by Grady Mitchell | All things artisanal are in high demand these days, but few craftspeople can say they’ve been at it as long as Ken Diamond. Since 2002 he’s been bent over hunks of leather in his workshop, meticulously cutting, sewing and glueing them into beautifully handcrafted pieces that are each one of a kind.
Ken took a nine month course in upholstery when he first arrived in Vancouver. After plying that trade, he moved into building sets and props for theatre and film, and it was there that he first handled leather. His upholstery background gave him a basic grasp of the work, and the rest he taught himself. And he’s still learning every day at his workbench. Although he enjoyed set design, he was less fond of the film industry. He’d always dreamt of launching his own business, and not long after he started working with leather he founded Ken Diamond.
Perhaps best known for their line of moccasins, the company also offers items that will hold your cards, cash, and secure your pants. Every piece that leaves the workshop is hand-made by the man himself, his wife Marla, and his apprentice Lukas. What machines they do use are of the old-school, press-and-punch variety. And they plan to keep it that way.
Although their popularity would handle speedy growth, Ken plans to keep things small, to continue building by hand, and to grow slowly rather than burn out. That care and patience is what makes his work so excellent. You can see it firsthand if you visit their open storefront at 756 E Powell, where you can check out the goods personally, and watch them being made just a few feet away in the back room. To learn more about Ken Diamond, visit his website.
by Grady Mitchell | If you frequent coffee shops around East Van, you’ve probably seen artist Sean Karemaker intently hunched over drawing in a notebook or sketch pad. He got started as a kid, growing up “off the grid” on Vancouver Island. “I turned my closet into a little comic studio,” he says. The comics led to painting – “I wasn’t very good at sports, so I started doing watercolour courses with a bunch of old ladies” – and from there, things kept rolling. “I guess I haven’t really stopped.”
Many of Sean’s ideas start as scribbled passages in those sketchbooks, each paired with an aimless painting. Those poetic snippets usually detail a remembered experience or worldly observation. From these early concepts Sean will later create his larger, more involved pieces.
Even if the words don’t appear in the final piece, it wouldn’t exist without them. For a picture to speak to Sean, it has to tell a story. “Sometimes people aren’t looking for that, they just want an image,” he says. “But without that exploration it just feels flat to me, it doesn’t feel like I’m making anything meaningful.”
The final form of those stories take many different shapes. Of course, he’s painted on traditional canvases and created comics, but he’s experimented with other forms as well. For one project, The Life of People, he detailed the span from birth to death over an uninterrupted 27-foot scroll. Most recently he’s begun using epoxy and rubber mouldings to build detailed, 3D dioramas where his characters emerge from their wild backgrounds.
While investing personal stories into his work was daunting at first, it soon became the core of his art. Pouring himself into the work allowed others to relate and connect, which for him is exactly the point of making art in the first place. That’s why, if you see him working in a coffee shop somewhere, you should never hesitate to say hello. He tries to leave the studio at least once a day to sync back in with the real world. He loves when curious onlookers ask him about his work. “You get a lot of energy off of people,” he says. To see more of Sean’s work, visit his website.
by Grady Mitchell | ”Wood has spirit in it,” says Sam Clemens, one half of the duo behind Hobo Woodworks. Along with his brother and business partner, Lenny, Sam imbues the old spirit of reclaimed wood a new life through the finely crafted goods they build in their East Vancouver workshop.
The Hobo philosophy was largely influenced by their parents, who came up to Canada in the 60s from Southern California as part of the DIY hippy movement of that era. His mother worked as a cocktail waitress until they could afford their first hide, at which point they began their leather working business. Growing up in the Slocan Valley, the boys played with saws and hammers, and learned to live by the work of their own hands.
Before launching Hobo in 2012, Sam and Lenny built sprawling mansions for West Van millionaires. Disenchanted with that work, the brothers started their own venture, something more aligned to the values instilled in them as lifelong west coasters.
