VANCOUVERITES | 15 Minutes Inside Local Artist Andrew Pommier’s Chinatown Studio

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by Grady Mitchell | Back in the northern Ontario town where artist Andrew Pommier grew up, whenever he wasn’t drawing, he was probably skateboarding. And when it eventually became apparent that a professional skating career wasn’t going to happen, he aspired instead to create board graphics. That dream did come true, and quickly.

Andrew has created board graphics for Toy Machine, RVCA, Girl, and even a signature shoe with Adidas. In addition, he’s penned or painted a breadth of editorial work (he was one of the earliest contributors to Skateboard Canada magazine, appearing in their first issue) as well as exhibiting numerous shows worldwide.

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And it’s clear that those many early mornings had a profound effect on his work. His sketchbooks and the walls of his studio are full of lonesome, darkly funny characters in costumes and masks; smoking, drinking and cavorting across the canvas. As a kid, Andrew says, cartoons and comics provided “a way to think about different stories, different ideas.”

Piles of black sketchbooks teeter around Andrew’s Chinatown studio. Each one acts as a collecting bin for ideas, and it’s here that most of his larger works begin. He spends much of his downtime sketching in those books with no particular plan or direction. Pages are haphazardly dotted with characters: bleary-eyed bunny men puffing on cigarettes or brandishing broken bottles, personified hot dogs with cartoon arms. Later he’ll parse through them and select his favourite ideas to develop into finished pieces.

He shies from looking too deeply into his work. Despite repeating motifs like masks and costumes, he strives not to over-conceptualize, preferring to work intuitively rather than stick to a blueprint. “My hand has a better understanding of what I want to do,” he says. Recently, his work has grown more abstract. Often in his newer paintings subjects avoid the viewer; they angle away, random objects or creatures obscure their faces, or they appear only as shadowy silhouettes with staring eyes. Don’t expect Andrew to tell you what it means. Just take a look and enjoy.

To see more of Andrew Pommier’s works, visit his website.

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VANCOUVERITES | Grant Lawrence Reading Radio’s Palm And Having Nirvana Sleepover

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by Grady Mitchell | Grant Lawrence gets things done. He’s a musician, author, longtime CBC Radio 3 host, and human archive of Canadian music. That’s a mouthful, so when people ask what he does he typically says, “I’m a broadcaster.” Since his interests and talents are indeed broad, the title fits well…with a little interpretation. But whatever it is he’s doing at a given moment, it probably involves music. Take, for example, his upcoming gig as host at the CBC Music Festival this Saturday at Deer Lake Park with headliners Tegan & Sara and Spoon.

Grant’s musical obsession started in high school. “The easiest route to art when we were teenagers was to form a band,” he says. His was called The Smugglers, and over the next 15 years they released eight albums and toured worldwide. Meanwhile, teenaged Grant worked as a concert promoter, booking acts like Fugazi and Nirvana (who crashed at his parents’ place). Next, he worked A&R at Mint Records before joining the crew at the CBC, where he remains today.

Just about the only things Grant’s done that don’t directly incorporate music are his two books, Adventures in Solitude, about the misunderstood culture of Desolation Sound, and The Lonely End of the Rink, a memoir about Grant’s lifelong, sometimes good but often rocky relationship with hockey. There’s an explanation for that, Grant says. “If you work at Burger King full-time, Monday to Friday, chances are Saturday night the last thing you want to do is eat a Whopper.” The books, which both hit national bestseller lists and won the BC Book Prize for Book of the Year, were a chance for Grant to tackle a topic outside music.

Despite forays into other mediums, it’s in the studio at CBC that Grant feels most comfortable, and he doesn’t plan to abandon it anytime soon. Although critics have predicted the death of radio since the invention of television, Grant remains unfazed. While terrestrial radio (the ones with knobs and buttons) will likely phase out, the medium will simply move into more digital channels, as it already has with satellite radio and podcasts (of which CBC was one of the earliest adopters). Radio works because of the curatorial aspect; it’s word of mouth, amplified. “We sift through the hundreds and thousands of songs,” Grant says, “so you can hear the dozens of really great ones.” He’s always got his eye on Vancouver talent, and these days he’s excited about bands like The Courtneys, The Ruffled Feathers, Needles//Pins, and Blanket Barricade.

To learn more about Grant, visit his site, and check him out this Saturday at the CBC Music Festival in Deer Lake Park.

