The Toronto Independent Theatre Coalition (TITC)

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I first had the idea for the Toronto Independent Theatre Coalition (TITC) 5 or 6 years ago. I had recently started up Bygone Theatre, and was watching what other indie groups were up to in an effort to figure out a growth strategy (aka what the hell I was doing). The first thing that became glaringly obvious was that it’s nearly impossible to grow a successful theatre business on your own. Especially in a city as expensive as Toronto.

Don’t get me wrong, theatre is first and foremost an art, but if you ignore the business side, the part that helps you find sponsors, partners and audience members, then no matter how good your art is, you’re not going to be around long enough for anyone to see it.

It’s nearly impossible to grow a successful theatre business on your own…(and) if you ignore the business side…you’re not going to be around long.

As indie artists, we are often stuck in a Catch 22 kind of hell;

You need advertising to bring in audience members, but you need audience members to make the money you need for advertising.

You need experience to get sponsors & grants, but you can’t get experience because you don’t have sponsors or grants to help you get started.

…and so it goes.

The theatre community is so small, but when it comes to companies connecting and supporting each other, suddenly there was all this distance between us.

While it’s hard to say just how many indie theatre groups there are in Toronto, I heard once that there are approximately 350 in the city. That’s huge. Yet there didn’t seem to be any kind of network set up to help those artists connect and help each other grow. The theatre community is so small, but when it comes to companies connecting and supporting each other, suddenly there was all this distance between us.

Why is that?

One of my least favourite parts of the theatre community is this strange belief some seem to have that we are somehow in competition with one another. It’s seldom if ever said out loud, but you feel it when friends with their own companies don’t bother to share your show info, when people hesitate to do a program ad swap, or one someone comes up with the great hashtag #indieunite and yet it never seems to be used by companies actually trying to support each other.

I have always wanted to change that. So, here is my official attempt.

The goal of the TITC is to provide a space for artists and companies to come together and do what we all should have been doing from the beginning; supporting each other. This can be by sharing resources like access to rehearsal space, props or costumes, or by doing labour swaps when there’s multiple companies without the funds to pay artists properly. In addition to that, each member company must agree to share, via all their social media networks, each other company’s show and audition info. If a company isn’t living up to their end of the deal, they get booted out. Only team players here.

So why make this an official thing? Why insist on the membership survey, track social media numbers and hold groups accountable? Why not just continue to share and work with those you already know?

The answer — strength in numbers.

The goal of the TITC is to provide a space for artists and companies to come together and do what we all should have been doing from the beginning; supporting each other

This is where we as indie artists can start to grow our companies as businesses. When you contact a potential sponsor, say a car dealership, chances are you are trying to convince them that supporting you will be good exposure. You tell them to think of it as a marketing investment — give us some money for our show, we give you a shout-out on our social media, all our followers see how great you are! Only, as an indie company you likely don’t have a huge following.

Currently, we have 9 Company Members at the TITC; that’s after about a week of applications being open. And to give you an idea of how much of a difference that can make for members already, note that, on average, each company has 646 Twitter followers, but combined? That number jumps to 5818. And we’re just getting started. Plus, that doesn’t include the following the TITC itself is now starting to grow…

We are stronger together.

Together, we have access to some of the best indie talent in the city.
Together, we have social media numbers and followers large enough to get sponsor’s attention.
Together, we can pool our funds to advertise a central hub where all the indie shows can be promoted on a large scale.

…and so it goes.

There are no membership fees required to join the TITC, all we want is your willingness and commitment to grow this community with us. It takes about 3 minutes to apply, and you can do so here. If you want to know more about what membership entails, you can find that here. And if you want to know what we have planned next, you can learn that here.

If you like the sound of the TITC, please take a moment to check out our website at www.thetitc.ca, to follow us on Instagram or Twitter, and to like us on Facebook. Share this post! Send links to your theatre friends! The more of us there are the more we can do.

#indieunite

To keep the TITC free we need some help raising funds for start-up costs. Want to help support Toronto’s indie theatre scene? Please visit our GoFundMe page and give if you can.

Me Too.