Now they use only local, responsibly and sustainably sourced materials. As a result, every Hobo piece is a beautiful hybrid of new and reclaimed wood. As word got out, people have started bringing them leftover wood (one guy even bringing a load of well-loved timber during our visit). It’s natural for people to stop by. When the workshop’s garage door slides up it becomes a storefront. The Hobo boys hope to make their workshop a community hub where friends and passersby can drop in to chat anytime, and see their process firsthand. They can also, if they ask nicely, ride the back room mini-ramp or hone their archery skills.
To learn more about Hobo Woodworks, check out their site.
by Grady Mitchell | Artist Rebecca Chaperon builds worlds. “I’m obsessed with a sense of place,” she says. “If I don’t have a sense of place when I’m working on a painting, everything else doesn’t feel natural.” The places she creates are not ones you’ll find on a globe, even if they’re inspired by them. In her last major series, Antarticus, she concocted an alternate reality where translucent icebergs float like ghosts upon pastel oceans, disembodied hands reach from black portals, and rainbow confetti flutters through the air.
With Antarticus she sought to conflate two very different real-world places: Mauritius, the pinprick tropical island off Madagascar where her father was born, and antartica, as conjured from letters written by her uncle while he led expeditions there in the 70s. Hence, you’ll see icebergs sailing past tropical islands and palm trees sprouting from tundra. That imaginative streak is inspired largely by her early years in England, where she lived until age 8, playing in the small garden in front of her family’s home.
Her next series, Eccentric Gardens, centers on another fully-formed world, but this time Rebecca changed the process of building it. Rather than the planned approach she’s taken in the past, she took a more intuitive method, a way of ‘discovering’ the landscapes as she painted them.
So was releasing that control scary? “Hell yes,” she says. “Everything felt almost dumb because I’m so used to over-analyzing. I just had to move forward through the pieces, all the elements had to talk to each other and I had to get out of the way. It’s a return to this childish way of picture making, you’re really direct, responding to what’s there, not thinking about it too much. But to do that as an adult is very difficult. To pretend, for a moment, that you’re a kid. You’re just enjoying making something, and it doesn’t have to be anything.”
The Eccentric Gardens exhibition, which will run at Initial Gallery from October 24 to November 15 with a reception on Oct 28, won’t just allow people to view Rebecca’s work, but also the chance to step inside one of her paintings. One wall will be painted in her landscape style, and certain elements from her paintings have been turned into sculptures that will furnish the room. To learn more about Rebecca and her work, visit her site.
by Grady Mitchell | A short story collection is a tough enough test for a new writer, but author Michael Christie added to the challenge by centering much of his first book, The Beggar’s Garden, around the Downtown Eastside, where he had worked at an emergency shelter for six years. ”It was a place where you paid with a bad story,” Christie says. Nobody who came up to the counter was ever having a peachy day. The stories he encountered there inspired the book.
The dichotomies at play in this city make for rich storytelling. “What’s the difference between Vancouver and Victorian England?” the author asks. “Not much. We’ve got the highest echelons of society bumping right up to the lowest. It’s such a dramatic situation, and I realized I wanted to write about it.” Spinning nine different (but interrelated) stories with as many protagonists – from a Riverview patient with delusions of royalty to a computer programmer struggling in the dating world – allowed him to explore the shared traits among all facets of society, no matter how dissimilar.
“Literature can level the playing field and humanize everyone. I wanted to portray people on all levels of society struggling, being lost and trying to find connection with one another. That’s what I love about literature: it can encompass larger ideas than a simple view of poverty, or a simple view of class.”
Christie’s empathetic approach is key. He never finger-wags at his characters, nor does he romanticize their plight. While a disgruntled banker and a struggling addict face very different day-to-day challenges, they still grapple with the same issues of connection. The author tackles the intricacies of the neighbourhood with eloquence, tact, and enough skill to get the book long-listed for the 2011 Giller Prize, alongside writers like Michael Ondaatje.
