Category Archives: Who is Who in the OEV?

Artist Feature: Richard Sturgeon, Metal in Fusion

Out of an Autumn Fog
Out of an Autumn Fog

If you visit an historical site that offers live demonstrations, you will almost always notice the largest throng of spectators is around the blacksmith. Perhaps it’s the rhythmic, chiming sound of a hammer on metal that draws people in, or the warm colours of molten metal when it is being heated and forged. Who knows how the smith captivates the crowd, but that same fascination exists when you walk into a metal forger’s workshop.

to catch a fly… – 2013
19″w x 11″d x 14″h

Most of us can only be so lucky as to do something we truly love and make a living at it. Richard Sturgeon is one of those people. All it took to find his dream job ten years ago was getting laid off from his day job, fixing scratched CD’s for a local business. Finding himself suddenly unemployed afforded Richard the opportunity to take workshops on self-employment, and thus began his venture into the world of art and more specifically, metal sculpture.

A former resident of the Old East Village, Richard maintains his studio, Metal in Fusion, in a building tucked in the back lot of a residence at 630 ½ Lorne Ave. He has recently taken on an extra space which is being renovated into a permanent gallery to showcase his and the crations of other OEV artists, which he expects to have opened by early spring 2014.

‘an impending gasp for air’
7″ x 7″ x 14″

Walking into Richard’s studio could possibly help a person understand what it feels like to have ADHD. Shiny, pretty things abound and it’s near impossible to stay focused on one piece of art as the glint of metal from another catches your eye. Blending elements of wood and stone with sculpted metal, Richard’s art presents a unique fusion of natural and urban environments.

‘pulling forward…’
17.5″ x 5″ x 3″

You can examine a piece and draw some sort of conclusion or interpretation of what you are seeing in it, until Richard gives it a name and tells the story of its inspiration.

‘gimme back my ring!’
18″ x 18″ x 8″”

For example, when I looked at “Gimme back my ring”, I saw a snagged kite flying off a branch at the top of a tree. Richard tells me it was inspired by the Tim Burton movie Big Fish, and the fish they called “The Beast” that stole the narrator’s wedding ring after he used it as bait. Aha! I looked at the piece again and saw a big fish, a fishing line and what looked like a heart at the end, perhaps representing the storyteller’s wedding ring.

‘the old guy’ – 2013
48″ x 16 ” x 12″

“The Old Guy”, which I thought resembled a crane-like bird, was inspired by a Paul Quarrington novel, Fishing With My Old Guy.  Aha, again! I suddenly saw a tangle of lines, or maybe a big fishing net and the bent spine of an old fisherman tangled up in it all. And that right there is the beauty of art: No matter the title, perception or inspiration, it is always up for interpretation.

Georgian Winds Tree

Attracting a national and international audience, Richard’s art work can be found locally from London to Toronto and Tobermory, and as far away as Chicago. While browsing the Metal in Fusion Facebook page I was amazed to read that one of his Georgian Tree pieces made its way to a new home in Holland, the new owners purchasing it as a reminder of their holidays in the Georgian Bay area, and the beauty they saw in Canada. They mentioned in their post what I too recognized in the beautifully sculpted tree: an apparent (if not unwitting) hat tip to the incredible art of the Group of Seven.

Richard’s art has also found a place in the community. When you pass the Unity Project in Old East London, take a look at the new fence installed around the front of the property. That fence was designed and forged by Richard.

pillarIt can also be found in the hands of recipients of Pillar Community Innovation Awards which celebrates nonprofits and charities and the individuals who work with them to make the community better and brighter.

battleofthebladesAnd just last fall, Richard was commissioned to make gorgeous stainless steel replicas of the trophy awarded on the CBC television show Battle of the Blades, which were presented to the top fundraisers from the show, Scott Thornton and Amanda Evora.

If you would like to own your own original piece, Richard’s art can be found in London at Gift of Art,  575 Richmond Street, or at his studio 630 ½ Lorne Ave by appointment or commission. In Tobermory look for his metal sculptures at Circle Arts, or in Toronto at the Petroff Gallery. He will also be taking part in the London Artist Studio Tour for the 5th time, from May 2-4, 2014.






Cover photo of Richard Sturgeon © RS Cousins Photography


What’s Good: Ev’s Thick, Fat Sound Choir

It’s a Wednesday evening in the Old East Village and a group of friends, neighbours and strangers have come together to form an informal bar choir. They have gathered at the St. Regis Tavern to enjoy a beverage or two and sing a few tunes from a colourful duotang that is filled with a wide variety of songs from the 1950’s to the present.

