DESIGN IN CANADA: Fitting it all together

Design in Canada is alive and well.

I make it no secret that my favourite part of IDS is and always will be Studio North and Prototype. This is where you get to experience design that is less about trends and more about design thinking and process.


Prototyping a chair from Tony Round on Vimeo.

The other reason I love Studio North and Prototype is because it showcases Canadian design talent. Walking into boutique hotels, urban restos and condo model suites in this country one might think that the only options out there for interior designers are the unchallenged classics. The result – a predictable bore often referencing designers who are cold in the grave. Le Corbusier is long gone but his furniture and overpriced knockoffs are as ubiquitous as ghosts on Halloween. In a world still dominated by Mies and Eames it’s always refreshing to see interior designers and architects take a chance on artists and designers who are still alive and kicking.

When we get the opportunity to see interior designers incorporate more locally sourced art and design the results are far more interesting. One recent example of designers who did just that is the stunning Skwachàys Lodge in Vancouver.“Skwachàys (pronounced skwatch-eyes) Lodge and Residence at 31 West Pender Street in Vancouver houses a fair trade gallery, boutique hotel and an urban Aboriginal artist residence. 

Owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), the facility provides 24 shelter rate apartments for Aboriginal people at risk of homelessness, and two social enterprises that support the Society’s mission and financial sustainability.

The top three floors contain 18 boutique hotel units for socially responsible travelers and Aboriginal patients travelling to Vancouver from remote areas to receive medical treatment. The hotel units have recently been transformed with the assistance of a team of artists, designers, and suppliers.

Find out more…

In Toronto we have the Gladstone Hotel. Along with rooms designed by artists the Gladstone is also regular venue for local art and design with events like Come Up To My Room, part of Toronto Design Offsite.

“Internationally recognized as Canada’s favourite Boutique Art Hotel, the Gladstone uniquely blends historical Victorian architecture with contemporary luxury, downtown culture and whole lot of art, making it an iconic Toronto hub for locals and international travelers alike.

Supporting 37 artist designed hotel rooms,  over 70 art exhibitions a year, 4 diverse event venue spaces and 2 restaurants, all on a strong values-based mandate, the Gladstone strives to foster an authentic experience for its guests and the local community.”

Find out more…

My discoveries at Toronto’s Interior Design Show.

Each designer featured below was someone I encountered at IDS 2015 who approached their design thoughtfully, thinking about how to take good design and snap it into place – simply and beautifully.

TAT CHAO

I have featured Tat Chao a couple of times on Mixed Bag Mag and have been a fan since falling in love with his up-cycled candle holders at the One of Kind Show a few years back. This year he arrived at IDS ’15 with products that flat pack well and assemble in seconds – “no glue, no screws.”

DIÈSE or “hashtag” in English “is a flower vase made from four pieces of 3mm clear acrylic and a test tube. The way the pieces are assembled will result in different shapes. No glue, no screws are necessary. Just slide the slots into each other.”

(view opening image to see how DIÈSE is configured into a hashtag)

“Part of the “NO GLUE NO SCREWS” series, TRIÈDRE is made from three pieces of laser cut acrylic and simply assembled together by sliding the slots into each other. The result is an ultra-modern and scuptural object where the content (fruits, vegetables, bread, etc) are beautifully displayed.”

Follow Tat and see more of his work:
Website – www.tatchao.com
Twitter – @tatchao
Instagram – @tatchao

black stroke

CUT AND FOLD

Another brilliant flat packer project is the Origami Chair by Cut and Fold (Andrea Kordos & Tony Round). One of the DesignLines loves selections this chair moves like the wings of a butterfly to flap lightly into place.

“The Origami Chair is inspired by papercraft – the idea that folding simple shapes can create amazing forms. We’ve designed the chair to be simple and beautiful. The origami chair’s nest-like shape is generous and ergonomic, while the thin baltic birch shell keeps it efficient and minimal. The facets of the shell are connected with piano hinges – this give the chair some flex for added comfort. The thin shell sits on top of an elegantly folded steel frame. It’s available in different finishes including natural wood veneer, solid-colour laminates, and leather or cowhide.”


The Origami Chair from Tony Round on Vimeo.

