October 10, 2014 Groundwood Books

“A Shared Space” – A Guest Post by Irene Luxbacher

Irene's workspace, where she makes her own kind of magic.
Irene's father's workshop space in more recent years.

Irene’s father’s workshop space in more recent years.

I grew up watching my dad work quietly at his trade. A small tailor shop in the garment district of downtown Toronto was my introduction to the world of pattern, texture, patches of color and a wild assortment of kaleidoscopic characters. There, in his shop, we got to share in the best wordless conversations ever, both looking out the large storefront window onto an ever bustling Spadina Avenue, and in again at each other. Working on Mr. Frank was a great way to re-visit a lot of those memories.

Because Mr. Frank was a story that was so personal, the first place I looked for inspiration was in the boxes of fabrics and patterns my dad had accumulated over the years. I collected scraps and papers that reminded me of the materials he had. Old newspapers and patterns he had stowed away as part of his reference collection became a part of the backdrop of his shop in the book’s illustrations. I made lots of paintings that resembled the look of woven fabric textures, and of course poured over lots of old photos of my dad over the years, drawing and re-drawing his facial expressions and posture as he aged from a young boy into an elderly man.

Irene's workspace, where she makes her own kind of magic.

Irene’s workspace, where she makes her own kind of magic.

In a lot of ways, my studio space is very similar to my dad’s workshop. At first glance both our workspaces are pretty unassuming. There’s a quiet feeling of productivity, practicality and comfort in the organized mess that I think I adopted from his way of approaching his work. From the scraps on the floor, to the piles of collected patterns and images, we both — in our own time — work quietly together. Sketching out designs for a new idea or style, piecing together patterns and textures in a new way… fussing over details that please the eye and somehow “fit” and “feel” right.

In many ways, making Mr. Frank reminded me that the wordless conversation I remember sharing with my dad while watching him at work in his shop is far from over.


On his last day before retirement, Mr. Frank is sewing the most wonderful outfit of his long career. Who could it be for?

In all his years working as a tailor, Mr. Frank has made all kinds of clothes. From the practical uniforms of the 1940s to the wild and weird designs of the 1960s and 1970s, he has seen (and sewn) just about everything. But today’s project is especially close to Mr. Frank’s heart.

With its use of textiles and sensitive period detail, Irene Luxbacher’s artwork is the perfect complement to her understated text. The result is a story that children and grandparents can share with equal delight.

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