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VANCOUVERITES | Photographer Alana Paterson Is On An Honest, West Coast Roll

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by Grady Mitchell | Roll through the portfolio of photographer Alana Paterson and you’ll encounter scenes of West Coast splendour, adventures in Italy, Mexico, Thailand and long trips across the US and BC. You’ll visit serene forests, misty waterfalls, drained backyard pools, skate parks and city streets. Her rich body of work stems from a largely itinerant lifestyle, a well-tuned and ever-roving eye, and a dedication to film.

If the stories in her photos seem convincing, it’s because they really happened. The line between her commercial and personal work is seamless in a way very few photographers ever manage. When models appear they’re never posed or stiff; instead they’re real people going about doing real things. These honest, intimate moments are key, Alana says, to the success of her client work.

Rather than orchestrate situations, she lets them unfold naturally. If the concept is to shoot camping, they camp. Fishing, they get wet. Dirtbikes, dirty. The warmth and grain of film, her preferred medium, adds to that sense of realism. That simple philosophy lends an authenticity that’s impossible to emulate in a rigidly constructed, over-produced shoot. Her easy, uncontrived style has won over loyal clients like Brixton, Lifetime Collective, and Poler.

Alana began shooting as a teenager when her sister gave her a Pentax SLR (“Just keep the aperture on eight” were her instructions). At first Alana shot her friends skateboarding, and although she rarely shoots skateboarding anymore, it proved fundamental in her development as a photographer. Skateboarding is an inherently creative activity, one that attracts artists. “I think it comes from the type of mind that’s attracted to an unstructured activity,” Alana says. Much like she shoots, it requires adaptability and the flexibility to interpret open-ended situations.

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Her career began with concrete, but now it’s moving in a greener direction. An avid gardener and farmhand, much of her work these days focuses on nature (She regularly shoots for Scout’s very own Victory Gardens column). Her soft, contemplative imagery suits the tranquil landscapes she so often crosses. To check out more of Alana’s work, visit her website and her blog.

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VANCOUVERITES | With Nathan Drillot & Jeff Petry, The Filmmakers Behind ‘Salazar’

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by Grady Mitchell | The films of Vancouver duo Nathan Drillot and Jeff Petry, who work together under the name Salazar, are vibrant and vital. Their narrative stories often centre on youth – the immediacy and uncertainty of feeling inherent to young people provides a vehicle for the excitement and wonder the filmmakers hope to inspire. There’s an unrestrained, almost tribal quality to some of their narrative work, alongside a multitude of haunting images. One music video follows a willowy dancer as she prances in empty hallways and across black, wind-scoured beaches. Their short film Silver Creek (above), a promo to raise awareness about bullying, follows the joyful parade of a group of outcasts whose reveries are ultimately, tragically shattered by a gang of thugs.

While the trademark of their narrative films is tumbling, blood-coursing velocity, Salazar’s documentary work takes a slower pace and a more contemplative approach. Whether they’re telling the story of 20-year-old ?sunaarashi, Japan’s first Middle Eastern sumo wrestler (below), a profile of Theo Jansen, an eccentric designer who builds wind-powered sculptures (bottom), or an intimate look at worldwide stars like Tegan and Sara (for which Jeff and Nathan received a Grammy nomination), they treat subjects with dignity and respect. A sense of admiration for the people in front of their cameras underpins every story. It’s more important to celebrate them for their humanity, Jeff says, than their accomplishments alone.

Often they discover their characters from brief coverage in more traditional media: a few columns of newsprint devoted to a quirky local or a quick colour segment on the nightly news. It was a short spot on CTV that introduced them to the subject of their current project, Robert Gagno. Once the two find a story like Robert’s, one that requires more than a cursory news spot or a few paragraphs of text to grasp its nuance and depth, they get to work.

For Robert’s story, that work involves a lot of arcade games. He’s a young Autistic man from Burnaby and a pinball wizard. Now ranked among the world’s top ten players, he spends around 20 weeks a year travelling and competing internationally. His family has rallied around his passion; his dad’s garage is crammed with broken down machines that the two are repairing, and his mom has become the number one female player in Canada. Some say journalistic objectivity is impossible, and in this instance it’s true. Via Robert’s coaching, Nathan’s now gotten pretty handy at World Cup ’94.

