Oh my! Where does one start?! First let me say this. There is nothing boring about Ottawa. So let’s just put that “it’s the city that rolls up the sidewalks at night” myth to rest. Just when I think I might get a breather from events the Writers Festival ends by seguing this city into another festival celebrating the arts – The National Arts Centre’s Ontario Scene. “Imagine 600 Ontario artists, from all disciplines, performing in the national spotlight on the stages of Ottawa/Gatineau: that’s Ontario Scene.”
The biggest limiting factor to Ontario Scene is that my body only allows for me to be in one place at one time. I may have to settle for 300 Artists, 30-ish events and maybe 1 less day.
I have already clocked two events with back to back nights at Carleton University Art Gallery for the Opening and Artist Walk Thru of the current exhibit “Human Nature.” This show “presents fourteen contemporary Ontario artists whose works look at the state of the natural world and our impact on it.”
Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
Graffiti Boxman Project. Photo Flips BSC. Kwende Kefentse.Credit James Park Photography.
“Century Song is a live performance hybrid showcasing the extraordinary Canadian soprano NEEMA BICKERSTETH. A radical revisioning of the recital form from one of Canada’s most exciting theatre companies, it is part classical song, part dance, part projection, and entirely theatrical.” Find outmore…
Digging Roots. Raven Kanatakta and Shoshona Kish. Photo Ratul Debnath.
DECLARATION is a great Ontario Scene initiative that will be running from April 29 to May 3.
“DECLARATION is a celebration of Indigenous peoples’ right to engage in the creation and evolution of arts and culture, as asserted in Article 11 of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Created by Toronto-based ARTICLE 11, DECLARATION is an immersive, live, sound and image installation and performance-creation lab. It offers the rare opportunity to witness established Indigenous artists mid-process as they take risks and explore new approaches and collaborations in a responsive, interdisciplinary environment.”
Read more about the full DECLARATION programming here.
Santee Smith. Image by Red Works.
John Morris, NAC Executive Chef
Also, on the menu, literally, is food – the best of what Ontario has to offer in the culinary arts.
On Monday night:
“le café presents a WINEMAKER’S DINNER that showcases and complements the delightful wines of Pelee Island, Canada’s oldest and most southerly wine region. For this special occasion, National Arts Centre Executive Chef JOHN MORRIS will prepare a sumptuous five-course menu with all-Ontario ingredients, and every course will be paired with the finest varietals that Pelee Island has to offer. Winemaster MARTIN JANZ, of Pelee Island Winery, will be in attendance.”
On Tuesday night:
“Experience the innovative and mouth-watering creations of more than a dozen top chefs from across the province as they vie for the $10,000 top prize in the ONTARIO CULINARY CHALLENGE. Each chef will prepare uniquely Ontario small plates, using a selection of 100% local and regional meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. With the support of Wine Country Ontario, chefs will be partnered with Ontario wineries to produce the perfect food-wine pairings, which attendees can sample throughout the night. Rub elbows with chefs, sommeliers, and media, sample some of the province’s finest wines, and cast your vote to award the first-place prize for the very best of the best in Ontario’s culinary arts.”
Alright, time for a 2nd shot of espresso and I will be ready to go.
“Urban fabric as a metaphor for the city” ~ Deborah Wang
“The artists in Urban Fabric: Portraits of a City engage with the interwoven hard and soft dimensions of the city from multiple perspectives; their photographs, paintings, sculpture, film, and pattern-making create a portrait of a city, often taking Toronto as their subject.”
This year’s Toronto Design Offsite included an interesting partnership between TO DO and the Textile Museum. Urban Fabric: Portraits of a City, curated by TO DO’s Creative Director Deborah Wang (pictured right) traversed the intersections of what comprises a city – “the built environment, webs of individuals, and the social, technological, and economic processes that produce a particular urban framework” as well as the insertions / assertions of nature.
The exhibit featured stunning photography by Scott Norsworthy that included the West End of Toronto. Hard isolating walls of bricks, unbroken expanses of asphalt and a multiplicity of electrical wires were softened by gentle light blanketing the concrete jungle with air and sky. Sheila Ayearst‘s series of Concrete paintings also contained a softness despite their subject matter. The canvasses, in varying shades of gray, had titles like Beaconsfield Concrete, again recalling the West End and its rapid development.
“Holes in the urban fabric, these sites speak to the city as an evolving network of development, appropriation, redevelopment, undoing, and neglect.” ~ Scott Norsworthy
“Visitors in search of escape instead encounter.” Jessica Craig
Jessica Craig’s large projection of a location along the Don Valley revealed the lushness of a green Toronto that doesn’t just exist as an unattainable Shangri-La in our imagination.
Don Valley #212 (2012). Image provided by Jessica Craig.
