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How a ballet costume designer found inspiration in her studio

As the costume designer for more than 21 international ballets, including Love Lies Bleeding, the million-dollar Elton John spectacular that the Alberta Ballet brings to Toronto this week, Montreal's Martine Bertrand conceives many of her award-winning ideas in the 1959 bungalow she has lived in for the past 11 years with husband Patrice Vermette and their two young children. Located in the village-like suburb of Longueuil on the city's south shore, the home came with a solarium that the couple converted into an atelier, Bertrand's now-favourite room. "It was meant as a space for me to be inspired in," the multifaceted artist says. "And I am. This is where my ideas flow best."

The white chairs

"The white chairs come with a funny story. My husband [an Oscar-nominated film-production designer]has shot many times at [now-defunct]Mirabel Airport, so much so that the authorities decided to give him these airport chairs since he liked them so much. They are original airport-lounge waiting seats from the 1970s and probably have stories of their own to tell."

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The carpet

"The carpet was brought back from a job that my husband did in Tunisia, where we lived for a couple of months."

The desk

"The oak desk came from the offices of a law firm where my father-in-law had been a partner. From the cigarette burns, I can guess that this piece of furniture also has tales to tell."

The sketch

"This a favourite memory of Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where I worked in 1995 and 1999. The assistant of the choreographer I was working with at the time asked me to do a drawing for him and this was what immediately came to mind."

The antique box

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"This is a wedding present given long ago to my grandmother. When she passed away, I inherited it and now I keep all my drawing materials in it. My grandmother used to use it to hide the fudge she made from my mother and her brothers. Sometimes, I feel like the chocolate smell is still in there. It's comforting."

The map

"This map of the British Isles represents one of the best trips we've taken as a family. My husband was working on a film in London for seven months; while we were over there, England felt like home to us."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More

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