Tag Archives: Canadiana

Vintage Canadiana: Eija Seras

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures has been catching up on all the episodes of Backyard Bounty on the Cottage Life channel. Hosts Marty and Bam Bam drive around southern Ontario visiting yard sales, homes of collectors (aka hoarders), country thrift stores, and people who have a lot of stuff they want to get rid of. Marty also runs an antique business at Modern Hipster Antiques out of Ingersoll (online or by appointment) and I believe London ON that often features finds from the show, along with lots of other great stuff. He posts items for auction at a facebook group and I enjoy seeing what he’s got going, and occasionally bidding.

This little set caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. The signature etched in the bottom of each piece is EIJA CANADA and for some reason, it captured me. There are three separate pieces: a mother and babe, two children fishing (with string and spear), and two children sitting with a dog.


I did a little research and found out that the artist was Eija Seras, a Finnish-Canadian modernist artist.

“Seras produced a range of Inuit figurines, hand sculpted from terra cotta clay, in the late 1960s through the 1970s based on her four years living at the U.S. Air Force base in Goose Bay, Labrador in the mid 1960s….An Eija Seras chess set was exhibited during an official Canada Week exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, in 1969, and the artist was awarded the Canadian Design of Merit citation in 1974 by the National Design Council of Canada for her native figures.” (Source)

From an expired listing on Etsy, I read “This miniature Inuit (formerly known as Eskimo) family set  [not the same as mine] was handmade in the 1970s. They were created in Windsor, Ontario, by Canadian artist Eija Seras. Each figure was molded in clay, hand finished, fired, painted, glazed and signed by the artist. Seras’ Inuit clay figurines were featured in galleries both in Canada and internationally. Today, these charming and unique pieces of Canadiana are increasingly hard to find and collectible.”

As I googled her name, I also came across her immigration record:

Incoming Passenger list for the Carinthia Cunard), sailing 23 Sept 1959. Liverpool to Montreal
Incoming Passenger list for the Carinthia (Cunard line), sailing 23 Sept 1959. Liverpool to Montreal (ancestry.com)

 It shows Ms Sera as a single female, born in 1927 (so she was 32 at time of sailing), occupation as artist, and as being in transit from Finland. The only other record for her is on the 1974 Voter’s List in Toronto, living at 266 Manor Road East, with occupation “Sculptoress”.

There are a few of these floating around on auction sites. They’re also by Seras.

seras chess set
Eija Seras Chess Set. Source: http://www.ebay.ca/itm/131698733357?item=131698733357

Many of the sites listing her work include her with Inuit artists, but this was clearly not the case. I’d be interested to know anything more about her and her life.

If you’re interested, I paid $35 plus another $10 for shipping. And I may be starting to collect more of these lovely little items as I find them.

Treasure Chest Thursday

I’ve been browsing through some of the great Canadian local history databases lately.  For general Canadian history, Canadiana.org has some terrific content. There are a couple of free databases there but the most inclusive one is Early Canadiana Online which requires a subscription. For western Canada, Peel’s Prairie Provinces is free and hosted by the University of Alberta.

Yesterday, while researching my Rycroft post, I popped the name “Goddard” into the search field over a Peel’s and found this postcard:

Buffaloes at Elk Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. [Fort Saskatchewan: ca. 1910].
The text on the back reads:

From: Ralph
To: Mrs W.D. Goddard
Address: Fragmew, Cheriton Rd., TolReston, Kent, England.
Message: “Very best wishes & happiest returns of 30 Dec. Just having another cold spell. Had a good time this xmas, will write more fully very soon. House still progressing very slowly, but hope in the * dim dark future to see it finished. Just off there now, C. going to hunt this morning. glad to say all well. Expect to go up to his Close New Years’ day when we anticipate a good time. A & his wife up at his shack whilst Sullivan is building his house quite a grand affair I can tell you. Hope all well. Best love from Ralph. Ballentyne Dec 30th”
I was excited to see this and posted it to the Goddard Association of Europe’s Facebook page. My Goddards come from Kent so I was wondering whether this might be an ancestor. Regardless, I figured it would be interesting to someone.
I did a little research on Ancestry and determined that William and Mary (Hyde) Goddard had a son Ralph. After posting, one of the admins who is a cousin of mine (and who blessed me with my Goddard family tree back to the 17th century when I joined a few years ago) contacted a Gail Goddard in Ottawa who’s husband is a descendant of these Goddards. While we’re not in the same family, it was exciting to link up this artifact with the descendants of the writer.  Gail writes “Ralph had arrived in Canada in 1907. In 1910 Hilda Mary Goddard came to Battenberg, Alberta (later called Gibbons) to join her parents and siblings. In 1912, she and Ralph were married.”
While the sites I mentioned above are not specifically genealogical, this demonstrates the importance of having a peek at other resources to flesh out local history of our ancestors and maybe come across something special!


Review: “Up and Down” by Terry Fallis

Up and DownUp and Down by Terry Fallis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable read, Fallis’ third novel hits the hot spots. Canadiana, Sherlock Holmes, feisty elderly female bush pilot, public relations, and the International Space Station are all part of this fast-paced work that kept me engaged right to the end. It lost a star for predictability, but even though I knew where it was going, it was a fun ride nevertheless. His rather broad humour is not for everyone, but i found it didn’t quite cross the line into slapstick (although it comes close a couple of times.)

View all my reviews

The Bootmakers of Toronto will be hosting Fallis for a gathering on September 21. I hope to be there.

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