“Long protected from intervention by floodwaters and topography, the ravine defies construction and therefore profit: it is a fracture in an otherwise unified urban fabric.”
Jessica’s photographic work considers the concept of “terrain vague” and in her essay Landscape off the path she writes:
“Terrain vague is Ignasi de Solà-Morales’ term for abandoned spaces within a city that exist outside the common social realm and are often perceived as empty.”
These transitional spaces, because of the ambiguous mystery they offer city dwellers, hold latent potentiality as places of enchantment and restoration. “The value of the still unaffected land – and the relief it offers to a highly developed city – is difficult to quantify” but there is a sense that spaces, such as these, are seen as necessary in order to restore some sort of balance to the rigid confines of the constructed city.
(top to bottom) Don Valley #212, Don Valley #132, Don Valley #240(2012). Images provided by Jessica Craig.
“Roots are the first kind of textile.” ~ Scott Euson
For artist Scott Eunson plant roots are like fibers as they shoot up and spread out and the city is like fabric in that it is made up of many single “elements [fibers] that cooperate with the whole” as it rises up and moves out across the landscape like a rhizome. He spoke on how we often talk about the city as though it is a textile “neighbourhoods are knit together” or “densely woven.” He took wire and wood along with roots and bent metal, all found on walks through the city, to loop and twist a typography into place.
His piece Material Map – Toronto represents the complexity of urban spaces and their intertwining of newly digitized and still naturalized realities. The city is where we are often forced to locate our busy lives but not without letting go of our desire to feel our natural-ness now and again. As skyscrapers rise we haven’t completely forgotten the call of the waves. The shoreline always beckons us to return to some ancient cellular memory. Below the foundation of the city lies what was once the Glacial Lake Iroquois, what’s left now named Lake Ontario which means “Lake of Shining Waters” in the Wyandot language.
I like that this piece presented without judgement. In the assemblage there is no warning about the eradication of nature due to the city, the metal wires are able to co-exist with the natural. Despite the entanglement there is a type of order and an absence of hierarchy. The wood and wire take turns coming up between the foreground from the background, at times each receding, other times bending or breaking out of the grid.
The shape of the work represents Toronto as it is contained by the borders of the Humber River on the West and the Don River on the East. A few wires and twigs grow out past the North, West and East boundaries but at the shoreline of the Lake all halts, deferring to the great body of water that lies to the city’s south.
For me this piece is hopeful suggesting that there can be a resolution between the requirements of a city with all of its systems and our urban yearning for woods and water, that the existence of one doesn’t mean the end of the other.
Perhaps we can wrap ourselves around the notion that balance is not beyond our imagination and our quest to discover where it lies in the urban space is the taut thread that snaps everything in place.
Last night at Pecha KuchaKevin Yuen Kit Lo of LOKI (Jay Wall’s partner in crime for the show opening tonight in the Junction) asked me how I knew Jay. I couldn’t recall the exact moment of our meeting but I also don’t remember a time when his presence wasn’t somehow on the periphery of my own investigation on how best to support and promote ‘Toronto the Good\ through an alchemic mix of community building, design thinking and iconic visuals.
I was probably first aware of his presence through his work. Jay’s baby is STUDIO JAYWALL a “Toronto-based team specializing in creative direction and graphic/interactive design for social, culture, environmental and city-building initiatives.”
I liked that this guy was using his creative powers for good and that he understood how beautifully designed visuals could motivate people to change – even encourage an activist spirit!
“Let the Dead Man Rise” t-shirt design by Jay with custom handlettering for Toronto folk musician Joe Zambon.
Jay Wall and Sean Martindale at Pecha Kucha, telling the story of the cARTographyTO ad takeover project.
“The type ‘TBCo.’ stands for the Toronto Brick Company which was historically based at the Brick Works. I live near the Don Valley, and I love visiting the Brick Works. It’s also interesting to encounter bricks like this when walking the shore of Lake Ontario, across town from the Brick Works. It’s not uncommon though to find these. Many of the old bricks that the city was built with have been turned to rubble and used as fill to expand the edge of the city out into the lake.
Besides the charm of holding a worn building block of Toronto with old type on it, the letters ‘TBCo.’ take on new meaning for me now. I read them as “To Be Continued” – a reminder that the story of our city is constantly being written, and that we have an important part to play in that. What is the future city that we want? How will graphic design – and decisions as seemingly small as choosing a typeface – help us to get there?”
These are the types of questions that informed STUDIO JAYWALL and LOKI ‘s upcoming show at Cut The Cheese, one of the newest restaurants in the Junction. Reading/Writing the Junctionopens tonight as part of Toronto Design Offsite but will continue on display until February 28th.
