Holiday entertaining: a beautifully simple table setting with flowers

For those of you who have followed the Chez CO blog since the beginning, or who are regular clients at Galerie CO, you have already been introduced to Caroline Boyce, the creator of Floralia. She has been supplying CO with beautiful bouquets of fresh, local flowers grown in the summer on her plot of land in the Eastern townships, and in the winter sourced from a fair trade supplier.

resized.IMG_2955This week, we asked Caroline to share some of her ideas for creating a beautiful holiday themed table setting. Her approach shows that by adding a few carefully selected elements, even a little bit of effort can make a big difference.

• Keep the table simple. You can use the same cutlery, plates and glasses that you use throughout the year.

resized.IMG_3485• A simple runner adds a lovely visual element without overwhelming the table setting, and is especially suited to a long rectangular table. Linen adds texture and works well with wood. A linen runner can be matched to linen napkins.

resized.IMG_3426• A colour theme helps tie the elements in the table setting together and to set a mood. Feel free to select colours outside the traditional red, green and gold. In this case the table is highlighted with orange, inspired by clementines, which are always available over the holidays and often appear in Christmas stockings. Orange works beautifully with silver, white wood and shades of grey and beige. It also complements, and is enhanced by, the warm glow of the candles.

resized.IMG_3352• Choose flowers that you love and can afford, mixing textures to create interest. In these bouquets, kangaroo paws and rosemary give the bouquets height. Volume comes from cabbages, tulips, spray roses and dates, which add an interesting visual element.

resized.IMG_3274• Select candles that are low and that don’t compete with, but that complement, the flower arrangements.

resized.IMG_3370• Add festive name tags as a final touch. Make your own by simply attaching small branches of evergreen (you can cut a few pieces from the Christmas tree) with a string and paper tag (available at any art or office supply store).

resized.IMG_3413There is still time to order your own centrepiece from Floralia, for delivery (within Montreal) in time for the holidays. Order Christmas bouquets here.

Or, learn how to create a holiday centrepiece at the next Floralia workshop: December 20, 7-9 pm. The theme flowers will include amarylis and seasonal evergreens,  combined with local freesia, lilies, paperwhites, citrus fruits, holly, mosses and berries. Under Caroline’s guidance you will create a beautiful centrepiece, which is yours to keep.  The workshop will be held at Galerie CO (5235 Blvd. St-Laurent, Montreal,  514 277-3131). You can sign up for the workshop here.

All the photographs in this post were taken by Melodie Hoareau, from Instant d’une vie, and made available to us courtesy of Caroline Boyce of Floralia.

 How do you decorate your table for festive occasions? Which flowers would you choose for a holiday centrepiece?

Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco.

Designer-in-depth: heyday design’s Claire Madill

A few weeks ago, CO’s Social Media Coordinator, Lee-Anne Bigwood, was in Vancouver and paid a visit to the lovely Claire Madill of heyday design to see what she’s been up to. We’ve been carrying her pieces at Galerie CO since the spring and love them as beautiful objects, and for holding flowers and kitchen tools. It was high time for a studio visit which, lucky for us, coincided with production on her brand new collection.

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We’ll be carrying her whimsical “slightly crushed cans”, which are safe for drinking but also make sweet bud vases.


slightly crushed cans” (source: heyday design)

For this week’s blog post, Lee-Anne shares her observations following her visit with Claire…

When thinking of Vancouver, it’s easy to pull to mind windows with picturesque views of the ocean, with beaches and century-old trees peppering the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background. You can imagine yourself enjoying the laid back West Coast vibe watching yoga-pants-clad runners and cyclists buzzing by as you drink locally roasted coffee and snack on healthy salads on a patio built for drizzly conditions.

But there is another part of town where the heavy-lifting gets done; in the portlands of the industrial section of East Vancouver. In this part of town, there is less meandering and more passing through, with huge trucks pulling up to loading zones near the massive ships docked from all over the world.  If you take the time to cycle slowly or saunter through, however, you’ll be lucky to come across some sweet spots to visit in the area.