Follow Cut and Fold and see more of their work:
Website – www.cut-fold.com
Twitter – @CutFold

black stroke

EUGENE PAUNIL
Eugene has been on Mixed Bag Mag before but as a visual artist which is how I first encountered his work at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit many moons ago as well as more recently at Manifesto’s 2012 art show (see the eagle sculpture).

But Eugene’s first love is design and he attended OCAD U’s Industrial Design program. This year he brought “Light W8” to Prototype. An elegant idea, the light uses river rocks to displace the weight to adjust the height of the lamp. Designed for easy shipping the lamp comes apart and can be put back together will minimal effort.

Follow Eugene and see more of his work:
Website – www.eugenepaunil.com
Twitter – @eugenepaunil
Instagram – @paunilstudio

black stroke

GEOF RAMSAY
Geof, like Eugene and Tat, has also been on Mixed Bag Mag for a feature on IDS ’12. This year’s contribution to Prototype won him the award as well as DesignLines Magazine’s DesignLines loves badge. It’s when you are up close and personal with this chair, from the Euclid Collection, that you can see the stunning joinery and the hex motif reiterated.

“Inspired by the purity of geometric form, is a three part collection of products that fit together perfectly to create unique groupings and combinations. The forms of the hexagon, triangle and rhombus are repeated throughout the entirety of each piece, shaping the legs, profiles and joinery. The Euclid Collection is crafted from solid oak and is available in a natural or black satin finish.”

Follow Geof and see more of his work:

Website – www.geoframsay.com

Facebook – /geoframsaydesign
Twitter – @geoframsay

 

It’s a great time to consider Canadian and Indigenous designers and artists. There is more than enough talent here and it can feel good to invest your dollars in the business of someone you can actually speak with – whose blood is still warm in their veins. Knoll won’t shut down if a few Urbanites forego purchasing Saarinen’s design cliche of a table for their condo but as a buyer making that kind of decision may be enough to keep the next Ray Eames in business.


Cut and Fold at IDS15 from Tony Tound on Vimeo.

Above images of the Interior Design Show by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. All other images provided by each designer.

TORONTO DESIGN OFFSITE: Vivien Leung’s energy infuses the Toronto design community

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 Factory Toronto’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.

Keep up-to-date on the latest Pecha Kucha news via Facebook and Twitter.

For all of the Toronto Design Offsite programming information click here

#TODO15

Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

TORONTO DESIGN OFFSITE: Quilter & Textile Designer Libs Elliott opens at Cutler and Gross

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.

Libs’ work is gorgeous and if you want to see more head over to Cutler and Gross (758 Queen St. W) to view her display “Wrap Yourself in Code” as part of Toronto Design Offsite.

Follow Libs on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

(Above image of Leah Snyder photographing Libs Elliott by Jay Wall)

Libs rocks some local designers below.

Ring by Vitaly
Brooch by Julie Moon
Glasses by Cutler and Gross

Libs’ quilt patterns were in collaboration with designer and technologist Joshua Davis. Read more about the process here.

Libs is seen here with Vivien Leung  (Pecha Kucha) and Jay Wall (“Reading/Writing the Junction” at Cut the Cheese)

Posts on Vivien and Jay to follow…!

#TODO15


Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

DANCE THIS WEEKEND: Jasmyn Fyffe’s “Pulse” at Next Stage Theatre Festival Toronto

Asian man singing and pointing while young black woman smiles in the background

Factory Theatre on Bathurst hosts Next Stage Theatre Festival Toronto

Running until this coming Sunday, Toronto Choreographer Jasmyn Fyffe’s “Pulse” is a crowd pleaser. And don’t expect to stay in your seats! This performance is interactive at just the right moments – when the music makes you want to move the most.

young black man dancing with young white woman

“Inspired by the sounds of Motown, this contemporary dance work takes us back to an era where music was felt deep down in the soul. It explores our affinity for human interaction as the dancers ride an emotional landscape of conflicting needs and desires. A mix of high-energy sequences and intimate moments, Pulse is a show that will have you on your feet dancing and then humming the tunes long after the show is over.”

Pulse performance times:

Fri Jan 16 – 5:00pm
Sat Jan 17 – 9:30pm
Sun Jan 18 – 4:15pm
Tickets $15

More info…

young black woman dancingyoung black woman dancing
group of young multiracial dancers thanking the crowdAbove images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

Next Stage Theatre Festival is “12 Days of the Best Indie Theatre in Canada.” More information on NSTF and performance schedule here.