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“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote. The movement started in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and its ensuing fall out.
Every girl on my Facebook changed their status to this yesterday. Another very small step towards solidarity that will ultimately not change anything. It’s frustrating. I’m going to rant now, apologies if it’s not the best written piece on here.
I’m sure most of us have more than one story, especially considering harassment is included in this, and that’s something that is often endured on a weekly, and for some, daily basis. As for assault, the numbers there are frighteningly high as well. I remember being in grade 7, and being told by our teacher that 1 in 5 of us would be assaulted in our lifetime; sitting with a group of 5 girls, this stuck with me. Now, as an adult, I’ve heard that statistic raised to 1 in 4, and I know that out of that group from so many years ago at least 2 had that fate.
So how is this status change helping? I think all of us reasonable people know that, even if we don’t know which ones, someone we are close to has been the victim of sexual harassment or assault. The problem with these simple little remarks is that they are not calling out the people who are the perpetrators, and often, when someone does, they are labeled a vindictive bitch, and find their personal lives being scrutinized by those who are sure they were somehow “asking for it”. We all know about the victims, but how about the scum that made them victims in the first place?
Admittedly, there’s a lot of reasons for someone to not want to come forward and name names. And I myself have stories I am not interested in sharing. But as one of them has already been written about twice on this blog, and is a matter of public record, I’m going to share it one more time.
In 2015 I worked for Theatre 20, and I thought I had my dream job, working there as Producer. I was wrong. I won’t bother getting into all the hell that was a part of the daily job, because it’s off topic, instead I’ll skip ahead to the sexual harassment that somehow lead to me, rather than the perpetrator, being fired.
As I mentioned in a past blog, Chris Weber (currently working as VP of Whole Life Balance Canada), a married man 11 years my senior who was a member of our Board, and so in a position of power, had on numerous times made inappropriate advances. The only one which I had real “proof” of, and so what was the main focus of that aspect of my HRTO claim, was a text message in which he stated he wanted to see me in a “shorter dress”.
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Admittedly, much worse things have been said, but given the power imbalance this concerned me enough to mention it to my boss, who also happened to be the only other (full-time) employee at the company, Brian Goldenberg. Apparently he never addressed it in any way, and in the evidence for the hearing (he didn’t actually bother to attend the hearing himself), tried to say I had told him it was “no big deal” – not sure why I would’ve bothered saying anything if that was the case…
Eventually, the harassment from Weber and other members of the board got to the point where I felt I couldn’t work there under those circumstances, and I told Brian this. I asked him to deal with it, and when weeks went by with no change, I said that if he wouldn’t do something about it, I would. I offered to speak to the Board myself, and advised that if the inappropriate behaviour didn’t stop after that, I would be forced to file a Human Rights claim about it. For this, I was fired.
Again, you can read all about it in my blog, Finally, but the gist of it is, I was fired with no notice and no cause, and at the hearing won my case, with the HRTO determining that they were guilty of Sexual Harassment (Weber, specifically, though this was against the company, not an individual), and Threat of Reprisal (Brian, in this case). I was supposed to be awarded financial compensation for this, but they have ignored this judgement as well as letters from my lawyer, so here we are, years after the initial incident, and all that has changed is I no longer work there (well, in fairness, the company did fold, but for different reasons).
Why would anyone speak up? I lost my job over it. I wasn’t traumatized from the harassment so that was the worst of it, if you don’t count the years of time and money and stress trying to take this through court. I won my case, which should mean that something is done but they refuse to pay the small amount of money I was awarded, and the perpetrators continue to work in the same community (Brian had a show in the Fringe this past year), and the HRTO isn’t punitive so essentially nothing was done to either of them. And this is still a better turnout than a lot of women have. Some try a civil case and throw thousands of dollars into it. Some try criminal (where worse things have happened), and are attacked on the stand as the defence tries to paint them as some whore. I’ve heard so many terrible stories from people I know, that are not mine to share, but I can say I’m not surprised that they didn’t speak up. It rarely goes well. So I guess this #metoo is the safest way someone can say something because basically everyone can say it (isn’t that a disgusting thought?).
But you know what I’d love to see? (and I know, this totally makes me a vindictive bitch out on a “witchhunt”), instead of #metoo how about #hedid, and you name the fucker who’s put you through shit. Let’s stop quietly adding ourselves to the list of people who are treated like meat, or treated like idiots, or treated like bitches if we dare to stand up for ourselves. This is not something where the focus should be on the victims, it should be on a perpetrators. Maybe that will stop them, or at least warn the next girl to watch out. I’m so sick of seeing how many people are a part of #metoo.
/End rant.

Tracing Your DNA – Comparing DNA Sites

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I recently got my DNA tested for genealogical purposes, and thought I’d do a little write-up on what you actually get for your money, and the difference between some sites. Keep in mind, as a girl I can’t get as detailed results, and this doesn’t compare all available tests, just what you can do on different sites through uploading results from one of them.

Note: I am not being paid to do any of this, it’s just my own experience and opinions. I do plan on taking tests through other sites, and getting other family members to take them as well, it’s just a matter of saving up! Also, there are privacy concerns that come from these, especially in certain parts of the world; I’m not getting into those. I decided it was fine for me, and you should do the same for yourself.

Ancestry

I got my test from Ancestry.ca as I already had built an extensive family tree, and knew that I could upload my Ancestry results to a lot of other sites, but not vice versa.

I got my results much quicker than the estimated 6-8 weeks (I think it was about 1 week after mailing them in that we heard back), and here is what I saw;

Ethnicity Estimate:

Given that I had done a lot of genealogical research, I wasn’t surprised by this initial breakdown. I was a little disappointed to see that I wasn’t part of any Genetic Communities yet, but they do update their results, and they keep your sample so it can be tested again, so hopefully I’ll see a change to that at some point.

 

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There’s a map that shows where you come from as well, which would be a bit more interesting if you were more spread out than I am. Nice visual I guess, either way.

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When I went into the more detailed breakdown, I was more surprised. Not by the groups that were there, but by their order; I knew I had a lot of German ancestors, and would have expected Europe West to be higher up, same goes for Scandinavia, as I know I had some Swedish relatives. I guess that means that, while I had family living there, they weren’t necessarily ethnically from that region, which is interesting. Will have to look at some migration patterns and see if there’s likely causes for that.

