Blog

  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Alyssa Thralls

    Alyssa Thralls (better known as Alyssa Panda Eyes) has an unforgettable vibe. An artist by trade, she is a tornado of design: jewellery, clothing, photography, digital mixed media, and dj-ing to boot.

    Her distinct style could be labelled as positive goth (posi goth?) with a focus on eclectic symbology. Her clothing and accessory collections have featured imagery from runes, the tarot, and planetary signs. I want everything. One of the things I love most about Alyssa is her unwavering sense of self – it carries across everything that she puts out into the world. If I caught a glimpse of someone scrolling through their Instagram feed across a crowded streetcar and a photo of hers went by I’d immediately know that we both follow this babe.

    You can check out her work here and if you’re feeling it, keep up with her amazing style on Tumblr and Instagram. Who knows what is going to emerge from her creative spirit in the future, I’m looking forward to finding out.

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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Katie Stelmanis

    The first thing you’d probably hear about Katie Stelmanis is that she sings and plays keyboards for the very awesome Toronto-based band Austra. Moody and dance-able, their critically acclaimed music has been going in the ears (and eyes) of many for quite some time now.

    If you follow Katie on Twitter, you’ll know how active she is in maintaining dialogues about feminism, misogyny, transphobia, and more. Yesterday Pitchfork released a piece she wrote, Op-Ed: Why Is Violence Against Women Excusable If It’s “Art”? that draws attention to rapper/a-hole Action Bronson being booked to play a free, headlining show at a public venue in Toronto as part of the North By North East Music Festival. He has previously released music glorifying gang rape and other misogynistic garbage, as well as a now infamous transphobic tweet that lost him a lot of fans.

    After the announcement was made that he’d be playing a free all-ages show at Yonge-Dundas Square apetition began circulating to have his set moved to a ticketed venue. Signed and supported by Katie, a decision was made a few days ago in favour of removing Action Bronson from the lineup that night. As far as I know so far, North By North East folks are still working on an alternative for people who want to spend money to see him.

    In her Pitchfork Op-Ed Katie writes,

    Many of us, beyond those of us who signed the petition, are tired of music that is blatantly misogynist and an obvious promotion of rape culture being supported by festivals and corporate institutions. The reactions to protests such as ours has a very clear message: that violence against women isn’t a real issue, these are just songs, we should all just “chill out” and “have a good time.”

    Our safety matters and it is crucial for the music community to understand the role it plays. This is not just about a song, and it is not just about Action Bronson, it is about the many ways that women, trans people, and women of color are made to feel they do not matter and they do not belong in the music scene. But we know the truth. And we will continue to resist.

    Big love to Katie for all that she’s putting out into the world. You can read her full Pitchfork piece here.

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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Marie Southard Ospina

    Marie Southard Ospina 5

    It seems like every time I'm  on social media I see this babe pop up for another super awesome thing she's doing. Marie is a writer and size acceptance advocate, currently working as an associate fashion and beauty editor at Bustle and I always thoroughly enjoy her work. She's worn a low-rise bikini on a beach and documented the reactions she received and another time she sent out a photo of her makeup-free face to see how Photoshop experts would manipulate the image to make her 'beautiful'.

    Recently Marie participated in one of my favourite body positive projects, What's Underneath. In her interview she talks about how she became the activist she is today and her struggles with self-acceptance. It's definitely worth a watch.

    Honestly, she has accomplished so much in such a short time that anything I write here would inevitably be insufficient.  Please check out her blog and get lost in the mountain of challenging work she's done to advance the body positivity and beauty diversity movements.

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  • My Newest Project - BUSH Magazine!

    If you're a frequenter of the UM+ shop, you may have noticed recently that there haven't been as many new arrivals as there used to be. This past winter our studio went under some major renovations and I was unable to process and photograph new products. It was frustrating and out of my control, so I decided to switch focus and delve into a new body positive project that I've been wanting to do since I was a teenager. I'll continue to work on this AND the store once the studio is ready to go again!
    Over the last couple of years my friend Stina and I casually threw around the idea of starting a fashion magazine together. We were both growing apathetic towards mainstream media and were getting most of our style inspo from incredible people who aren't celebrated in the fashion world. It's so often the same roster of totally awesome bloggers and celebrities but Stina and I started to feel like it's time to mix it up a bit. We decided to release some media of our own and create a little positive community that supports humans of all bodies, genders, and backgrounds.  
    BUSH Magazine has a focus on personal style and creative people and we're so excited about the content that's already been completed for Issue One. It would mean so much to me if you'd watch our video and check out the campaign. I would love to hear your feedback and if you're digging it, sharing is always appreciated. 
    Thanks so much!
    xo Amarina
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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Emma Sulkowicz

    TW: Sexual assault.

