How we turned a run-down old gym into our dream studio!

In 1963 this group of students stood in the brand new gymnasium of their rural school and smiled for a photographer and for posterity. That year, enrolment at the Webb School was fifty-seven students and two teachers. If you're from the Stouffville/Uxbridge area, you will recognize some of the family names in this class! 


When the school was decommissioned in 1980, it was rezoned as a rural dwelling and for the next 35 years owners tried to make the building their own. It went through major growing pains and wasn't always loved and I will admit (having grown up down the road from the schoolhouse), it was a scary and tired building on our long stretch of country road. 



Mission #1: Own the Schoolhouse 

When the schoolhouse went up for sale in the fall of 2016, the gymnasium wasn't even shown in the listing and I understand why! It was a mess. It was taking in water, the flat roof was leaking, the electrical was a colossal hazard - the gym needed complete gutting and it likely scared a few people away!! But as soon as we saw it, we were in love and within days, the battered old gem was OURS! Then the REAL work began!


Mission #2: Show me what you're working with! 

In an old building, you really need to know what you're working with - for better or for worse. So, we started by hiring the experts to peal away the layers. Ryan Pickering and his crew at Custom & Quality came in and expertly uncovered the gym and other parts of the schoolhouse! They were brave, very, very brave! 

Custom and Quality

Mission #3: Let the energy flow!

With no more layers and the power cut, the gymnasium went into a period of dormancy. Like every deep transformation, we had to deal with the deeper issues that we often would prefer to ignore. Our schoolhouse needed a new flat roof to stop the water dripping into the master bedroom above and the studio below and the doorway needed serious structural love. So we got a crew up on the roof and called Kevin Rainbow & Jeremy Brown from Rock Solid Services to give the studio entranceway an overhaul. They worked all hours with no power and all heart!


Then it was time to let it settle into it's new self - fresh, unencombered and ready to be something special!


Mission #4: Listen & Leap

Despite the state of the gymnasium, clients who came to the studio were often eager to check out our future studio and were divinely positive and encouraging. It was hard at first, but as I listened, I realized that the space was picking up momentum. Even in it's state, I began to use the space with my adventurous clients. 

Musical Conductor, John Kraus was open and kind...

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Industrial Trainer, Marley Hurtado was enthusiastic and encouraging...

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...and dozens of friends and family visited to help us build the momentum to take the next step. It was time to get serious. 

Mission #5: Let there be Light

Electrifying the studio was a project that could only go to a team of passionate electricians, because an old building like this has lots of secrets and demands creativity. We called Karl at KHB Electric Inc. and they knocked it out of the park!


The day after they were done, Becky Morrissey from One Step Ahead came in to help me organize, sort, clean and turn a construction site into a working studio space. (She's a machine and a magician!) Just in time for the bright and electric energy of actor, Keegan Comar who loved the industrial vibe!

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Mission #5: Decide and it is Yours

The studio project has been evolving alongside a number of other projects here at the schoolhouse so while we have the pros working some jobs, we have been knee deep in the rest ourselves. But one day we decided, without being fully prepared and without having worked out many of the kinks, to launch a workshop series and open up the studio - WHY NOT!!? We knew that if we put our heads down and focused on the vision that we'd get there. It was time to get our hands dirty and we were happy to do it! A month until opening. Here we go!

Floors, walls, electrical, plumbing, carpentry - there was nothing we didn't do in the four weeks leading up to the opening of the first workshop!

Mission #6: Know when to Stop


Because he doesn't read my blog I don't mind saying that my husband is an angel and my creative soul mate! He thought it wise to get me away for a few days of rest after the feat that we had managed to pulled off. 2 days until opening. Breath deep mama. All is well.

Mission #7: Enjoy every Minute!

Yesterday we opened for our first workshop which, for me, was a dream come true! From the day we first moved in, I have felt the ring from every corner of the building to give it love, with the promise that it would give back ten-fold. It has already done that. I'm about as happy as I can be in a creative space I get to share with energized people like this, who bring me joy and challenge and creative blocks that we happily help to bust through, so that the artful energy can flow as it should!  

Welcome to the NEW Dukát Studios! It's UP, UP, UP baby!

Won't you join us?

