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Back in the Studio with Fabric by OHMJAM.com

Daisy pant suit pink fabric
Daisies in Pink

Fabric, fabric everywhere.  I’m back in my studio   which still isn’t finished but there’s too much fabric to wait until it is.

Summer has finally arrived and brought with it a lot of rain, torrential rain at times.  The beach is happening and I’m slowly getting inspired to get back into the thick of things.

Was it the rain,  bad news recently received or missing my family and friends in Australia?  I don’t know but I confess I haven’t felt like doing anything. Overwhelmed is a not a new feeling but one I haven’t felt since leaving the corporate world, yet it has returned.  Add disillusioned to that and you’ve got a myriad of emotions.

I usually keep so busy that I don’t have time for such thoughts or emotions.  However, this time I became reclusive. Shopping can usually get me out of any funk but I’ve had no desire to shop.  A new hairdo can lift my spirits so I got a fabulous haircut which helped for a few days.  I spent time working out at the gym, it helped a little.  Then I finally pulled some fabric and started creating a new wardrobe and suddenly it felt like a cloud had been lifted.

new denim fabric
Glitzy zipper jeans

Getting started was easy, I made a pair of jeans and put a glitzy zip fly in.  Nobody will know it’s there unless…. but I will.  It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you wear your sexiest under garments.

I’m not usually a fan of pink for myself but I do love daisies, so my next project was a pink pant suit.  Pale pink pants and a pink daisy top from the fabric shown at the top of the blog.

As I started to make these outfits, I began to get excited and couldn’t help but pull out more fabric.  Well I admit I went to Pinterest and Instragram to get inspired by things I love and while there isn’t much I don’t love, I do love colours and textures.

Dress or top? Silk fabric
Pink and Gray Silk

Here’s some of the fabric I’ll be using for my new wardrobe.  Now all I have to do is find the time to do it all.

silk fabric
Rich Brown tone, silk


Red Anchors jersey fabric
Crazy for Red & Anchors






pants or top polester blend fabric
Two Shades of Gray (& white)
textured fabric
White and Black Fall Jacket

Hopefully I stay inspired long enough to complete my new wardrobe.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!

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Hashtag #LovemyLife by OHMJAM.com

Yonge Street in the 50’s

One of my most used Hashtags is #lovemylife so I thought I’d share a little about just why I love my life. This is my beloved Toronto, circa 1950 I’m guessing. Growing up in downtown Toronto, Yonge Street was pretty much my backyard and over the years I saw changes but for the most part it remained the same.  I assure you it doesn’t look like this any longer although most of the old buildings remain but the movie theatres that lined the street are gone now with the exception of the Pantages Theatre.  This is an aerial view of the city today, sadly the skyline is all but gone now.

Toronto today


Don’t get me wrong I love Toronto, it’s my hometown, it’s where I grew up and where I spent the better part of my life with the exception of the years I lived in Australia but it’s changed.  I’m not opposed to change but…… there’s always a but isn’t there.  Okay let me explain.  I’m one of those people that when I get something in my head, I’m not content until I bring it to fruition.  I started renovating my studio months ago and it’s still not complete.  The flooring still needs to be done and I needed storage items.  I can’t design until I’ve created the ambiance that exists in my head.  So I searched the net for the items I wanted and of course where can you find just about anything – IKEA of course. Where is the nearest IKEATORONTO of course.  You can find everything in Toronto. For weeks I have been wanting/needing to go and get those pieces but for a number of reasons hadn’t been able to – weather mostly.  Yesterday the weather was perfect so off I went with a friend..  I hate taking the highway, no matter the time of day everybody thinks they’re Mario Andretti and I’m never in that much of a hurry.  Besides I love taking the side roads; the views of lush green grass in spring, trees in bloom and animals grazing feeds my soul. We saw plenty of that yesterday as well as quaint little towns that make you wish you lived in them.   Best of all traffic was almost absent.

The minute we hit Toronto, we were fighting our way through traffic -why we don’t hear more stories of road rage in the City is beyond me, drivers were very aggressive.   Arriving at our first destination, the famous IKEA, it took us quite awhile to find a parking space – really don’t people work anymore, it was mid day.  I got a few of the items I needed but one of the most important I couldn’t fit in my car.

After a well deserved lunch, it was getting late now and we still had a two hour drive home but I wasn’t going home without going to one of my old haunts – Grande Cheese on Orfus Rd. to pick up a couple of things I can’t find in the country – Passitti cheese and tarelli. For those who don’t know what Passitti is, it’s those little balls hanging. I went via the Bridal Path to get to Lawrence thinking there wouldn’t be a lot of traffic there – I was ABSOLUTELY wrong. We spent an hour in more traffic but nothing was going to stop me and I’m so glad I persevered.  Walking into this place, the blended aroma of cheese and salami filled the air and I felt a warmth come over me.  I was so grateful that this place hadn’t changed and that it was still there.  My friend who had never been there looked at me and her eyes lit up.  Before we left she said I could spend hours here.  I was so happy to share my little treasure with her. There’s something wonderful about the security of knowing that some things don’t change.

