O is for Ottawa and O-Train! A is for Author and Artist

May 12th, 2017 | By | Category: Arts & Entertainment

By Barbara Clubb

Miriam Bloom is a model for active retirement.  Last year at 70, this longtime Ottawa resident, graphic artist, book designer and artist had her first painting exhibition. Now, after a career designing other people’s books and reports, she can add author to the list. She has produced her own book in collaboration with her friend and colleague, the late Julie Mason. An ABC of Ottawa (2017) is the first ever ABC alphabet book for kids which also celebrates our beautiful city.

In 2009, realizing that there was no children’s alphabet book set in Ottawa, Bloom and Mason decided to feature the capital in an imaginative learn-to-read ABC book that is full of fun and whimsy. As designer, Bloom wanted to put polka-dots on the snowscapes and stripes on the chip wagon. As photographer and writer, Mason knew that cityscapes could inspire a children’s alphabet book.  Bloom and Mason believed that children and families really enjoy learning by seeing recognizable sites and local activities.

“It’s fun for young readers to open a colourful book and recognize places where they live and play,” says Bloom.

Sadly, in 2010 Mason died of cancer and the project went on hold.

“But I couldn’t let it go,” said Bloom. Mason’s husband, Don McGregor, felt the same way and now the project is finished. “Don and I both think that Julie would be delighted with the outcome,” adds Bloom “and it’s a perfect way to mark Canada 150.”

Bloom grew up in Montreal in a home where reading was an important part of family life. She and her two brothers were surrounded by books to read and atlases and encyclopedias to consult. When the siblings grew older their mother started working as a library assistant, which resulted in even more books in the home.

After finishing her BA at McGill, Bloom knew she wanted to work in commercial design and illustration. She studied at l’École des beaux arts in Montreal but soon moved to Toronto in what was a boom time for Canadian publishing, with many new publishers in need of layout and design specialists.

Being a designer means lots of innovation and training when methods and technologies change. This is how she ended up back in Montreal. The Montreal Star moved from hot metal to cold type and needed an experienced designer. Bloom designed the paper’s eye-catching, weekly entertainment section.

She next moved across the Atlantic to attend the Brighton College of Art.  There she worked in lithography, hand typsetting, bookbinding and learned how to create marbled endpapers.

A project that Bloom is especially proud of is Read Up on It, an annual Library and Archives of Canada publication that promoted Canadian literature and reading for children. She also enjoyed working on exhibitions at Library and Archives Canada, in particular her collaboration with Carol Martin on Bon appétit! A Celebration of Canadian Cookbooks. She says that by far her most complex project was the five-volume, 4,000-page Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which included special publications in English, French, Cree, and Inuktitut.

Bloom first met and worked with Mason in Toronto. A few years later they found themselves with their families in Ottawa. And they resumed working together on many projects.  Bloom still lives in the Kitchissippi ward, where she and her husband raised their two children. She has a busy list of regular activities which include cross-country skiing (she takes part in the Gatineau Loppet each year), and 5 km competitive runs. With grandchildren in Brooklyn and Shanghai, Bloom adds travel to her activities.

Recently, Bloom has taken up pastel painting and enjoys days out with her plein air painting group. She had her first ever exhibition in Ottawa last year and her work will also be included in an exhibition in Montreal later this year.

Julie Mason spent nearly 50 years as a newspaper columnist, including the Ottawa Citizen, fiction writer, book reviewer, photographer, political strategist, and advertising director. She organized fundraising campaigns for orphaned children abroad and also taught English to new Canadians. She was a fierce advocate for the rights of women and children and was unwavering in her defense of Canada’s health care system. She certainly would be proud of An ABC of Ottawa as a lasting legacy to her city and her family, especially her two granddaughters Scarlet and Cleo.

An ABC of Ottawa was conceived, designed, written and printed in Ottawa. It is available at  Perfect Books, Books on Beechwood, Octopus Books, Mrs. Tiggy
Winkle’s, World of Maps, Fab Baby Gear, Chapters Rideau Street, Chapters South Keys, Coles Place d’Orléans, Coles Carlingwood, Prospero The Book Company, Bytown Museum and online at miriambloomart.ca. where a  complete up-to-date of local outets is always being updated.

A French version is under development.

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