“In a rapidly changing neighbourhood, how does the past meet the future? Through the documentation, re-imagining, and re-composition of vernacular storefront signage, lettering and typography, we present a visual commentary on the changing face of the Junction. We look at how the old and new co-exist – what stays and what gets left behind – in an attempt to spark a conversation about hopes for the Junction’s future.”
Another artifact Jay brought along was the Jane Jacobs pin he always showcases somewhere on his person. Toronto loves their Jane! When I moved to Toronto my (re)introduction to the city I thought I knew from growing up close by was the unknown stories uncovered through Jane’s Walks around the city.
“I always wear Jane on my jacket or bandana. I like having her company as I’m riding, walking, or working in the city. She’s a powerful icon of citizen-led city-building (especially for Torontonians), and the triad of intelligence, love, and resistance.”
The story behind the “W” and why Jay decided to bring it speaks to the ethos of Jay’s way of working.
“This is an artifact from my York/Sheridan Design undergrad class grad show exhibition “YSDN 2010.” The “W” pointed to a table of work created by students whose last names started with W (that’s me). I didn’t actually design this, it’s a typeface that was custom designed by my classmate Jonathon Yule for the exhibition. It’s a simple reminder of my roots and how I’m part of the collective – like how the W is just one of 26 letters in the alphabet, but no other letter can do the job of the W. In fact, one of the slogans of our show was “The whole is the sum of its parts.” This idea relates to my studio’s work, in that we do projects that contribute to the collective good of society.”
Another example of Jay’s love of typographic expression is this shirt produced by STUDIO JAYWALLfor the band Currents.
“We’ve all heard that money doesn’t grow on trees. That was true only until we made this illustration for Ottawa-based post-punk band Currents. The hand-lettered band name fuses into the roots of a money-bearing tree, whose character suits the aggressiveness of the music. We printed the 2-colour illustration onto t-shirts and posters, which have been a hit with fans across North America.”
As designers we are constantly scanning our surroundings to take in and then synthesize what we see. The hundreds, possibly thousands of hours, I have spent walking through Toronto has made me understand it better and helped me find its patterns as well as its anomalies. Jay’s way of scanning the city is on his bike. A passionate advocate for a bike-friendly Toronto, Jay is a member of Cycle Toronto and collaborated with the Urban Repair Squad on “street art pieces drawing attention to cycling issues in the city.”
I like that Jay’s way of living is his way of working. They are one in the same. I would say that the most important (although unintentional) artifact of Toronto design that Jay brought along was his bike. Cycling “gives me a ground-level perspective on the city that informs my work. With my studio working a lot on sustainable city-building projects, where environmental and social issues intersect, we get to advocate for bike infrastructure in our own visual way.”
No doubt those future hours that Jay spends engaging with the city while on wheels will bring us more wonderful visuals that may someday become someone else’s artifacts for good design in Toronto!
Another year of Pecha Kucha and TO DO with Vivien Leung.
My first memory of Vivien Leung was of this beautifully dressed woman pitching Pecha Kucha at a Design with Dialogue meetup co-hosted with TO DO. After that we kept randomly intersecting each other at street corners as we were running off to some event because we are both the kind of people who believe that community building is vital and participating online is not the same as showing up in person.
You can sense that Vivien is the type of individual to insert herself gracefully into any context, quickly identify a need and then without missing a beat start to nurture growth. She has played an important part in the emergence of a strong design community in Toronto.
Left to right: Vivien Leung, Libs Elliott, and Jay Wall.
Vivien’s work with Pecha Kucha has made the Toronto chapter the go-to event for the creative class who want to network while being inspired. Tickets always go quickly and today’s TO DO Pecha Kucha is a SOLD OUT event.
Libs Elliott, pictured above beside Vivien, is a past Pecha Kucha presenter and you can get an idea of how Pecha Kucha’s 20 (images) x 20 (seconds each) presentation style works by listening to her talk about the inspiration and process behind her unique quilts. You can also view more Toronto PK presentations on the website.
For the shoot, I asked each person to bring with them something that they felt represented Toronto design. Vivien choose to showcase a 3D printed earrings and necklace set by Hot Pop FactoryToronto’s “3D printing creatives” who specialize in “creative applications of digital fabrication.”
“Vivien stands out as one of our most valuable community-builders in Toronto. She tirelessly coordinates events and connects people across disciplines. The result is a mesh of relationships that activate Toronto’s design community.” ~ Jay Wall
Find out more about Vivien on www.vivienleung.co and follow her on Twitter.
Growing up with Mennonite family around meant quilts were ever present. Because of this I can appreciate the work and the communal effort that go into these blankets that can fetch thousands of dollars at relief sales, but heir aesthetic, often full of feminine florals and wallflower palettes – not my thing. Then I saw Libs’ work – my kind of quilt! Using computer generated code and bold colour combinations Libs’ quilts are not about having a soft presence. They are loud and assertive.
