Far & Wide Collective + The Marion House Book Part Two

Back in July I introduced my collaboration with Far & Wide Collective, a Toronto-based business that partners with talented artisans in emerging and post-conflict countries to bring their handmade and beautifully-crafted products to people like you and me. Today I'm showing you four new images from the collection.

In getting to know the founder, Hedvig Alexander, I learned that most artists and craft producers have no way of getting their products into markets like Canada and the United States. With the global trend still going strong, it only makes sense to try and buy these fair-trade items in a way that actually supports the people who make them. I think we all want to move away from mindless consumption and shift towards buying fewer items of good quality that have been thoughtfully designed.

Here are some of my favourite items.

Photography by Sian Richards.

Baskets - Cobalt blue and black striped baskets - Made by women around the rural villages of Mount Kasigau in the Southern part of Kenya these baskets are woven of sisal, a plant native to the area. Along with generating income, basket weaving groups have become a place where women can socialize, exchange ideas and discuss entrepreneurship. From $79.

Towels - These multifunctional towel sets come with a bath, face, and hand towel. Made by Kara Weaves in Kerala, India, they can be used in the bathroom, as a sarong or as a scarf. Available in combinations of blue and pink. $115 for a 3-piece set.

Limited Edition Print - Created by Afghani artist Tamim Sahib Zader with crushed Lapis Lazuli and Turquoise stones this exquisitely detailed work is in the tradition of miniature painting, a practice dating back to the 13th century. $105 unframed.

Moroccan Pom Pom Blanket - Woven from 100% hand-spun wool, these blankets with their oversized pom-poms are made by the Maslouhi collective in Morocco, a group that was started by 40 women in 2013. They are the perfect way to top off your bed. 2m x 3m, $275

Otomi Pillow - This hand-embroidered 100% cotton black and white pillow is made by Cooperativa Doni Joy, a group of female artisans in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. The graphic pattern represents floral and animal shapes which are said to be inspired by drawings in nearby caves. 26" x 26", $185.

Wave BasketThese skillfully crafted one-of-a-kind baskets are handwoven by men and women in The Baba Tree collective in the town of Bolgatanga, West Ghana. Choosing, splitting and rolling the straw for one wave basket takes an entire day. It takes another day to dye the straw and four to five days to actually weave the basket. $145


Behind the Shoot

Last October or maybe it was early November myself a few others from Chatelaine headed out to my friend Anya's farm to shoot some Thanksgiving-y autumn shots.

The way magazines work, I need to shoot most seasonal features a year in advance in order to have them ready for publishing which is always three months ahead of the real date. For example, these images are in the current issue of Chatelaine which we finished about a month ago in the steamy heat of August. Believe me, there were no pumpkins or fall leaves in sight.


The day we headed out to  the farm the temperature was really turning and later that night we arrived at our hotel to see snow on the ground. We caught these images just in time. The other thing you can't from these photos is that it was pouring rain.

The prop stylist, Jen Evans and I, started making this beautiful table outside only to have it start raining the moment we began shooting. As the sheepskins got wetter and wetter and the wine glasses started to fill with puddles of rain we decided to move the shoot inside the barn but not before getting a few amazing shots (by photographer, Sian Richards). We were all so happy a few days later when we discovered that these shots were still usable despite the rain. You can hardly see it. 

Anya, her husband Manny (that's one of his paintings above) and their two children have parties in the barn more or less year round so many of the things we needed were already in place. The only extras we brought in were the plates, cutlery and flowers. (Don't mind our bags and coolers in the background!)


Since we weren't sure whether or not we would be able to use the table shots from outside we set up again inside. At this point, we were all really wet and feeling super cold but we pushed on. We may or may not have started on the "prop wine" earlier than usual!

This close-up shot of the plate setting we shot directly on the floor of the barn. I absolutely love the combination of the turquoise plates with the rust, especially the beautiful patina of the top plate which we rented from Rustica. It's so refreshing to do a Thanksgiving story that doesn't fall back on the typical fall colours. 

Our beautiful host, Anya treated us all to a home cooked meal up at her house after our shoot was over. We all couldn't have been happier to have a warm meal and take our wet clothes off.

As the night started to fall, we crept out for a few final shots. I think this one is probably my favourite. It shows our art director at the time, Brendan Fisher, walking away from the barns. Worth all the rain and cold hands. Pick up the October issue of Chatelaine to see the full story and the Thanksgiving recipes we shot to accompany this feature.


With Fall fast approaching, I'm craving the look of deep rich colours like Pantone's colour of the year; Marsala.  I love it mixed with a pale pink, deep greens and even a charcoal grey.  What colours are you craving this fall?

Garage Plans

We're moving ahead with our plans for a garage. We brought in our neighbour and architect, Zuzanna Krykorka of Studio Z, to helps with the design. She presented three schemes to us a few weeks ago and we have settled on the one below with a few variations.

The inspiration for the garage is based on a classic black barn where the sides and roof of the building almost disappear into one another.  This example in particular, The Stealth Barn by Carl Turner Architects, is the look I'm going for.

Another great example in this style, is the Black and Bright house by Danish architect Jan Henrik Jansen on the Danish Island of Mon.

Andrea Gatzke

Andrea Gatzke

Andrea Gatzke

Andrea Gatzke

Isn't it beautiful how the sides of this house open up to reveal the interior? 

Of course, we're not building a house (like the above two examples) so ours will be much simpler but I am hoping to add a wood burning sauna if possible. Really, that's the part I am most excited about.

We're also beginning to take a look at possible materials for the outside of the garage everything from charred to black stained wood. I love the look of shou sugi ban torched lumber which is the Japanese method of burning wood to reduce the likelihood of fire and to keep insects and rot away. We've received some samples from reSAWN timber co. which look amazing.  Next step is to refine our plans and put the bid out to contractors. Stay tuned.