I also didn’t know of any Italian/Greek ancestry, though of course that’s listed as a very small amount, and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal), seems very out of place to me.

Under “low confidence regions” it suggests there may be some Polynesian ancestry as well, but that seems unlikely given the research I’ve done. We’ll see if that changes as they update things.

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DNA Matches – Family Members

Finally, through Ancestry, you get to see if you have any distant relatives on the site. As I am mostly interested in genealogy, this is the main thing for me, and I’ll be working my way through. A lot were obvious connections from the start, but despite having traced most lines back 6-10 generations, there are still relatives that pop up that I can’t find a connection to through surnames, so that should be fun. It hasn’t yet helped me get through any of the “brick walls” I’m hoping it will, but I’ve just started, so I’ll update if it does.

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Family Tree DNA

The site familytreedna.com allows you to upload the txt. file of your DNA results from Ancestry or 23andMe and has some options available to view for free. You can upload the info for an Autosomal Transfer for free, which will give you access to Family Finder. I did find some different people on this site then on Ancestry, so if you’re really set on connecting with as many people as possible, I think it’s important to try multiple sites.

For an additional fee, you can have access to things like the Chromosome Browser, My Origins and Ancient Origins; I got access to all of those for $19.00.

You can learn about all their available tests here.

Chromosome Browser:

You need to have some what of an understanding of chromosomes for this to be of interest, and as I have very little, I haven’t played around with it much yet.

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Basically, you can choose to filter through all of your matches (by things like “close relative” – of which I have none on the site, “confirmed relatives”, “close surname”, “x matches” etc.), or look go through all of them, and click on one to see what parts of your DNA you share. You’ll see it come up like this;

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Hover over the coloured bit and you’ll see the detail, eg. Jane Doe matches you on chromosome 15 from position ___ to ___ for a total of ___cm. You can look at up to 5 matches at once.

I’m aware that where your DNA matches means something, but it’s not clear to the layman what that is. Again, I’ll look into this more and update.

You can choose to see this data in a table, and there it will tell you the relation to the person (I’m not using the name in this example, but it would say at the top of the following image, “Jane Doe – 3rd Cousin”, or whatever the match may be).

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This is likely an easier way to do further research, and you can export and download to Excel, but I’ll still have to get back to you on what exactly this all means.

My Origins

Like with Ancestry, FTDNA gives you a breakdown of your ethnic makeup, and allows you to see it displayed on a map. I had slightly different results here than on Ancestry (the Polynesian is gone, you’ll note), but basically the same deal.

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You can see your family matches on the map as well.

Ancient Origins

If you’re interested in archeology and ancient origins, this part is fun. Using DNA from dig sites around the world, they give you a rough idea of what your ancestors likely did to survive; mine were mostly farmers, which fits with my known long history of family farming, and of some surname searches that also indicated we were mostly farmers. I haven’t spent the time to look through all the specific dig sites and details yet, but I will. One thing I wish it did was to show on the map not just the ones that you are connected to, but all of them, as I see some patterns but wonder if that’s just from the areas where more research was done, as opposed to saying anything about my ancient history.

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Family Finder

Finally, you can use all this to find matches on the site, and to see your connections. You can view them through this;

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to search via DNA connections, or upload a family tree and see them through that.

DNA Land

This site is cool because of the philosophy behind it; you have the ability to participate in studies that could help cure diseases, find new ancestral discoveries – it’s a non-profit and, I think, a very cool concept. Upload your Ancestry DNA report and you see this:

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I did this about 24 hours ago and am still waiting on my Trait Prediction Report (will add when I get it), but have access to the following;

Find Relatives

DNA Land has, I suspect, a smaller database, which is why it didn’t show me any relationship matches,

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Disappointing. But the only way to improve that is for more people to join, so I’m still glad I did.

Find Relatives of Relatives

Same deal;

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Ancestry Report

This, thankfully, did come with results.

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A very general breakdown first, in the form of a pie chart. The details are viewed like this;

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I did find it helpful seeing what exactly was included in each category, I though this was slightly better done here than on other sites. They have a map as well, though not as pretty as on the other ones, still gets the same info across;

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There’s many more sites out there, and I’ll update as I go through others, but first I want to see all these have to offer.

Hope that helps narrow down the search! Got some recommendations? Leave them in the comments.

All for now,
E.

Design Inspiration – Colourful Teens

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I’ve got a lot of fun design projects on my plate this week and I’ve been looking at so many pretty inspiration pics I can’t help but share them.

I won’t share what exactly these are for before the project is done, but here’s a look at my  inspiration for my first project, something designed for teens and meant to look modern, non-gender specific, and fun.

I started by trying to figure out what the hell it is that teenagers like these days. With my 10 year high school graduation looming, I have come to the sad realization that I am no longer “hip”, so I started by basically crossing off anything I remembered from my high school days (though apparently not from my childhood, as the 90s is totally in, for some reason). The fact that kids now grow up with the internet & social media doesn’t help when you’re trying to figure out something like this, because they have constant access to the newest & coolest things, so I think trends change much quicker than they did when I was a teen. I asked around to some of my friends with younger siblings, did an incredibly lame google search, and came up with an overview that may not be exactly what is popular, but at least I don’t think it looks outdated.