Before he was a writer, Christie was a professional skateboarder. Although they seem worlds apart, he sees writing and skateboarding as similar activities. “Skateboarding is totally self-directed; there’s no coach. It’s just you, your skateboard, and the city,” he says. “Writing’s the same thing. No one tells me what I should do next.”
Although at first he faced skepticism as a skater-turned-writer, he won a spot at UBC’s MFA program, where he wrote The Beggar’s Garden as his thesis. “Now I’m a working writer,” he says. “I know it’s a luxury, and I try to remind myself everyday.”
His followup book, a novel titled If I Fall, I Die, is now done and awaiting release in January. It centers on the lives of an agoraphobic woman and her ten-year-old son, following the boy as he leaves home for the first time ever and gets enmeshed in the long-cold mystery of another missing child. To learn more, visit Mike’s website.
by Ken Tsui | “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Sundance award-winning filmmaker Julia Kwan about her new documentary, Everything Will Be. Playing at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, the film focuses on the past 3 years of Vancouver’s evolving Chinatown and the diverse collage of people who now call it home.
Julia grew up in Chinatown. Her parents found work folding linens at the Keefer Laundry and waiting tables at restaurants like Foo Ho Ho. “My mother was always nervous outside of Chinatown,” Julia lamented, “but put her in Chinatown and she’s in her element.” She remembers the strong sense of community when her family hopped from grocer to grocer on the weekends, shopping for provisions and running into friends along the way.
For Julia, the transformation of her childhood Chinatown is a personal ache; where the film’s inspiration finds its ignition. The documentary is a time capsule; it’s a process piece that studies the pivot when tradition meets change.
Julia was drawn by the resilience of the people in her neighbourhood, but she also acknowledges that her film captures the end of an era for Chinatown’s traditional shop culture. Some of the businesses featured in the documentary have already closed, even before the film’s release. “I really wanted to document the shifts in these people’s lives”, she says. “I wanted it to be an immersive experience and give people a feeling like they’ve been sitting on a stoop in Chinatown.”
Everything Will Be moves beyond the streets and gives the audience a unique look within the guarded cultural enclaves of Chinatown. The access and requisite trust didn’t come easy. Local Chinese herbalist Mr. Lai, whose storefront sits on East Hastings, initially refused to be featured in the film. And there were others, too. They were afraid that “it would effect their livelihood”, Julia recalls. Even the decision to hire Mr. Lai’s own daughter to work on the documentary didn’t sway him. It took more tenacity, not to mention months, but Mr. Lai finally agreed to let Julia document him and his business. “That’s the difference between fiction and documentary,” Julia says. “I feel like I’m constantly begging and asking for more.” The process was ultimately rewarding, and not only for the sake of the film. Genuine friendships have bloomed as a result.
The film also challenged Julia to work outside her comfort zone. She learned to relinquish control as a director and to recognize that amazing things happen if you are open to them. Throughout the film-making process, Julia learned how to better recognize authentic moments that will speak volumes in what audiences will surely view as an elegiac snapshot of the collective memory and legacy of Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Everything Will Be screens at the Vancouver International Film Festival September 29th, October 1st and October 3rd.
by Grady Mitchell | ”Light is the most important thing,” says Jennilee Marigomen. “Light is everything.” The Vancouver photographer has masterful control over that most ethereal substance. She combines her deft hand for light with a love of colour and coy dashes of humour to create work that celebrates the routine miracles of everyday life. She’s happiest, she says, when she finds “something that shouldn’t really be there.”
The core of the humour in Jennilee’s work revolves around the often clumsy interaction of manmade objects with nature, something especially abundant in a city like Vancouver. “Nature always finds its way.” Another key feature of her work is Vancouver’s unique light. “It’s actually more the lack of light,” she says. The familiar overcast of the city’s misty winters create a soft, diffused tone. The short days and capricious weather are both a gift and a curse. It makes light difficult to catch, but also precious. “You feel like this is a really special thing happening.”