Jo-Anne Bishop, 2014
No whispers allowed here!

I open the book and the inside cover says “No whispers allowed here!” I grin and hope nobody will notice if I whisper, because I’m not feeling confident enough to sing tonight. The bar is slowly filling and a young man named Lewis sits perched at the front of the room with his acoustic guitar while Gina Farrugia, organizer and local voice coach, welcomes everyone and prepares to begin.

Jo-Anne Bishop, 2014
Lewis and his acoustic guitar, ready to play.

Before we start I ask where the name “Ev’s Thick Fat Sound Choir comes from”. When I first learned about the group I read it as “EV’s” and of course associated the EV with “East Village” as in Old East Village. “No, no, no.” says Gina. “It’s named for Ev (Everett) Smith.”

Ev Smith sits in the Guy Lombardo speedboat. Photo courtesy The London Free Press.
Ev Smith sits in the Guy Lombardo speedboat.
Photo courtesy The London Free Press.

Everett Smith, I learned, was a local musician, television personality and a World War II private who would trade his rations for percussion lessons. He loved music and the “thick, fat sound” of voices joined in harmony. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word who was very well respected in the city of London. Everybody I’ve spoken to recently who knew Ev speaks highly and wistfully of him, instantly making him someone I wish I had known before he passed unexpectedly at the age of 82. “But why did you name it after him?” I asked, “Just because he loved music so much and was so well respected, or…?”

“Because I admired him.” Gina explains. “He was inclusive – he never differentiated between music genres — he treated all musicians the same … age, gender, music type — and that’s what I wanted in my choir. He was always kind to me – appreciated my piss and vinegar in music union meetings, always offered excellent feedback when I sang classical solos at his church, when he saw my jazz gigs. Very supportive – he was loved by all.”

Suddenly, I’m aware that this man I never had the privilege of meeting would have loved this choir that has been named for him, and I’m ready to sing instead of whisper: for Ev.

This is Ev’s Thick Fat Sound Choir, and as they will tell you, this ain’t no church choir!

Jo-Anne Bishop, 2014
The Choir

Ev’s is approaching its first anniversary of existence, having started at the APK in downtown London just over a year ago. When the opportunity arose to move the choir to the St. Regis Tavern in the Old East, Gina says she jumped at it. She explains to me that this is a social gathering. No attitudes, egos or technical terms are allowed. Well, maybe one or two now and then, but for the most part they just aren’t used. It is easy to see that this is totally meant to be fun, relaxed and simply celebrating the joy of song.

Each week a new musical theme is chosen and on the particular week that I joined them the theme was “Ev wants his MTV”. The group is broken down into three registers: high, middle and low, all done by a show of hands in an easy going way. And with the sip of a drink, a clearing of the throat and a call from Gina at the front, the group is ready to sing. I decide to take notes and photos while glancing at the book, and whisper-sing along.

Jo-Anne Bishop, 2014
Video Killed the Radio Star

The first song for the night is the Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star, followed by Queen’s Radio Ga Ga and then, for something completely different, Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. I determine I could like this group, put down my camera and pen and sing along.

With the core “theme” songs out of the way, the group starts browsing through the book naming songs at random. Free Fallin’, Runaway, I Will Wait and Take It Easy are soon added to the list, as well as a little bit of David Bowie. Everyone is singing and having a good time and Gina has a smile of satisfaction as she leads and encourages the group providing this thick, fat sound that Ev would love.

Jo-Anne Bishop, 2014
Gina Farrugia

“It’s easier when we have more people.” she says. “People sing louder and it’s more fun. Less chicken-shitty.” She encourages the group to gather more people, bring a friend, tell them to bring a friend and so on. “People make music complicated,” she quips. “Musicians are the worst for it. Why make it complicated? Just FEEL it.” I was feeling it. The bar was feeling it. And I’m sure Ev, wherever he may be, was feeling it with us.

And here’s the good news: You can feel it too. Every Wednesday evening at the St. Regis Tavern from 8pm until about 10pm. The cost to join is just $5 which covers the overhead costs of the books/printed pages and venue. Once the nice weather arrives the choir will move to the patio at The Reeg which will result in the Old East Village being filled with the beautiful sounds of singing voices. That itself will be worth turning out for on a warm summer night, and those warm memories will carry you through the fall and winter when the group is forced to return inside the St Regis to sing once more.

But remember: no whispers allowed. Only the thick, fat sound of song that Ev loved so much, please. Bring a friend, your courage and come thirsty. Nothing else is required.

Jo-Anne Bishop, 2014
Ev’s Thick Fat Sound Choir


We’re a bar choir.