    When I saw Emma’s name go by in my Facebook feed yesterday I immediately clicked on the link to get an update on her performance activism piece. Emma’s story first started circulating online after she began carrying her 50 lb. dorm mattress with her, everywhere she went. A form of endurance performance art, Emma titled her senior thesis Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), making a commitment to carry it until her alleged rapist was expelled from Columbia University, where they both went to school. She could accept help if someone offered to carry it with her, but she could not ask for it.

    Nine months later, Emma carried her mattress to her final classes and people started wondering if she would bring it to convocation and if she would be allowed in with it. Sure enough, @teoarmus tweeted this photo today:

    Because some people are the worst, Jezebel reported this morning that large posters featuring a photo of Emma and her mattress with the words “Pretty Little Liar” scrawled across it were spotted in some areas of New York City. A @fakerape Twitter account also appeared and has almost 1,000 followers and as of this this afternoon it is still active and asshole-y.

    Emma’s activism and art is important and necessary, if you would like a fuller description of her project you can watch this interview with her.

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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Self-Love Edition

    Some of the only photos I have of myself from high school. I decided at some point that I was going to wear the same shirt every year.

    I am of the age where Instagram still doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to remind myself to post sometimes and I do, because it’s one of the ways I love to engage with the community of babes on there. Selfies, crap that I’m doing, people I’m spending time with, outfit posts – I try to put something out into the world every day, even if it’s a bit meaningless.

    Hump days are for #womancrushwednesday of course and on #throwbackthursday I like to dig out my box of photos that go all the way to when I was a wee baby and post something from there. There is a thing about it though that I can’t always ignore: a quick sampling of the box’s contents would reveal a glaring gap in time. It could appear as though I time travelled from age 12 to 20, leaving only a few high school photos as evidence that I was even ever a teen.

    I look at the few photos I do have and even though I’m smiling I can see that I was sad. Really sad. I felt out of place in the smallish town I grew up in, people made fun of me, and I had a near impossible time finding like-minded individuals. I gained some more weight on my chubby frame and stopped asking myself what I wanted to do with my life because it didn’t matter. I told myself that I couldn’t do the fashion-y things that I had dreamed about because I was fat. Even when I applied for university I chose to major in Political Science because it seemed responsible. I hated every class I took and it was a real struggle to get through the academic side of post-secondary life.

    The benefits of university outweighed the challenges. I got out of my town and moved to Toronto, I met some absolutely incredible humans, I found a couple kindred fat babes and I started to consider the idea that working for the government would absolutely be the wrong move for me. I didn’t have a precise direction but I began to make a list of things I knew I did not want to do. I started creating things with my hands and considering more options. I stopped hiding when someone would pull a camera out. I eventually stopped cringing when I’d see I picture of myself and now I make time to take self-love selfies and post then on Instagram because it’s fun and also because it’s important.

    Feeling free to do whatever the eff I want.

    I didn’t grow up with the internet and didn’t even think that other fat, artsy, feminist girls existed because they were never shown on tv or in magazines and I certainly never saw anyone around my town like that. Sure everyone has the internet now but the struggle for body diversity and self-acceptance is real and still trudging along. Incredible strides have been made and the movement is accelerating at a pace I used to think wasn’t possible.

    So I just wanted to take a long-winded moment today, on this platform to say that however much love you have for yourself is okay. Even if it’s only a little, even if you are your own personal hero. Just keep on taking in the good and try to be open to new things, even if they’re outside of your comfort zone. Big love to everyone out there doing their thing today, including myself.

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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Jillian Tamaki

    With TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) around the corner, the city is abuzz with talk of graphic novels, comics, and zines. It seems like there are a million comic-related happenings right now and one of those events happened last night. It was the Toronto stop for artist Jillian Tamaki’s book tour, as she promotes her latest publication, SuperMutant Magic Academy. I had enough sense to go to her talk and she was charming, funny, and awesome.

    In an industry that has been notoriously sexist, Jillian creates gorgeous work that is mostly about women and is being celebrated for it. Her last book, This One Summer that she made with her cousin Mariko Tamaki won the Governor General’s Award, she's in the middle of this book tour, and she’s a featured guest at TCAF this year.