Jennilee has collected one of her most beautiful series, Window Seat, into a book that will be released on September 26th at Make Gallery. The photos were taken on a trip through Mexico, a place with very different light. Its intensity and heat were a challenge, but one she embraced. The light is more direct, the colours more vibrant, but the images still bear Jennilee’s meditative and revelatory approach.
The title, in a direct sense, refers to the book’s opening photo of an airplane window rimed with frost, but it also embodies the way Jennilee works. Shot in the coastal towns of Sayulita and San Francisco, Jennilee operates as an observer, not an active participant. It’s as if she quickly came across these scenes, snapped a photo, and just as quickly vanished without a trace, content with the record of a brief moment that will never come again. You can grab the book for $35 at Make Gallery on September 26, and see more of Jennilee’s work on her website.
by Grady Mitchell | Ed Spence is an analog artist for the digital age, a specialist who takes existing images and pixelates them by hand. His process starts by cutting out a section of an existing image, then slicing that into individual pixels. Next he rearranges those pixels by colour or pattern, and finally he inserts the newly-reorganized section back into the image. The new piece contains untouched stretches of the original artwork interrupted by cascading wave-like gradients, complex geometric patterns, or buzzing static clouds of colour. The pieces are jarringly beautiful: quaint, antiquated images that appear hacked.
Raised in Salmon Arm, Ed studied fine arts at UBCO, focusing on video and sculpture. His education solidified a fascination with materials, the different ways they can be combined to create art. His pixellation series is a way of breaking down an image to study its parts. “Dissecting the material of the image makes you think about the illusion of pictorial space,” Ed says. “It really is a planar, flat medium. But once you cut into it, it becomes three dimensional again. You’re reminded that it always has been a three dimensional image: there’s ink on paper, the light reflecting, the illusion that these are colours.”
Ed’s fascination with fractal patterns started young, instilled by his dad, who would spend hours typing code into the earliest home computers, then have the machine visualize it into spiralling digital patterns. Now Ed is doing essentially the same thing, minus the machinery. “I found that really intriguing, that interplay between math, science, and art.”
Once removed, he says, the pixels no long mean what they did as part of the whole. “Every little piece becomes an entity on its own, you start thinking about the component parts of the picture. How all of those small parts coalesce into a harmonic image.”
In the beginning, Ed sought out a specific style of imagery to rework. He wanted soft, warm images, the kind that fill vintage magazines and travel brochures. “The era that they were from was nostalgic,” he says. “There was something to do with that combination of the futurism infused into these antiquated images that you’d see at your grandmother’s house.”
These days he wants to create an entire image from start to finish, and work in more modern colour palettes. His new work begins with crumpled reflective sheets of paper, which he blasts with coloured lights and photographs, so the vibrant tones get grabbed and warped by the many folds and facets. He then prints those images, slices and pixelates them. The process is the same as his earlier work, but the images are much different: whereas the older images are soft and warm, these new ones feature synthetic colour bursts and unpredictable shapes.
Next Ed plans to apply his pixillation to the human form through a collaborative project with his wife, Julie Chapple, a choreographer and artist. He’s begun work on wearable sculptures (you’ll see him working on a prototype in the images below) which dancers will wear in a performance choreographed by Julie. To see more of Ed’s work, visit his site here.
Tell me about yourselves and your respective roles in your company? Kelly and I formed Falken Reynolds two years ago. We’ve been partners in life for almost nine years now and it was always part of the plan to work together. We both transitioned to being professional designers after having fairly colourful career paths. Kelly was a sailor in the Canadian Navy, a cop in the VPD, a flight attendant, and a hotel manager before making the shift almost ten years ago. I grew up spending summers on horse ranches in Texas and Arizona; studied finance and psychology; taught business at a university in Lithuania; and had an international marketing job before starting design school in Barcelona.