Grande Cheese

I got my passitti, my favourite pasta and we headed for home. There was no time to hit another of my favourite places in Toronto – Queen Street West where people in the fashion biz can find just about anything they want or need.  Heading home I thought I need to come back, I’m missing the familiarity of home, I just don’t miss the congestion.

Queen Street

We weren’t in a hurry to get home so we once again took another route. This time we saw plenty of opulence.  For a moment I wondered if the views were like those one would see in South Carolina where there are rolling estates.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

On our way home.

The ride home was beautiful, I didn’t feel tired or tense when I arrived as I so often do when I’ve spent a day fighting my way through traffic.

That was my start to this week.  Last week I spent doing some spring cleaning and giving my closet a fresh coat of paint.  However, in the midst of that I took a day off to go on a little adventure with one of my artist friends who is doing such beautiful work she has inspired me.  I’m not going to share the name of it because it’s still fairly untouched, it’s a little brook that flows into/and a favourite fishing spot on Lake Huron.  It was so beautiful and spending time in a nature always makes me feel creative and alive.  This is my home now, beautiful South Georgian Bay where you can find a different kind of everything.

Brook flowing in the Lake Huron

So you see I love my life because I have the time to explore and I find beauty in all that I discover.  Life is never dull when you can do that.

No time for exploration this week however, now it’s time to get things done, get organized so I can design.  There is so much fabric in my studio just waiting to become objects of beauty.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Keep creating!

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My Picks for the Best Dressed at the Oscars 2017 by OHMJAM.com

Who doesn’t love the Oscars?  Viola Davis summed it up best in her acceptance speech when she said  “We are the only profession that gets to celebrate what it means to live a life.” and we get to see them doing just that in their performances.  We also get to see actors dressed in the creations of today’s fashion designers, what’s not to love?

This year while there were some mishaps in the production, the designers didn’t disappoint.  Here are my picks of the Best dressed (not necessarily in order).

Karlie Kloss in Stella McCartney



This white one shoulder cape is simple but elegant.  The choker and bag are the perfect accessories to this outfit.


Kirsten Dunst shines in this Christian Dior gown.












I often think that less is more and this Dior gown is proof of that.  Dunst is stunning in this design.

Georgina Chapman wearing Marchesa of course.

I sometimes think Marchesa is a bit too busy for my liking but this is the perfect balance of texture, flair and fit.

Priynka Chopra wearing a geometric Ralph & Russo



Ralph & Russo, one of my favourite designers rarely disappoint and Priya was one of my favourites last year as well.


Scarlett Johannson in Alaia












I don’t know this designer but when Johannson walked on the stage the dress was flowing like liquid and was just revealing enough.

Jessica Biel in Kaufmanfranco

Jessica Biel would look good in a sack but she really stuns in this beautiful gold creation which hugs her perfectly.

Halle Berry in Versace

Last but certainly not least.  I have never seen Halle wear anything that wasn’t perfect for her.  This modern Grecian style by Versace is absolutely stunning.

These couture pieces have inspired me to get busy.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!



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Back to Basics (Designs by OHMJAM.com)

The Basics – Tools

I have decided it’s time for me to get back to basics;  so what exactly does that mean?

I have been working feverishly for the past two years on projects, neglecting my designs and the one thing that sustains me – creative expression.  As a Homeopath, I know better but I haven’t slowed down long enough to listen to the messages I’ve been receiving.

It all began before the holidays when everything in my house seemed to break down but didn’t.  Let me explain – my appliances are all fairly new yet just two days before a dinner party my range started making noises, not unlike a motorcycle.  Then the fridge started making similar noises, there was a clogged sink which made it impossible to do my washing.  I was too busy to deal with most of it however, I had no choice but to deal with the clogged sink.

As if that weren’t enough, the flu kept me off my feet for several days causing me to reflect on my life and I realized it was spinning, not out of control but not going in a direction I wanted. The holidays provided me with an opportunity to spend time with friends, people whose company I enjoy, I suddenly realized how much I missed spending time with my friends and doing the things I love.  The strangest thing though was the appliances that I chose to ignore stopped making the noises – without repair.

I decided I needed to freshen up my studio which was in an absolute state of chaos, I decided it was time for a colour change as well – red and white.  Then I began to purge, 3 trips to the dump later and I’m almost ready to get back to work.

Painting the walls also made me realize I wanted new art to put on the walls.  My oldest son has an innate talent but my youngest son started painting more recently and has become just as talented.  People would say they got that from me, I assure you they did not, they got that from my father.  I, however, hate not being able to do things I want to do so I enrolled in an art class.  Art, like fashion is subjective – you either like a person’s work or you don’t so I wasn’t terribly intimidated by the awesome work that the other students created.  My piece was nothing like the others, not as good but what it did for me was open me up to the possibilities.  I also realized I didn’t have the proper tools and you can’t create anything without the right tools.

My studio renovation is almost complete, I’ve decided the flooring needs to be changed and as soon as the weather permits I will be making a trip to IKEA to get a couple of pieces that will not only allow me to store but to display my fabric and then it’s back to basics – back to designing.  I received an email from a gal who modelled one of my designs at my fashion show last year, she commented on how much her dress was like the one that Adele wore at the Grammy’s this year, she said I was ahead of my time.   It’s time to get back to doing what I love – being expressive through design.

