents, they meant it. From the dishes and cutlery, linens, the stove, the games and even letters. According to the brochure, “it is now one of the largest collections of Victoriana in its original privileged Victorian home.”

We entered by the back door, just off the verandah and were lead into the scullery and then the kitchen. We weren’t allowed to use a flash, so could only take photos and keep our fingers crossed that they would turn out.


All the pots waiting on the work table by the window, glowed in the morning light.

I’m kind of proud of the this photo, taken in the butler’s room, of the silver service catching and bending reflections of the curtains in the window. Sometimes you can get lucky.

Imagine the staff scurrying off at the sound of the bells, to wait on one of the O’Reillys.


The dining room, a Victorian period piece, all set for a gracious meal, perhaps with the Prime Minister or some other members of the elite of Victoria at the time.


If we were to follow this path it would take us to a set of stairs that would lead to the Gorge Waterway dock below where visitors embarked on boats to take them back to the Victoria harbour.


After the tour, we shopped the Jumble and found a few treasures, a little rag rug for the kitchen floor, a bright yellow throw for the couch or a daybed. No plants though. Nothing there that we didn’t already have. Ah well.

Then on to a flee market in Esquimalt. Tables and tables of treasures. And we found a treasure too, an album by Joni Mitchell, called “Wild Things Run Fast”, one that we had somehow missed! From 1982! I’m listening to it as I write. All new songs to me. Sorry Joni, don’t know how we missed this one.

And then back to the car and what did we see? Goats! Baby goats! In a little impromptu petting zoo set up in the parking lot.

So there was a morning’s travels in time, from Victorian times and the privileged classes and their servants, to 1982 and jazz with Joni, to the present full of exuberantly bouncing baby goats or should I say kids?
Now I’m off to pick more Spring rhubarb, a Crisp with oatmeal this time I think…


A Lovely Walk on a Muddy Gray Day


Yesterday it finally stopped raining. We’d been cooped up in the house working away on the computer together. Suddenly tired of work, we poked our heads up and realized that we could really use a nice walk… without an umbrella.

Usually we either walk different routes around our own neighbourhood or we jump in the car and make our way to the Gorge Walkway. But today, we had to pick up a special cat food or suffer the consequences of a ticked off kitty. And that led to our realizing that we hadn’t walked the Selkirk Trestle for ages and only once before, at that. So since we were close and traffic was easier if we turned that way anyway…. off we went.

If you live in Victoria you’ll know the Selkirk Trestle which is part of the Galloping Goose Trail. It used to be a railway trestle and is now used exclusively for walkers and bike riders. There is something special about walking on this boardwalk, made of wide wooden planks. It invites you to slow down and look around. The feel of smooth weathered wood under your feet is so good, wish I could come up with the perfect description.


Seagulls perched on a post are a ubiquitous bit of tourist kitsch in Victoria. There are racks and racks of seagulls glued to posts in the tourist shops on Government Street . But to me seagulls are such handsome birds that I just had to take some photos. Don’t you love how they seem to pose majestically for the photo?



We carried on to the end of the bridge and followed the rather muddy path to the park. And we cannot resist seeing what is around a bend, can you?


Seeing this little houseboat anchored on the Gorge, we couldn’t help imagining living in it, all cozy and bobbing up and down with the tides.


Further on in the park, which was full of all sorts of birds feasting on berries, we found this little grotto. Now doesn’t the reflection of the rocks in the water make it look as though they are round and floating on the water?  Oh maybe, it’s just me.


Then it was time to go back home again. We took our time, walking slowly, not really wanting to go home and work. But the walk had cheered us and given us a meditative space. I wanted to catch some good shots of the structure of the trestle. I love the look and pattern of all those big posts sunk into the inlet.


We moved here from sunny Alberta and many Albertans and also many many native Victorians moan about gray days, preferring instead sunny blue skies. I decided long ago to accept this place as it is, and enjoy it, gray skies and rainy days especially. And it’s easy to do…. I love nothing more than the smell of a wet day, the smell of wet cedar and ocean cannot be beat. And gray skies? Oddly, I will not tolerate gray as color in my artwork hardly ever, but gray skies never ever really bother me.


Meeting the Christmas Dogs

There is absolutely no way that Christmas Day could have been any better. At least for those of us who DON’T subscribe to “Dreaming of a White Christmas” or go around singing “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”. Oh no, Snow is a four letter word to me. I love a green Christmas most of all. But yesterday was a bonus, it was a Green and Sunny Christmas in Victoria, the place where lawns green up in winter!

So after all the gifts were opened, the mince tarts eaten and a hearty brunch had by all, Will and I went off for our Christmas Day Walk. We chose the Gorge Walkway and were rewarded with Great Scenery either way, going up

or down the walkway.


And then as an added bonus, we got to meet the Christmas Dogs. First was this cute little guy in a red sweater sporting reindeer yet.


Next we met the little black poodle, a quiet fellow, dressed up in red.  Such a good color on him.


Our next meeting was with a little black and white with a curled up tail.

Who soon drew the interest of another dog.


This quickly became a great tangle of leads as each twirled around trying to get a good sniff. You’ll just have to imagine it. We were having enough trouble trying not to get caught up in the leashes.