While one of us takes the lead on each project we rely heavily on each other for input, especially during the early conceptual phases. We share the same perspectives on design – that spaces should be relevant to both the people using them as well as the space’s context; that style is deeply personal and subjective and our role is to create a space that reflects what makes each client unique; and that design is constantly evolving and reacting to culture, which is why we travel to Milan each year for iSaloni, the most important event on the contemporary design calendar.
You work and live in Gastown. Why? We moved to Gastown eight years ago because we both craved the authenticity that comes from so many segments of society rubbing shoulders everyday. There is a freedom that comes from the diversity here. [It] stimulates creativity, collaboration, encouragement – all the ingredients that give entrepreneurs the support they need to be successful. Neighbourhoods and cities that aspire for too much homogeny can stifle creativity and draw a person’s focus more towards fitting in than finding their own way. So much of this atmosphere in Gastown stems from the architecture and urban planning of densely packed low-rise buildings with a mix of residential and commercial use. The streets are active and familiar because so many people live and work here – it feels really intimate and neighbourly because people are out and about doing their thing.
You’ve taken a role as an IDSWest ambassador. How has the experience been? Talking about design is pretty natural for us so taking on the role of ambassadors has been a great fit. After ten years, IDSwest has become the anchor event for a month of design activities in Vancouver. When we travel to Milan one of the things that is so inspiring is the critical mass of people (350,000 this year) who are talking about how design impacts our lives – and that same energy is alive in Vancouver over the month of September. Craftsmen and manufacturers are all showing their latest designs and products and from that collective showing we can see the trend line of how society will be living in the years to come. Design fairs are a bit like seeing into the future, just like fashion weeks are – eventually all the custom, high end design trickles down to price points that are more affordable and available. The most exciting thing about IDSwest is bringing so many creative minds under one roof – over the years we have met countless people who we end up working with. There has been a real shift to designers being more open and collaborative (helped by a relatively strong economy and the internet) that we are starting to see how much more we can do when we work together.
We’re designing Shed, the central bar for IDSwest, presented by Caesarstone, and we are working with some of Vancouver’s best design companies to bring it together: Benson, Inform Interiors, And Light, Object Outdoors, Synlawn and Moosehead Contracting. Our taking off point for the concept was a garden party in an abandoned west coast back yard. A lot of the materials that will be used for Shed will be repurposed in the restaurant we’re designing in Chinatown, Sai Woo. It’s true to our perspective on being “green” – build with better quality materials that last longer and can be reused and recycled.
We have a few other things going in the show this year too – we’re designing a couture chair we’ve named Dauphine, for William Switzer, which will be exhibited along with six other chairs designed by leading interior designers. We’re exploring youthful west coast luxury – if Marie Antoinette moved to Gastown this would be her chair… We’re also speaking on the Gray Conversation stage about our career transition to design, as well as sharing our story of being shortlisted for two categories for Western Living’s Designers of the Year.
Who is currently inspiring you in your neighbourhood? We’re lucky to call a lot of our Gastown neighbours and colleagues our friends – so many great people giving 110% everyday and having success in Vancouver as well as an international stage. Their vision and determination for their own businesses has collectively elevated the neighbourhood and gained international recognition as one of the best spots to live and work. We know how lucky we are to be here and experience this moment. There are too many people to name everyone but here are a few that really stand out:
Niels and Nancy Bendtsen from Inform were pioneers in Gastown and have been so supportive to us and so many emerging designers – we have watched them in action in Milan where they are just as comfortable and recognized as they are in Vancouver.
The crew from Roden Gray has been on the cutting edge of mens fashion. Rob Lo is always working on a new and exciting project – we are always inspired by how they run their business and Rob has become a great friend.
The same goes for Jonathon from Litchfield, Paul from L’Abattoir and the crew at Timbertrain – They all work so hard at being excellent at what they do and it shows in the success they have with their business.