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is too short not to spend it doing what you love, with people that inspire you and make your heart sing.  So I’ve resigned from the projects that have taken time away from what’s important to me.  Stay tuned for what’s next, I promise it won’t be dull.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!


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September 11th, 2001 – We’ll Never Forget!

September 11th and what it means to me. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about feeling emotional and about being a cancer survivor.  I hate saying that, perhaps it’s because I associate survival with guilt or the fact that being a cancer survivor is tantamount to being chased by some invisible monster and hoping you never get caught.  For me it’s definitely GUILT. 

In 2001, while in Australia to visit friends and family for a month I felt sick the entire time, thinking I had the flu and the 24 plus flight had taken it’s toll making it even harder to recover.  When I got home I discovered a lump, not in my breast but under my arm.  After a regular check up, I asked the doctor what it was – he joked that it was a bone but maybe I should have a mammogram.  My Homeopath finally diagnosed it as a ganglion but I will forever refer to it as my divine intervention.

I’d already had two lumpectomies for benign tumours and was told I had to have regular mammograms.  I took that advice and had one every year until 1996 when for the first time in my life I had a woman doctor tell me I was wasting time having them.  I stopped getting mammograms, after all I’d been told I was wasting time, making me feel like a naughty little girl for having done so;  besides I knew how to check myself after finding the other lumps. This time I resisted a mammogram, insisting on an ultrasound instead – it was less painful.

The ultrasound indicated there was something and they took me into another room to have a needle biopsy, I’d been through that so many times already it didn’t matter.  Days later I got a phone call from my doctor telling me it was cancer and that I needed to have surgery as soon as possible.  When you live alone and you get devastating news you don’t know what to do, there’s nobody there to talk to so you absorb the shock, I went into auto-pilot mode.  I calmly called my sons in Australia to tell them then wondered if I should have.  Would they feel as helpless as I did being so far away but they had to know, there was the dog and the house to be taken care of in case…………

My surgery was scheduled for August 12th, my oldest son’s birthday (how ironic) and later postponed to the 17th which caused more stress, that meant it had a week longer to grow inside of me and I wanted it out.  Surgery then badda bang, badda bing – I wanted to go home, get on with my life and act like it never happened while nurses kept telling me I didn’t have to be so brave.  I wasn’t being brave, I was scared as hell but refused to give in to it.

September 11th I was scheduled to get my patholgy report, they had removed 14 lymph nodes, I would find out whether it had spread.  The report was good, I was told that all nodes were clear, the cancer had been removed and all that remained were the scars from the surgery.  I raced out of the hospital, almost feeling smug, never wanting to see the inside of a cancer hospital ever again.  I felt like I was walking on air as I found my way home, I turned on the tv and there it was.

Twin towers - September 11th, 2001
Twin towers – September 11th, 2001

This was what I saw – absolute horror, the images of planes hitting the towers, people jumping from the towers.  I kept changing the channel thinking that it was some sort of bizarre movie being made, it couldn’t be real.  Not my beloved New York – NOOOOOOOOOO make it stop I screamed to an empty house.   Then the guilt set it – I had just received the happiest news of my life while thousands of innocent people were being killed, lives were destroyed for no reason. sept-11-2


The images were horrific, they took me to a place in my being that I had never been, a dark horrible place where I tried to understand, how something so evil could possibly happen in my lifetime.  How could anybody be filled with so much hate? I remembered the images in my head after reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning  where he described life in the Nazi death camps, spiritual survival and books about soldiers experiencing P.T.S.D. after the war in Viet Nam.  However, I believed that those atrocities could never happen again, surely we had learned from that and we were wiser now.

My life was changed forever on September 11th, 2001, I could no longer live in the little bubble where I was comfortable and felt safe.  It made me want to be a better person, to give more without expectation, to be passionate about life, to never take anything for granted again.   It also left a deeper scar, it left me untrusting and fearful, afraid to let anyone get too close, I put up a shield so I could never feel that much pain or see such ugliness again.  I left the bubble only to build a wall.

It’s taken me 15 years to realize it but two weeks ago I did.  I’m no longer afraid to live without the shield, I will no longer let fear of pain rule my life.  I know that there will always be hatred, people who don’t care how much they hurt others, and people who relish in doing so. Ego never stops trying to rule us. It will always sadden me when I hear or read irrational, illogical, negative, ungrateful or deceitful words but all I can do is be responsible for me, how I behave and react to those people. If our own children and parents can hurt us then why not the rest of the world but the wall has been torn down.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Let’s all try to be kinder, gentler and more loving to each other so that there can never be another September 11th, 2001.

In the meantime Keep Creating!



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Feeling Emotional by OHMJAM (Women’s online Fashion Boutique)

Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau
Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau

EMOTIONAL  – I can’t even begin to think of any other word to use when trying to describe my experience watching the Tragically Hip concert last week.  I, like most of Canada watched while fighting back tears and celebrated this iconic man/group with a broken heart.  As much as I hate talking about, even saying the word – cancer – I need to talk about it today.  The world needs to know just what a brave, courageous, kind and giving human being Gord Downie is.