Yeah-you read that right.

•No auditions
•No long term commitment – come the evenings you can make it and not feel guilty about the ones you miss (but we’ll be having fun without you!!!!)
•No SATB…just melody and harmony parts – this ain’t no church choir sweethearts!
•Solos by lottery
•Pop tunes 50’s to the present – think Cheap Trick, Lighthouse and Lady Gaga in one evening
•Moderate beer drinking encouraged
•Fun mandatory

Wednesdays @St. Regis Tavern
8pm – we start singing our A$$es off!
5 Bucks

Everything Old is New Again – The Root Cellar Organic Café

The restaurant industry is one of the most competitive markets out there. Several elements are needed in order for a restaurant to be successful: an enticing menu, outstanding customer service and a welcoming dining atmosphere. Since its inception in July of 2012 as a 19 seat cafe, the Root Cellar Organic Café has certainly offered all of this and more, but recently they unveiled a stunning expansion of their space that has made the dining atmosphere that much more welcoming and in a word: incredible.

Recycled, upcycled and innovatively designed are apt descriptors of the elements you will see when you walk into the new space at 623 Dundas Street East. Everywhere you look you will notice something old that has become new again. From bike frames welded to a counter at the front window to bicycle rims acting as a hanging cup rack. From rebar that has been welded into gorgeous and unique light fixtures on the ceiling, to sheet metal that has been bent and fused into a stunning line of flowers, or a handrail that now holds menu boards. The décor is intriguing and beautiful to say the least.

Root Cellar 007 Root Cellar 038Root Cellar 046





Many of the upcycled items were uncovered in the renovation process while others, such as the handrail that now holds the menus and an old yellow counter section, have been recycled from buildings at the Western Fairgrounds that were recently demolished. This space is a feast for your eyes and soul, and it’s easy to feel quite satisfied before you even set eyes on the menu which has an offering for every appetite and every diet. From vegan entrees to water buffalo burgers, local and organic are the two most important words to keep in mind as you peruse the delectable bill of fare.

Root Cellar 031

With a focus on “from-scratch” seasonal menus, in house artisan baked goods made from local and organic grains, supporting small local farmers is important to the Root Cellar. The concept for the restaurant grew out of a desire to create a relationship between local organic producers and food consumers. To this effect, they began to source local and organically produced items in an attempt to create as small a food chain as possible. All items on their menu are organic (with very few exceptions), and 80% of the food they use on their menu is local. To achieve this they frequent farmers who use season extension techniques such as hoop houses, allowing certain vegetables to be grown during the winter months.

Root Cellar 078

But the food, décor and incredibly welcoming staff aren’t the only enticements for customers at the Root Cellar. Their walls house a six week rotating art display featuring local London artists. The current display is a collage of local miscellany featuring 30 different artists. The Root Cellar doesn’t collect a commission on anything sold putting all the profits into the pockets of the artists. I was told a story about one of the artists whose actions reflect the values of the Root Cellar, and I would say of the Old East Village as well. Upon selling one of his pieces of art and knowing they weren’t taking a commission, the artist asked who he could make a donation to on behalf of the restaurant. They chose the Unity Project located just up the road from the Root Cellar.

Root Cellar 059Community focused. Local. Sustainable. Responsible. These are words I would easily use to describe the Root Cellar, and the neighbourhood in which it opens its doors to every day: The Old East Village. They are such a good fit for each other that at times I find it hard to believe the Root Cellar only opened its doors two years ago. It has become such a staple of the OEV that it feels like it has been part of the streetscape forever. And if the renovations and future plans for the restaurant are any indication, they don’t plan on leaving any time soon either. With an extended menu that now includes dinner and longer hours from Thursday to Saturday, a new chef, Dani Murphy, who is described as “amazing” by General Manager Ellie Cook, the Root Cellar has said “We are here to stay!”

Root Cellar 053And if that wasn’t enough, there are even more exciting developments in the works for the Root Cellar Organic Café. Soon their old, tiny kitchen will become London’s first co-operatively owned nanobrewery: a very small brewery operation that is defined by a brew system less than 4 US beer barrels. It will be the first worker owned brewery of its kind in Canada and will offer the beer on tap in the Root Cellar, and perhaps in a growler size that you will be able to take home later in the game.

Oh, and about that sign! Whenever I mention the amazing Root Cellar to friends and neighbours they comment on the sign that hangs above the old entry. “When are they going to get a new sign??” everyone questions, so I asked Ellie – who was the sign’s creator, in case you didn’t know.