I started with TV shows – two that were suggested to me? Adventure Time and Bojack Horseman.

I’ve watched a little bit of both, and frankly I don’t see the appeal of the writing or story, but I can get behind the colourful, quirky, cartooning. Cute things that are gross, evil/gross things that are cute, everything is hyperbolic, everything is the biggest, brightest, most extreme it can be; I see how that would speak to teens.

What’s the other thing that you think of when you think of teenagers? Memes. Now, I can’t exactly do a meme for this project, for one, because that’s not how they work, but also I don’t want to minimize the serious aspect of it. So let’s look at what all memes have in common;

  1. They are written in all caps
  2. The font used is Impact
  3. The writing is white, and has a black outline
  4. Many of them are square

meme

When you break it down like that, it’s pretty easy to see how you can incorporate elements that are in what teens use, like & share daily into something you want them to interact with that way.

So next I start looking at patterns and colour palettes that seem to fit both what I see in those examples, and what I think will speak to what I’m trying to make. Here’s a few examples;

Bright, high contrast, but no primary colours. Everything has a sort of warm feel to it, whether it’s bold or pastel, it all makes me think of some kind of yummy tropical drink.

I try to not look at too many finished projects because I don’t want to get something in my head that I will accidentally rip off in some way, but to make sure I’m on the right track, I head to Behance.

Absolutely LOVE this work by Mat Sesti – cartoonish but not child-like, hot explosive colours, bold and eye-catching. You can see his entire project on Behance.

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Another great find on Behance is this beautiful work by Roberto Leon – I see a lot of hand drawn typography on things aimed at teens, and I love the way he works in bright colours, expressive photography and hand lettering. I think this idea could work well with the project I’m doing, as it is a series that focuses on many individuals, and this would be a good way to keep the whole thing feeling uniform, while being able to showcase what is unique about each one. See the whole thing on his Behance profile.

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So there’s my little inspiration board for today’s project. I’ll post the finished work in the upcoming weeks and we can see if I stuck with my first instincts!

All for now.

E.

What Is It? A Guide to Some Key Vintage Terms

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When you’re interested in antiques but just getting started, the vast list of new terminology can seem a little daunting. Here’s a handy breakdown of some key vintage terms you’ll see if you are interested in vintage and antique collectibles (one on types of fabric, coming soon).

Composition

Commonly Found: in vintage & antique dolls, popular from 1870-1930s

What Is It?:
what it sounds like, a composition or “mix” of various materials, commonly sawdust and glue. Each company had their own “recipe” that would be kept secret, but other materials included glue, glycerin, zinc oxide and Japanese wax. This could be molded into shapes like heads and hands.

Why’d They Use It?: prior to the creation of the “composition doll”, most doll manufacturers used porcelain or bisque. The main problem with this was that the dolls were very fragile. Often heads were made of porcelain or bisque to obtain realistic features, while the body, arms, and legs were made of cloth. With the invention of composition, the limbs, and eventually torso, could be molded into a realistic form as well. All in all, it made for better looking, longer lasting, dolls.

How To Identify It: flaws are the easiest way to identify this type of material. If you don’t already have clues like manufacturer or production date, try looking for things like “crazing”, a series of fine cracks that tend to occur on the surface over time. If chips or cracks have occurred on your doll, you may be able to see a material underneath that looks somewhat like cardboard or particle board; this can be a clue to composition. Most composition dolls either have molded hair (eg. made of the same material, a solid “hair” that is part of the head) or wear a wig; if your doll has rooted hair (eg. the way Barbie does, with hair coming out of the scalp) it is likely plastic. For a detailed breakdown on how to identify composition dolls, read this article.

Bisque

Commonly Found: in antique dolls, popular from 1860-1900. Frequently made in Germany or France. When used to make modern dolls, they tend to be aimed only at the collector’s market.

What Is It?: essentially just unglazed porcelain. While porcelain or “china” dolls will have a glazed, glossy, look, bisque dolls have a matt, more life-like appearance.

Why’d They Use It?: porcelain dolls already had a following when companies began to manufacture bisque dolls. While made in essentially the same way, they  had a more realistic look than the white-faced, glossy porcelain dolls, and that appealed to more modern audiences.

How To Identify It: chances are you’ve seen and felt a porcelain doll before, and again, bisque is very similar. Unlike plastic, it will be completely solid and unbendable, and will be thinner and more delicate than most materials. A light test is the best way to identify it and to check for damage; shine a light through it (from the inside as well as out, if possible) and you should be able to see it glow. This will also light up and cracks, flaws or repairs. If you tap it, it will make a sort of “ring” sound (be gentle!), and you’ll find that porcelain and bisque will be very smooth and capable of fine detail. If you know the date or manufacturer of the doll, use this to find out for sure.

Chalkware

Commonly Found: inexpensive vintage figurines, carnival giveaways or small decor items. Sometimes called “carnivalware”. Popular in the 19th century, from 1910-1940 it evolved into primarily garish figures of pop culture icons and cartoonish animals sold at fairs.

What Is It?: molded plaster of paris or gypsum, often colourfully (and poorly) painted with watercolours or oil paints.

Why’d They Use It?: it was an inexpensive alternative to popular ceramic figures, like those made by Staffordshire.