As a 15 year cancer survivor I can tell you that I couldn’t have done what he did –  traveled across the country in a month, let alone perform concerts such as he did so soon after treatment.  Bravo Gord and that is why Canada loves you, apart from your talent – you do it your way.

What else has contributed to my emotional state?  I have no idea but the last time I felt this way was just before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then my diagnosis had coincided with the ending of a relationship that left me feeling disillusioned, so it was understandable.  This time is different, I’m happy, there’s no reason to be this way.  I have everything I need, I’m busy and I live in what I consider to be a little piece of heaven.  I like to be in control and feeling like I’m going to burst into tears at any given second has been wracking havoc on my psyche as I try to understand this emotional state I’m in.

It has caused me to struggle with insomnia, something I’ve never had to deal with but it’s even more than just not being able to sleep, it’s not wanting to, like I have too much to do. Then it happened – my epiphany.  Whether it was seeing the Hip concert, or the positioning of the planets I don’t know but it was like bubbles in my soul, percolating to the surface of my being, refusing to be silenced, all the memories from the last 15 years unfolding at such speed I couldn’t grasp them.

Let’s go back to the beginning of that 15 year old journey.  My diagnosis was initially earth shattering but I remember it as if it were yesterday.  For the first time in my life I was happy to be so independent – it was my life and my decision to chose or refuse treatment and God help anybody who told me what I should do.  I sat in the waiting area one day looking at the faces of the other patients, looking for answers to questions I didn’t have, almost feeling sorry for myself when suddenly it hit me – not ‘why me’, but ‘why not me’ and then it became life altering.

I changed jobs, enrolled to become a Homeopath and spent the next 10 years doing exactly what I thought I had freed myself from – giving and being there for everybody but myself. Needing a creative outlet I went back to school, this time to study fashion design.  By now my Mother was going blind and deaf so I sacrificed a great deal to be there for her until she passed in 2011. The next two years  I spent mourning, feeling like an orphan at my age; trying to figure out what to do with this newfound freedom of not having to care for a parent, child, patient or employer.

AND so I have come full circle.  Friday night, unable to sleep yet again, I listened to a podcast from the late Wayne Dyer and at 4:30 a.m. I turned on the lights and allowed myself to cry openly and without shame because a little crack of light appeared in my heart, a little opening into the truth of who I am and why; a fearless acceptance that I’ve never truly felt before.

So begins my journey of self-discovery.  Stay tuned or don’t, it’s up to you.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!

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Spring, Designers & the Latest by OHMJAM (Women’s online Fashion Boutique)

Georgian Bay
Georgian Bay

Spring, a prelude to summer and my favourite time of the year.  Many designers get inspired by the elements – not me, I can hardly think let alone design.  All I want to do is get outside and feel the warmth of the sun, tend to my garden,

Dahlia from my garden
Dahlia from my garden

watch the birds and listen to them singing.  I’m blessed to live in Canada where we have changing seasons, however, I’ve been missing family and friends in Australia lately.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could magically transport people?

This week was one of those weeks I would have loved to be in Sydney for the Sydney Film Festival where Damian Walsh-Howling was screening his latest work Messiah.

Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour
Damian Walsh-Howling
Damian Walsh-Howling

I so wish I could have attended with my family both to see the film and share in the excitement. Instead I cruised Georgian Bay. Not that I’m complaining – well maybe just a little.  I managed to watch the trailer of Messiah on YouTube and I have to say the cinematography is amazing.  Can’t wait to see the film in its entirety.  It looks spectacular.

In the meantime, I’ve been familiarizing myself with some of the Australian fashion designers.  A couple of them are now categorized under ‘my faves’.  One in particular is Nicola Finetti who was born in Italy and studied architecture in Rome before settling in Australia.  He brings a hint of his studies to his fashion as his pieces all have structure whether it be an assymetrical skirt or a cut out where you least expect it.  I’ve never studied architecture but I too like to bring structure into my designs.  He also brings florals into his pieces and seems to enjoy combining fabrics and textures.   It’s not uncommon for designers to like the same elements and that got me to thinking the other day, how does one become more popular when designs are similar?  I often get people coming to me asking me to make a piece for them like they’ve seen in a magazine.  I get it, I’ve done the same thing – seen a piece somewhere and made it for myself but I always add my own spin to it.  To be honest with you I cringe every time someone asks me to do that because it stifles my creativity.

I can look at someone and know whether what they are asking for is right for them – so the dilemma then becomes – doing what they want or asking them to put their faith in you and let you design something uniquely theirs.

Nicola Finetti
Nicola Finetti
Elie Saab and OHMJAM
Elie Saab and OHMJAM

When it comes to similarities – Taylor Swift wore this gorgeous piece by Elie Saab, I did the piece on the right for my spring/summer 2016 collection and it got rave reviews too.

Here’s another couple of pieces by Finetti that I love.

Nicola Finetti Designs
Nicola Finetti Designs

It’s time to get busy and start working on my autumn/winter 2016 collection. But I’m going to take a break and enjoy the summer – I’ll be working but on pieces for myself, I looked in my closet the other day and said I’ve been living in the country for nearly 3 years now and it’s all too easy to go for comfort rather than style.