A highlight for me on the way to Claire’s studio was the nearly hidden Cottonwood Community Garden (the oldest in the city, which is at risk of being plowed over to create wider roads for all the trucks):Garden entrance, next to warehouses

The entrance to the garden on Malkin Avenue (this photo and more about the garden can be found here.)

After exploring the neighbourhood on a typically drizzly but balmy Vancouver day, I made my way to Claire’s studio. In an email with directions she had given me the following instructions: “my studio is in a terrific building, full of full-time makers.”

Terrific indeed! The building, though staying true to the blocked industrial style of the area, seems to emit a sort of creative spirit with its bright green exterior.

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The Mergatroid Art Studio Building

“I’m in studio #202 at the top of the stairs.”

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Woodburned/etched photos leading up the stairs to the studios

Claire is incredibly welcoming, but apologizes for the mess. I don’t see the mess that she speaks of, instead I’m aware of the rows of neatly ordered shelves with her work in its many stages.

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One of many storage shelves with her hew “basket” bowls.

The studio is large and brightly lit with natural light, and I ask her how she managed to score such a great space. She tells me that she inherited the studio space from a potter who married her best friend and moved to Montana.

Our discussions about her work come naturally. I start to take notes, but realize that I just want to sit and chat with her about her passion. She smiles freely and she beams with pride around her work.

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Here Claire, wearing a pair of her geometric porcelain earrings, lovingly holds her favourite piece. She explains that this widemouth jar is her most-loved. “I don’t know why, there’s something about the weight of it and it’s so cylindrical. It’s just so perfect.”

She tells me that she is happiest when she is making things and calls herself a “designer/maker”. This doesn’t surprise me, since the kind of gallery-store spaces I’m most attracted to are typically staffed with people who embody the spirit and feeling of a home studio.

Claire isn’t originally from Vancouver, but from Southern Ontario. She went to high school in Whitby. We realized that where she grew up and where she still visits her two sisters and 91-year old Nanna, is where my own family now lives. This pulled at my heart strings a little since my own late Nana would have loved her work and the warm way she welcomed me into her space.

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Claire and her Dad ‘somewhere in Ontario’, secured to filing cabinet with one of her porcelain cube magnets.

I then ask the always popular questions, “How did you get into this line of work? What brought you here?”

Claire tells me that she was really creative as a kid but at the time, one of her younger three sisters became known as the artist. She was never discouraged from creating, but was under the impression that there can only really be one artist in the family. She discovered her artistic self more deeply after her first degree, which was in Criminology (“I thought I wanted to be a cop!”, she laughs). She then thought she would become a photographer. At the time, she also had a line of punk rock wrist cuffs and collars that she made from vintage leather belts.

Subsequently, Claire attended the Emily Carr University of Art & Design on Granville Island in Vancouver. She applied to the ceramics department because, “there was so much to learn. Even with full time dedication, I knew I’d be learning something new all the time.” In her third year she took a mould-making class with Jeremy Hatch and loved it because it was foreign and fun. She started mixing porcelain casting slips and says she has never looked back. Jeremy continues to be one of her design inspirations.

MADE‘ in Toronto was heyday design’s first store and in 2009 she participated in the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit. She has clients all over North America, although most of her work is still sold in Canada. It seems we are nostalgic and connect to the vintage mason jars and baskets that remind us of times with our grandparents, at cottages and other memories of Canadiana.

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Mould-making is a challenging multi-stage process. “It would be enough to just be a mould-maker, there are so many steps. It’s difficult and all consuming, but it’s worth it. I love it.” Each piece goes through approximately thirty steps from beginning to end include moulding, casting, glazing, sanding, firing, sanding again and polishing.

House and Home’s Design Lab has an episode with a feature on Claire, where you can see her in action going through all the steps, pouring and casting her porcelain pieces in this studio.

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The moulds, which Claire makes herself, are made up of four parts banded together with a heavy elastic. You also fill the actual object you are molding with plaster, because you want it to hold its shape, and it’s the outside shape and features that you are creating a mould for.

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If she creates a cast in the morning, she can’t handle it again until the evening. On an average production day she’ll make around 25 pieces. During the Christmas rush, that number can go up to 42 pieces a day.

