Wednesday, December 11

Gifts by Artists

It's that time of year again - present buying time! Christmas also happens to coincide with another happy time of the year - the end of fall semester. My final project (post to follow) was completed last week, and soon after I had the time and clear mind to squeeze in a few art events. The first one I want to talk about is Gifts by Artists at Art Metropole. The gallery/shop is a place I'd heard about in my early years at school as the place I have to visit since I'm into text, zines, and artist books. Fair enough - it's small and filled with unique, small edition, and independently published books by artists. Basically the hippest bookstore you've ever been in.
I had the chance last Thursday to go to the opening of Gifts by Artists. There was some beautiful work there. I had perused the site closely before heading over but didn't plan on getting anything. My eye was caught, however, by the beautiful Risograph printed calendar by the cash desk. It was printed locally at Paper Pusher and is incredible to look at. I'm eagerly awaiting the new year for yet another reason.

Friday, November 15

Arts & Crafts, Part One

I've had an amazing opportunity lately to be a part of a local artist-run cultural centre as an intern for the school year. Part of my responsibilities as a programming assistant is putting together a hands-on free workshop for January. I racked my brain trying to think of ideas. I wanted something that would be appealing to a wide range of people - art students, and anyone else. I also wanted to do something a bit unique. There have been some amazing workshops over the last couple of years at the space, and I wanted mine to be amazing among them. I decided on needle felting. It's a process that can yield two- or three dimensional projects, and can result in really "crafty" looking results, but also more "fine art" applications, depending on how the artist approaches their work. 

I was first introduced to felting in 2005 when I was studying textiles in London (Ontario). The process uses wool fibres and a special needle which pulls the fibres together to fuse them. As research for the workshop, I've decided to work on a few projects over the next few weeks to use as examples. The first was directly taken from this post on A Beautiful Mess, aptly titled "Needle Felting 101". 

I scaled the DIY down from a blanket to a scarf (no way doI have time to needle felt an entire blanket right now) and I decided to go with simple black-on-white for my Swiss cross pattern. 

In this first image, you can see my stencil laid on the white wool scarf, and the tufts of black wool on top, ready to be pressed in with the needle. 

This cross is about three quarters of the way felted. It's still a little puffy, but it's getting there. Each cross takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to complete, and the cross pattern is three inches long.

It's getting there! This project is perfect to work on while watching tv. I'm still only about halfway done, but I hope to finish it over the next few days so I can get to work on some three-dimensional projects. 

That's all for now. I really hope to get to some more art shows over the next week or two, particularly David Bowie Is at the AGO and David Cronenberg at the gallery at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. 


Friday, October 11

Career Day/Student Night at the Power Plant

On Wednesday evening, The Power Plant hosted an evening (Career Day/Student Night) for students to get to know artists and to begin thinking about next/alternate steps they may take on the way toward becoming artists professionally. The artists who came, all of whom were represented in the Micah Lexier show I wrote about recently, were at different stages in their careers but were all willing to hear out students and answer questions about their practices.
I wasn't sure what the format of the night would take and much to my chagrin, it was set up like speed-dating. There were two concentric circles set up with artists sitting in one circle and students rotating around the circle of facing chairs. Each conversation was to last three minutes.
I skipped the first round because as soon as the prospect of sitting and speaking to these people came up, my heart began to race and my stomach churned. I need to learn to stop having such visceral reactions to meeting new people. I reminded myself that the artists who volunteered to do this knew what they were in for, and many probably felt just as "on the spot" as I did. I also knew that this may be a once in a lifetime experience and it would be foolish to pass it by.

I came up with a question to pose to each one. Since I'm studying curatorial practice in school, I wanted to get a better understanding of the curator-artist relationship. I asked each one about that and got quite varying answers. I got a few negative reactions: an artist to told me he hated "being told what to do". Most answers, however, were quite positive. I got a good understanding of how collaborative the artist-curator relationship needs to be, and how most artists just wanted a curator who speaks to them and respects them. That sounds reasonable - isn't that what everyone wants?