I’m off to make home-made ice cream for tomorrow as I will be spending the day swimming and lounging by the pool with friends.  It’s a rough life but someone’s got to do it.

I’m excited about next week too,  I’m getting a lesson on how to use my new camera properly so I can change up my website www.ohmjam.com with my pieces as I design them.

Lastly I’ll be finishing off the month of June by going to a concert – to see Frank D’Angelo and his 15 piece band – can’t wait.  Hopefully I’ll have pics for you in July.

Frank D'Angelo hits Collingwood
Frank D’Angelo hits Collingwood

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of June and as always Keep Creating!

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Silver Award, International Winner – Janet Brown from Australia by OHMJAM

Janet Brown
Janet Brown

I am delighted to have as my guest this week, silver award winner – Janet Brown from Australia. Janet’s short film titled ‘Water, Water’ was the silver winner in the International documentary category at the Wasaga Film Fest. The film was written and produced by Janet and directed by my dear friend Iris Walsh-Howling. I first saw the film when Iris posted a link on Facebook and I was immediately taken by the rawness of the film. I have since referred to it as a poignant film about the fragility of life.

I have since discovered that Janet has literary articles and short stories that have been published in Australian anthologies and journals in U.S. academic and literary texts.  Her short stories and plays have won prizes in both Australia and the U.K.

Janet has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University and a Bachelor of Science Education from Melbourne University. In addition to all that she does, she also teaches writing courses and workshops. Amongst her many accomplishments are the following:

– A Hole in the Ground – Janet co-wrote with Joanne Ryan, Directed by David Myles
– One Plain, One Purl was a winner of The Write Stuff playwriting award in 2004 and produced in 2005
– Dolly Stainer of Kew Cottage, Directed by David Myles
– Le Jardin De Ma Mare, Directed by Judy Ellis
– Small Bites (2010)
– Making Waves (2011)
– You was a finalist in the Gala of the 2010 Melbourne Short & Sweet Festival at Chapel off Chapel
– Sand, 2015

Her first short film Water, Water was filmed on the Victorian Surf Coast and has screened in Spain, within Australia and now has won in Canada.

Water, Water
Water, Water

Welcome Janet and thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to do this blog.

Janet I can’t tell you how happy I am that you not only submitted your film to the Wasaga Film Fest but that the judges were able to see what I did and award you the silver. I admit to letting out a very loud squeal when the win was announced at the red carpet Gala. I was told I should have gone up to accept the award on your behalf but I was so thrilled and emotional I couldn’t move. Now I know what it feels like to be at the Oscars and I’m so sorry you weren’t here to be honoured. How did it feel when you got the news?

Carol, Thank you so much for your interest in our film and encouraging us to submit it to the Wasaga Film Festival.  When Iris phoned me to say that you had just posted about our win on Facebook, I was absolutely elated.  Unlike yourself, I was jumping around the room and carrying on like a happy child.  It was such a lovely feeling to have the judges acknowledge our work.   

Where do you get the inspiration for your work and for Water, Water specifically?

The inspiration for my work can come from anywhere, and it does come from the strangest places at times.  My first play,  A Hole in the Ground, co-written with Joanne Ryan, was based on a community campaign to fight the proposal to build a toxic dump in Werribee, where I lived for many years.  Joanne and I were both involved in the campaign.  It was a political play, intersecting with the personal lives of real people who we knew.  At the opposite extreme, I have recently written a short story for adults about a little boy with feathers, it’s speculative fiction I suppose, and the idea just came from a fleeting image in my mind that I wanted to explore.  It hasn’t been published yet,  Other times I might be inspired by a tiny comment I hear in a conversation or interview.  

Water, Water’ started as a short story and it came about because there were massive floods in Queensland and Victoria, Australia, a few years ago.  I saw news footage on television showing the devastation and listening to people talk about staying and rebuilding their lives and homes.  I wanted to explore the sentiments of someone who made a different decision.  It is not often we see films where the main character is a middle aged woman, and I think that mature women are very interesting.  They have had loads of life experiences that give them challenges, insight, wisdom and daring, so that was where the idea originated from.  

I totally agree.  Claudia Clarke, the sole actress in the film did such an excellent job of telling the story and making us realize that this was a woman with very little fight left in her after life had taken its toll.  Tell us about Claudia and how you came to have her in the film?

Claudia is a beautiful actress, so talented.  She is highly respected for her live theatre work and played the role on stage in 2012 as part of a touring production of short plays called ‘Making Waves’.  When I had the idea to make the film version, I really wanted Claudia to be our actor again.  I feel that she had a huge responsibility with this film, and her performance is so poignant and real, I am very lucky she took on this project. 

I’m of course biased when it comes to Iris because she is so wonderfully talented and creative but how did it happen that Iris Walsh-Howling directed this film?

Iris Walsh-Howling with Janet Brown and Claudia Clarke
Iris Walsh-Howling with Janet Brown and Claudia Clarke

Yes, Iris is incredibly talented, and we have been friends and interested in each other’s work and projects for the past ten years since I moved to the Victorian Surf Coast,  It is a region where many creative artists live and work.  I’d been thinking about a project to work on specifically with Iris, so you can only imagine how delighted I was when she agreed to direct ‘Water, Water’.  Iris has a unique creative sense.  Her projects have an individual stamp on them that is inspired by her great knowledge and experience of theatre and performance-making, without being derivative, and then re-invented and energized through her own creative genesis.  I do mean ‘genesis’  like a birthing of something completely new and fresh.  Apart from that, I like to work with people who are a pleasure to work with. The process is as important as the outcome.  