Claire shows me one of her most popular models; an antique Beaver canning jar she found at her grandmother’s house. This next photo illustrates the way that the final product is about 13% smaller. This is because plaster is water-seeking, so the mould sucks a lot of water right out of porcelain slip.

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Each piece is glazed on the inside, making it food-safe and water tight. The outside is kept matte, unglazed and monochrome, to keep the embossing of the original more pronounced. The focus is on the form coming through.

heyday (4)The final stage: dusting and polishing before shipping out

Claire also makes jewellery, some of which is black, but has a separate set of moulds, a separate section of the studio, and even a separate day that she works on it because she wants absolutely no mix up. It’s imperative that the pieces are pristine.

I wonder, with her attention to detail and affinity towards clean and monochrome in her work whether that style is carried through in her own art collections. “Oh no! I love colour. But I do tend to be attracted to geometric shapes.” I ask her to tell me about her favourite art pieces at home, and after our meeting she sends me photos of two.

She first tells me about a wooden piece she has on her table.”It’s so simple and complex. Instead of cutting it flat on the ends, he’s cut it on an angle. It is like a flat object, trying to be a 3D object but it IS 3D. It’s beautiful.”

Christopher Donnelly

Sculpture by Christopher Donnelly (photo care of Claire Madill)

“I also really love the bright, geometric paintings of Jessica Groome. I have two that I can see from my favourite spot on my couch!”


Left, and top right, paintings by Jessica Groome (photo care of Claire Madill)

I asked Claire about her favourite piece at Galerie CO.

donna wilson rainy day blanket grey“Living in Vancouver must be in my soul now — I love the rainy day blanket by Donna Wilson best.”

As I was preparing to leave, I noticed that she had a bag from one of my own favourite artists in Toronto: Bookhou. Claire loves her bags, and even showed me a hilarious photo of her and two friends all coincidentally wearing Bookhou bags at an art festival. She has traded a lot of products with her. This is what she does with many other designer-makers.

What nostalgic memories do her porcelain pieces conjure up for you? What would you like to store in her gorgeous vases?

Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter or Instagram @GalerieCO

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Designer in depth: HAM’s Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson is an extremely talented lady. Based in London, she studied art at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. She is a print maker and creates limited edition silk screen prints employing a process that brings together mixed media collage, monochrome photogram, and digital finishing. Her work has been exhibited at Liberty London, The Other Art Fair, the London Design Festival and Modern Art Oxford and can been seen on her personal art website.


Jo in her studio

In addition to her fine art prints, Jo has had extraordinary success with her whimsical collection of homewares, stationary and prints characterized by monochrome silhouettes of a pig, a rabbit and a horse engaged in a multitude of unexpected activities. The collection was launched in 2011, under the brand name HAM. The entire collection is made in the UK  and Jo hand-pulls all of the screen prints in her East London studio.

HAM PRINTSeesawing rabbit print frame

Since launching HAM, Jo has gone from strength to strength and her quirky, minimalist designs are now available throughout Britain and in select design-led boutiques around the world. Despite her busy schedule, we’re grateful that she took the time to sit down with us to answer a few questions.

What is the first thing you remember creating?

I have a very strong memory of making a ‘landscape’ painting at my primary school. I must have been about six and was so obsessed with getting it right I kept drawing and painting, then drawing and painting, so much so I made a hole right in the middle of the picture which I reluctantly had to patch with tissue paper. It was at that point I learned that sometimes less is more!

I understand that you were brought up on a farm. Has that inspired your art and if so, how?

I loved growing up in the British countryside – surrounded by inspiration and adventure. Drawings of rural life and its characters filled the pages of my sketchbook with my parents farm, a menagerie of dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, cows, donkeys and sheep being my points of reference. I also developed an interest in documenting the everyday and was constantly seeking to capture on paper the people around me going about their regular rituals. This fascination with British quirkiness and the mundane stuck and has underpinned much of my creative practice to date.

!cid_6521E1D1-F362-4011-A754-71FA4DC40244@homeLined A5 HAM notebooks

The name HAM and HAMmade works on so many levels vis a vis your imagery. Where did the name came from?

HAM is my maiden name!

You went to art school in Oxford. What did you take away from art school and how did you make the transition to design?