All in all, I'm glad I took the chance. It wasn't easy, but if working with artists is part of the career I'm working toward, what better way than to jump in with both feet?

image taken from @ThePowerPlantTO


This was the first year that I participated in Nuit Blanche here in Toronto. In the past, I've generally avoided the night because much like Halloween and New Years, it's generally an excuse for people to get drunk and make a spectacle of themselves. At the end of the day, I'm an introvert through and through so it's hard for me to venture out into the drunken art school masses to view art projects. In theory, however, Nuit Blanche is a beautiful concept: from dusk 'til dawn, the city is transformed and taken over by art installations, all of which encourage interaction with the people who come to see it.

This year, I decided to volunteer. One of the most important decisions I made when returning to school is that I would get involved in any way I could. This is the only way to meet people and start forming connections so it was crucial for me to branch out. What better way than being part of a Nuit Blanche installation? This is the project I helped out with. There was a camper van set up with a projection about the project, called Carl Wagan, in the window. It was created by artist Shannon Gerard. My level of involvement was to dress in a scout uniform and hand out "participant" badges and information about the project. There was also a campfire with marshmallows to roast.

This is where I spent the evening! 

My "uniform" (I chose the sash that had this badge on it specifically)

The badges we were handing out to the people who stopped by. 

I was there helping out from six until midnight, after working seven until four at my day job. It was a long day, but I still wanted to walk home so that I could see a few things on the way. I was, however, physically and mentally drained from the day and just wanted to curl up in bed. This sign on the ground pointing to nothing wrapped up my night perfectly.

Ancestry & Artistry (at the Textile Museum of Canada)

I love the Textile Museum of Canada. It's very close to where I work and they have an amazing permanent collection in addition to their exhibitions. I have a fascination with artifacts and I love looking at one of a kind objects from the past. My dream job would probably be a conservator or other such career that would allow me to interact with museum objects. 
The other week I made a point of stopping by the Textile Museum and I checked out their current exhibition, Ancestry and Artistry. The exhibit features traditional dress from Guatemala's indigenous communities. The description on the website does a much better job of explaining context of the displayed items than I can, but I can talk the impact the show had on me. 

The first thing to strike me was the colours. The intricately woven and embroidered garments were thick with threads of many different colours and it was incredibly tempting to reach out and touch every item (I didn't, of course). Everything was beautifully displayed and descriptions were given for each item, providing information about how the fabrics were crucial to religious ceremony, political statements, and the tourism industry.  

Some examples of masterful embroidery stood out in their simplicity. The image below also shows the loom still attached, giving insight into the simple process that yields such beautiful fabrics. I used to study textiles, a long time ago, before starting university (the first time). I was lucky to be part of a very hands-on textile program and so I'll always have a soft spot for craft. Natural materials, the smell of wool, and the methodic process of hand weaving are things that I'll always feel lucky to have learned about.

Finally, this image was of a pair of child's pants - look at that embroidery! Is it wrong for me to geek out a little bit about that blue jay? These were beautiful. 

As I said above, I have a real love for objects and artifacts from the past. Even when I go running through neighbourhoods with old homes I get distracted looking at details like the brickwork and stained glass windows. I delight in looking at hundreds year old mundane objects like combs and pens. My mind wanders to the people who may have used them and the journey that object had to go through to get to a place where I could view it. None of the textiles in the Ancestry and Artistry exhibit are quite that old (all twentieth century, and even some more recent) but they still have the same appeal of being hand made and of having a history that led them from the maker's hands to Toronto (and me).  

Sunday, September 29

Some Recent Work

While I haven't been making new work as often lately, I wanted to do a quick post about a series of two I did during the summer. I found the patterned paper at The Paper Place and really like them both so I decided to do something with them. It helped that I had two empty 16" x 20" frames just sitting in my closet waiting to be filled. 

I'm still doing a lot with text, and I took a summer class in which I made a zine (post on that soon). These I did for myself. I'm not too crazy about them, to be honest. I like the patterns and I like the text, but something about them falls flat for me. Oh well, the most important thing to me is that I make new work when I'm inspired to, and see the results as developments toward something rather than always trying to produce perfectly finished work all the time. Anyway, that's all for now. 

Saturday, September 28

One, Two, and More Than Two

One of my goals related to going back to school has been to go to more shows, openings, and art-related events and then writing about them. I figure that if I'm trying to get into a career doing this stuff, I should practice now. I need to get into the habit of seeing and thinking about the Toronto art scene (hopefully that doesn't sound as pretentious as I think it does) so here I am, writing about one of the bigger openings to happen this fall. 