I’ve been to the Victorian Surf Coast and to Lorne specifically and the similarities to Wasaga Beach are amazing. I read that you spent a lot of time in 2014 submitting the film to festivals both in Australia and internationally.  How did you determine which festivals to submit the film to and was the Wasaga Film Fest on the radar at all?  Any advice you would give to people wishing to submit their films?

There are a number of websites like Withoutabox, Filmfreeway and Reelport that list film festivals around the world.  They cover everything from the most prestigious festivals like Cannes and Sundance right through to smaller community festivals.  Each festival has its own criteria – length of films, filming equipment used, categories, issues (ie some festivals are just about films on the environment, women’s issues, disability, diversity).  Some are free to enter, some are costly.  You can upload your film and follow the calendar to choose the film festivals that interest you for your project.  It;s very time consuming, and some of these festivals have up to 5,000 entries, so  the chances of being screened are really limited.  I did not know about the Wasaga Film Festival in 2014.  Perhaps I missed it, perhaps it was not on these sites.  We were selected for screening at the Puertas Film Festival in Spain and the Barossa Film Festival in South Australia so we are very proud of our little film.

My only advice to other film makers would be to really consider what you want to achieve with your film and, if you want to explore the festival track, choose the festivals carefully.  It is great for the film team’s reputation if you are selected for screening and even more if your film wins a prize – we have been absolutely delighted how the news of our silver prize at Wasaga has been received.  People are now taking extra interest in our project and our work.  Thank you Wasaga!!

You also have a degree in Science Education which seems so far removed from Creative Writing.  I am probably one of the few people that would understand since I majored in Business Administration in my earlier years, went on to study and become a Homeopath and then finally a fashion designer.  However, people always tell me that I have to be one or the other or people won’t take me seriously.  Are you an academic first and a creative second or is it the other way around?

To be honest Carol, I am quite sure that I am a creative artist, a writer, first.  My science studies (we are going back more than 30 years!) probably gave me an approach to my creative projects where I feel I am always experimenting, firstly with the idea, the inspiration, that’s the question I am exploring.  Then, my method, how best to ‘do’ this.  What’s the form, the approach – a story, a play, a novel or non-fiction.  But unlike science where there are quantitative results and outcomes, with creative work the outcomes, or the final product, have a different measure.  My Master of Arts  studies were in Creative Writing, and I worked at Victoria University as an academic skills lecturer some time ago, but these days any teaching for me is usually in community learning centres as a creative writing teacher – such fun.  

Tell us a little bit about you Janet, what would your friends tell us about you if given the opportunity?

Oh dear, what would my friends say about me?? I would love to know too!

What’s next for the multi-talented Janet – another film, book or play?

Your comments are very kind Carol, thank you.  I have been asked to write a performance piece based on the real-life experiences of people with mental illness, so the first step is research and interviewing.  This is to be staged in October 2017.  Usually I have a few projects in various stages of development and I am fine tuning another play script about a woman who has been a prime minister and is very ill.  We don’t see the lives of powerful women represented very much on stage.  So often the main roles are of women as victims.  One of her daughters is a photographer and she documents her mother’s illness experience by taking photos.  She hasn’t asked her mother permission to do this and intends exhibiting them, to the horror of the other daughter who feels this does not respect their mother’s privacy.  I am interested in the line between the personal and the public, privacy, and this era of social media does it even exist?  

It all sounds awfully serious doesn’t it?  Mind you,  I have a funny satirical musical that I would love somebody to produce.  It is called ‘infiltration‘….. a media mogul has had a kidney transplant and he thinks the ‘spirit’ of his kidney donor is taking over…….

What pearls of wisdom would you like to leave us with Janet?

Everybody has a story to tell.  Listen carefully. 

I couldn’t agree more.  You can reach Janet by email at janetbrown.m@hotmail.com and you can view ‘Water,Water’ at https:/vimeo.com.

Janet Brown, Iris Walsh-Howling and Claudia Clarke Celebrate their win.
Janet Brown, Iris Walsh-Howling and Claudia Clarke Celebrate their win.

Thanks again Janet and as always Keep Creating!

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My Guest – a Woman with Vision – Lorraine Leslie by OHMJAM (Online Boutique for Women)


In March I was an Exhibitor at this year’s International Women’s Day Expo held in Collingwood, Ontario. The creator of the event is Lorraine Leslie and it was there that I first met her. Her resume is impressive, her story inspiring and she’s built an empire helping other women achieve their goals thru mentoring. From model, police officer, fitness guru to entrepreneur, she has done it all. The list of her accomplishments is lengthy but after recently being asked to appear on her television show “Women with Vision”, I got to see the women in action up close and see for myself why she has won so many accolades.

First of all, Lorraine thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be a guest on my blog.

After seeing you in action for myself, I have to jump right in and ask how do you do it, you are a multitasker extraordinaire?