Sunday, March 25, 2-5pm: Take Radder Pictures of your Life with your Phone

Sunday, April 8, 2-5pm: Learn your Camera and Be Happier


Forever yours in love and light,


Magnificent Mothers

One day an email came from a friend. She asked me to photograph her beautifully wrinkled belly with her kids to celebrate the work her body had done to bring two lives into the world. As I spoke to others about it, one mother turned into two, two into four. Before long, we were arranging a weekend-long shoot with a circle of women who wanted to celebrate their bodies and honour the magic of motherhood. Each mother also contributed a piece of writing - some wrote letters, some, words of wisdom and others declarations - and the following year we published the images and women's written pieces in a book called Conversations With my Body: Mothers. For a year it sat on my desk. I loved it. I showed it. When I asked the mothers in this project if they wanted to share it with you, the response was and overwhelmingly fearless, Yes! Today, we're sharing our magnificent mothers in the hopes that they join the quickening current of self-love and unique expression.  

Pablo Neruda is a famous Literature Nobel Prize winner whose memoirs are titled, Confieso que he vivido.  “I confess that I have lived”. This phrase is precisely the one that one day suddenly came to my mind one spring morning after having my second baby and spending endless hours in front of the mirror - Many hours or may be just many minutes that seemed like hours trying to find the “old" me within my “new” I. And just like that, this was the phrase that brought me peace - and still does when looking at my body on the mirror. The one that helped me to come to terms with my deep stretch marks, my c-section scar, my tired eyes. That is it, that is all. Since then on and in a revolutionary and rebellious latin tone- just as I imagine Pablo Neruda saying it when he came up with the name of his book, I think- sometimes aloud before turning my back to that implacable mirror… “ who cares.. I do indeed, confess I HAVE LIVED!”

~ Olga

I am a mother.  It's quite possibly the most important role I will ever play in my life.  And when I look at my daughter I am consumed with the idea that I need to be the best role model I could possibly be and it starts with loving myself.  Sure things hang a little more than they used to - gravity has a whole new meaning.  But to be perfect is to be imperfect.  This is me - fearless and standing strong embracing what nature has given me.


As a Yoga teacher and counsellor at a women’s shelter, I talk to a lot of people, mostly women, about self-care. As a mom, I understand the need to take time for myself every day and crocheting allows me that.

I started crocheting 5 years ago as a hobby and quickly realized that it was an outlet for me. I am always amazed at what I can produce in a short period of time and the relief it provides me. My hands are always busy, always moving, and when I have yarn and hook in them I can make beautiful things for the people I love.

I knew my body would change when I had my son, and it has. My breast hang low after 2.5 years of breast feeding, my stomach is rounder, and I never sleep well because I’m up in the middle of the night wondering if I’m living my life right! I realize now that crocheting makes me a better mother, partner and friend.

I am so grateful to have found this gift and to be able to share it with the people I love.


Motocross is cool. Motherhood is cool. I am still cool. My passions and love for what defines me have only been empowered more by becoming a mother. Do not be quick to judge this book by its cover, as the cover has been reshaped, made more beautiful, and redefined by motherhood. This is my conversation with my body. Join the conversation.



Growing up, I never dreamt of marriage or envisioned a house full of kids. I had a few different reasons for “going against the grain” – or so I thought – but mainly though, I just wasn’t ready. I enjoyed sleeping in, staying out late, hanging out with friends, focusing on my career, on myself. And that’s exactly what I did for a very long time. And then of course that all changed when I met my husband. Just like that, I knew I wanted to become a family and instead of feeling panicky I felt excited about a new future. Women have been granted the gift of creating and carrying a life within us, such a beautiful and wondrous experience. How best to express how it feels to have a baby and to be a mother? It’s amazing and humbling, exhilarating and exhausting, peaceful and chaotic, imperfect, inconvenient and without question the most monumental occurrence of my entire life. Through all of this change I have emerged as a different version of myself and my body is the physical representation of all these things. I love my life and what I have become. I love caring for my little boy every day and watching him grow and change. I love being a mother, and the body that goes along with it.


Having children brought about a new found love and appreciation for my body (surprisingly). Prior to children the measure of my body was competitive and comparative. My involvement in sport measured by body's ability, or in my mind, its inability. Family, friends, magazines and a slew of influences charted where I compared to the rest of the world.

I am now most importantly a measure of my children, as they are a measure of me, physically or otherwise. My body's purpose extends well beyond the physical, thankfully leaving it's shape and size of distant importance.


My essential survival kit to motherhood:

Gratitude for my gifts,

a flow of reminders to live in the moment

and a sense of humour.

Lessons learned from my children. Thank you babies!


I always wanted to be a mother. Embraced my body changes for the rewarding experience of knowing that part of me is in each of my 4 beautiful children.

I would do it all over again....and maybe better knowing what I now know!

