Cormac, the Brew Master Leprechaun

The Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, their patron saint on March 17th, but did you know that St. Patrick was the son of Roman immigrants, so he is also widely celebrated in Italy. But it doesn’t stop there – St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over the world. As a matter of fact, for at least one day, everyone likes to be a little bit Irish. And who doesn’t love Leprechauns and the stories of those magical wee folk who live underground, causing mischief and hoarding pots of gold. If you are like me, every time I see a rainbow, I always look to see where it ends and think about that elusive pot of gold.

Thinking ahead and as a distraction over this long cold winter, I made one little original Leprechaun. He’s my wish for an early spring.  Meet Cormac, the Brew Master. Standing a wee 14″ tall, he’s one of a kind and available through my website at or on Etsy at

May good luck pursue you each morning and night. May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. … May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessing of Saint Patrick behold you. 


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Does She Look Familiar?

Have you every met someone for the first time and you can’t help but feel like you’ve met them before? If you mention it, that person usually responds with something like, “yes, I get that a lot.” Well meet Edith. When I created her there was something so familiar about her. Since then, everyone who has seen her feels the same. I’m intrigued and slightly disconcerted at times at that feeling. I cannot explain vibes and auras and feelings (sixth sense type stuff), but I believe in much of that. Something about Edith makes her genuine, kind and friendly. She has joy of life. Maybe what we recognize in Edith is what we look for within ourselves.

I think subconsciously I dressed her in orange for a reason. It combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success and encouragement.

Edith is sculpted in Living Doll Polymer Clay and stands 20″ tall. She can be viewed in person at the Orange Art Gallery next week. I’ve tagged a few people who come to mind when I look at her.




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2019 Polymer Clay Workshops

Discover your inner artist. Check out my polymer clay workshop schedule for the next few months. Space is limited to 5-6 people for my in-studio classes so reserve your spot early. Looking for a different date or a different project call me to book a private or group session for you and a few friends. To reserve your spot or for more information visit

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When I was asked to participate in a collaborative exhibit called “Star Searching” I racked my brain trying to come up with some ideas that would fit in with the solar system and space and still have fun with my medium and my style of figurative sculpture. I decided a little Sci-Fi and a little Steampunk would compliment the theme. What is Steampunk? According to Wikipedia it is a sub-genre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. But it’s more than that – it’s romance, fantasy and day dreams. It mixes old and new, fusing modern technology with the Victorian age.

It has reignited a love of “old fashioned” materials: brass and copper, wood, glass, mechanical workings, ornate engraving. The look has also influenced street fashion. Steampunk clothing typically adds the ‘best’ looks of the Victorian era to today’s most relevant street styles. I have to admit, I have a few pieces in my wardrobe that are definitely Steampunk influenced. The costume aspect of Steampunk is definitely an important part of the characters I’ve created for this current exhibit. “The Time Traveller’s Wife” incorporates a lot of these elements from leather corsets and frilly lace, burlesque style stockings and boots, and a pinch of goth, pirates and vampires.

There are five steampunk pieces in the Star Searching exhibit where they are interacting with Chris Banfalvi’s metal solar system and time travel vessels. You can see them in person at the Orange Art Gallery at 290 City Centre Drive in Ottawa from January 10-27th. Opening night is Thursday, January 10th. The work will also be available online through the gallery website at


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Star Searching

I’m hitting the new year running and kicking off 2019 with a new exhibit at the Orange Art Gallery from January 9th to the 27th. It’s a sculptural collaboration called                     “Star Searching”, two artists, two mediums, one exhibit.

This exclusive exhibit unites two very different artists of different disciplines –              Metal Artist, Chris Banfalvi and me, Figurative Polymer Artist, Maria Saracino. We join forces for a cohesive theme of space, fantasy and time travel. While Chris creates the solar system and the vessels of space travel, I create the people who dream of exploring them. From everyday dreamers to steam punk time travellers, I had a lot of fun putting this collection together. I hope you enjoy it too.

Join us for the opening reception, Thursday, January 10th from 6pm to 9pm.
Orange Art Gallery, 290 City Centre Drive, Ottawa, ON

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Storytelling Vingette

Just before Christmas I finished a very special portrait commission. My client unveiled it as a surprise to her family on Christmas Eve, and has now given me permission to share it with you. The commission is of her late parents. When we first began discussing this commission, my client shared little bits and pieces of who her parents were, what they liked, where they came from and little personality traits that only close family members would know. It was clear this needed to be more than just a portrait commission, it needed to tell their story. We created a list of over 20 details to incorporate into this portrait commission. Designing this piece as a vignette was how I was able to include all these details. Some are obvious; some are subtle; some you have to search for – but all these details gave her and her siblings great joy over the holidays as they celebrated their family and remembered their parents.