Carol, that’s a very good question – one I get asked a lot.

From a young age I was taught to listen, watch and learn. In doing so, many doors and opportunities have opened up for me. I’ve walked through each door and experienced amazing things, such as being a police officer and changing outdated rules that affected both the lives of men and women across Canada… I soon realized that being an advocate for change for women became a focus in whatever I was doing. I prioritize my initiatives. Timing is everything. I like to refer to this talent as being an expert in time management – everyone can learn this talent.

I know that you modeled before becoming a police officer; that seems like quite a transition knowing how rigorous the police training is. What made you decide to become a police officer?

My modeling started as a teenager. I was asked to model after receiving 2nd place in the Miss Daffodil Pageant in Newmarket at the age of 16. I guess you could say I have a natural instinct for modeling. I watched fashions shows, how models posed in catalogues and just said to myself  “I can do that”. I later went onto model for Eleanor Fulcher, Eaton’s, and Sears and at special fundraising events throughout my entire life. It was always for fun and to help others.

My Father was a man who also made changes.  He started the Toronto Auxiliary Police Force under the direction of Chief Mackey back in the early 1960’s.   My brother was also a police officer.  As I child I had learned the value of listening, watching and learning and this is very important when you are a police officer. I joined the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department in August 1966.

Somewhere I read that you changed the rules about Police Officers marrying. That rule applied to financial institutions as well, my first job was working in a bank as did my fiancé.   When we got married, even though we worked at different branches I was let go because of that rule. I don’t think young people today could ever imagine the boundaries and prejudices that we faced back then. So how did you manage to change the rule?

A rule was made during the Depression back in the 1930’s that stipulated if two people were employed by the City of Toronto one had to give up their job. They didn’t want one family taking home a double income as it wouldn’t be fare to the rest of the people who were losing their jobs during the deep depression.  I was studying for my police exams and realized how outdated the rule was.   The next weekend I went home to visit my parents and I asked my father if he knew about the rule or heard of it – he hadn’t. Our discussion led to him asking me “What are you going to do about it?”  I didn’t have an answer at the time but it stuck in my mind that a change needed to be made. About 18 months later the rule was changed and I was one of the first police women to marry a police man. The ruling I initiated the change for also applied to the school boards, financial institutions and hospitals across the country…there was an immediate domino effect – corporations were changing their rulings quickly.

After leaving the Police force you became a certified fitness trainer and built an empire in that field. Having 32 fitness rental locations, training 24 personal trainers, over 6,000 students collectively over a four years period, a cable TV show, and a newspaper column. You also opened up a chain of Lorraine Leslie Dans’n Aerobics fitness classes across the Maritimes. That plus being a wife and Mother of 3 boys. Being a mother to 3 boys is a job in itself but doing all that you managed to do is an incredible feat. You said that you learned your sales and marketing skills then. Did you intend to build your fitness business to that extent or did it take on a life of its own?

I was in the right place at the right time….

When I moved to Newfoundland on a transfer with my family the YMCA and Parks & Recreation were still doing the 5BX army fitness routines.

I knew that I wanted to continue to teach fitness classes so within three weeks of settling into St. John’s I went to the YMCA and Parks & Recreation Department and basically auditioned to promote my own dance fitness program to music. They told me music is used in dance classes but once they saw my program they agreed to let me volunteer for three months to see how the program was accepted, and that was it.  I had women lined up outside facilities to sign up to take Lorraine Leslie Dans ‘n Aerobics™.   The two classes I started quickly became six classes a week – then 10. Over the summer I started to train instructors in anatomy and physiology along with the dance routines I choreographed to the hot upbeat music of the season.  When I left St. John’s, Nfld. there were 24 instructors to continue my Dans ‘n Aerobic® Legacy.

I loved what I did and when we were transferred back to Ontario my instructors kept the programs going and I flew down and taught them the new material for the next two years…then they took over the business.

After having accomplished all that you had it must have been heartbreaking to find yourself in a position of having to leave the business behind. Back in Ontario you went through a traumatic, life altering experience which forced you to leave your home and your three sons –with nothing but you tape recorder, the clothes on your back and $152 to your name, you also lived in your car for 3 months.

I too left my home with two babies, a plane ticket back to Canada and $50.00 in my pocket but I was 20 years old and full of piss and vinegar so to speak.

Your situation could have been devastating but instead you picked yourself up and started over. I know from personal experience that there’s a moment when you know it’s going to be ok. What was the moment that you knew you weren’t going to be defeated by circumstances?

I realized I was not alone – there was something pushing me forward. The morning after the physical assault I went back to my house after the boys had gone to school and the house was empty.

The locks on the doors had been changed and there was a box on the front step with some socks, underwear and bras in it.  That was when I said to myself, “I will not be a victim!” I had worked with women in similar situations on the police department and knew I could turn my life around. I had a burning will to survive inside me.

You went back to school to study Gerontology and graduated with honours after only 18 months of a 3 year program. You continued to educated yourself and now you hold Certifications as a Business and Life Coach, Certified Psycho-spiritual Life Coach and Founder of the Women with Vision Institute. It’s not an easy task but it seems you take it all in your stride and refuse to let anything stop you.