“SOON!” she assures me, though she says it with slight hesitation. Asrootcellar the sign is being done by the same folks at Reclaimed Innovations who did the new space makeover, it might take them a little time to recover from the hard work they put into the Root Cellar space before the sign is completed. For now, look for the modest yellow hand painted sign that still adorns the front of the building. You can’t miss it and I promise you, the food will still taste just as good.

Drop in to see the folks at the Root Cellar today, and tell your friends about it tomorrow. This is truly a business to get behind in London, Ontario. With breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, and a mandate for local, sustainable and responsible partnerships, you can’t go wrong with the Root Cellar Organic Café.

Bon appétit!

Business Spotlight: What’s good in the ‘hood? Purdy Natural!

A few months ago while walking the dog, I noticed new activity going on inside the Eat Green Organics storefront at 1010 Dundas Street. A counter was being built in front of the large picture window, and a new face was busily preparing a shelf behind it. My curiosity was piqued, as happens any time there is new activity in the Old East Village. This is an area that has consistently seen new and interesting businesses set up shop over the last few years, so of course I wondered what this one was going to be.

A few days later I saw an announcement on Facebook that indeed a new business had moved in and would be sharing the space with the Organic food retailers:

“Purdy Natural: Modern Skin Care Made with Love!”

I watched over the next few days as the final touches were done, product was moved in and the proprietor, Rokhsana Purdy, took her place at the counter proudly displaying her products around her. I went in to say hello and introduce myself, check out the wares and have a short conversation with Rokhsana about herself, the new store and the incredible all natural products she was offering. I was also lucky enough to bring home a package of goodies to try out that day as well.

Lip balm, body soaps, a deliciously creamy skin moisturizer and a product called Shiver Me Timbers were mine for the testing which they passed with flying colours. I wasn’t the only one involved in the testing process, as my family quickly got in on the action.

My 8 year old son loved the goats milk soap the best (Capra) which he said left his easily dried out skin feeling much softer than the regular body soap we had been using.  My 11 year old daughter quickly claimed the lip balm as her own, loving its mild flavour and how it soothed her winter dried lips.

As for my husband and I, we found quick appreciation for the tin of Shiver Me Timbers. Amazing, all natural soothing for sore muscles that we have found is also great for headache relief, nasal and chest congestion, and tired feet after a long day of standing. It has also provided relief to the kids whose legs ache now and then from growing pains.

A new believer and fan of Purdy Natural products, I asked Rokhsana if we could do a Q & A for Hub blog readers, and this is what she had to say.

1) When and how did Purdy Natural start?

Purdy Natural began as a different company called Karmic Soul Day Spa Inc initially as I was providing all natural spa services and making skin care products to use on myself and clients. We had a booth at the Western Fair Farmers Market where we sold some of our skin care products. Purdy Natural was excitedly launched in Nov 2013, where we came up with a full product line mainly because of the encouragement of family and friends. We have also had amazing support from local businesses that pushed us in this direction, such as the incredible staff at The Taste Of Ink, Angela Rivard at FLXyoga, Jodi Tiller from Rebirth Wellness and Tiffany Roschkow from ECO Living London among many others. We are forever grateful to them.

2) How did you learn to make these incredible products?

My mother in law, Paulina Purdy and I started taking product making courses about 6 years ago through various different companies. We experimented with all kinds of recipes and had a lot of fun doing that. There are many books and online resources that helped us create. It was something we enjoyed doing together and loved the reactions we received from family and friends when we gave our creations as gifts. Our houses smell wonderful all the time…how can you beat that!

3) Are the recipes for your products just a result of much trial and error and tinkering?

Yes tinker, tinker and more tinker. Purdy Natural isn’t tested in on any animals other than our husbands, friends and family members (including children-it’s that safe!). We have received a lot of feedback from them and we listen to what people want in hopes to make them happy. That being said, over 6 years research about the healing properties of different oils, plants and butters have gone into our products and continues to do so as we are always creating new and fun things!

4) Where do you see Purdy Natural in 10 years?

London has really grown a lot in the past 6 years and Londoners are seeking out healthier options in both food and skin care. Many people are making strong conscience decisions on where their money is going, not only for health reasons, but for community reasons as well. They are doing their own research and demanding change and we are passionate to help them make that change. In 10 years we would LOVE to see this movement grow and we would LOVE to be able to continue what we are doing by helping others and by building a strong community.

5) What is the number one thing you would like readers to know about your product?

We put LOVE first into all of our products because we feel so passionate about that this is more than just a product, it’s about health, family, activism, community, faith and well being for everyone and we truly, truly believe in this. LOVE has created Purdy Natural and we share it through our products.