When Michael and Charlie from Bailey Nelson approached us to work on their Canadian flagship shop we jumped at the opportunity because we could all see the potential for the rather derelict site on the corner of Cambie and Cordova. They were able to see past the decades of decay and the crumbling building and then trust us to turn it into something fresh and welcoming. We are super happy with the result and hope it inspires other entrepreneurs to set up shop in the neighbourhood.
Name three of your favourite architectural or design landmarks that your neighbourhood offers? The digital photo of the Gastown Riot by Stan Douglas [Abbott & Cordova]. The roof at Inform Interiors – it’s a private gem and one of the best examples of how to keep the heritage of a building on the street and redevelop it for contemporary use. Maple Tree Square – there is so much potential with this space. Even though there have been many failed attempts at improving it, the bones of the square are intact. When the city takes another crack at improving it we’d love to part of imagining how to make it a better public gathering place.
by Grady Mitchell | In anticipation of the Interior Design Show West coming up September 25-28 at the Vancouver Convention Center, we met with Nancy Bendtsen from Inform Interiors to discuss the importance of design in everyday life.
Nancy’s husband, Niels, launched Inform half a century ago when he was just 19. At that time the Pacific Northwest was an epicentre for progressive design. Originally the store sold the handiwork of Niel’s father, who at 12 was pulled from school to apprentice as a Danish cabinet maker. Gradually Niels added other brands and designers, and now Inform, with its twin Gastown locations, is a touchstone of home design in Vancouver.
Like Niels, Nancy is genetically predisposed to be a design lover. When Allan Fleming updated the CN logo in 1960 – a long-overdue revamp that Marshall McLuhan declared iconic – Nancy’s mother found the sleek new lettering so alluring that she packed a young Nancy and herself into the car, drove to the nearest station, and took the shortest possible round trip, just to be on a train featuring the polished logo.
Later Nancy studied architecture at L’ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and at the University of Toronto. Architecture, she says, is less about schematics and flair than it is a general education. “You think over a lot of big things. It was more overall thinking; about humanity, about how people live.”
The things Nancy deems important are often small details that others overlook. “Everything you touch,” she says. “Door handles, cutlery.” Rather than a Dwell-ready house packed with curated spaces, it’s important to slowly collect pieces you truly enjoy, on both an aesthetic and functional level. “You don’t have to have a lot of stuff,” Nancy says, “just stuff you really love.”
As far as IDS West’s imminence is concerned, Nancy is excited for London-based lighting designer Michael Anastassiades, whose work she describes as “very architectural, geometric.” Rub shoulders with Nancy, Michael, and a host of other design aficionados at the Vancouver Conference Center from September 25-28 for IDS West.
by Maya-Roisin Slater | Scout’s new Neighbourhooding series is part of our expanding HOODS project. It explores Vancouver’s myriad neighbourhoods through the eyes of the people who call them home. Jill Southern has lived in Chinatown for 5 years. She’s an art director by trade and the founder of Pender Keefer Georgia, a series of Chinatown guidebooks. We recently caught up with her on East Georgia Street, just a stone’s throw from her apartment…
What or who do you think is a defining fixture of your neighbourhood?
Chinatown streets, any given day from 9 to 6: produce bins are wheeled out to the sidewalk, trucks unload new pig carcasses and containers of fish, parking is near impossible, and the sidewalks are an obstacle course of tourists and old lady carts.
Where’s your favourite place to get breakfast?
Matchstick weekdays, Pazzo Chow Saturdays, Kam Gok Yuen on special occasions.
Tell us about your favourite hideaway…
New Mitzie’s Restaurant on Pender — a classic Chinese-Western diner with endless coffee refills, booth seating, and entertaining people-watching.
What’s the best mom and pop place in the area?
That’s the great thing about Chinatown, it’s full of mom and pop shops. Some of my favourites: Fresh Egg Mart, Golden Wheat Bakery, Chinatown Supermarket.
What sets your neighbourhood apart from other areas in Vancouver?
