Alison Garwood Jones

Borscht Belt Humor

August 20, 2020

Illustration of a car doing to the Catskills by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Will the fashion industry listen?

August 19, 2020

As I search for a new fulfillment partner for my design biz,, all eyes are on the fashion and garment industry.

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How long will it keep promoting a race-based caste system that only benefits people who look like me? And will it finally decide to listen to scientists and consumers who keep documenting and tweeting out the financial and social costs of its exploitative relationship to nature? 

Before Covid I sold pillows and totes designed, printed, assembled and sewn in Toronto. But not all of my fabrics were Canadian-made. That bugged me.

Mid-Covid I started asking why sourcing Canadian fabrics was so hard and found out that the garment industry all but shut down and moved overseas during our 20-year love affair with globalization. 

By early April, as doctors and front line workers scrambled for protective coverings and masks, Canadians were asking themselves, “What were we thinking?”

So I am back to watching the horizon for signs of change. To help me make better decisions going forward, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on that offers a road map to the future.

This week, it’s Lily Cole’s book, Who Cares Wins: Reasons For Optimism in Our Changing World. Cole is an activist, writer, Cambridge grad and former model. Having fronted some of fashion’s biggest campaigns, her insider status helps highlight the need for new business models with more transparent supply chains and new metrics to measure success.

The shareholder insistence on year-over-year growth needs to be replaced by metrics that focus on human and environmental wellbeing. From a consumer POV that means buying fewer disposable things in favour of things that last. 

“Ironically, it’s about loving material things more,” says Cole. It’s like that Chanel suit your grandmother bought in 1955 and passed down the generations. 

 “The more you love something, the more you respect it,” says Cole. This mindset is less wasteful and places more emphasis on the artisanal craftsmanship of each garment.

Source: Lily Cole sits down with Imran Amed in episode 225 of the Business of Fashion Podcast.

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Milton Glaser

August 12, 2020

Milton Glaser was (and is) my teacher. He didn’t know that. But I know it and so do the thousands of other attuned souls who sidled up to him for wisdom.

When Milton explained that “Attentiveness is the great benefit of drawing,” I instantly understood why drawing had taken hold of me over words. 

Becoming attentive about your life is a question for every human, he said, not just artists. 

But there’s a rub: to pay attention without preconceptions was massively challenging. As he explained it, too much belief spelled the end to observation and understanding.

“Looking is not seeing.”

And so I have my marching orders: connect the dots, accept what is, ask, “Am I doing harm?” and know that the iconic will rise from the force of your intuition.

Thank you, Milton

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Introducing Rupert

August 10, 2020

Melissa and her new golden retriever, Rupert.
Melissa and Rupert

This past May marked the passing of Henry Slatkoff, the white golden retriever so many of you fell in love with on Instagram and in person.

Typical reaction: “Oh look at the “snow bear,” said a nice old lady when we were out on a walk last summer. She ruffled his ears for a good five minutes and went home happy.

Yesterday, Henry’s Mom — my friend and neighbour Melissa — brought home Rupert. And the love engines are revving again. 

As with Henry, I am Rupert’s “fairy dog mother” and caretaker when Mama Melissa needs a yoga time-out or a holiday. Afterall, it takes a village to raise a kid and a dog.

When Melissa asked me to bestow a middle name on Rupert, I immediately thought of Paul: Rupert Paul (RuPaul) Slatkoff. But his nature, now that we’ve met him, bends more towards sweet and floppy, not strutting and fabulous. So I suggested Trevor, to build on the British theme. 

Trevor was my dad’s name. He loooooved dogs. He had a black lab from the time he was born in the late 1920s until the day he died in 2011. 

World: meet Rupert Trevor Garwood-Jones-Slatkoff.

I’m guessing I will shorten it to Rupert Bear.

Thank you, Melissa. xo

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Q&A with Alison

July 27, 2020

Q&A with Alison Garwood-Jones

What’s your name? – Alison

What’s your best advice to young women? – Take breaks

And to young men? – Notice your surroundings, and stand up where necessary.

What’s your Five-Year Plan? – Five-year? This is 2020. No one makes 5 year plans anymore. Six months is more like it.

What’s on your lap? – My planner. Only I’m not using it to track my social media campaigns.

Explain – Since Covid began, I feel compelled to fill in the date spaces with a run down of all the explosions in the economy and job market. You know, this restaurant closed, that department store is toast, sales of floaties are up. etc. etc.

Why are you doing that? – Because it’s the only way I know how to decipher where the opportunities might lie for me and my friends in a Covid and post-Covid world. I ain’t tracking my Instagram followers like I was reluctantly doing pre-pandemic.

Why reluctantly? – I don’t take a scoreboard approach to anything.

Who’s your mentor: Anyone redefining the American definition of success.

Cats or dogs? – Look for Henry in my Instagram feed and you’ll know.