How To Identify It?: early examples were often idyllic peasant figures or fruit. Look for shepherds, sleeping animals or nativity scenes. Pieces were hand-painted, sometimes in realistic detail, though later often looking rushed and inexact. Pieces are rarely glazed. Chalkware is hollow but will have a heavy base to keep the piece from tipping over. Look for mold lines; while the pieces would be fused together and then sanded before painting, gazing in through the bottom may allow you to see the seams. As well, most chalkware is marked with the design number, year, and copyright date, and may also have a company name inscribed. Chalkware is known to chip, crack and flake over time. The chalkware from the 1910s-40s is easy to identify by its gaudy appearance in addition to all the previous methods (really, just look at those!).

Bakelite

Commonly Found: vintage costume jewellery, radios, telephones, flatware handles, game pieces – you name it! If it’s made of plastic today, there’s a good chance it was one point made of Bakelite. See this site for a great breakdown of popular and highly collectible pieces.

What Is It?: an early plastic resin with the ability to withstand high temperatures. Invented in 1907 and popular until the 1950s, it is celebrated for its wide range of bright colours. Hard enough to cut and polish, carved Bakelite was popular as well. Most commonly solid, opaque colours, some translucent pieces were made as well and given names like “Root-Beer” and “Cherry Juice”.

Why’d They Use It?: as already mentioned it was extremely versatile, at least compared to the products available before it. It was originally used for industrial purposes due to its ability to withstand heat, and the fact that it was colourful and carve-able made it a popular choice for artists.

How To Identify It: there are many methods to identifying Bakelite, and once you’ve seen a few pieces you’ll find your eye being drawn to them right away. First off, check for seams; unless it is made of multiple colours, there shouldn’t be any visible. Hardware on something like a brooch should be embedded or riveted on, as opposed to glued. As with many of the items discussed, flaws can be the best way to identify the “real deal”. Chips should reveal the same colour underneath; if you see white, something’s not right. Carved pieces may have small chips along the edges that shows the tool that was used to create them. As I mentioned, Bakelite has a very distinctive look, a particular shine and smoothness to it. This is described very well in this blog. Unlike modern plastics, or other vintage materials like Lucite and Celluloid, Bakelite tends to be quite heavy. When you tap a couple pieces together, they make a distinctive, low-pitched “clack” sound. Finally, due to it being made partially out of formaldehyde, you can test Bakelite by smell. Give it a rub, or run it under some warm water and it should reveal its tell-tale, chemical scent. For more tips, and for info on how to clean and care for Bakelite, check out the Vavoom Vintage site.

Lucite

Commonly Found: 1950s costume jewellery, retro shoe heels, purses, lamps.

What Is It?: a clear acrylic plastic created in the 1930s, popular in the mid twentieth century, and still in use today.

Why’d They Use It?:  Lucite was less expensive to create than Bakelite, and more versatile than Celluloid, leading to it eventually dominating the market and making those earlier plastics obsolete. While it starts clear, it can be dyed a wide range of colours, and can be carved and polished, like Bakelite. Cabochons were made to imitate jewels, and bold costume jewelry was manufactured out of it throughout WWII. The material was also used to serve the war effort, being made into periscopes, windshields, and the noses of bomber planes.

How To Identify It: Lucite can look very similar to Bakelite, but goes for far less. Both these plastics are Thermoset, meaning you cannot melt it down to make something new after setting it. Many of the Bakelite tests can also reveal Lucite, however the key difference is the smell; Lucite is not made of Formaldehyde. It can be difficult to distinguish between modern and vintage Lucite, so be sure you have a good understanding of jewellery styles and colour trends; also note that most modern Lucite is solid, but opaque jewellery was available in its earlier days as well. Some vintage Lucite has a distinctive sheen, referred to as “moon glow”, and glitter inside it – referred to as “confetti Lucite” – was a popular vintage look as well. Contrasting coloured bits spread throughout the piece for a “granite” look is also a popular vintage sign, as is a coloured piece embedded in clear Lucite.

Celluloid

Commonly Found: small jewellery and decorative items from the mid 1800s to 1940s. On the backs of compact mirrors, vanity sets, razor handles, on vintage pins and holiday items.

What Is It?: a brand name type of plastic made of cellulose dinitrate blended with pigments, fillers, camphor, and alcohol to make a unique synthetic material; like “Kleenex”, it has been used to describe similar products by other companies. Sometimes referred to as “French Ivory”, although it is in no way like the real ivory that is derived from animals. Extremely flammable and prone to deterioration, products like Bakelite and eventually Lucite made it become obsolete.

Why’d They Use It?: while not the first man-made plastic, it was one of the firsts, created in 1867. The inventor, John Wesley Hyatt, created the substance when trying to win a contest. The company Phelan & Collander had promised $10,000 to anyone who could come up with a substitute for ivory, and while Hyatt did not win the prize, during his experimentation he noticed that camphor added to nitrocellulose, plasticized. Initially the substance was used for billiard balls and dental plates. The billiards, however, never really caught on due to the flammability of the material; Celluloid coated balls sometimes produced small explosions when they collided. The material was used to coat early movie film as well, and that sparked countless fires in projection rooms (this instability of the film, due to the nitrite, makes early film preservation difficult). Despite this obvious drawback, Celluloid was in many ways versatile, and was used to create inexpensive versions of items made from ivory or tortoise shell.