    On top of being an incredible illustrator and cartoonist, Jillian is a teacher and one thing she touched on last night stuck with me in a lesson-y way. She said, don’t wait until your work is perfect to put it out in the world. Figure it out in front of everyone and keep trying to make it better.

    If you are a fan of graphic novels you probably already know her work. If you haven't read much but have always wanted to, pick up one of her books. I promise you won't regret it.
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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Laffing Sal

    We heard her laughing before we saw her. It was the scarier side of laughter, almost sinister so I guess it could have been more of a cackle. When I first laid eyes on her she was bigger than I expected, because all the machines in the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco were about half her size. Laffing Sal (also known as the “Fat Lady”) was a staple in carnivals across the United States in the 1930s and 40s. For a coin or two her 6’10” frame would jiggle and laugh, much to the amusement or terror of the patron.

    She was a sloppy old stereotype of a fat woman that people could laugh at and fear. Some of the animatronic Laffing Sals were extra shabby but the one we encountered was quite dolled up, with a freshly restored face that included the missing front tooth that they all had. We popped in our 50 cents and she laughed for an uncomfortable amount of time. The record under her platform finished, reset itself and all the people who had gathered around moved on to their next antique game. My immediate reaction was to feel offended.

    Laffing Sal stuck with me since I saw her in March and actually I’ve been quite charmed. I kept wondering why, out of all of the machines, this one was so iconic and why so many had been cared for and preserved over the years. I love her bold, loud, terrifying laugh – she doesn’t give a shit what people think. Or she wouldn’t, if she was a real person. I’m still not clear what the original intentions were for Laffing Sal but I like to think she’s a misunderstood babe doing her own thing and I want to celebrate that.

    You can hear a sampling of her laugh on the Musée Mécanique site. It startled my sleeping cat when I opened it, you’ve been warned.  

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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - The Babes of Scandal

    A couple of weeks ago I made a small declaration on Instagram about donating, repurposing and giving away a bunch of things that my partner and I had accumulated over the years. Aside from a club chair that had seen better days, the biggest item that we’ve sent packing so far was our television.

    It felt right. I find commercials infuriating and even muting them wasn’t good enough. We realized that we rarely even turned it on anymore, we liked having that time to do other things and we didn’t want to pay for cable either. Full disclosure, there was one, kinda major reason for hesitation: how was I going to watch Scandal the second it was on?! Would I have to WAIT?! What if one of my lovely friends has a jerk spoiler passionate moment about it on Facebook before I see the episode and ruins everything?! Maybe we should just keep it until the season is over…

    Alas, team minimalism won and out went the television. It was the right thing to do.

    It hasn’t always been like this. Last summer a friend of mine was super late to meet me for a snack date and her reason was, “Sorry I’m so late, I was watching Scandal and I couldn’t stop.” At the time this seemed ludicrous, until I got sick around the holidays and decided to give this show that people are freaking out about a try. My expectations were low, I have never been much of a primetime drama watcher but I trust the taste of my tardy friend. Days passed and I went through the first two seasons like they were boxes of Kleenex.

    I love Scandal. I’m so into the suspense of it all and the strong female characters and the president is a spineless wiener and Noel from Felicity is in it and I’m not complaining about that one bit. It’s not without problems – I would like to see some more body diversity in the cast and for main character Olivia Pope to be less in love with who she’s in love with. But Shonda Rhimes is definitely using this show as a platform for discussion of race, women in power, love, class, and more and I’m invested. The season is almost over and I know it’s going to be a wild cliffhanger before the countdown to next season begins.

    So I guess I have forgiven my friend for her lateness that day because I probably (almost definitely) would have done the same thing in her shoes. It’s a miracle really, that she even pried her eyes away for social time and nourishment! If you haven’t watched this show yet and it seems like your thing, clear your calendar and prepare some snacks.

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  • Sign Up For Our Newsletter!

    Hi awesome babes,
    I am so excited to announce the new Ursa Major+ Newsletter! I'm only going to send it out twice a month (on the 1st and 15th, to be exact!) and you can expect to see:
    • Promo codes for exclusive sales
    • A first gander at new lookbook shoots
    • A heads up of where Ursa Major+ is going to be I.R.L.
    • and more!! 

    This is going to be so fun, sign up if you're into it!

    xo Amarina

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