The Power Plant and Micah Lexier certainly don't need my amateur voice speaking about them, but I'm really doing this for myself. Here are my thoughts on One, Two, and More Than Two - a survey of work by Micah Lexier. 

It was not easy for me to go to this show, which opened on September 20th. Show openings are crowded and are just as much (or more) of a social event than they are about viewing art. I'm always anxious in social situations and I tend to become extremely introverted and "in my own head" at these types of things. I asked myself about a thousand times as I put on my makeup, adjusted my belt, and drank a few glasses of wine whether I should go. Of course I knew I had to (this is a huge part of my dream job, right?) so I went. There were tonnes of people, and they were all there to catch up with one another. Luckily though, there was also a lot of beautiful art to see. And by a lot, I mean a lot

The premise of the show is that "One" is personal projects by the artist that makeup a pseudo self-portrait of him at various stages in his career. This included the installation Self Portrait as a Wall Text, which is a floor-to-ceiling descriptive work in which the black text represents his life lived so far and the white wall is for things that have yet to happen (it's much more simple in person than it sounds). I was also pleasantly surprised by the video work This One, That One.  I'm normally not much of a fan of video based work, but this one spoke to minimalist in me, with a stark white background and hand rendered drawings on cardboard. The tableaus made by the artist's hands were repetitive and almost calming. They were careful, delicate, and almost whimsical. It spoke to the nature of collecting and building and ended up being my favourite aspect of the show. 

"Two" was made up of two-person collaborations between the artist and various writers. Equal Texts is shown below, though not exactly as it appeared in the gallery. This collaboration with Christian Bök was striking in its simplicity and in the way the two have completely abandoned image in this artwork in favour of text and language. 

This brings me to "More Than Two" - a curatorial project in which Lexier brought together the work of 101 Toronto artists at varying stages in their careers. The works, varying in size and media, were placed delicately in vitrines and each item was numbered. The numbers corresponded to a list of each artist, title, and media information. Though the room was crowded, I was able to lose myself among the displays. I took in every single piece that was put under the glass, some of which was beautiful, some intriguing, and some quite inspiring. I watched as people pointed to items under glass that they liked, discussed the different pieces with their friends, and excitedly circled the numbers they liked on their lists. It was a joy to look at the tiny artworks on display and I may even say it was just as fun to watch people as they experienced the show. 

When I left and began the walk home I felt foolish for having been so nervous, but also overwhelmed and even a little intimidated by all the people there, casually breezing through the crowds, kissing cheeks, and showing off their avant-garde haircuts. I turned my thoughts to the work I'd seen and asked myself what story I thought the artist and curator were trying to tell. What was the common thread linking the vast show and curatorial project? The work showed spanned several decades and brought together over one hundred artists and yet felt extremely cohesive, even minimalistic at times. The work was all quite intimate and delicate, even personal and much of it autobiographical. Much of it demanded close-up viewing and it was this feeling of closeness that brought the show together for me. Even though the world of artists, art shows, and crowds seems huge, it's coming up close and letting it all get drowned out by the art that makes it bearable. This show, a culmination of the work of a successful Canadian artist, may have been the perfect way for me to wet my feet in this whole art institution thing. 

Friday, September 27

Sneak Peak

 Here's a small preview of my planned upcoming posts. I'll be back before too long.


I'm Back - and Here's What I Want to Do.

It's been a long time since I've been here. It's not for lack of doing work, or for lack of focus. If anything, I've been quite busy working on a lot of new things. The main of those things is that I'm back in school. I'm working on a second BFA, this time at OCADU in Art Criticism and Curatorial Practice.

I've still been making new work, but much less of it lately. I've been working on some other goals (excluding school) - I've been eating way better and blogging about that. I've also been working on getting myself in shape for a half marathon, which I run in about three weeks.

And that's it. It's quite shocking sometimes how fast time goes and here I am, with a birthday looming around the corner, goals being made and met, and some more goals adding up. I'm back because I need to write for myself, my education, and I need a creative outlet.

Hopefully you'll be seeing a lot more of me here (again).