Breaking with tradition while bending the boundaries of craft, technology and design, her creations are like a post-structural take on textiles. You could succinctly wrap up Jacques Derrida in one of these deconstructed babies.
As beautiful as an Eames or van der Rohe chair is right now in Toronto we have what could easily be the next new wave of iconic designers working amongst us. Derek McLeod is one such designer. His work is flawless but without that precious and inaccessible feeling that design can sometimes leave you with.
Not only a furniture designer, Derek also creates beautiful objects – tables and lighting – which all blend in seamlessly with his furniture.
With such great designers milling around the city it’s necessary to continue to build a community of support to foster what is a growing design movement, not just in Toronto, but across Canada.
“There is a funding model in place for various arts and craft based practices in Ontario and Canada, though they are specific about the works not being commercial, i.e. design. It would be fantastic to have the municipal government try to push local manufacturing and design or have the provincial or federal government aim to create more value out of some of the resources available here, i.e. wood that can be turned into furniture instead of being shipped away as planks.”
“Sum Chair” by Derek McLeod, Prototype Section of IDS ’12. Image by Leah Snyder.
Ditch Home Sense. Shop on Dundas!
Another way to support Toronto designers is to shop local for all the things you require for your home. Queen West and King East are the more established design hubs but you can also find amazing design in Parkdale, along Queen East or Dundas West, Ossington (between Dundas / Queen) and in The Junction.
This weekend at the Interior Design Show (IDS) you can head to the Studio North / Prototype and the DesignBoom Mart sections to not only see the latest designs by this city’s creative geniuses but also talk to the makers! To know the person you purchase your piece from is an extra bonus that the Big Box stores will never be able to offer. Also check out the Creative Class section to see what student designers are dreaming up and prototyping.
In the background “Frill Table” by Derek McLeod at Shiny Pretty Things show, Cooper Cole Gallery, TO DO ’13. Image by Leah Snyder.
Sometimes Joy and Derek team up always resulting in something stunning, like their Tufted Bench which can be seen during TO DO at the Ontario Crafts Council.
“This wooden bench makes use of the shaping capabilities of a CNC machining centre to create a surface that emulates tufted upholstery. The top started as a simple slab laminated together with planks cut to match the width of the tufts. The shallow concave ‘pillows’ would present a significant challenge to fabricate with typical woodworking techniques, thus the CNC was employed to sculpt the wood surface. The legs were also fabricated in the same machine by cutting half of the profile, flipping it over into a custom fixture and cutting the other half. Hand sanding and an oil finish complete the bench.” See more about the chair here…
If you haven’t already checked out TO DO in past years then this is the year to get out and find out how truly talented Toronto is.
The chill was chased away though by the warm personalities of TO DO’s Executive Director Sanam Samanian, R & D Director Gelareh Saadatpajouh and Communications Coordinator Michael R. Madjus all rocking their own personal style.
Each year I look forward to this event so I can discover little gems of design located around the festival route in Toronto’s core. This year I am excited to see the Wishbone Table by Alan Hindle of Stacklab and OCAD U’s 3rd edition of Tables, Chairs and Other Unrelated Objects. Also over OCAD U at their Onsite Gallery is Terreform ONE (Open Network Ecology) and the show Biological Urbanism: An Opera of Disciplines from Architecture, Landscape, Urban Design, Biology, Engineering and Art. Running until February 22 Terreform ONE is a
“New York-based design group that promotes environmentally conscious urban planning. Its projects are an exciting mixture of architecture, landscape, urban design, biology, engineering and art and it is dedicated to finding innovative solutions for sustainability in energy, transportation, city infrastructure and waste management. The works featured in this exhibition at Onsite [at] OCAD U highlight Terreform ONE’s interest in incorporating living organisms in design, and advancing the notion of sustainability beyond a popularized mainstream rhetoric.”
And of course there is the Gladstone Hotel’s Come Up To My Room show (#CUTMR) – one of the most celebrated mashup design-craft-art shows of the year in this city!
For this MIXED BAG MAG edition of #MashUPStyle for #TODO14 Sanam, Michael and Gelareh showcased second hand finds from mothers’ closets, far-away and nearby vintage stores as well as some local designers like North Standard, jewellery designer Yasaman Pishvai (Void Jeweler) glasses by festival Sponsor iconic eye-wear designers Cutler and Gross.
All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.
DanceWeekend’14 by Dance Ontario is here! Starting tonight at 7pm at Fleck Dance Theatre some of the best dancers and choreographers in Toronto will be showcasing their work through until Sunday evening. For the price of $10 per day you can drop in and see the talent.