I knew in the last year of my degree at The Ruskin that I wasn’t yet ready to become an artist. There was still so much of the world that I needed to learn about before I could confidently provide visual comment. Subsequently I gained a place on a creative management-training scheme and spent the next two years at a number of design agencies in London and the US. At the end of the programme I joined a brand consultancy as a strategist. During this time I continued to draw and paint whenever I could and in 2010, with a set of silhouette sketches and an idea, took the plunge and left my job. A year later HAM’s first collection was launched.

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Bouncing rabbit tea towel

Any mentors? Any important lessons that you learned along the way?

My family is a very important support system. Running your own business is a massive balancing act and getting everything done in itself is a huge challenge but one that is incredibly rewarding and couldn’t be achieved without the help of the brilliant people around me. My mum constantly reminds me –‘if it was easy everyone would do it!’

Why a pig, rabbits and a horse?

The brand’s protagonists were constructed in my head but loosely based on the farmyard characters that surrounded me growing up: a pig called Primrose, a rabbit called Humphrey and a donkey called Snowflake (as close as I could get to a horse!) As a child I often imagined them interacting like us but decided very early on to keep Pig, Horse and Rabbit named as such as I didn’t want them to be defined by any predetermined stereotypes, thus leaving the viewer free to build their own story.

ham-partying-pig-printPartying pig screen print

You have been said to have a “deft flair for the witty” and your work, which is charming, unexpected and amusing, has been described as reflecting a fascination for the banal in terms of the everyday subject matter that you depict. Is that a description you would use, and can you expand on that a little?

Absolutely. The aim was to create a piece of serious design that was understated and simple but full of personality, to bring to life scenarios far away from twee that were unexpected but somehow completely believable. It’s really important to me that HAM is upbeat and centred around stories that we can all relate to. Humour plays a key part and successfully weaving this into each silhouette is a tough challenge but one that’s more than worth it when you see people connect with the designs.

How has your business evolved since creating HAM? How has the journey been for you?  

It has been quite a journey. It’s happened so quick! Although it is demanding I am really enjoying the roller coaster.

What’s the biggest challenge (if one exists) associated with HAM’s commitment to supporting British industry? What are the rewards?

I don’t feel there are any specific challenges – I see it as a huge positive. You can have face-to-face meetings, the lead times are often shorter, the carbon footprint is lower and you are supporting livelihoods as well as the traditional skills and processes that are such an important part of the UK’s historical and cultural make-up.

!cid_BBF44A38-A0A5-48E9-8293-636B48070FEB@homeButton lift rabbit and ski jumping rabbit cards

What’s next for HAM?

Four more Rabbits are about to launch and I’m aiming to introduce a brand new animal to the HAM clan later this year – there’s huge debate about what it should be… suggestions welcome!

We want to help Jo pick the new animal for HAM. Head over to our Facebook page and give us your opinion.

You could win a tea towel printed with one of HAM’s first-ever prints: the bouncing rabbit.



All images are courtesy of Jo Robinson.


International Women’s Day: spotlight on Wola Nani

March 8 marks the 102nd International Women’s Day (IWD), when thousands of events put on by governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, companies and communities celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women.

This year’s official theme is ‘Inspiring Change’.

It’s a theme that resonates with us at CO where we are trying to inspire change on a daily basis. We do this through sustainability and design, and by supporting communities and small businesses from around the world who are working responsibly with a social conscience and an environmental awareness.

Since we opened in 2008 we have worked with Wola Nani, an NGO located in the Western Cape of South Africa with a focus on empowering women and inspiring change. This year, Wola Nani is celebrating its 20th anniversary and we want to help celebrate with a short profile to mark IWD at Galerie CO.

wola nani logo and image

In the Xhosa language (South Africa’s second most common language), Wola Nani means “through our embrace, we develop one another.” The organization was founded by South African activist Gary Lamont in 1994 with a clear mission: “to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS.”


It began with an entrepreneurial spirit focusing on bringing relief to the communities hardest hit by HIV, recognizing that women have been disproportionately infected with, and affected by, the pandemic. Income generation and the need to provide women with a practical means to support themselves financially was quickly identified as an urgent need for women testing positive with HIV and the women at Wola Nani began making paper maché bowls and beaded objects to generate income.