How To Identify It: while Celluloid may initially look like ivory, or tortoise shell, it is far lighter, and if you hold a light up to it, you are likely to be able to see through it. As with most items on this list, deterioration can help with identification; it may crumble, crack, or crystallize. Celluloid is very thin, much more so than other early plastics like Bakelite. It too can be identified through a “smell test” – rub it or run it under warm water (do NOT use a hot pin as, remember, early examples were flammable) – and you should be able to smell the camphor (eg. moth balls). Post 1927, the camphor was removed and the smell test will no longer be relevant.

Do you have any requests for other vintage, man-made materials? I’ll do a blog on natural materials and fabrics sometime soon. Leave your requests in the comments 🙂

 

 

 

 

Hey, It’s Not All Bad! 2016 In Review

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It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, doing a “year in review” post, so here goes one for a year most of us agree has been pretty shit; 2016.

Despite the awful things happening in the world, the ridiculous number of celebrities to pass before their time, 2016 has been good to me in a lot of ways. Here’s the highlights.

Tarragon Theatre

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As I mentioned in my blog from this time last year, in January of 2016 I started working for Tarragon Theatre as the Assistant Producer; this has been my all time favourite job. The people at Tarragon are awesome, and I very quickly got to learn a lot. From doing CAEA contracts with Kesta, the Business Manager; mailings and social media marketing with Lauren, the Director of Communications; foundation & grant research with Leslie, Director of Development; workshops with students lead by Anne, Director of Education; and special projects grant writing with Richard, the Artistic Director, I’ve had a chance to do a little bit of everything and that has helped to confirm that, yes, I love everything about theatre. It’s been a hard year in a lot of ways and the staff have been very supportive, and I’m going to miss the place when my contract ends (soon). But I think I have now a good idea of what sort of training & experience I need to have a position there, and so I’m headed down that path in hopes of working there again someday!

New Apartment

For anyone thinking of moving to a new apartment a week before opening a show, I have one piece of advice; don’t. Despite it being insanely hectic, and taking a very long time to get organize and settled in, I’m very happy with my new home. It’s a lovely old building, built around 1910, and has a ton of vintage charm, which (surprise!) I love. Plus, I’m here with 4 of my favourite people; my bunny, Felicity, my budgies, Felix & Rooney, and my ever-supportive boyfriend, Conor (aka Coogle). Pretty great.

Wait Until Dark

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In April Bygone Theatre mounted a production of Wait Until Dark in the rehearsal hall at Tarragon Theatre. As happens with every show I direct, I got to meet a ton of funny, talented, and all-round awesome people. Also got to reconnect with Anthony Neary who I had worked with on Madeline Robin Known As Roxann a couple years back; he came out from Ottawa to set up some funky LED lights. We got to expand our Youth Outreach with this show by getting several teenage volunteers involved, which not only lessened my workload, but introduced all of us to some up-and-coming Toronto talents.

Directing with Richard Rose

This year I finally had a chance to take a class I have wanted to sign up for for YEARS; Directing with Richard Rose. I don’t have any formal theatre training and so I had wanted to add some things to my resume and get tips from a pro; for anyone looking for the same, I highly recommend this class. I haven’t had a chance to direct a show since taking the course, so we’ll see come His Girl Friday if his words of wisdom will improve my directing skills!

Vaudeville Revue

13581899_812129075590261_8621653151204502106_o(Most of) The Cast of Vaudeville Revue

Since I started Bygone back in late 2012, I have wanted to do a vaudeville show; in June 2016, I finally got the chance. Vaudeville Revue had a short run but we had an amazing variety of talent, and I’ve got another one planned for this season; hopefully this will grow into a yearly event. Everyone was not only talented but wonderfully positive. Despite not having the usual rehearsal process, I really witnessed bonding among performers backstage. That’s always one of my favourite parts of a show.

Tucked Away Antiques

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In August I decided to try and make some extra cash out of my second biggest passion (next to theatre); antiques. I have a ridiculous number of vintage & antique items at home – from shows, my own collections – and I always want to buy more. So I opened up an Etsy shop, Tucked Away Antiques, to feed my collecting addiction without making me go broke; it worked! It’s growing slowly, but it is growing, and I am making a profit. In the new year I hope to build it more and get it to a place where it can be a regular source of income.

Human Rights Hearing Against Theatre 20

This is meant to be a positive post, so I won’t go into this here. I’ll just say that the hard part is over, and that you can read more about it here.

Coming Up

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I’m already knee-deep in 2017 in a lot of ways. Work on Bygone’s next show, His Girl Friday, started a few months ago, and rehearsals will start in early January. I’ve signed up for online courses through Lynda, so I can brush up on my Adobe skills & Google Analytics, as well as learn how to use new programs like Quickbooks & Sage, and get some training on HTML & C++. Hopefully these skills will help me not just with Bygone, but any future work as a producer. I’ve got a bunch of things on the back-burner at the moment, and hopefully will have some more updates soon, though I won’t jinx it by mentioning them now.

All for now. Happy New Year!
– E.