Friday, March 29

Home Improvement

I've hated being away from this blog for about a month now. All the excitement about moving into a new, huge apartment with space finally dedicated to making art and a new drafting table and nearly one month in and I've made art. What's the deal? I've been so excited for so long about moving into this place that much of my spare time has been spent getting the place liveable and that includes some DIY stuff. I did have some time yesterday to go to the One of a Kind arts & crafts show here in Toronto, so I plan on doing a post on some of my favourites shortly. I the meantime, here's a little taste of my new home - a bathroom shelf I installed yesterday.

Sunday, February 3

Found on FFFFound

Sometimes when I'm bored or lacking inspiration, I look to ffffound. You never know what you'll find but from photography to typography to cat .gifs, there's always something new to look at. Here's a few I saw the other day, as I was gearing up to make some new work.

Monday, January 28

Photographer Jon Duenas

I saw these beautiful, dreamy photographs by Jon Duenas while perusing Design Sponge. Grace (of Design Sponge) mentions how they bring summer to mind, and after looking at more of his work online, I can't agree more.
I've been so busy lately - finishing this year's sketchbook project entry, working through a couple of my New Year's resolutions, and preparing to move in March has got me pretty eager for things coming up. It seems that last few weeks have been a flurry of planning and preparation and there's no stopping it for the next few weeks. All I can hope for is that my hard work and planning pays off and that I can enjoy a bit of the calmness captured in these photos.

Here's a link to the Design Sponge blurb, and here's a link to the artist's website.

Wanderlust at the Textile Museum of Canada

Back in November, I visited the Textile Museum of Canada. After studying textiles in school back in 2005-2006, I haven't done much research or learning into what's going on in fibre-based art in the last few years. What I remember loving about studying textiles was how traditional and unchanging textiles can be, while at the same time there is seemingly endless opportunity for innovation.

On at the museum while I was there was an exhibition called Wanderlust. It had works by three artists who are Canadian, yet who live quite nomadic lifestyles and call several places home. The piece that caught my attention, pictured above, is by Jordan Bennett - a Newfoundland/Labrador artist who combines objects from popular and skate culture with an exploration into his Mi'kmaq heritage. I was struck by the simplicity of this piece. In the context of the textile museum, it feels at home with the permanent collection of centuries-old traditional pieces - relics of ancient cultures with equally ancient art practices. The catalogue tag on the shoe rienforces this image, yet the fact that the beading appears on a pair of throw-away skateboard sneakers sheds a contemporary light on this work and shows us that this culture is not so ancient after all. 

Here's a link to his website, and artist statement which sums up his intentions better than I can. 
For some very interesting reading about Native issues and popular culture this is one of my favourite blogs - Native Appropriations


Sunday, January 27

My last daily photo

This is the last daily photo I took, on January 20th. It's a photo of a photo that I have stuck on my fridge with a magnet - and it's one of the only family photos I have on display in my home. It's of a very young me with my dad. January 20th is his birthday, so I thought it fitting to take a pic of my favourite photo of us.

Here are some more of my daily photos. As I said in my last photo-a-day post, I found it challenging to find an opportunity for a photo each day. Sometimes I'd find myself staring into every corner, and still finding nothing inspiring. While it made me look at the world a little differently, it also began to feel forced. I want to keep taking more photos, and maybe this will evolve into a weekly thing.


A couple weeks ago I sent my completed entry to the 2013 Sketchbook Project off in the mail. The theme for my book was "dwellings" and I used drawings, hand-drawn and letraset text, and found photography to meet that theme. The entire book can be seen on my website.

Friday, January 11

More photos to finish the week

Here's my daily photos to finish the week. I've come close to forgetting a couple of times, but it's been fun and I'm starting to look at the places I go to everyday a little differently which is, I think, the best anyone can hope to get out if a challenge like this.

Saturday, January 5

Photos to finish the week

I'm doing well so far on my photo-a-day challenge. Here's three more:

New Work In Progress

It's Sketchbook Project time yet again and with the January 15th deadline looming I'm working my way through finishing my book. As always, I'm not as far along as I wish I was, but here are two of the spreads I've finished so far.

Many of the images are photographs blown up and copied from vintage National Geographic magazines. My book theme is "dwellings" so the images I chose remind me of home. They're all landscapes and images of nature. For text, I'm trying to hand-draw much of it, in conjunction with distressed letraset transfers. I'm looking forward to competing the project, I just wish I didn't feel so rushed. With a trip to my hometown and a move on the near horizon, I'm a bit distracted to say the least.