Through its staff, which is made up largely of women many of whom are HIV-positive themselves, Wola Nani now delivers services and pursues activities that fall broadly into three categories: client support, education and awareness, and skills development. Through counselling, care, training, increased awareness and community support, individuals with HIV are empowered to take control of their lives with confidence, dignity and hope.

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At present, about sixty craftswomen are employed by Wola Nani, enabling them to earn a regular and sustainable income. These women report that Wola Nani has provided them with a means by which to feed their families, send their children to school, and live positively.

This is Ruth’s story. Hear how Wola Nani changed her life and the lives of her children.

When you purchase a Wola Nani product, it makes a difference in the lives of these women and their families.  At Galerie CO we stock the colourful paper maché bowls, each signed on the bottom by the woman who made the bowl.

Wola Nani

We also stock the intricately decorated “Ithemba” light bulbs, which were designed by well known fashion designers (Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci and more) and decorated with beads and wire by the women at Wola Nani. The designer bulbs are part of a project called “Fashion designing Hope”.

To learn more about Wola Nani and to hear more stories about the women whose lives have been inspired and changed by the organization’s vision visit

Wishing all our #COclients an inspired International Women’s Day.

Fair-trade flowers in February

A few years ago Caroline Boyce came into Galerie CO and presented us with her concept of a local, environmentally friendly flower service. If we paid up front, we could have a bouquet every week all summer created by Caroline using flowers that she grows herself, without pesticides, on a small lot in the Eastern Townships.


She had just started her business, Floralia. Love of flowers aside, we felt a strong connection to Caroline and her business model. She shares CO’s values and cares deeply about the impact that her products have on people and on the planet. We said “yes, please” to the flower service and have been working with her ever since selling her bouquets, hosting workshops, and acting as a distribution point for the subscription service.

Since that first meeting, Caroline’s business has grown steadily and she now provides her gorgeous bouquets all year round. Consistent with her philosophy, she has spent endless hours carefully sourcing the flowers that she will use when she can’t grow them herself during the winter months. She takes great care to understand where the flowers that she works with come from. We are the beneficiaries of all that hard work – now able to enjoy her uniquely striking bouquets all year round!


On Valentine’s Day, The Globe and Mail will identify Floralia as one of the ten coolest florists in the country. We couldn’t agree more.

Where did your love of flowers begin?

Long before I went to art school I was into organic agriculture. I worked on farms growing fruits and vegetables to save for my fine arts education. Even while I was in school, my focus was on environmental issues like consumption, and how its effect on nature. The environment has been a recurring theme in my work. After studying fine arts for several years, I took a break to go back to farming. Continue reading

Designer In-Depth: Maude Eloïse Bouchard Furness


Galerie CO owner and founder, Sarah Richardson, and her social media manager, Lee-Anne Bigwood, had a chance to sit down with Maude Eloïse Bouchard Furness just before Christmas to have a chat. They started to plan their trip to Toronto for the Interior Design Show (IDS14) and discussed the origins, inspirations and processes of Maude’s design work that will be exhibited at Studio North.

From rifling through the sewing box at her grandmother’s house in Northern Quebec to inventing new ways to use scrap pieces she finds on her Montreal studio floor, Maude has always maximized her resources and minimized waste. She has taken this natural tendency, infused it with her creative energy and her passion for her home province  to produce a sleek, fresh, distinctive collection of contemporary furniture. Remarkably, she accomplishes all this using sustainable methods at every stage of the process.

Maude’s pride in her creations is evident and infectious.  

Galerie CO: Can you remember how or why you first started to create?

Maude: When I was little I started with my grandmother to make little puppets out of balls of wool. We would use old clothes, sweaters and other materials to make the dolls and their dresses. It was more than that though. My mother worked, so I was with my grandmother a lot.  We were in a big house in the country. When we weren’t playing outside, she would really encourage us to create. There was a big sewing box full of supplies for us to use.  We’d trace images onto paper with glue, and stick pieces of wool to make art pieces.

Galerie CO: How did that creation develop into furniture design? Continue reading