Here you are today, having taken a leap of faith in 1998 and started Women with Vision! ®. A Woman with Vision that you certainly are. Who would have known that Collingwood would have grown as it has and that there would be so many women entrepreneurs in the Georgian Triangle? I’ve been here a short time but I’ve already learned that you not only have to be talented, you have to have energy, enthusiasm and a thick skin to be an entrepreneur in a small town community. What advice would you give to women looking to start in such a community?

Have FAITH in God and BELIEVE in yourself.

When you want something, you think about it…shortly it becomes a reality. I.E. you want a drink – you go and get it.

If you continue to think of the same positive thing it will manifest itself into something real.

I have always wanted to help other women in business and with their life skills… My mission is your vision – your vision is my mission! ©

That’s great advice Lorraine and  very well said.

What’s next for Lorraine Leslie or do you feel you’ve reached the pinnacle of success?

At 69 I’m just beginning! My goal and vision is to take Women with Vision across Canada – Franchise the magazine, expand the Women with Vision TV Show and publish my Memoirs into a Best Seller 😉 

That’s one I’ll look forward to reading!

To continue to educate, motivate, inspire and promote women of all ages, from all walks of life and career backgrounds. Each day is a new beginning and the opportunities are there if you look for them. Seize every moment and live life to the fullest – Lorraine Leslie©

I’m delighted to have met you and to learn your story; you are the type of woman that all young women should aspire to be. Thank you for inspiring, motivating and initiating. 

Thank you Carol for the opportunity to share my story – I hope your readers will pull strength from what I have shared.

No doubt they will Lorraine. 

Lorraine has provided us with a few photos of herself participating in just a few of the events in her life.  She has shared them for viewing only (copying is not permitted).

Check out Lorraine’s magazine at www.womenwithvision.ca and she can be seen on TV during the week on Roger’s. 

In the meantime, don’t forget to sign up for our Newsletter and as always Keep Creating! 





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Introducing Tania Wood by OHMJAM – Online Boutique

I wrote about meeting Tania Wood a couple of weeks ago and  how impressed I was with her.  I asked her if she would share some of her art and photography with my readers and she graciously agreed.

tania4Tania’s quiet and unassuming but getting to know her has been such a joy because behind that quiet demeanor is a woman who loves nature, art, beauty and fashion.  You get a sense that beneath that calm exterior is a strong woman who knows what she wants,  she’s fearless.  She’s the kind of woman every Mother wishes her son would bring home because you know you could become best friends with her.

This winter was a difficult one for many in Simcoe County, Tania and her husband Jeff were no exception.  They had to contend with no heat for almost a week (the result of a broken furnace) as well as no water for days (the result of old city plumbing that needs to be fixed but can’t be until the spring thaw).  That would be enough to send anyone screaming but Tania takes it in her stride and uses it to her advantage, by taking down the dining room wall.  They bought their house less than a year ago and are in the process of renovating.  Every time I see her it seems another wall has come down; soon she will have run out of walls to hang her art.  In the face of all of this her house is spotless and one can’t help but wonder where she finds the time because she has 3 jobs.

Every time I’ve seen her we’ve both been in a rush but we know we share the same appreciation for art and nature and from that appreciation has come a decision to collaborate but I’ll tell you more about that when it comes to fruition.  In the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned about her.

I’m surprised to discover that she’s only been painting for the last 3 to 4 years, her work looks like that of a trained artist.  You can see some of her art and photography here:

Tania what inspires you? 

Anything from a crack on the sidewalk to the colour combination on someone’s clothing. 

What message do you want to convey with your art/photography?

The various emotions that I felt while making a piece of art.

Do you have a preference, working on canvas, wood, etc.?

No I like painting on anything that I can create art on.

It’s obvious that you love to photograph nature.  Have you painted any nature scenes?

Yes, the nature paintings are mostly an abstract recap of something that I particularly enjoyed during my winter trips south to Mexico.

You’re also a landscape designer/gardener, where did you learn that?

I love working with my hands and picked up the skill from on the job training; as for the design part of it, that was self taught.

Of all the things you do, which is your favourite?

Painting abstract on canvas.  I find it so exciting to start off with a blank canvas with a colourful line up of paint tubes waiting to be made into something.

Is there anything that you would like people to know that they wouldn’t see from looking at your work?

Each painting has a strange, unexpected motivating story behind it, something that inspired its creation.  Also most of my work is created on something that is being discarded because it’s served its purpose and people are done with it.  So most of my work is created on recycled materials.  For example, old mirrors, old paintings, signs, hardwood flooring cut offs… with the hardwood flooring cut offs, I match them up like a puzzle and then glue them together to create a custom shape, then I create on it

Tania’s even resourceful when it comes to creating.  That’s my kind of gal.

Stay tuned because you will definitely be hearing more about this talented young lady.

Well it’s also the last day of March and we’ll have our spring/summer collection here by next week.  April is going to be busy starting off with taping for the “Women with Vision” television show where I’ll be showing a couple of pieces from our collection.  Also if you’re in the area pick up a copy of the Women with Vision Magazine as there’s an article about me.

In the meantime, Keep Creating!






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