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Local artisan series chapter one - Alfons Furniture · 8 August 2016 by colin newell

Alfons Furniture Victoria

When we first moved into our new house, one of the first neighbours to pop by was Alfons.

He lives on the street parallel to our and shares part of a back fence. An enthusiastic gardener and outdoorsman, Alfons represents all the good things about good neighbours – engaged, good humoured and genuinely interested in what is going on in the World around us.

Alfons fine designs chairs Victoria

As it turns out, Alfons is a fine furniture maker and designer – a guy who makes some very unique and breathtaking pieces that would grace and compliment any home or business. He completed an apprenticeship program in fine furniture in Germany in 1987. After several years working with a variety of senior masters in the craft, he returned to school to obtain a Master’s Diploma in furniture making.

Alfons fine designs - cabinets

Alfons came to Canada in 1998 and honed his craft in several different work shops in the Victoria area before setting up his own woodcraft design lab in 2005. Alfons focus is on traditional European design and the Contemporary interpretations within North America.

Alfons’s shop and ideas area is in the heart of Rock Bay in an old multi-storied warehouse that contains guitar makers, digital labs and an assortment of high end maker spaces.

Alfons fine designs Victoria - beds

We had lunch together recently after getting a tour of his unassuming work space and environment where many of his great ideas come together. There was something about the positive energy and youthfulness of the space that resonated with me – and I imagine that this contributes to the overall quality of everything that comes from this building and his creation space.

What I also discovered about Alfons is his acute ability to listen and provide instant feedback on what I may have been trying to convey on some of my design ideas – which is an immensely valuable skill when designing items of furniture that may reside in a home for 100 years or more.

Alfons fine design Victoria - fireplaces

As Alfons pointed out to me over lunch at the Salt Chuck Pie nearby, “The customer relationship is the most important key to succeeding in virtually any project… whether it is building the perfect piece of fine furniture for their home… or making their computer work better in their business…” Yes indeed, I can certainly relate to that!

Have a look at Alfons’s website and photo gallery – I think you will agree that he builds and designs some of the most remarkable pieces of furniture in the South Vancouver Island marketplace.

You can find Alfons online or make an appointment with him via – Alfons Laicher
Alfons Custom Furniture & Woodwork Inc. – 2614 Bridge St. #223 • Victoria, BC • V8T 4S9
Phone: 250-361-4119
Email: [email protected]

This is Chapter One of an ongoing series of artisan conversations – with the creators, makers and ideas people of Vancouver Island.


Katie and her World of beautiful cards for all occasions · 15 December 2015 by colin newell

Cards by Katie - Victoria B.C. Canada Festive cards!

Katie is a lovely 19 year old girl who has Cerebral Palsy. Together with her mom, Sue, they have been making stamped cards since 2007. Prior to receiving assistive technology, Sue used to help her daughter stamp the images on the cards.

Katie has a head controlled stamping machine made for her four years ago by CanAssist. She is now able to stamp the images for her cards through a switch control using her head.

Card making is Katie’s thing and it brings her great joy. She loves making cards and sharing them. Making and selling cards has given her a unique way to connect with people in the community. Additionally, this also allows Katie to give back to the community with the profits from her cards. This year, Katie’s cards accounted for 100% of the festive seasonal cards that we sent out – and as you can see in the photo above, they are beautiful.

Katie had hip surgery a year ago which took her out of card making commission. Her story was featured on Global-TV and she was an instant hit – it put a smile on her face and to this day she is still very busy putting smiles on our faces.

At the time, her Mom, Sue and some of the neighbors put their heads together to see if they could come up with a plan to brighten her recovery. Sue suggested, “Since Katie will not be making cards for a couple weeks, I thought that it would be amazing if bright, beautiful cards made their way to her. Near and Far.”

Custom made cards from Katie

“We have a world map up. Her sisters will open up the cards and we can mark on the map were they have come from. We have also created a box of inspiration. When someone sends a card if they could put in a single button or piece of ribbon – something cute that Katie can put on a card… That would be great. Once she got back to making her cards she had hundreds of pieces of inspiration from everyone around the globe to put on her cards.”

At the time the message was – “Please mark on the back of the cards were they are from. I know that Katie will want to look at each and every one for years to come. We are going to put the world map up in her room so she can always see it.”

If you feel like sending a card (or getting an incredible custom card for any and all seasons) from Katie, send your own card or a request for a price list to:

Katie Philip
6898 Central Saanich Rd.,
Victoria B.C.
V8Z 5V2

Katie has a website and point-of-sale PayPal thing for her cards over here

Katie thanks you!


BC Hydro where for art thou · 18 January 2015 by colin newell

We had a power outage from 7AM until around 11:30AM today.

BC Hydro

And it was patently obvious that outages were widespread — but because of my naturally curious nature, I went over to the BC Hydro website to look at the outage map — and the site stated: If your neighborhood is NOT on the map, please contact us — which I attempted… via mobile phone…
and their system would not recognize my address or phone number… so I went to the website to report the outage online — which it would not let me do UNLESS I had a linked online account with BC Hydro — which I do.