Chinatown looks and feels like no other neighbourhood in Vancouver. Its distinct culture and history are visible in its buildings, residents and community, while its changing identity makes it fun and fresh. This neighbourhood never bores me. I love how I can feel like a tourist in my own town.
If you could describe your neighbourhood in a haiku, how would it go?
If you were walking through your neighbourhood while courting a lady/gentleman where would you take them to set a romantic scene?
There are a couple of rooftop parkades where, if you know your way around, you can sneak a stellar view of the city.
What’s the scariest thing about your neighbourhood?
The constant fear of getting shat on by pigeons.
What’s your favourite piece of architecture in the neighbourhood?
It’s a tie: 1. Sun Yat Sen gardens (pay the admission fee to see the best of it). 2. [Bob] Rennie’s stunning re-do of the Wing Sang building.
How do you think your neighbourhood will change and develop in the next 5 years?
It will unfortunately become less unique. New businesses and condos will continue to flow into the neighbourhood while hip, modern spots replace unfashionable, old spots. There is a lot of new growth in Chinatown, which doesn’t strike me as entirely bad or good. Chinatown has a very resilient way of dealing with change.
Maya-Roisin Slater speaks English, and is doing her best to turn that into a career. Beyond Scout, her words and photos can be found in publications such as BeatRoute, Discorder, and Lotusland Mag. She also enjoys writing nauseating poetry, pretending that gluten-free-vegan slop is actually food, and bullying her customers at German sausage empire Bestie.
We recently came across Eureka Tea, a new line of locally produced tea. It’s just one of Miranda Hudson’s many creative projects. With a background in graphic design and brand management, a line of all-natural ecologically conscious candles (Feest), and a clear commitment to all things handmade and delicious, putting together a collection of hand-blended, loose leaf teas wasn’t too much of a stretch for her.
Why tea? Because of my deep and abiding love of it. I’ve been a tea drinker ever since I was a little girl. It was something my father would share with me, heavily laden with milk, of course. I’m sure that I drink about 12 cups of tea a day, and that’s enough tea-preparing time to start thinking.
What’s the concept behind your brand? In general, I think tea brands tend to appeal to a female demographic and can be a little overly feminine in their branding, or they veer quite seriously into the Health Brand concept. I wanted to see Eureka embrace a sense of humour about tea and allow people to have fun with it. It’s not stuffy, it’s not necessarily for your grandmother (unless she’s got a wicked sense of humour). I decided to include some lighthearted phrases on the packaging that are completely obvious but only make sense if you take time to decode them, essentially interacting with the package to reveal the whole story. Tea itself is a ritual that requires you to take a moment and your first interaction with the package encourages you to do that.
What was the most fun you’ve had in developing this line? The learning process that goes into it – there’s so much beautiful complexity to tea! And definitely hearing feedback from people during the development phase. People who love tea are generally passionate about it. Tea provides all kinds of connections to comfort and memory and place – in asking people to test the blends I also got to share in many stories about what tea means to other people.
Do you have a tea ritual? I drink tea non-stop throughout the day. I turn on the kettle before I shower in the morning and get a cup going right away. I’m working on a breakfast blend right now, something bold and rich but I don’t mind a good old fashioned Red Rose to speed things along. Throughout the day I sip my absolute favourite, lavender earl grey while I’m working. I love it with a medium steep, about 3 minutes, served with just plain milk. The process of scooping loose leaf into an infuser, pouring in the water, waiting – it’s such a nice pause in a busy day. I switch to rooibos in the late afternoon to stay hydrated (it’s caffeine free). I drink more tea than water, that’s for sure.
Pair a cup of Lavender Earl Grey with: pain au chocolat from Beaucoup Bakery.
Pair a cup of Vanilla Rooibos with: Yoga! Perfect post-hot yoga beverage, enjoyed in the park with a Culver City Salad.
Pair a cup of Hibiscus White Peppermint with: I love this brewed extra strong and iced, taken in a mason jar on picnics with tacos from the Tacofino food truck (and possibly a little post-dinner growler of 33 Acres California Common).