Life and motherhood (body and all) is beautiful!








Joy, new love, beautiful, gentle, speechless,

Overwhelmed, emotional, tired, exhausted, frustrated, grumpy,

Wide-eyed, Cooing, crying, laughing,

Silly, playful, spontaneous,

Chubby, healthy, exercise, food, cooking,

Confident, strong, happy, thankful, cherish.


I thank our Creator My Lord for blessing me with the gift of motherhood and giving me two beautiful daughters.

I dedicate this image to my daughters as a symbol of strength and Love, for it is their love that makes me strong. It is my children who give me the reason to fight, no matter what life throws my way.

To my girls, I love you with all my heart.



Undecided Mom.

Deciding on having a child is momentous!  A hard decision to make for those who are undecided like I was. In a world where the new generation can be a little selfish one of my biggest worries was that a child would take away from all the fun I was having and some of my natural beauty.

In fact, I'm so happy that I decided to take the leap, listened to my inner gut as I wouldn't change a thing. I'm having the best time of my life, exploring, learning as I go and watching my boy grow stronger everyday. The fun has just begun and I can't wait for tomorrow.

For those in the know - know that it comes with a little hard work and for those who are thinking twice do take the plunge, have no regrets, trust me you will have fun getting to know your new bundle of joy, to share your new found love and you're going to love it.

Today I celebrate the beauty found in real people - real mothers and real woman.

I'm a kid. Always been a kid. Having a child allows me to be a kid, to have fun and be me.


After having my second child, I became very self-conscious of my body. I knew my body would change but I wasn’t prepared for the stretch marks. It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that I would never have my flat, smooth belly back.

I am so grateful for my wonderful children and I wouldn’t change a thing! They look to me for strength and guidance and with unconditional love they inspire me to become a better mother. Each day I become more confident in myself and my body. This is me, this is my body and I am proud of what and who I am.

My husband says that “he sees the smiles of our sons” in my belly. What an amazing feeling!


Without a doubt, motherhood has been the most physical and emotional challenge for me. My prenatal and postnatal moments have shaped and tested my body in ways I could not even imagine. My two amazingly energetic children are continuously giving me the opportunities to learn life lessons in humility, patience, empathy, and love. I will teach them to be good to others, to care for the planet, and to be the best version of themselves. Because of them, I am strong and will always be their rock and safe haven when they need me.



Piccola Amore ... My Thoughts of You

Like a mamma lioness to her baby cub, fierce motherly instincts have kicked in and I will protect you with all my being.

You are my precious gift, my joy, my sunshine each morning.  Miracle of life, I will nourish, nurture and love you with all my heart.  There are no words to express the bond between a mother and child and the tremendous amount of love you feel instantly.

Little one, I will be strong for you, a mother you will be proud of and a role model worthy for you to look up to ... because ...

I CAN, I WILL and I AM ... a woman and mother totally in love with you.

This is my expression of strength and dedication to my baby girl.


Nothing can ever be the same. It has been a year, the most life-altering year, and my truth is that life, for me, can never be the same. You are self-sufficient, confident and adventurous, all that I aspire to be. Oh the things we will teach each other.

Dear Daughter,

I write to commemorate our first year together, mother and daughter. You hear about this type of love, and it’s unimaginable, but I now know just how true it is. You are confident, self-sufficient and effervescent; all that I strive to be. Oh the things we will teach each other. There was a time when my life’s focus was work. I remember sitting at my desk, looking down at my ever-growing belly and thinking “I need to find balance in my life, perhaps this little lady bug is the ticket”. I loved every minute of spending your first year together; we made memories that will forever stay in that little corner of a mom’s heart. I had trouble adjusting, life was just so different, this wasn’t so black and white for me, there was a gray area, and something was missing. The year flew by, and returning to work loomed, I was nervous and wracked with guilt. One week in, everyone asked with their scrunched faces, “how is it going? Has it been as terrible as I hear it is?” No, it wasn’t at all! I felt alive, there was a new found pep in my step, in one word; it was awesome! Now a new guilt, where were my tears? Where was this horrible feeling of abandon? It took my first four days at work to realize, the gray was work, I had missed it terribly, and I was damn happy to be back. I want you to know that it’s OK to want it all. You CAN work and be a mom, a great mom at that. I know in my heart I am giving you the very best of me every minute we spend together, by fulfilling my dreams outside of being a mom.


A journey to learn so much more about Me.

I took in endless amounts of advice while pregnant. I read as much as I could. I improved my lifestyle to improve quality of life for the being inside my body. I devoted myself to my unborn child.