Also on this weekend is Dance Ontario. Always a Mixed Bag Mag fave, this weekend event at the Fleck Theatre features the amazing and diverse dance talent we have in Toronto.

More info on Dance Ontario’s website.

poster with collage of dancers of different cultural backgrounds performing

ALEX & ALMA: Alex Colville Retrospective closing this weekend in Toronto & Alma Duncan next weekend in Ottawa

Alex Colville was never an artist I considered as an interest. The experience of viewing the Art Gallery of Ontario’s current retrospective of his work left me considering otherwise.

Alma Duncan was never an artist I even knew to consider but her painting Young Black Girl (1940) is one of my favourites in the AGO’s collection. I had no knowledge of Alma at the time but I was drawn to the demure painting that used to hang in the round room to the right of the Old Masters Collection along with a Picasso from his Blue Period, and a pulsating Kees van Dongen. The room held a rotation of portraits and this enigmatic and somber piece made me return again and again.

Now the painting hangs at the Ottawa Art Gallery for one more week. It is positioned on the wall that intersects Alma’s bold self-portraits that greet me with a commanding series of stares.

There are many ways to conceptually enter into both the Alma and Alex exhibits but my pathway into understanding their work more deeply is through the relationships that they each present.

ALMA DUNCAN: The relationship one has with oneself. 

Alma’s portraits of herself are entirely different than my introduction to her work through her subject of the black girl who sits slightly askew and closed off from the viewer. In each painting Alma positions herself squarely, looking beyond the frame to her audience. It’s as if she is daring those who might question her authority as an artist. She began painting at a time when the art world offered little opportunity for female intervention into male dominated spaces. Even as she paints her young self with braids bound at their ends with red bows (Self-Portrait with Braids, 1940) there is a clear message she sends as she stands affirming her right to participate. She paints herself wearing a pair of trousers instead of a skirt. When I encounter this row of paintings with such a strong female presence my thought is that I am disappointed that it took this long for me to find her.

In the main room, behind one dividing wall, are her renderings of mines and the machinery of industry from her time spent documenting a developing Canada focused on trade and resources; on the other side abstracted sketches of grass and landscapes softened with snow. We can see how far she travelled in her journey to explore her visual language but its when I enter the second room and experience the blood red wall upon which her Woman Series (1965) is hung that I have a longing accompanied by an intense regret that my younger self didn’t experience these at an earlier moment in my own odyssey.

I would have loved to have experienced her boldness in my youth when looking for creative and conceptual heros sheros. The clean cut demarcation between the black and the white is not set in opposition to each other but rather as a compliment from one to the other.

They are magnificent.

As I come closer I sense a movement in the shimmering of the strokes. It reminds me of the shadowy depictions of the Shroud of Turin also known as the Shroud of Christ. But this analogy is not quite right. Rather than a covering used for the dead I realize it reminds me more of a vibrating sonogram where you can detect a pulse, a heart beat, a life. This is why I find them so magnetic because as I walk towards a particulate one that draws me close I see the defining outline of a woman’s torso reflected upon itself emerging from the inky deep. Although she moves from realism in her early work to this period of experimentation with abstraction in the 60s the strength and intensity of that young woman with the braids and red bows is the anchoring attribute we find repeated here.

Alma’s work may visually change, flux and bend but the explorative relationship she has with herself as a female artist is what moves me. It’s why I find myself coming back to this newly discovered piece over and over again not wanting to say good-bye.

ALEX COLVILLE: The relationship one has with their lover and life partner.

When I am at the Alex Colville show its also a female relationship that grounds me into the exhibit. I make a few laps around the rooms, weaving in and out of the crowd, to finally sit down somewhere mid-point and watch a short film. The video is narrated by Alex’s daughter Ann Kitz and in a few short minutes she poignantly shares with us the timeline of her parents lifetime of love – a 70 year excursion that ends the way it began – together. Alex died just weeks after his wife’s passing.

Exploration by going deep instead of wide.  

After experiencing World War II in his role as a war artist and documenting the liberation at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp it seemed like his marriage, which took place right before he left for war, became the stabilizing factor upon which he was able to build a career alongside raising a healthy family. The partnership with his wife, Rhoda, also an artist, gave him a solid foundation after experiencing the uprooting tension of conflict.