The most challenging part of their documentary work, Jeff says, is keeping themselves out of it. Once they’ve gathered the raw footage they have to reconcile their preconceived vision with the reality of the story and its characters. “We spend all this time researching them and romanticizing what the possibilities of telling their story can be,” he says. “So we’re actually inventing them, in a sense, or these ideas of them. Then we go to film it and it’s different, because it’s real life. We get into this process of stripping ourselves out of it.” Nathan sees the people in their videos more as collaborators than characters.

Jeff and Nathan hope that with those collaborators they can tell stories that enact change. “We want to create films that make people rethink what it is to be human,” Jeff says. “How should we act, how should we treat each other?”

To see more of Salazar’s work, visit their website.

SEEN IN VANCOUVER #493 | A Look Inside The East Van Studio Of Artist Noah Bowman

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by Grady Mitchell | The East Van studio of painter Noah Bowman is stacked high with canvases of all sizes – some as small as a paperback book, a couple as large as a queen mattress. He’s arranged them into a sort of art fort, and it’s in here, surrounded by his previous work, that he creates new pieces.

Although his initial interest in art was sparked by the pencil portraits he sketched as a child, he’s since solidified his style as an abstract and conceptual artist with a vivid palette. His work floats in the space between the familiar and abstract, blending segments of reality with conceptual elements to find deeper meaning in the everyday.

Noah’s recent series Reverso explores corner spaces. While artwork is generally presented in the center of a room’s most prominent wall, Noah is creating paintings specifically for neglected corner spaces, angular two-panel pieces that either envelop protruding corners or slip into recessive ones. He strives to link or balance each half with the other, presenting a traditional pattern on one juxtaposed with an abstract image on the other.

Along with Reverso and the other series’ that Noah is working on, he also promotes the accessibility of abstract art through integrating it into everyday items such as clocks, purses and pillows. You can see more of Noah’s work on his website and on display at the Stewart Stephenson Gallery at 1300 Robson Street.

EVERYTHING SEEN IN VANCOUVER

VANCOUVERITES | At Home With Amber Webber And Josh Wells Of “Lightning Dust”

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by Grady Mitchell | Lightning Dust is the brooding music made by Amber Webber and Josh Wells. Originally a side-project from their main band, Black Mountain, it has since become a full-fledged undertaking of its own. From their first release, a self-titled album in 2007, through 2009′s Infinite Light and last year’s Fantasy, they’ve moved progressively from a chiefly folk sound to a more shadowy electronic hybrid.

This combination of analog and digital is best displayed on tracks like In The City Tonight and Agatha off their most recent album, both of which feature glittering keys intertwined with rich, orchestral strings. Amber’s vocals are ethereal and delicate – a nice change from singing in Black Mountain, where, she says, “I’m wailing it the whole time.” Lightning Dust songs have a cavernous space to them, a resonance granted by their lofty, meditative sound.

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That gradual transformation was intuitive, influenced by their evolving tastes. “When the songs were written,” Josh says, “it’s what was most exciting to us at the time.” As for the increasingly electronic bent of their sound, well, now is the time, Amber says. “When I’m forty-five I won’t necessarily want to be doing a synth-pop record, but I’ll certainly still be playing the guitar.”

One of the facts musicians generally accept as a downside of Vancouver – its relative isolation from record industry hubs like Toronto, New York, and LA – the two see instead as an advantage. With the industry somewhat removed, they hold Vancouver as a place uniquely suited for musicians to experiment. Alongside many bands in the city’s vibrant music scene, they’re living proof that that’s true.

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VANCOUVERITES | On Anthropomorphism & The Vague Dreams Of Ola Volo’s Childhood

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by Grady Mitchell | You may not have realized it at the time, but you’ve probably seen an Ola Volo piece before. A stroll through any Vancouver neighbourhood is liable to uncover one of the dozens of walls and buildings, both large and small, that bear the local illustrator’s work. Aside from public spaces, she’s created commissions for Hootsuite, Lululemon, Save On Meats, The Fox Cabaret and numerous companies and publications in Vancouver and beyond. Take a quick look through her portfolio and it’s obvious why.

Ola combines a whimsical fascination with childhood fantasy with the distinct artistic style of her Eastern European heritage, using intricate patterns to tell folky day-dream stories. In addition to her commissions, she is forever scribbling away at personal projects. We pulled her away from the paper and pen to ask a few questions.