I was praised. Told I would make a great Mother. Listened to compliments and encouragements. Made note of the hardships of others. Compiled a strong birth plan. Pumped myself up to go drug-free for the sake of my baby.

Kept my body fit and ready. Did all the proper exercises. Even took up Yoga. Meditation. Faith.

Nothing prepared me for the mental stretch marks that becoming a Mother would bring. The scars of Motherhood that nobody else will ever see. The ones that will forever bring a heavy feeling in my heart and a tear to my eye.

Yet I carry those emotional scars just like the women who bear them on their skin. With pride. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I can do this. I did do this. Bring it on, one day I will do it again.


Thank you to all the mothers who brought their creativity and wisdom to the project, especially Becky and Anna who are the bones of the Conversations with My Body group, and to a fabulous father, László, who helped to capture each mother in her best light. No photoshop was used in the production of these images - just love, light and a circle of creative mothers. All images were taken in the fall of 2013 near Toronto, Canada.


Lisa and the Allegory for Spring

If there is anyone who can summon spring's blooms it's Lisa. A bright, ever-smiling, creative beauty, Lisa hasn't changed a single bit since I last saw her twenty years ago. Lisa came into the studio this weekend with this caveat - "You know I've never done this before, right?" I assume she meant sit as a model. I dismissed her, perhaps too flippantly, because I knew that Lisa was the perfect choice for a project that needed doing. This has been a long and chilly spring and I felt we could all use a little bit of metaphoric conjuring. So, Lisa arrived, inspirational headpiece in hand (designed by Robin Sevigny) and no idea what to expect. Yes, spring can be a little like that, no? Let the warmup begin!

It didn't take long for Lisa's transformation into Spring to take shape.

With her headpiece in place it seemed that Lisa was indeed invoking the grace and awe that the season holds.

And if nothing else, Spring has had her fun with us this year!But our allegory for Spring didn't seem complete until we ventured into the wilds where Lisa gave in and truly embraced her role as mother nature's most optimistic daughter.

So let this be our ode to Spring, our visual invitation for the beauty and miracle that the season offers, and above all a threshold through which we can pass and emerge refreshed, vibrant and inspired.

An enormous thank you to Lisa for being the most beautiful of muses and an enthusiastic proponent of "Anything for Art" which she repeated vehemently as we shot outdoors. Thank you also to Robin Sevigny for the beautiful spring headpiece, to Alaina Lee for styling Lisa's amazing hair, and to Laura Misek, Linda Allen and Anna Andronova, three most creative and knowledgeable assistants. Now, bring on the Spring!

Care Bear Countdown to the Guinness Book

It's a rare and wonderful thing to meet someone with passion - especially when that passion involves friendly woodland creatures with painted bellies. So rare indeed is this passion that Colette Larsen is petitioning her caravan of caring colleagues into the Guinness Book of World Records. At a whopping 589 pieces, Colette's Care Bear collection has been growing since her teens, but not everyone shared Colette's love of the little bears. It wasn't uncommon to find one of her furry friends held hostage by friends or siblings, who are super lucky that Colette has a sense of humour! Some of the most interesting pieces of her collection include ice skates, a bicycle, a sleeping bag and Care Bear gummy candy, which would require the will power of a true collector not to eat. You don't have to think hard about it to see that Colette is a lot like her Bears - she's colourful and caring, friendly and giving and even without a heart painted on her belly, hers is always glowing.

I wish you love and light and a dozen Good Luck Bears as you make Care Bear history!



Doers and Makers: Daniella the Art-smith

Beginning any series with such a talented person inevitably sets the bar high in our search for ‘doers and makers’, but we’re up for the challenge. Meet Daniella the Artsmith. We met Daniella in her family’s Uxbridge workshop where she gave us a peak at how she is turning a family trade into an art form. Daniella is one of this world’s truly unique and courageous souls. Stepping outside the normative boundaries laid out for women (no – the struggle for gender equality is still not over!), Daniella took up welding. And she does it like no one else. We were supremely lucky to catch a glimpse of her latest creation for it seems Daniella can’t even get a piece finished before it gets scooped up by an art-lover with a keen eye for the rare and beautiful. The enormousness of her sculptures ensure that Daniella’s work becomes a permanent part of the Canadian landscape. Although her largest pieces are privately owned they command a presence, in size and artistry, that cannot be overlooked – and in one particular case, is scaring away the locals. 

Want to know more about Daniella? Check out her website

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