The Photo History Sleuth: My Part-Time Obsession – Part 1

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As anyone who knows me already is well aware, I am a huge fan of antiques and genealogy. Recently, I’ve decided to try and put those passions to use by opening Tucked Away Antiques, an Etsy shop where I can sell some of my finds in hopes of funding more treasure hunting.

Recently I acquired a lot of vintage cabinet cards from an auction, with the only information being that they came from the estate of the late “Clarence B. Kilmer, Saratoga Springs NY”. While I purchased these in hopes of making a profit, my curiosity got the better of me, and I’ve gotten to try to trace down information about the people in the photos. I always feel a pang of sadness when I’m rooting through a box of old photos and find some with labels that I don’t have the funds to buy; I always want to reunite interested family members with their lost photos, as I hold out hope that someone may do that for me some day. I’m still on the hunt for missing leaves of my tree.

So rather than just doing all this for interest, I thought I’d walk you through the process I use to identify people in photos. It can be a lengthy one, and of course, it’s not an exact science, but if you go through things logically and systematically, it really can be like a mystery, and I think every mystery is solvable. So first things first, who was Clarence B. Kilmer?

Estate Finds: Researching the Head of the Estate

The internet make this very simple for modern day sleuthers – chances are, you can google the name of the estate and come up with enough for a starting place. If you’re really stuck, things like Ancestry.com, or your local library (yes, they still exist) can be very helpful. Census records, newspapers, land records and more can tell you a surprising amount about a person, but to start off, let’s try with google.

The first thing that pops up when searching for Mr. Kilmer, is an article on a realty site about the Saratoga Centennial. A neat little history of this gorgeous house, once belong to Kilmer, is given.

Here’s what’s relative to us:

In 1904, the property was purchased by Clarence B. Kilmer, a trial lawyer who served as President of the Saratoga County Bar Association for 19 years. He was honored in 1947 for being a 50 year member, and also served as counsel to the Saratoga Racing Association.

A civic leader, Kilmer was Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the City Planning Commission’s subcommittee on taxation and finance.

Clarence Kilmer was an avid sports fan. He built the Geyser Road baseball park, and was instrumental in having the Brooklyn Dodgers come to Saratoga for an exhibition game. He was President of McGregor Links Golf Club, and an officer of the Saratoga Golf Club, where he once played 81 rounds in a single day.

Kilmer resided at 722 North Broadway until his death on August 29, 1961.

This is kind of a home run. Off the bat, we know he was a lawyer for 19 years by 1904 (gives us an idea of birth date), that he lived at 722 North Broadway (can compare this to census records and get a list of family members), and that he died August 29, 1961 (can search for obituaries or death certificates, again may help with family members). As well, being such a prominent member of the community means he was almost certainly photographed for books or newspaper articles, so if we have a photo we suspect is him, we can compare it to that. Step 1 is complete! Now let’s look a little closer at the photos to see if we can spot him.

Identifying Photos: Pictures With Names

You may think that a photo with a name written on it is a home run – surely you can identify anything labeled! Well, not always. In my own history hunting I’ve come across confusing photos that use nicknames instead of a given name, which can be misleading, especially if there are multiple people in the family with the same name. For example, a man might be named John, but be called “Jack” by his friends. He may also have a cousin, Jack, who has that as a given name. Differentiating may be difficult. In my case, I have a Great Great Grandmother name Phelma who I have seen referred to (on official documents like census records and birth or marriage certificates) as Phelma, Phelina, Lena, Charlotte and Lottie. She also had a daughter named Charlotte who occassionally went by Lottie. So, while these things can be slowly sorted out when you have dates and other info to compare it to, a simple photo with a first name is not so easy. But let’s look at what we have here.

A quick glance at the photos, and style of dress shown in them, lets me know that there are several generations present (I’ll go into more detail about style of dress and how to use that to date photos in a bit). From my initial google search, I also spotted an obituary for a Clarence B. Kilmer III, so I know not to assume anyone named Clarence here is the head of the household; we’ll need to date these photos to figure that out.

I followed the obit to CBK III and learned quickly that he was the son of Clarence B. Kilmer, Jr. and Agatha Quintana Kilmer, and that he was born November 9, 1937. That date means that he won’t be featured in any of these photos, as they are mostly late Victorian, with a few that may be closer to WWI, so I can cross him out. It does let me know that his father was likely born in the early 1900s, and that could help identify him in photos. His mother’s maiden name may also be useful in identifying pictures that seem to not fit the rest.

The obit let me know his birthdate, which gives me an idea of his father’s birthdate. His mother’s maiden name may also be helpful. Older obituaries can be especially helpful as they tended to list a lot of the family, and can help link married women to their maiden names. Newer obits may prove less helpful because of today’s privacy concerns.

Now I come to a photo that I’ve found that is labeled C.B Kilmer. To determine which one he is, we need to try and date this:

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Labeled “C.B. Kilmer”

We’ll start with the other labels on it.

The photographer mark reads;

BAKER & RECORD
PHOTOGRAPHERS,
Ground Floor Gallery
448 BROADWAY
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

So, back to google!