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I know your heritage has significantly influenced your work. Can you tell me about that style of art, and how it’s affected your work? Multiculturalism has been a very inspirational concept for my work. I come from a diverse Eastern European and Asian background that was complicated by historic transitions during my childhood. My origin, my move to BC, and my subsequent immersion in its own variety of cultures, has undeniably become the main focus of my art. My illustrations merge aspects of history, people, animals and traditions through patterns. I use specific patterns to form specific narratives. Learning about patterns and the ways they are used to embellish and define a culture has been very interesting to me. Thus the mixing of the right kind of pattern is integral to my art, and the intentionality of patterns gives me a lot to play with.

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A lot of your work calls back to childhood fantasy. What about that phase of life intrigues you? Great question. When I was growing up, Kazakhstan’s landscape and culture were completely different than they are now. That time of my life seems like a vague dream, as childhood seems for most adults but even more so because of the unrecognizability of the sites of my childhood now. Tapping into those childhood memories, and further exploring stories and characters that shaped my childhood world is a nostalgic act, perhaps. It may sound a bit saddening but its always a fun day at the studio!

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Storytelling is another major part of your images. Why is that important to you? How do you incorporate stories into a piece? I believe that a visual narrative is a great way to connect with people especially in multi-lingual cities. I attempt to communicate through anthropomorphism. Through animal characters I’m able to mimic different types of personalities and emotions without excluding too many people, and tell stories that hopefully can be interpreted in different ways.

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Any upcoming projects you want people to know about? Lot’s of interesting projects lined up for this year, you can follow me on Instagram and keep up to date with my future projects!

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VANCOUVERITES | With Jamie & Lyndon Cormack, Founders of Herschel Supply Co.

November 19, 2013 

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Pecha Kucha is coming up tomorrow night (watch for our ticket giveaway on Twitter), and as per usual we’ve sought out one of the interesting speakers for a sit down. Lyndon Cormack is the Co-Founder of Herschel Supply Co.. He launched the company with his brother, Jamie, in 2009, and the two of them have since changed the way we look at the humble backpack as an everyday fashion accessory. Herschel Supply products are sold in Canada, from the foothills of the Rockies and Europe to Australia and all across Asia (and everywhere in between). Their company was named after the small town in Saskatchewan where three generations of the Cormack family grew up. Scout recently took a tour of the Herschel headquarters in Railtown last week and spent some time talking to Jamie and Lyndon. Here is that conversation:

Herschel is an outdoor-focused brand. It’s in the DNA of the company. Tell us about your favourite local excursions. Where do you go?  (Lyndon) I live in Deep Cove and I have kids, so I stay pretty close to home, I think our family is personally responsible for some of the cutaway trails that go to Quarry Rock. We use the trails all the time and run them. During the recent fog we were getting above it and going up to Seymour where it was scorching hot and sunny. Being from Deep Cove, it’s even an excursion to go to Granville Island. Places that other parts of Vancouver consider to be their backyards are excursions to us. Both Jamie and I have boats (Boston Whalers), so we’re boating around there all the time.  (Jamie) Last trip in the Whaler? I use it weekly. I was out last week,  fishing out by Bowen. We caught lots of pinks. Didn’t keep any, but it’s fun to get out there.

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While we’re on the topic of Deep Cove, the two of you recently launched a side project – a new retail shop – there called A’hoy with your brother Jamie and Deep Cove business veteran Megan Curran of Room6. How on earth did you find the time and vision to start a side project on top of running Herschel? (Lyndon) We LOVE Deep Cove. I mean, we both live there. We boat there and spend a bunch of time there. With the geographic location of it, the beauty of it and the access to nature, it’s amazing to me that it’s just not THAT good. It hasn’t developed into something ridiculous. I mean, we have a fantastic, Vancouver-famous doughnut shop called Honey Doughnuts; we have a fantastic restaurant called The Arms Reach Bistro; and there is a great gift shop called Room6, which is also amazing.

So there is some good stuff, just not enough?  Jamie and I were saying: “Rather than bitch, why not do something great here?” We had an opportunity to partner with Megan [Curran] and open something else with a different concept; something that would cater to men, women and kids. It’s a small space (800 square feet), but we fill it up with our favourite classic brands: Vans, Cons, Ray Ban, Levi’s, HBC, Pendleton and Herschel Supply. We wanted a business that could cater to the local community as well as have some cache for Vancouverites to come out for a visit. A’hoy aims to portray a picture of what Deep Cove is about: comfort, casual, classic.