The obvious details . . . their favorite colours; their love of books; piping hot coffee and Coffee Mate; wedding photo and anniversary photo; pineapples and crocheting.

The subtle details . . . Their roots in Guyana, hence the pineapple upholstery; the choice of books a reflection of their hobbies and passions; jigsaw puzzles; her favorite red rimmed glasses;

The hard to find details . . . His ring is engraved with her nickname for him; he’s reading a book of quotes with the page open to the quotes used on their tombstones; her wedding bands, watch and simple silver necklace are gifts from him.

If you are interested in how I created this vignette, check out my YouTube Channel for a little slideshow on the process.



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The Quest for Mrs. Claus by Dawn Deme

It is my pleasure to introduce my guest writer, Dawn Deme, leader, editor and video producer at Villagers Media Productions in Toronto.

On October 30,  2018, I found myself sitting in the Ottawa studio of Maria Saracino, working, at long-last, on a commission to create Mother Christmas, an artistic and visual partner to Santa, the one that has sat on my Yule time mantle for the past 21 years.

It was lovely in the early hours of meeting Maria to encounter an artist/ kindred spirit, complete with a magical wonder-filled studio,  almost what one imagines Santa’s workshop to be like. In Maria’s case, it is clear that amongst many beloved subjects, she has a special heart for visages of earned wisdom. AKA old people whose excellent lives have marked them with a strange wrinkled beauty and power.

Exactly why we love Santa.

And Maria’s studio, along with her recent book (The History of Father Christmas), dazzle with new original-by-Maria imagery and new insight into this ancient man of empathy and action.

So why do we need a Mother Christmas?

Father Christmas, all by himself, has been more than enough to bring annual winter joy and wonder to billions, and over centuries. He did start out as Bishop Nicholas of Myra (270-343 AD) and therefore, as a celibate Catholic priest, would not have had a wife.

As I looked around at all the beauty of Maria’s creations, I nevertheless felt more than a little foolish. It would take me weeks to confess this expedition to friends and family. Why this obsession? Why go to so much trouble?

It all began 21 years ago, November, 1997. My husband Steven and I, video and TV producers, had just moved into our new (and present) home-with-studio. We wandered into the annual Toronto One-of-a- Kind show and there, promptly, met artist Jan Nicholson of Port Stanley, the now-retired creator of heirloom Santa dolls. One Santa jumped out at us and home he came, to preside over the mantle every Christmas since. He was our talisman of new beginnings. At the end of that first Christmas, and from then on, we tucked little messages (highlights of this Christmas, hopes and dreams for the coming year) into his red suit lining before packing him away for another year. Father Santa has been at the core of our Christmas psyche all this time.

And from the beginning, this niggling question: should there be a Mrs.?

“We will be back to commission Mother Christmas,” we said to Jan Nicholson in 1997. But, by the time we resurfaced, Jan was retired and politely told us we will have to look elsewhere.

Our video production company specializes in social justice and world religion history; projects that often take us into the creative underground for years at a time. Only at Christmas do we park our work and have time to think about something else. Like: who is Mother Christmas? I am a born researcher and over the years found myself more and more compelled by the research highways and byways of my question.

How Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus is one big story. Soon one is reading about how, despite the early Church’s determination to erase all traces of pre-Christian beliefs and gods and goddesses, Santa’s characteristics, by the 1300s, included  several mystical attributes of the ancient gods: in particular, being all-knowing, able to fly, and go down chimneys. In other words, in mythic mind, we need Santa and we change him according to how this need changes, often including reclaiming the very ancient capacities of the pre-Christian gods. Especially the science and art of gift-giving. Gifts, according to the old ways, are best-given anonymously, invisibly, silently, without expectation of reward or return. Gift giving must also be specific to the recipient. Just what they need, what they are ready for.

Nicholas, the story goes, worried about the fate of three young sisters too poor to have dowries and therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Bishop Nicholas took portions of his own inheritance and turned them into balls of gold (precursors of the little globes of glass and metal we hang on our Christmas trees today) and, late at night, threw them through the family’s windows, thus saving the day for the three sisters. There are many stories about Nicholas and his determinations to see need and intervene, quietly, without fanfare.

Over the years, I found a few artists who specialize in creating heirloom Santas and sometimes Mrs. Santa. But Mrs. Santa was never right. She would be the happy (and usually very young), fat peasant serving cookies. Or, like the Empress of ancient Russia, dressed in jewels and ermine. Or she would look too placid or too smug or just too subordinate.

