Canadians often need external validation before we acknowledge our own for their talents and accomplishments. Artists, actors, athletes and designers often have to make a name for themselves in the US or in Europe before those of us at home will soften up to them or even recognize their name. The phenomenon takes place on a small scale within Canada from province to province and city to city. A band from Edmonton is nothing until it goes to Montreal.
When I stopped by Parkdale’s Shopgirls, a boutique gallery specializing in Canadian designs, I asked the girls to show me Toronto designers. While at first it seemed as though I’d stumped them — such an odd question too ask – I was shown collection after collection from local designers, entire displays unwittingly all Toronto.
Frank Gehry not only has the distinction of being the most well known Toronto-born architect, he’s probably the most well know in the world if not the most recognizable. His deconstructive, form defying structures grace the biggest cities in the world from Adu Dhabi to Germany, and even right here in Toronto with the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Gehry’s style is distinctly his own and Toronto holds no claim to it but there is a style of architecture that is all Toronto. Two in fact: The Annex style and Bay & Gable.
Growing up in London, Ontario, a young Theo Dimson developed a lifelong fascination with the geometry of the night’s sky. While his curiosities also tended towards the dramatic here on Earth, with an interest in the bold graphics of comic books and cinema, Dimson’s artistic gaze would forever be locked skyward.
Everyone gets excited for Spring once the warm weather hits. You can’t help but start planning your garden, or if you’re not the type to get into the dirt you’re at least thinking of ways to spruce up that patio or balcony. The best part about planning those purchases is you can get everything you need from designers and craftspersons right here in Toronto.
Harold Kurschenska cut his teeth at the University of Toronto Press starting in 1957 as an apprentice compositor where he quickly became a stand out. After gaining his journeyman’s papers Kurschenska soon left the world of metal plates and ink for a drafting desk and the life of type design. A founding member of the Guild for Hand Printers (f. 1956) and President of the Typography Designers of Canada in 1965 just as the organization was changing it’s name and scope to become the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, Kurschenska gave striking and dynamic publications to the academia of Toronto, Canada and the world.
This winter is possibly an exception to the rule, but generally by this time of year it’s easy to make comparisons between Canada and Scandinavia. Cultures that rise out of harsh conditions would seem to have the same aesthetic and sentiment. While Canada may have fallen into the trappings of an ostensibly typical North American consumption-heavy culture there is now a real desire for the humble, artisan crafted goods. Objects with purpose, designed using natural materials used creatively and thoughtfully, meant to last forever. Canadians crave a cleanse and now want to embrace what their grandmothers knew to be gospel; buy once, buy well.
This past Tuesday the Gladstone Hotel, in keeping with it’s commitment to foster and champion the art and design communities in Toronto, hosted the 12th annual INSITU Chair Show. In what has become a highlight of Toronto’s design calendar the showcase is the culmination of eight weeks of intensive conceptualization and fabrication for by 2nd year students in Humber’s Industrial Design degree program. At the events students present their prototypical chairs to the public and to a panel of judges, made up of professionals and the top working designers in the GTA.
It’s fair to say that each one of us has sat in a class trying our very best to focus on anything but what’s going on up at the blackboard. What I often paid a lot of attention to was the illustrations in my textbook. Often wondering just who had drawn that tissue landscape of cervical epithelium in my grade ten biology text back in the days before computer aided illustration was even thought possible.
Even with a nicely designed iPhone app and the best laid plans no one can see all that Toronto’s Design Week has to offer. Arguably the biggest week for designers and craftspeople in the city, events took place in galleries and other public spaces across the city at the end of January. Outside of the main event, the Interior Design Show which entices creative types from all over the globe, there were smaller exhibitions and interactive events.
Toronto is the epitome of this experiment we call Canada; home to practically all of the world’s cultural groups, and over 100 languages and dialects. The shear diversity that Toronto has been blessed with sets it apart from many other cities around the globe. Diversity breeds innovation, reveals standouts, fosters collaboration. The arts and design particularly benefit from this. If artists and designers in Toronto’s art community decide to pursue a higher education, they can choose from a deluge of art and design degrees.
I’ve often joked that what people first notice about me is that I’m the only girl in the meeting. Realistically that isn’t even true because the gender divide in design is so wide that people probably didn’t notice. In 2010 Industrial Designers Katherine Morley and Erin McCutcheon found that an up coming exhibit didn’t list a single female participant, and when they spoke to the organizers about this oversight they hadn’t noticed.
For the past nine years the Gladstone Hotel has been offering up an alternative take on Toronto Design Week called Come Up To My Room. Those artists and designers chosen are given one of 11 rooms or one of 14 public spaces throughout the hotel in which to let their imagination run wild. Curators pick participants based on their work and experience, and they put a lot of faith behind their choices. While there is an ongoing dialog about public space with the makers, the curators know very little about the spaces being made in the hotel. Like the rest of us they have to wait for the reveal.