You can pick up a tin of Eureka Tea ($14) at Hunter & Hare, West Pender, Barefoot Contessa, or online at www.eurekateas.com.
by Grady Mitchell | Robbie Slade is one-half of Vancouver electronic duo Humans, alongside beat maker and Montreal transplant Peter Ricq. “Pete’s prolific,” says Robbie. “He cranks out beats like crazy.” Robbie takes those beats and adds melodies and vocals, and together they achieve their booming, turbulently danceable signature sound.
Robbie honed his musical talents in a somewhat literal trial by fire. He was a feller fighting forest fires in northern BC, moving into areas to cut down dead trees so his crew could work safely. Alone all day in a smouldering forest, he wrote songs in his head as he cut. He held the melodies in his mind until he could write them down, sometimes days later.
Pete’s always been an electronic musician, but Robbie’s early interests were in folk and reggae. You can hear the influence of those genres on the throaty rasp of his voice, especially on tracks like De Ciel, from the band’s second album, 2012′s Traps. Robbie points out, though, that the lines between genres grow blurrier every day. “If you’re going to stop at folk, you probably don’t like music that much, because I’m pretty sure James Blake could get ya.”
Since Traps came out in 2012 they’ve collected more new gear and finished recording a new, as-of-yet untitled album. Will it be dancy? “Moreso than ever,” Robbie assures. Unfortunately, it won’t be out until February. Until then, you can hear more Humans at their site, or you can catch them on August 16th at the Two Acre Shaker in Pemberton.
by Grady Mitchell | On his long walks through the city and frequent trips around the coast, photographer Andy Grellmann is gradually piecing together a visual survey of Vancouver and the region around it. His work is divided into albums dedicated to the various neighbourhoods within the city and the islands beyond it, each one like a photographic map.
Although always a visual kid, he didn’t discover photography until university, when he bought his first digital camera. Soon he experimented with film and found that medium format cameras better fit his developing style of mindful, quiet image making – the act of looking down into a viewfinder and slowly composing a picture suited his meditative approach.
It’s tough, he says, to name exactly what it is about a given scene that compels him to stop and make a picture. “It can have light, form, shape, composition, whatever.” He says. “If everything else is there but the content isn’t there, then I won’t take the picture.” Those other elements should not be the focus of the image, he says, but should instead serve that central idea. The essential “content” can take almost any form. “If what I’m feeling inside is projected back at me, then I’ll take a picture of it,” he says. Although he’s always shot this way, he’s only recently begun to contemplate the way he works.
Much of Andy’s work is still life or landscape, people seldom appear in his images. When they do, they rarely face the camera: most seem unaware that they’re being photographed at all, and those that do know are usually turned away, their eyes diverted from the viewer. Recently, however, he’s ventured into portraiture, inspired especially by August Sander, a photographer known for his highly-orchestrated portraits of pre-WWII Germans.
Back when Sander was shooting, having your portrait made was a rare event. These days, you can do it yourself in a smudged bathroom mirror in ten seconds flat. So what’s the value of a single image in a world so over-saturated with them? It’s an even more challenging question for someone like Andy, whose work doesn’t rely on flashy spectacle, but instead documents quiet, everyday moments. In a world so packed with imagery, it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect viewers to slow down and study each one. But for those that are willing to do so, the work of photographers like Andy offers rewards.
One of Andy’s most beautiful series is entitled Detache. It’s an assortment of small, enticing details: a pile of books, the luminescent glow of cracked eggshells, a drape wound around a bedpost. “Detachment” speaks to Andy’s role as someone removed from the action, a keen observer rather than direct participant. But in a greater sense it also describes the style of all his photographs in any of his series. In music, a detache is a quick, light stroke on the violin. In essence, a light touch. These little moments are, to Andy, the harvest of the small but profound act he pursues every day of “noticing poetry in your surroundings.”