VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #192: The East Side Culture Crawl Was Every Day

October 26, 2012 

John Burrows | As Vancouver approaches the East Side Cultural Crawl and the spectacle that comes with some of the most interesting and unknown makers in the city doing their thing, my excitement is combined with impatience in having to wait for such a rich and inspiring experience. On a recent trip to Portland I was able to calm this restlessness at Beam and Anchor, a retail space downstairs with a rich group of makers upstairs where they work with wood and leather, make soap, do upholstery, and other things besides. Not everything downstairs is made upstairs, but it all has the sense of locally made, small batch production; like taking the best elements of the Crawl and putting it into one space so people can see and support it everyday. Back downstairs on my way out I was greeted by a small bus of tourists entering the shop, which again reminded me of that Crawl-like sense of phenomenon, of spectacle, of something worth doing just for the experience. And so whilst it would be hard to translate the awesomeness of the annual Crawl into a single space for the everyday – more things would be found than lost.

OTHER CIVIC IMPROVEMENT SUGGESTIONS

John is a web entrepreneur and writer who curates the online shop at Wood Design. He is passionate about materials and is always seeking out the craftsmanship that surrounds us, appreciating it as the antidote to a generation that has lost touch with its industrial roots and the motivation to perform a task well for its own sake.

HANDCRAFT: National Gallery Showcasing Canadian Made Arts & Crafts At Symposium

October 17, 2012 

by John Burrows | In the current economy, there’s no shortage south of the border for products that are “American Made”. There have been concentrated media efforts to support local manufacturing, initiatives from large brands like Martha Stewart, Jeep and Levis, lots of Kickstarter funding for the American Craftsmanship Project, and a host of websites devoted to makers (The Makers ProjectSight UnseenGrain and Gram). Many in the USA have been seeking to discover, expose and enrich this renaissance, and they’ve been succeeding.

But where’s the call for things that are “Canadian Made”? Is is that our economy wasn’t hit hard enough to stir patriotic expenditure? The answer is not that we have a shortage of homespun innovation – as the Canadian Made clip so animatedly points out above. Maker’s fairs and farmer’s markets around the city keep the local right in front of our faces. Somehow missing is a recognition of current craft at the national level, and so we go to the Canadian Crafts Federation, an organization with a long history. The first line on their website’s homepage recognizes and reinforces my point - “How often do four of Canada’s best get the chance to discuss their work and share thoughts on the past, present and future of Contemporary Craft?” The answer, the site goes on to reveal, is once a year, starting this week in Ottawa.

The first annual Hindsight/Foresight symposium takes place at the National Gallery of Canada tomorrow night and those in attendance have been told to expect “beautiful craftsmanship, inspiring artwork, heated debate and of course, audience participation”. The only trouble is that Ottawa is awfully far away. If this craftsmanship renaissance is to be truly national, perhaps a similar symposium should be launched closer to home. How about next year? Short of that, Hindsight/Foresight could (should) go one the road.

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John is a web entrepreneur and writer who curates the online shop at Wood Design. He is passionate about materials and is always seeking out the craftsmanship that surrounds us, appreciating it as the antidote to a generation that has lost touch with its industrial roots and the motivation to perform a task well for its own sake.

HANDCRAFT: On Storied Bar Carts, Wooden Adventures, And Gifts From Stanley Park

October 10, 2012 

by John Burrows | One of my favourite items from IDSwest was Henry Sun’s Amber project. It charted the transformation of a sick 200 year old Douglas Fir tree from Stanley Park into a table and chair, all beautifully laid out in a book by Max Olson. It’s reassuring to see that wood is increasingly a design material that is being used to reconnect people to their environments, even if they are urban environments…

Witness above the outstanding 12 x 12 exhibition during NY Design Week back in May: all of the pieces in the show were made from wood salvaged from demolished or dismantled buildings in the Big Apple, the challenge being to allow for the past use of the materials to inform the object or theme. Wood from a distillery could be used to make a bar cart, et cetera…

And then last month there was the Adventures of 12 Hardwood Chairs project at London Design Week. It tasked 12 students from the Royal College of Art with designing chairs made from American hardwoods. Sustainability experts aided in the preparation of life cycle reports for each chair, thereby giving the students the full “cradle-to-grave” environmental impacts of their design and material choices.

All 3 projects bring to the fore the stories of both the materials and the people working with them. In Vancouver, a wander along the beach tells us that each log has it’s own story and reminds us that a spectrum of designers from student Henry Sun to the internationally recognized Brent Comber are bringing them to life.

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John is a web entrepreneur and writer who curates the online shop at Wood Design. He is passionate about materials and is always seeking out the craftsmanship that surrounds us, appreciating it as the antidote to a generation that has lost touch with its industrial roots and the motivation to perform a task well for its own sake.