 6) What made you decide to set up shop in the Old East Village?

Community! OEV has a cool vibe of change, and it fits perfectly with our beliefs. We are so happy to form a relationship with Phil Williamson of Eat Green Organics, by inviting us in he has allowed us to start and grow our business. We feel at home and it’s an amazing place to be surrounded by people who follow the same way of life.

Do you love it or what?! What a great Q&A. Thanks for that, Rokhsana! My family and I sure love the products, and her growing customer base does as well. Pop in to see Rokhsana at 1010 Dundas Street and try her products for yourself. And while you are there, check out the amazing array of products offered by Eat Green Organics (who also offer home delivery!).

Like the adage says: Think global, act local. There are so many ways you can’t go wrong with these natural products – especially when the first ingredient is LOVE.

Coffee Talk: Asmara Caffee

There is a rising coffee culture in London, Ontario, with roasteries and cafes popping up all around the city. So much so that a local news outlet recently did a story on the upsurge. However, the story neglected to mention the coffee shops around the Old East Village, and one in particular that I’ve discovered is absolutely worthy of  mention: The Asmara Caffee at 809 Dundas Street East.

Situated in the Towne Square building right next to Geri Fashions, the Asmara Caffee is one of London’s best kept secrets, and I think it’s well past time to let this cat out of the bag. Taking over where the Panafrique Cafe left off, the Asmara has held this space since August of 2012.

Click on the menu to enlarge it.
Click on the menu to see it larger.

Featuring free WiFi, all day breakfast, gluten free food options, fresh baked pastries and a full lunch and dinner menu, the Asmara Caffee has much to offer behind its doors.


But the pièce de résistance at the Asmara  is their deliciously bold,  in-house roasted fresh, free-trade organic coffee. Some might feel that  “a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee”, but to coffee lovers that is completely untrue. A cup of coffee may be just that for some, but a good cup of coffee is an experience. And if you are a true coffee lover, the Asmara roast is a cup you must try.

Misgna came to Canada from his home of Eritrea, a country on the Horn of Africa, 25 years ago. He studied civil engineering at Fanshawe College, has worked for London Health Sciences and is a great supporter of the community. The latter is very likely due to the sense of community that comes out of the culture of Eritrea, and more importantly the culture that exists around coffee.

Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. [Coffee] is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat. ~Author Unknown

Asmara – the cafe’s namesake – is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, bordered by Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the east.  It is home to approximately 650,000 people and sits over 2,300 feet above sea level. Typically known as an Italian built colonial city, the history of Asmara reaches back to dates between 800 and 400 BC.

And as any coffee lover knows, BC really stands for “before coffee”.

Coffee plays an important role in the culture of Eritrea, with coffee ceremonies being held regularly to bring friends, relatives and neighbours together in friendship and conversation. Coffee in Eritrea is a staple of every day life and is one of the most recognizable parts of their culture.

It begins by roasting the green coffee beans. Once the beans are roasted, each participant in the ceremony has the opportunity to sample the aromatic smoke with a waft of their hand. The beans are then ground and put into a ceremonial pot to be brewed. This pot called a “jabena” is usually made of pottery with a spherical base, long neck and pouring spout. It is then poured into small cups for each guest by the host, and great care is taken to  make sure that the coffee grounds don’t make it into the brew.

As each cup is taken, another cup is filled and each guest must have 3 cups in the duration of the ceremony. Each cup has a name – the first cup is called awel, the second kale’l and the third, bereka which means “to be blessed”. A guest cannot leave after the first cup and must stay for all three to complete the ceremony. This allows time for the sharing of stories, information and general conversation. The coffee is usually accompanied by a snack of some sort, often a sweet Himbasha bread (a slice of which Misgna fed to me on our recent visit and I can only describe with one word – YUM!)

Misgna talked to me about holding a coffee ceremony at the Asmara Caffee in the future. Perhaps on a Saturday when his coffee is roasting and passersby and guests can smell the beautiful aromatics of the beans being readied to drink. I told him I think he has a fabulous idea, and would love to see the community help me in encouraging him to treat us to this special cultural ceremony.

Asmara-page-001But first, stop in the Asmara and give the coffee a try. Take a seat by the “hut” Misgna has created in the front window and think about the story of the coffee ceremony I have told to you. Take some time to enjoy the bold taste of the coffee, the sweet ambiance and flavour of the cafe, and the genuine warmth of the host, Misgna.

And be sure to return to the cafe with your friends and family to enjoy it again. Because understanding tradition and culture within our community is important, and supporting local matters.