100 yr old printshop


The printmaker in me was fascinated by an article in our paper about Canada’s first Chinese print shop still in operation here in Vancouver after a century, run by the third generation of the Lam family and the matriarch. The amazing printing presses, the antique stamps, the lead type are all rich in history, function and beauty, so do visit the video at the link. This is far different from current printing technology. All this heritage, including the building is fast disappearing as the family is selling off its contents and closing. Sad.

The image of engraving tools, burins, above is not related to the article, but as I did not have any images of those lovely stamps or types to place here, I thought of these. Not normally used in the type printing such as in this shop, they are the tools of an artist creating engravings on metal plates such as copper. I have had these since art school days, which was not quite as long ago as when this print shop opened up.



Most of us remember our mothers, whether they are still with us or have passed on like mine, on the second Sunday of May in many countries, or on other dates in other places. I also like to quietly remember an old family friend who was like a grandmother to me, for I did not know my grandmothers in Finland after we emigrated. I also like to extend mother’s day wishes to all caregivers.

However I just learned that the founder of Mother’s Day strongly protested that, feeling it was to recognize only mothers. I do agree with her upset with the commercialism that grew rapidly after the official declaration of that day. Read this fascinating and sad story from National Geographic: Mother’s Day Dark History.

Our youngest daughter was born on Mother’s Day, such an appropriate gift, wasn’t it? We often celebrate them together even if the days don’t always fall on the 12th. Today we enjoyed a celebratory lunch and cake which I made. Tomorrow is ‘my day’ and I am looking forward to an iChat with my family in the UK and with eldest daughter living a few hours away here in BC. And, what a perfectly glorious summery weekend, the first of the year, with so many flowers blooming in the garden. That makes me happy. I must add that all these thoughts and feelings are certainly not exclusive to Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all! Hauskaa Äitienpäivää!

Finnish ABCs 2


As mentioned earlier about this old Finnish primer, I became most fascinated by the variety of fonts shown side by side. Imagine a young child just learning the ABCs and beginning to read, also learning to read along with what I would call a regular print text, a German Gothic or fraktur font and a copperplate style script. I used to be able to read the Gothic in my childhood because the Finnish church in Winnipeg had very old hymn books with that font. Now I struggle with some of the letters, though the little tales in this reader really help with context. Hand writing styles surely aren’t that easy for new readers either.

I’ve zoomed in on a few pages of the alphabet itself below, so you can see how complex it all is. Vieraat kirjaimet translates as foreign letters, that is, those not part of the native Finnish alphabet. Aakkoset is alphabet.




(Apologies with the varied colours of each page as I struggled to make the letters appear clearer and sharper.)

I just had to go find my own Finnish Aapinen, printed in 1954, to check out its fonts. The first part of the book has all capital letters, then soon after the small case are introduced along with it. Though there are a few other fonts later in the book, they are all fairly standard and easy to read. One page near the end shows a handwriting exercise on ruled paper like we see even today. Gothic and copperplate were not to be found.

Finnish ABCs




When I found my mother’s old Finnish cookbook, with it was a little aapinen, a Finnish ABC book or primer. A sad little thing without a cover, unlike this one, so I don’t know when it was published, possibly in the 1940s. I don’t recall if it was one of my books. Next time I will show you more pages of the fascinating fonts.

a Finnish cookbook




This was my mother’s beloved cookbook, a 1948 edition, which came with her on our emigration to Canada many decades ago now. After her passing, I have kept it all these years safely tucked away. I’ve thought of photographing this well-worn artifact many times, especially after doing so with the similarly disintegrated English-Finnish dictionary.

As I wrote about that dictionary, this cookbook was in some ways also:
an immigrant’s tool, an almost-bible, a book of days
a history of heartache, homesickness, hope and a new home

I was recently re-inspired to finally do this when daughter Elisa asked for a certain favourite family recipe which she wished to post in the spring quarterly of her newsletter. (If interested you may request it from her!) I may put up a few more photos of the book’s interior in another post.

Remembered and added next day:
my beloved worn book of Grimm’s fairytales in Finnish
and my first Finnish alphabet book

Added later: Please visit part 2 for views inside the cookbook

Vancouver’s 125th

Happy 125th Birthday, Vancouver! Still young and beautiful. Check out the cool video of Vancouver streets in 1907 on the bottom of the linked page. I was surprised to see that the traffic moved on the left back in the day.

Much closer to the present are these photos taken two weeks ago when we drove out to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.


Lots of snow on the Lions (the two peaks on the North Shore mountains)


A glimpse of the working port of Vancouver with the downtown highrises in the distance


A stop for a wee picnic lunch on Spanish Banks – too cold to linger long!