Google Books lead me to a copy of the Photographic Times, Vl 11, which praises the studio and mentions how they have taken the likeness of many prominent residents. This volume was published in January 1881. Further searching brought me to volume 13 of the same publication, published in January of 1883, where it is reported that the studio has dissolved. So, this photo can’t be from any date more recent than the end of 1882. We know that C.B.K. Jr. had a son in 1937, and so this is clearly too old to be him; looks like we’ve got our patriarch, Clarence B. Kilmer.

A recent obit gives the birthdate of C.B.K. III, which helps us guess the approximate birthdate of his father, C.B.K. Jr., and a quick search of the photography studio that took the photo labeled Clarence B. Kilmer has confirmed the photo can’t be more recent than 1883.

A little over-complicated? Maybe. Frankly, one look at it and I was pretty certain this was our man, but these same methods can be used to identify more complex mysteries, and I suspect we’ll come back to them.

I’ll use this photo to compare to unidentified men, and see if we can’t find more of them. But for now, let’s stick with the labeled pictures, and move on to his wife.

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Labeled “Bessie Kilmer”

I have 3 photos labeled “Mrs. C.B.K.” and one that reads “Bessie Kilmer”. The one labeled Bessie has a date printed on it, 1890. I found this a little odd as the woman in this photo is older than in the other ones, and yet she is not described as “Mrs. C.B.K.”. It is common to find records, be it photos or otherwise, of married women that disregard not only their maiden name, but their first name as well; one of my distant relatives was recorded on her death certificate as “Mrs. Dix”! This leads me to suspect one of the following;

  1. Bessie Kilmer is the woman’s maiden name. Given the date of the photo this would likely mean she is the sister of C.B.K., though she could also be a cousin (less likely, I’ve already come across some labeled “Aunt So-and-so”, I would expect “cousin” to be added here).
  2. This is Mrs. C.B.K., but the photo was taken after the death of her husband, and so whoever labeled it found it more appropriate to record her actual name.
  3. This is Mrs. C.B.K., but the photo belonged to a more distant relative, who wanted the actual name recorded.

Personally, I’m strongly leaning towards option 1, but for the sake of exploration, let’s dig a little deeper.

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Labeled “Mrs. C.B.K.”

One of the Mrs. C.B.K. photos is taken by the same company, Baker & Record, listed previously; it can’t be more recent than 1882. The woman in the photo looks quite young, and while I’d advise against guessing ages to identify pictures (they dressed and aged very differently back then, it can be misleading), I’m confident in saying she is under 40, could easily be anywhere from age 20-35. This would mean she was born sometime after 1847, likely closer to 1860.

Now here is where it’s important to go back to records, and not rely on a photo for information like marriage dates; you may want to assume that this photo was taken when she was already Mrs. C.B.K., but it could just as easily have been labeled after her marriage, but taken before then. Comparing the Mr. & Mrs. C.B.K. photos by the same photography company, it’s not difficult to see that the lady looks considerably younger than the gentleman; she could have married a much older man, or, this may have been taken early in the company’s existence. So let’s go back to google to try and identify when the company was first started.

After about half an hour of searching I was unable to find a date of incorporation (this is certainly something that could be located with more effort, but it’s not a necessity, so I’m going to leave it for now). I did, however, find many things dated to 1871, and nothing attributed to them from an earlier date. So, let’s estimate that the company existed from 1871-1882, not an unreasonable guess since other searching has confirmed that the men had other studios and other partners.

Ok, so this is a lot. I know. And again, most of this, in this particular case, could be guessed by anyone with some experience with old photos and fashion, but I want to use this as a sort of “case study” for how to start going about a process like this. So, let’s recap what we’ve learned:

  • We started with a lot of photos that were said to be from the estate of “Clarence B. Kilmer, Saratoga Springs NY”
  • A Google search of the name lead me to a Saratoga Realty site that featured the late man’s residence, and told me that he was a lawyer residing at 722 North Broadway, Saratoga N.Y., and that he died in August of 1961
  • Further searching found an obituary that confirmed that there was also a C.B.K. Jr., and that he was born in 1937 and died in 2008; this means he won’t be in any of the pictures. From the obit I also learned that “he was the son of the late Clarence B. Kilmer, Jr. and Agatha Quintana Kilmer.” Sounds like that was the C.B.K. who died in 1961 – need to find his year of birth.
  • Google yields yet another obit, for the above mentioned C.B.K. Jr. It confirms that he was born March 5, 1875 and died August 29, 1961. It also tells us that he was the son of “the late Clarence B. and Bessie Kilmer”.
  • I have a photo labeled Clarence B. Kilmer, and after researching the photography studio know that it must have been taken prior to 1882; since the photo is of an adult, we know that it cannot be C.B.K. Jr, and so can assume it is his father.
  • The photo I have from 1890, labeled “Bessie Kilmer”, I originally thought could be a sister. However, after finding C.B.K. Jr.’s obit, I now believe it to be his mother, the wife of the original C.B.K.

Other photos of Mrs. C.B.K. remain, and of course the question is which one is she? In my next blog post, I’ll discuss identifying the dates of photos by the photographic method, as well as the fashion; that should help us to confirm who exactly the woman is. Once we have a few people absolutely identified, we can start the more complex process of comparing unlabeled photos for further identification.

Hope that rather lengthy post proves helpful! More to come.

-E.