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Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio
with Carolyn Gavin

February 6, 2018

Artist Carolyn Gavin and her puppy Eggroll, photos by Jen Coleman

If you deconstruct the most inspiring quotes throughout history, you’ll find that they all have a few things in common: great wordsmithing, flawless pacing, memorable messaging. So when I asked artist Carolyn Gavin what inspires her to illustrate quotes, I thought she might say she enjoyed experimenting with fonts in watercolor, or that wanted her art to honor influential leaders or her favorite musicians. I quickly learned that these assumptions were too surface level for an artist who uses color like Carolyn. When describing her design process for our “World is Full of Magic” print, she simply said, “it’s just a feeling. I knew that quote would need flowers.”

After visiting Carolyn’s home studio in downtown Toronto, it is evident that this beautiful, gentle approach to her art manifests in every aspect of her life. Where the average person sees words or objects, Carolyn envisions bouquets, nature, and exotic shapes. Every corner inside of the 120-year-old Victorian house that she shares with her husband, her daughter Lily, and their English Bulldog Eggroll, is drenched in her signature color palette. From the quaint garden that she maintains in her off time, to the walls decorated with bright patterns that would make Justina Blakeney pause, every detail embodies the same joy that we find so captivating about her prints.

Carolyn is an artist who truly lives the words penned by writer Khalil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.” As I made my way around her sun-drenched studio, it was hard to distinguish which of her projects would be defined as work or “play.” She approaches every opportunity to create as a chance to learn and explore. Whether it’s sharing watercolors with her enthusiastic Instagram followers, or experimenting with new graphic design techniques for a commissioned project. Her creative perspective is always evolving.  

Read on to discover how Carolyn finds inspiration in her travels, how she maintains balance between her family’s business and her own artistic goals, and why she believes that the world is always full of magic. 

Continue Reading…

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Did Ancient Cultures Have the Blues? 

June 27, 2016


Blueberries, a cloudless sky, and grandma’s hair…there’s blue all around us. But would you be aware of it if you didn’t know the word for it? This perceptual question was explored by language historian Lazarus Geiger who looked for the progression of color words in ancient languages like Greek, Chinese, and Hebrew. He found that the earliest color-related words in each culture were black and white (or dark and light). Next came red, then yellow and green. But blue was the last common color word to appear in every ancient language. The Egyptians were the first on the blue bandwagon and, not coincidentally, also the first to produce blue dye.

But the question remains: Is the ability to actually see a color dependent on having a word for it? An anthropological experiment with the Himba people of Namibia sheds some light on this dilemma. Himba participants in the study had great difficulty spotting a blue square in a palette of green squares, but no problem finding a subtly different shade of green in the same context. The Himba have many words to describe green things, but no word for blue.

Is it easy seeing green? Find out here.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is it Easy Seeing Green?

November 3, 2015

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For all humans reading this, the answer is yes! Human eyes can perceive more shades of green than any other color. But why green? Shouldn’t we be able to see all colors equally? On a purely scientific level, our vision gives green more weight because two out of the three types of cones in our retinas—medium and long cones—are most sensitive to the part of the spectrum of light that we perceive as green. Short cones favor the blue end of the spectrum, but the other two overlap in the middle, which is the sweet spot for all things green. But basic biology aside, is there a reason that our eyes evolved this way? There’s more interpretive debate here, but most scientists agree that it’s because we evolved in predominantly green environments like forests and jungles where, Darwin would argue, our ancestors who could perceive more shades of green were better equipped to distinguish the tastiest food sources. So, with this high-def color vision, human eyes are pretty sophisticated, huh? Enter the mighty mantis shrimp, which has twelve types of photoreceptors (versus humans’ three), which allow them to perceive a wider slice of the EM spectrum. Also, unlike mere humans, the peacock mantis shrimp can punch with the acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet. That’s 50 times faster than the blink of a human eye. It’s enough to make people green with envy…

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