So: In order to report an outage online I need to have a “linked” online account… which I do. But the website reported that I did not lave a linked account even though I was logged in and “linked”

Being an emergency coordinator with the CRD in Victoria, it is very important to me that people be able to report to the primary utilities that something is amiss – and the system needs to work. BC Hydro’s system, however, failed miserably.

For all I knew, there might have been a small handful of customers in my 1km circle out – in fact, there were hundreds of neighbors without power. I wonder how many of them, elderly and not-as-technicial, were fretting about when and if their power would come back on.

On the plus side, this was a good time to check my emergency radio equipment – and everything worked like a charm. I was able to reach out via our amateur (ham) radio community VHF/UHF repeater grid which allows me to talk to pretty much any corner of Vancouver Island with ease. As well, my HF (Shortwave) system allowed me to reach out as far South as California and out to Ohio in the East on very low power.

For those interested in emergency planning and ham radio: There are thousands of active (volunteer) radio operators in B.C. that engage in emergency radio networks on a daily basis, year around and even on Christmas day —
Ostensibly to help keep communities safe and connected.

Now if BC Hydro could figure out their system glitches that would be great – It kind of begs the question: With all these smart meters in place, why do I need to report anything online or via the phone?


Emerging talent - Kristina Helene - Bengal Lounge 2014 · 24 November 2014 by colin newell

Modern Chanteuse - Kristina Helene of Victoria B.C. Canada

I have been going to the Bengal Lounge for the quality atmosphere, entertainment, cocktail culture and great people watching since the early 80’s when I started attending to my post secondary education.

At the time many of the entertainers would have been middle aged men (aged 40 and up) tinkling away at an old piano and singing passable versions of the great American songbook. And yours truly, in his very early 20’s would have sat at the bar in a Harris Tweed coat, white cotton shirt, Hugo Boss tie and suitably matching pants… sipping on a skillfully mixed gin and tonic, hoping with all measure to look grown up.

Flash forward over 30 years and now, it seems, that the Bengal has an entirely new graduating class of star performers vying for our attention. Only difference is, the vocalists and accompanists of the 21st Century have some staying power… and talent.

A case in point: One Kristina Helene. A very-very early twenty something singer with vocal chops light years ahead of her chronological curve on planet Earth.
She dazzled a comfortably populated room at the Empress Hotel with a set of classics that would have been more at home in a much, much bigger club and audience in New York city or Chicago.

Accompanied by the very capable Thomas Kinzel on upright grande piano, Ms. Helene takes us on a sentimental journey of some of the greatest songs ever written – as originally performed by Sinatra, Andy Williams, Leonard Cohen, Bing Crosby and equally influential company. Her ability to finesse a song to greatness verges on the preternatural. Kristina has a sense of rhythm, timing and breath control usually reserved for artists twice her age – and yes, she started very young.

She performed three very tidy sets at the Bengal Lounge – and being the consummate professional gave her piano player a lot of room to showcase his ample grasp of the 88 keys. Kristina’s style defies exact definition in that she does not sound like anyone you have heard in the last 40 years or so. Names like Garland, Peggy Lee, Billie Holliday, Lena Horne and Nina Simone kind of popped into my head – but I could also hear a bit of Adele, Christina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse on a molecular level. It is quite unique. It is immensely exciting and demands your attention.

I had the pleasure of hearing Diana Krall play a small venue on Vancouver Island in the 80’s before she was discovered – this event with Ms. Helene felt exactly like that. So check it out!

Kristina Helene and Thomas continue at the Bengal Sundays from 7 PM until 10PM through December. Do yourself a treat and come down and check out what the future of jazz sounds like. Ms. Helene is a rising star that you should not miss if you have the opportunity. Check out her website over here – Kristina Helene has a stunning YouTube channel over here


Long time companion moves on to the infinite pasture of joy · 14 August 2014 by colin newell

Sasha - devoted and loving companion to my sister Lisa

Just got the news that my sister’s devoted companion of so many years, Sasha, has moved on to the next leg of her journey.

Sasha has been the family canine companion, living with my dear sister Lisa, for many a year. And as everyone knows, the family pooch is often the cornerstone of this thing we call home – often bringing everyone together, giving us all a reference point – focusing on the love, purity, devotion and pureness of heart that is the family pet.

Life often revolves around our domesticated charges – and so it should be, as these loving creatures have been at our side since the dawn of time. We depend on them as they do on us. We give them what we give them and in return, they give us the silent unspoken love and loyalty that is available from no other creature.

Sasha has been Lisa’s steady compatriot through her travels in and around Victoria – has seen a few changes of location, sunrises, sunsets and all manner of weather. Sasha was something of a rescue pooch – and from our perspective, she had the greatest life possible with Lisa. As has been spoken, “No one could have treated her better – and she could not have been more loved…”

Sasha now leaves us, moving on to her spiritual realm and within the living legacy of our memories for her. She will not just be missed but will forever change the fabric of the community in which she lived… and loved.

We will never forget you Sasha – and with all the love that we have left over, we will pass it forward to the next doggie needing our love.

Safe journey my little friend!