It was through this relationship Alex was able to arrive at both his signature technique and his recognizable aesthetic. Of the painting Nude and Dummy (1950) seen below he reflects that this was when he accomplished what he called his “first good painting.” From this piece we are able to see what is about to come down the road.

His visual journey doesn’t traverse the same distance as Alma’s trajectories. His way of rendering his compositions remains uniform throughout his career. He doesn’t become driven to aesthetic extremes; his loyalty to his signature style allows a deeper exploration into the psychological subtleties of the human condition. Alex’s work was about looking and then re-looking at a location or a person you know so well to find both the consistencies and the anomalies that open up a contemplative space.  He was quoted as saying that “only by living in a little place for a long time can one build up a sort of extensive body of complex knowledge and understanding of what goes on.”

Alex is known for his compositions that convey foreboding messages of something disruptive beyond the horizon but in seeing many of the his works based on Rhoda there is also an undeniably playful spirit that comes through these images of this woman, his wife. We see her at leisure with the figure we can interpret as Alex in the background close enough to be at her call but far enough as to not disturb her relaxation; we see her with her pets and her children and playing the piano while her aging husband sits close by. Over their lifetime Alex portrays her nude and exposed but accessible in her humanness, flaws not banished for the sake of the artist reflecting a perfected muse. She is real and charming, a crisp outline of paint separates her from the background but because we never fully see her face this woman still manages to maintain complexity surrounded by mystery.

Her head is lost inside of a canoe that she portages to another place; she stands with acceptance, a body shaped by age, in front of the old grandfather clock in their home. The image I come to love the most is of Rhoda defiantly naked and flipping the perspective of the world upside down, the cat as a casual witness. I feel it illustrates the adoration Alex had for this woman, at once his muse and the mother of his children. I can sense a chuckle from him and hear laughter from her as she gingerly makes her way down to plant her feet back on the ground. Headstand (1982) becomes the image that I end up visiting again and gain and the one final time to say farewell as the show closes its doors.

Thanks to the AGO & the OAG for providing an opportunity to view the life and work of two important Canadian artists.

Alex Colville closes today Sunday, January 4 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
Alma: The Life and Art of Alma Duncan (1917 – 2004) closes Sunday, January 11 at the Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa.

All above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

 

REMEMBRANCE DAY OTTAWA: Monuments, Memory & the Cultural Amnesia Many Work to Change

Remembrance Day at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument & the National War Memorial.

I will let my images speak for themselves. Information on the people who have served this country:


Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

FREE HUGS & LANGUAGE LESSONS: Savannah Simon teaches us to #SpeakMikmaq

I am not going to tie this up with many words because a few lines will get the message across better than a post full of paragraphs or a lesson in history. What Savannah Simon shared at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s “Power of the Arts Forum” says it all.

Her grandmother had her language beaten out of her in residential school. She found a way back to her mother tongue when she fell in love with Savannah’s grandfather. He re-taught his love the language she had lost.

In residential school her grandmother went 6 years without being hugged. That is why Savannah gives away free hugs, so no one feels the isolation that comes from not being lovingly embraced by another.

Savannah’s other passion is to teach people her language.
#SpeakMikmaq “L’nuisi, it’s that easy.”

Support Indigenous languages and learning. You can find out more information on Savannah on twitter @MsNativeWarrior and on her youtube channel.

Find out more about the Michaëlle Jean Foundation on the website and witness the #PowerofTheArts | #PouvoirDesArts weekend on twitter @Power_OfTheArts.

FYI – If you are interested in learning more about Canada’s complex history with First Peoples join writers Waubgeshig Rice (Anishinaabe), Suzanne Keeptwo (Métis & Irish) along with John Ralston Saul to discuss John’s book “The Comeback” tonight Monday, November 10 at 7 pm Southminster United Church, Ottawa.

More info on the Writers Festival website as well as on Facebook and twitter @WritersFest or #OIWF.

Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

IN MEMORY OF A FALLEN SOLDIER AT THE WAR MONUMENT IN OTTAWA TODAY

Soldier standing on guard in front of monument for World War One

A soldier lost his life today while watching over the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the War Monument, Ottawa. Our thoughts are with the family impacted by the loss of someone they love as well as with the country of Canada. May our leaders act with discretion and wisdom. May they look at the systems that lead to the radicalization of people and take actions that work towards peace rather than promote militarization.

Offering of tobacco wrapped in red cloth beside poppy on Remembrance Day wreath