Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Girl behind the Blog

Me at 18 by Ingrid Mida

I suppose I'm too old to call myself a girl, but I will probably always feel like I'm still 18, just as I was when this photo was taken. I look pretty much the same; people often tell me that I haven't changed a bit. I still wear my hair like this and there are a few more wrinkles around the eyes, and I weigh about ten pounds less than I did then, but otherwise I'm basically the same girl with big dreams. When this photo was taken during a photography workshop, I had just been accepted into architecture school and the world was my oyster. I did not yet know of disappointment, rejection, loss, or death. And even though I am far too familiar with all of those things now, I still believe that the best is yet to come.

My love of fashion has deep roots. I was 10 when I discovered Vogue magazine and from that point saved my hard earned allowance and baby-sitting money to buy the latest issue. It has been a singular passion that has fed my soul (and of course depleted my pocketbook). Although my closet now contains a range of designer labels, my studio uniform consists of jeans and a checked shirt with a cashmere sweater thrown over my shoulders (just like I wore when I was 18).

In my current role as Collection Coordinator of the Fashion Resource Centre in the School of Fashion at Ryerson University, I am working to edit and reestablish the collection as a premiere site of Canadian fashion. As a devotee of fashion, museology and material culture, I have my dream job.

I rarely write about myself on my blog. I like to write pieces with a bit of intellectual heft (so that my brain doesn't turn to mush) and I'm also cognizant of the fact that I'm married to a man who is deeply private. Plus I have two teenage sons who have inherited their dad's desire for anonymity. But perhaps it is time to share a little more about myself.

My path to becoming an artist and writer is a bit of a circuitous one. I wrote poems, songs and stories as a child and copied drawings by Michelangelo on discarded envelopes. My father and an older brother loved photography and I too spent many hours in our homemade darkroom in the basement. Our house was always filled with music as my parents loved the opera and I learned to play the piano and clarinet. I made all my clothes until I was 23, only giving it up when I no longer had the time. Although I began my university studies in architecture, I switched programs when I realized that how cyclical the profession could be. As a girl who needed to pay her way, I did not want to be a waitress after seven years of university education and instead I earned a BA in Economics and then a masters degree from the University of Waterloo. After a number of years working as a consultant, my passion for the written word started calling to me and I took a position as an executive with a Toronto daily newspaper. It got me close to the action but I was not quite close enough. When the opportunity arose and when I wanted more flexibility in my life to be with my children, I threw caution to the wind and tried my hand at freelance writing and editing. I was still taking photos and drawing in the margins, but not as a career.

It wasn't until my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease that I realized that I would not have forever to follow my passions. This was less than two years after my father had died of complications of Parkinson's disease, trapped in the prison of his body, unable to speak or swallow. Even though my grandmother lived in good health until she was 98, my mother was only 68 when her life changed irrevocably. It was the very next day that I picked up a paintbrush and began again as an artist. I've studied art, photography, and costume history at Ontario College of Art, Ryerson University, George Brown College, University of Toronto and Toronto School of Art. In a way, I'm a bit of a course junkie, taking great delight in learning something new.

Over the years, there have been ups and downs. Learning to face rejection and the whims of the art marketplace has been tough. I've had some wild successes - like selling out my first gallery show, having the director of the AGO attend my opening, and having a prestigious Canadian law firm buy one of my pieces. But there have also been huge disappointments with embarrassing rejections, long stretches that I've been unable to produce, see my way or sell my work. I think this blog has helped me to weather those patches with a ready outlet for my creative energy. For that reason, I am grateful to all of you who come back to visit me here.