So, Deep Cove is home, but you think that it could be a lot better. The new shop is a move in that direction. How else would you like to see it change?  Why hasn’t someone opened the best fish and chips joint? A cute, organic fish n’ chip shop with perfect packaging and clever design. Why isn’t it there? I mean, there is a fish n’ chip shop there, but…put it this way, I think Bestie is a perfect example of something that has been able to come in and offer a fresh story. It was done through good design. Good design isn’t expensive. It’s the thoughtfulness and the passion that are the hard part. So why isn’t it there? I don’t know. I find it shocking and that’s why we need to fix it.

It’s about doing things differently. I think the clients in Deep Cove will spend money, if it’s worth it. If you’re just jacking up your prices because you feel you can, you’ll fail miserably because but it’s just not the community that is going to pay for that. They like value but they also care about quality. And they care about design. I’m probably guilty of thinking of the macro rather than the micro. I see the big picture of these businesses and I see the way that Deep Cove could evolve. There are a whole bunch of people who could do it better than us. They should come. Come to Deep Cove! Start a trend!

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So, if you have a predilection for the ‘macro’ view with your hobbies, that’s probably true of your business as well. How do you draw the line and stay on track? Both Jamie and I are idea guys. We have to show a lot of restraint in not developing a lot of new products. We’re very focused. It’s not because we can’t. We have every opportunity in the world. We can, wether it be t-shirts, hats, footwear, or glasses or watches or what have you. We could do anything. Right now, what’s important for us is to solidify our foundation, because the foundation’s not set yet. Once we have that firm foundation we can built a lot on that.

The goal is to always worry about that that target on our back, continue to innovate, continue to create, change, continue to adapt . You’ve got to own your space in the market. We earned it, now we have to own it. Globally. That’s a challenge.

How do you avoid the trap of becoming a fad and burning out? We talk a lot internally about ‘getting too comfortable’ and I think that would turn us in to a fad and that would possibly have the ‘fizzle out’ affect. If we got too comfortable and started saying things like “Hey, we sold ‘this many’ black this year and we sold ‘this many’ navy last year” and all of a sudden you stop trying to innovate, stop trying to change, stop trying to be better and you worry about the anniversary of your business rather than creating new stories to tell.

There is a cycle that comes through. Someone who bought a bag in year one might not buy a bag the next year, but they might come through in year three. They need to have that same excitement and sense of discovery at that point. Sure, they know the brand, but now they want to know a new story or a new product within that brand. That requires innovation. That’s going to be the key. That’s the key for every brand. And any great brand that’s actually managed to succeed has constantly innovated, constantly changed. If we don’t do that, we deserve to fizzle out.

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In order to make sure we stay on track, we rely on not only our eye and our travel but our partners’ eyes and their travels. We rely on our ‘reps’ who have eyes on the road and in retail stores, and we rely our design team who is well-travelled and well-versed in culture. We listen to what they tell us about what they see. We trust that – with the number of eyes that we have on things now [hundreds] – that we can come up with a pretty good sense of what will work. After that, you’ve got to just go with your gut.

(Jamie) Pushing in to new categories so that even if someone does own a bag and they are not looking for a bag that day, they are going to come back and buy a wallet, buy a computer sleeve, want that new duffle bag. Our range has expanded. That’s one thing that we knew right from our first season, we did not want to be pigeon holed. We wanted to offer range. It allowed us some creative freedom. It allowed us to be able go out there and think about more than just one thing. We had it on our minds because we were travelling.

At this stage, we’ve been able to stand back and look at things like: how do you us devices, how do you use an iPad, how do you travel with your bag? So our bags have a heritage feel for the user, but once you open them up, they function. Constantly innovating.

Is part of the plan to have a little boutique for Herschel, a flagship? (Lyndon) I would have to say yes. It’s definitely going to be something we do. We have some shops in Hong Kong and Taiwan, some kiosks in Korea. Eventually we would move to having a couple of flagships, but they have to be in the right place at the right time. We’re just getting started here in terms of our brand, we’re only 4 years old.