This view always surprises when driving north along Burrard Street in the downtown

P.S. The Vancouver Sun, in print as well as online, has a whole section dedicated to Vancouver’s birthday. I’ve only just started to read the paper but wanted to capture the link before I forget. I hope they keep it in the archives for a few years at least.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 1






One day last week, we made our first visit to Vancouver’s new Beaty Biodiversity Museum, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC). A teaching and research facility, the museum is now able to showcase UBC’s natural history collections, with more than two million specimens to the public for the first time.

Among the treasures are a 26-metre-long blue whale skeleton suspended in the two-storey glass Atrium, the second-largest fish collection in the nation, and myriad fossils, shells, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants from around British Columbia and the world.

The Blue Whale Exhibit is truly magnificent and stunning as the first thing one sees already from the outside and when walking into the atrium. I didn’t, for example, know that:
Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever lived on earth–longer than the longest known dinosaur, and much more massive.

The Blue Whale story is awe-inspiring:
On the remote northwestern coast of PEI [Prince Edward Island, a small island province in eastern Canada] in 1987, a 26 m long mature female blue whale died and washed ashore near the town of Tignish. In hopes of preserving the whale’s skeleton for research or museum display, the PEI government and the Canadian Museum of Nature arranged for the skeleton to be dragged off the beach near Nail Pond, and buried. The remains of the whale were longer than two Vancouver trolley buses parked one behind the other, and weighed an estimated 80,000 kg. Her burial was a mammoth task.

Because of the difficulty of unearthing and displaying such a large animal, the whale skeleton remained under the red PEI dirt for two decades. In 2007, the Museum of Nature and the PEI government granted UBC permission to retrieve the whale, and bring it to BC to be displayed in the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

Moving the skeleton from the coast of PEI to the inside of the Museum’s glass atrium, 6000 km away, [was] a challenging project…

Blue whales are the largest animal ever to have lived on earth. They rarely strand on beaches, and very few skeletons have been recovered for research or display. Worldwide, only 20 are available to the public for viewing.

We learned much from the guide and the posted displays, such as the fact that the whale was killed by a passing ship, how they had to rebuild and put together the huge bones of the skeleton, and that they are on the Red List of Endangered Species. Fortunately the Beaty’s website has excellent videos on the project to learn more, so if you are interested, do check them out at the links. Enjoy!

Continued: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

language and place

Being an immigrant and interested in how language, culture and place affect us as individuals and as societies, a couple of months ago I became intrigued by the >Language > Place blog carnival. Edition 4 is now up, hosted by Jean Morris at tasting rhubarb. I’m pleased to say that one of my old posts from my archives is up there amongst some fascinating writers and artists (including another Finn!) which I’m slowly savouring. What a wonderful presentation especially with the excerpts, thank you, Jean!

Synchronicity rules! Today qarrstiluni, under the current theme of translation has posted my photos of an English-Finnish dictionary, also an old post from my archives. Thanks to the editors for choosing my piece for this most compelling issue!

UPDATE March 1st, 2011: This just came into my newsfeed: Language Diversity Index Tracks Global Loss of Mother Tongues

street furniture

London Underfoot #6

The other day I posted about my series of prints called London Underfoot. I’m very gratified by the lovely reactions, including from my friend Jean, a Londoner. We have had a bit of an email chat about my use of the phrase ‘street furniture’ in describing those utility covers on the streets and walks of London which I had photographed and made into this series. Jean felt the phrase described only things like benches, mailboxes, lamp posts, that sort of thing – which is what I originally thought it meant as well. The first time I heard the term (and I had to search hard for that post!) was in comments to some photos I’d posted of drain covers here in my own neighbourhood in Vancouver.

Well, dear Jean went on to find and kindly send me two very interesting links, one with lots of photos and history of other London manhole covers and one about street furniture! I love those great designs in manhole covers and the fascinating history and most of all, this English language! As I wrote to Jean, some of the utility covers that I’d photographed were too small to be manholes, so there’s another intriguing thing! I now wish I’d made notes of each location of each metal plate that I’d photographed but at the time I didn’t know how this project was going to grow!

All this also made me recall a link I’d bookmarked a while back and which I finally found called drainspotting, about a book of photographs of Japanese manhole cover art which are truly amazing. One sure learns a lot on the ‘net!

math in cuneiform

I’m no mathematician but I’d like to point you to a fascinating review in the New York Times: Masters of Math, From Old Babylon. I wish I could see this this exhibition in person, however the online information and photos are very good. These clay tablets used in ancient mathematics predate Pythagoras by more than a thousand years, so they are truly an incredible discovery.

I like the look of cuneiform script as a type of ancient writing on tablets and I particularly love them just as sculptural art forms. I recall last year admiring the (non-math) cuneiform tablets in the British Museum such as the one below which I scanned from a BM postcard I’d picked up. It is very much younger being only from the 7th century BC.



Related in a fun way is this long ago post on cuneiform writing.