Finish this sentence: the worst kind of man ….: is over-reliant on free female labour.

Finish this sentence: the best kind of man …: sees the potential in humans who are nothing like him and looks for ways to help them succeed.

… The worst kind of woman: votes against the best interests of her gender (more life-altering stuff happens to us).

… And the best? – Becomes who she was meant to be and gives back twice as much because she feels empowered.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself during the Quarantine? – That I’m still born to be a freelancer.

Why do you look so surprised? ~ Because I’m wondering how you got into my apartment.

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The Reinventionist

July 21, 2020

Joe Jackman, The Reinventionist

My brain cells were popcorn listening to Joe Jackman in conversation with Tara Hunt and Stefani Forster for the Anatomy of a Strategy Podcast (July 5, 2020 episode). As Joe says, “The future arrives daily. Create it now. Get it out of the lab. You don’t need to place big bets. Be thoughtful about where you are going, and learn your way into it. If you are not participating in the creation of the future, then it’s being done to you.” 

I picked up a copy of Joe’s latest book, The Reinventionist, to keep the conversation going.

Here is the link to the podcast episode.

This post is dedicated to anyone taking classes to survive change, especially those over 40. 

See you in class at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

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Covid-19 Poster

July 17, 2020

Guess what? I added your suggestions and created “Business Is Up – Part Deux” THE POSTER (11”x17”) ✏️ 

In mid-March, still stunned that gyms and restaurants had suddenly evaporated, ☁️ I started pulling together a list of businesses that were growing during the Coronavirus Pandemic. 📈

I posted the first edition on Instagram last week, and asked you to weigh in with more ideas in the comments. 💬 

Turning the list into a poster felt like a good way to capture this weird moment in 21st-century history. Think of this as a silver linings list of businesses who are thriving right now.🌻

Here is the page in my shop.

Again, I didn’t include toilet paper or hand sanitizer; those were too obvious. 🚽 🧻 

I’m sure this is not the final word. 

Happy Friday! 🏖 


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Hotel Art

July 17, 2020

In 2018, the designers at Mason Studio commissioned me to paint a series of tiny watercolour portraits for the Kimpton Hotel in Toronto.

The Kimpton St. George, Toronto

It was a cross section of local talent, from Drake and Deepa Mehta to Frank Gehry and Robbie Robertson. 

Canadian Icons Poster by Alison Garwood-Jones

The small format makes you lean in and listen hard to their secrets about life. 

Canadian Icon Portraits by Alison Garwood-Jones in the Kimpton St. George Hotel in Toronto.
Watercolour portrait of Robbie Robertson by Alison Garwood-Jones



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Custom portraits

July 17, 2020

If you haven’t heard of Dawn Bazley, you’ve seen her on TV (@CBC) talking about the proper way to use masks during #Covid19.

Portrait of biologist Dr. Dawn Bazley by Alison Garwood-Jones

@DrBazley is field biologist, #STEMStar, and mentor to hundreds of #STEMgirls and guys who gather around her like ducklings at York University in Toronto.

In addition to being a full professor, she is the former Director of York’s Institute for Research Innovation and Sustainability. 

REWIND: I met Dawn at @PodCampToronto a couple of years ago and quickly realized that her knowledge of tech was as wide and deep as the grasslands she studies. 

In June, Dawn asked me to draw a portrait she could use for her social media channels and user ID in podcasts and webinars. 

I sent the image this morning and by this afternoon it appeared in a virtual interview she did with @JoVEJournal, who wanted to hear more about how she has pivoted during the pandemic from IRL instruction to virtual field courses.

Dawn is not outfitted with brakes.

Like Jane Jacobs, she is what I call a true #KickAss Woman. 


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House Portraits

July 17, 2020

PROCESS PORN: I think the architecture of a house determines my drawing style.

Houses in Toronto's Annex drawn by Alison Garwood-Jones
Annex houses drawn by Alison Garwood-Jones

I suspect there are a few other mysterious factors that go into it. I haven’t settled on a cookie cutter style. When I do, I’ll stop and draw something else. 

My latest commission, an ivy-covered Georgian in Toronto, was a birthday present for a client’s husband. They now live in Victoria, B.C. but wanted a keepsake of the Toronto residence that was the first home for their daughter, Olive, and the last home for their Redbone Coonhound, Rooney. Here’s a peek into my process, from photograph to sketch to final.

Showing my process from sketch to final. These houses are in Rosedale and High Park, Toronto.
Houses on hills require standing on the top of my partner’s truck to take a pic.

PS: I hope to get back to printing my house portraits on pillows and totes. If you are a local printer who is eco and ethical, let’s talk!

Custom house drawings by Alison Garwood-Jones
I am looking for a new printing partner (local to Toronto, eco and ethical) so I can go back to creating custom pillows, totes and tees.

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