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DEFINITIVE RECORDS | The 3 Albums That Anchor The Tastes Of Super Vancouverites

November 11, 2013 

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Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to pick the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. Today, we hear from Bob Rennie. Most Vancouverites know him as a real estate marketing legend (he’s been at is since 1975), but he’s also one of Vancouver’s leading supporters of the arts. He sits on Emily Carr University’s Board of Governors and chairs the North America Acquisitions Committee (NAAC) at the Tate Museum of Modern Art in London. The public can check out his own Rennie Collection in Chinatown’s Wing Sang Building two days a week. Have a listen to the foundational sounds of…

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Beck, Bogart & Appice  – Superstition LISTEN | “Very fond friendship memories of youth and camping.”

Simon & Garfunkel – At The Zoo | LISTEN | “Describes life…animal farm-ish.”

David Bowie – Young Americans | LISTEN | “My ex-wife and I loved this song when we were 18!”

ALL DEFINITIVE RECORDS

VANCOUVERITES: Designer Diane Espiritu All Set For New “Chinatown Night Market”

Diane Espiritu is one of many new vendors who will be showing and selling their creations at the revamped Chinatown Night Market. She studied Industrial Design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design before launching Espiritu Design Studio, a ceramics-focused studio in Chinatown. Diane attributes her creativity to growing up with a resourceful father who could not resist the challenge of finding a dual purpose for everything he came across. When the utilitarian nature of his engineered objects lacked elegance, Diane finessed a polished finish. Today, she combines the spirit of that mindful innovation with a modern design aesthetic.

What type of artist are you? What style of work do you produce? I’m an industrial designer at Espiritu Design Studio, a company we started in 2011. Initially, it was an effort to find studio space to make and market my own in house designs [but] soon I was working with a variety of clients to bring their visions to life, too. I specialize in two mediums: functional and architectural ceramics and soft product design.

Three things about Coal Harbour that make you want to live there? The seawall as it winds its way into our beloved Stanley Park, the proximity to beaches, and green spaces.

What inspires you? I draw inspiration from a number of sources. I’m very aware of my surroundings. Whether it’s the built or natural environment I like to connect with the objects living within these spaces. I’m fond of new experiences and encountering surprising elements. I look for emotional experiences. I admire thoughtful makers that make you smile when you interact with their creations. I appreciate the craftsmanship, mindfulness and sensibilities required to achieve a form that is as elegant and simple as it is intuitively functional.

You are one of the first local designers to jump on board and grab a table at the revamped Chinatown Night Market planned for this summer. What is it about the Night Market this year that has you most excited? I want to embrace the idea of being a part of something new as it emerges [...] I would love to take this opportunity to collaborate with like-minded designers on a few small scale projects.

Tell us about your studio space in Chinatown? Espiritu Design Studio is located in the Chinatown Mall. The main level contains the equipment and tools we need to execute soft product design projects. I share this space with my dear friend and design colleague Angel Dawn, who works with fibre, leather and other materials. If there is any evidence of organization in the studio it is because her skills are impeccable. The second level is where all the ceramic magic happens. The studio is my home away from home so I try to make it cozy. I place reminders of the people who have supported and inspired me along my journey over the years pinned to the studio walls.

What is your favourite creation right now? I’m really digging the potential of the pieces that I’m creating for the Chinatown Night Market. These are pulling inspiration from the distinctive elements of our neighbourhood and the idea of collaborating with other local designers and members of the Vancouver Design Bureau.

What is your favourite Chinatown indulgence? When a fruit comes into season and it’s readily available at the markets, I will consume copious amounts of it daily. My favourites are mangos and the sweet yet tart mandarins.

Where can Vancouverites find your work? Recently, I had the great opportunity to create ceramic taps for artisan sake in collaboration with designers Tlell Davidson and Craig Stanghetta for Pidgin. You can also find the ceramic coffee pour-over cones that I designed for Panoramic Coffee Roasters at The Pie Shoppe. While I begin to court local shops to carry my work, you are welcome to visit my studio in the Chinatown mall by appointment to check out what’s hot off the kiln shelf!

If you want to be a vendor at this summer’s Chinatown Night Market, click here to learn how.