I discovered there are old traditions about Mrs. Christmas, also originating in pre-Christianity, like that of Nicholas, and amalgamating with the beliefs of the new religion. Old traditions that are still alive today. About women of spirit who did good, knew how to fly and go down chimneys. These antecedents crept into Christian culture and showed up with similar stories and differing names.  Befana in Italy. Babushka in Russia. Lucia in Sweden, Holda, Germany. Perchta, Austria.

Befana in Italy is one of these stories. According to legend, she was an old woman in the time of Jesus’ birth. She turns Joseph and pregnant Mary away from her pristine Inn, thinking the imminent birth would be too messy. Then, the three men of the desert, the wise men carrying gifts, come by, informing her of her mistake. Befana (shortening of Epiphany which means encountering the Divine, celebrated by Christians on January 6)  goes perpetually and fruitlessly on her flying broom in search of the Baby Jesus, treating well-behaved children wherever she goes. She was a Rome-based Christmas legend until, thanks to the bombastic determinations of one Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy’s Fascist Party (1922-43), she became the famous replacement for Santa Claus throughout Italy. Mussolini outlawed Santa as too American and elevated Befana into a national Mother Christmas. Today, utterly removed from relations to her erstwhile fascist promoter, Befana, the Christmas Witch, remains more important than Santa to Italians all over the world.

What then should Mother Christmas be for me? In late October 2018, I was guided to the website of Maria Saracino. Two things came together all at once. Her array of Santas were dazzling, filled with artistry and sensitivity. But it was her visualization of Canadian Catholic Saint Marguerite d’Youville that stopped me in my tracks. Maria had been asked by the Marguerite d’Youvile Elementary Catholic School in Ottawa to create a wall mural that would meld her own artistry with that of all the students in the school.  The installation would include hundreds of painted Marguerite-related symbols produced by the school’s children and under Maria’s tutelage. At the centre is Maria’s three-dimensional portrait of Saint Marguerite.

Marguerite’s face simply blew me away. This is her! This is what I am looking for.

I wrote Maria on a Sunday afternoon, October 28,  and said I would like to meet her. She offered October 30 plus several dates over the month of November. Only October 30 was free for me. That would be in be two days! I think we were both a little unnerved.

My thoughts about Mother Christmas, icon of feminine compassion, companion to Father Christmas, and developing in my mind over two decades, had suddenly crystallized, thanks to Maria’s Marguerite. And they continue. Perhaps you have read the Wikipedia  on Marguerite.                  Note Pope John XXIII called her “Mother of Universal Charity.” AKA Mother Christmas?Much I did not know is included in this Wiki piece, including her marriage to a no-doubt-sexy bootlegger! ​But, I did know about her early days as a young widow, founding an organization of women to take care of the poor, especially children and women, eventually starting one hospital,  and then, as her community (known alternately as Sisters of Charity and the Grey Sisters) continued, founding  hundreds of hospitals and schools all over North America.

Over my lifetime, I have thought a lot about religious women founders, especially in Canada. We have produced many hours of these histories and current initiatives for TV.  Few know that, without the efforts of these women, we might never have achieved the level of health care and education for all we have today. I call it Organized Compassion. In this post-modern era, ​ the term Organized Religion can produce many a frown. Not so with our nuns, our founders of organized compassion. And we mourn their loss as their final generations are now disappearing, along with their visible presence of social caring.

Perhaps you have heard of Youville Centre for pregnant teens  in the Sandy Hill area of Ottawa (​), ​ founded by  ​B​etty Kinsellla, Grey Sister (she passed away last summer). My company had an opportunity to film her and her new center many years ago. Never forgot her.​​

Now I can imagine a new installation from Maria Saracino that again salutes Marguerite, this magnificent woman of compassion. This one would include contributions from all the young mothers who have successfully begun their families at Youville Centre under Marguerite’s heavenly gaze?​

Also a long time ago, in another life, I produced a significant magazine article on Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, each place setting representing an important woman in history. Can you imagine a Mother Christmas dinner party, representing great women of compassion and courage? Marguerite would be there. Many religious women founders would be.

And so my story ends and also continues. Maria’s Mother Christmas arrived here a few days ago and now resides on the Christmas mantle until at least Valentine’s Day.  We have at last found her. And, in Maria, an artistic soulmate.

Take a look. Her Mother Christmas is magnificent. Everything we had wished for.

Santa needed her to be there. We all do.

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