And then there she was….the tiniest little charmer in a Santa suit. She had so much energy that we had quite a time trying to get a photo. Almost got her entirely in the shot here…

Oh only the nose here…

And finally a cute photo looking up at us.

The Christmas dogs made the day. All dressed up to celebrate by their proud and loving owners.


The Show at Hatley Castle

You would think that with a craft show looming on the horizon that we would be responsible and get everything ready on the couple of days beforehand but no, not us.

Instead we decided to have a little party at our house to celebrate our good friend Hart’s birthday on Friday night with our usual compliment of fun loving friends and two of our sons in attendance. It was a Mexican theme with everyone bringing food and goodies with a Tex Mex flavour and even the music I found was Mexican. I love having these get togethers on a weekend night, nothing beats good conversation, laughter and good food with friends.

Then Saturday, instead of staying home and designing a new hand out card in the morning, the lure of garage sailing was just too strong to resist. One of our three sons, Dave, in his call to wish me Happy Mom’s Day late Sunday night, said he was pretty sure we are addicted to garage sailing to which I replied that it was not an addiction but our way of having fun. And we did have a wonderful morning buying plants, finding good free stuff and taking our usual ocean side coffee break in the beautiful sunshine. Lucky for us, Eric was at home while we were out galavanting preparing the sculptures and packing them up for Sunday and doing other little odd jobs like repairing our show table.

Finally by late Saturday night we did get everything done. The new card had been designed and printed just in time before Office Depot closed. The car had been packed with all the mosaics and pots and boxes of supplies. All that remained was for Hart to come over with his truck in the morning so we could load it up with table, chairs and sculptures. With me running around telling everyone to hurry because we have to get there before the end of load in time at 9, we finally were on our way. That is, until we realized about 4 blocks away that we had forgotten the tent. Now you cannot screech to a halt when you have vehicles loaded with artwork so we coasted to a stop and turned around to get the tent. Well at least we were only a few blocks from home. You may say you should have a list of things to check off. Well we do. But we’ve done shows so many times that we sort of gave it cursory attention. Actually I think we did pretty well. The only other things I forgot were plants for the mosaic pots display and that was soon solved by buying some more plants for the garden at the show. Or was that just an unconsciously cunning way for me to justify buying more plants?

A view of the Castle from the front lawn
A view of the Castle from the front lawn

The show itself was great. Sunny, breezy and beautiful. Lots of people stopping and signing up for classes and taking a real interest in our sculptures. Our spot was on the front lawn of Hatley Castle overlooking the ocean. We all managed to take time off from our booth duties at different times to take in the rest of the show. I even managed a guided tour of the castle with our good friend and writer, Lia, who is also a tour guide at Hatley, giving lots of little known info about the history of this now popular place for shooting movies like XMen 2 and 3. Lia has written three wonderful stories about the feline friends in her life. Watch for a special segment in our blog on these literary gems and how to get them.

Of course, I’m always on the look out for other artists who make art from recycling and I was not disappointed. I just have to share a few of my finds. Unfortunately the first two don’t have web sites yet. I loved the jewelry made by Joyce Bezusko made from bits and pieces of old jewelry she finds in thrift shops and wherever.

Joyce with her creations
Joyce with her creations

Each one is different and unique and many are really playful. She has a bit of a following with some people collecting her one-of -a-kind pieces. She also sells in Hawaii, hence the name of her business Island Girl Originals. Or is that because she lives on our little island? Hmmm. You can reach her at 250-248-0637.

Bags reborn from scraps
Bags reborn from scraps

The next was a wonderfully talented seamstress, Renee Morris, from up island in Courtney, who makes these perfect bags with big shoulder straps from scraps of great materials. Her latest designs are made from recycled men’s tweed suit jackets! Amazing bags. Her little business is called Hobo’s and you can reach her at buyhobos@yahoo.com.

Amy's wonderful windows
Wonderful Windows

I loved Amy Houston’s booth with these awesome windows made with recycled glass and bottles and bits and pieces. She is part of a group called Two Glassy Ladies here in Victoria. I checked out their web site when we finally got home and it’s worth a visit for the blog and all the great glass beads they make.  The windows are created by Amy’s mom, Elizabeth.

The ladies of Wild Arc
The dedicated ladies at the Wild Arc booth

And I have to share with you the BC SPCA Wild Arc booth where they were selling baskets of flowers to raise money for Wild Arc. This is a great organization who takes care of wild animals injured or orphaned. You can find out more at www.wildarc.com.

Prospective students
Prospective students

So all in all it was a great day. I always get a kick out of the people who come into our booth and are smitten with mosaics. So many admit to saving broken dishes and wishing to make something with them. I just know I’ve met a future mosaic artist.

And now I really have to finish putting away all the stuff that we were too tired to do last night as we crashed with our supper in front of the TV and watched British murder mysteries. This week, I’m planning to do gardening and plant all the goodies I’ve been collecting that are waiting for a home in the garden. Where to grow it all? Ah well another little problem to get creative about.

My latest motto to live by is to have fun everyday. This last weekend, what with a birthday party, garage sailing and doing a craft show I think we managed it.

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