 OTHER INTERESTING VANCOUVERITES

VANCOUVERITES: On Roaring Hood Vents & NOFX With Chef Todd Bright Of Wild Rice

December 7, 2012 

We’ve been fans of Wild Rice since it opened way back in 2001. Over the years it has proven to be one of the most consistent restaurants in town, staying true to owner Andrew Wong’s original concept of a restaurant that was modern and open in design and outlook (both gastronomic and environmental) but true to his Chinese heritage. And as a founding member of Ocean Wise and Green Table, it has been a leader in sustainability since long before it was sexy. Behind the consistency is the chef, Todd Bright, whose passion for local product and unique preparations are deliciously evident on the plate, 7 nights a week. Wild Rice expanded this time last year by opening a new location in the revamped River Market out in New Westminister. Bright came on as a chef/partner in the new enterprise, which is to say we’re very grateful that he took time he couldn’t spare to answer the following questions…

Where did you go to school? Toowoomba, Australia.

If you had a motto, what would it be? Work hard, play harder.

What’s the thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating? I love chicken skin! I know lots of people are opposed to eating poultry skin for health reasons these days, but it’s the best part.

What ingredient grosses you out the most: We would never use this at Wild Rice, but you know what natural raspberry flavouring is made of right? Natural raspberry flavor, or castoreum, comes from the anal extracts of a North American beaver.

Default drink of choice: Beer — anything local and cold.

What are you the most proud of: I’m really proud of the team we have built at Wild Rice, and that we get to be part of the River Market renewal process.

What are you the least proud of: I’m the least proud of not being able to answer this question honestly.

Your favourite smells: Roasted chicken stock is pretty awesome.

Your least favourite smells: The smell of something burning. I hate the smell of something burning!

Your chef role models: Neil Perry, Tetsuya, and Marco Pierre White.

Your favourite sound: I really like the sound of a busy restaurant. The roar of the hood vents, sizzling pans, communication from my crew, laughter and chatter from the dining room. It’s music to my ears!

Your least favourite sound: Dropped cutlery. It pings through the entire restaurant. It’s horrible.

The best way to die: Fat, happy and with no regrets. Read more

VANCOUVERITES: Seven Minutes With “Raincity Chronicles” Creator Lizzy Karp

November 16, 2012 

Next week local creatives from across the city will gather to watch yet another series of Pecha Kucha presenters take the stage at the Vogue Theatre. The line-up this time (as always) is stellar. We’re super stoked to hear from the ladies of Victory Gardens and TJ from The Shop, and we’re also looking forward to hearing what Lizzy Karp has to say. We’re used to seeing Lizzy’s name around town a lot. It’s always tied to something pretty great, so we knew that we wanted to find out a little more about her. We could have waited until next week to catch her PK performance, but we didn’t. We tracked her down and asked her a few questions instead. What an awesome decision. What an awesome girl. Between planning Raincity Chronicles this Friday (sorry, it’s sold out), darting around town collecting books for A Good Book Drive and pulling together her PKN presentation, Lizzy took a few minutes to answer a few of our questions….

Three things about Fairview that make you want to live there I technically live in Fairview, but refer to it as South Shaughnessey when I want to feel fancy. It’s not one of Vancouver’s most celebrated ‘hoods, but I love my corner grocer Sunshine Market, long runs through Shaughnessey and the endearing architecture and logotypes of the apartment buildings.

Where did you grow up? Salt Lake City, Utah, aka the Beehive State.

Where did you go to school? The University of Toronto to sit in the Hart House library and read all the books.

Where was the last place you called home? Toronto aka “Tarana”

How long have you lived in Vancouver? I moved here the day Michael Jackson died, June 25, 2009. I’ve got a couple of years under my belt, and can (usually) get around without using Google maps.

What was your first Vancouver experience? Before I put down roots here, my boyfriend Pat and I came on a reconnaissance trip in January to get the feel of the city as I’d never been before. That was the wild and weird foggy weekend that covered the entire city in a thick blanket of clouds. We wandered down to the seawall in Stanley park and I couldn’t see the water, or the mountains, skyline, anything. So we danced and guzzled beer at Honey, followed by a hangover brunch at Bandidas the next morning, and in my foggy state was sold on the idea.

What was it about Vancouver that made you want to move here? My hometown is nestled in a gorgeous mountain range and after years living in Toronto I was drawn towards Vancouver’s proximity to nature and mysterious personality. I made the decision that I wanted to continue living in Canada, but was intrigued by the west. And like a fresh notebook or next chapter in a novel, it’s always invigorating to start something new.

The first album that made you love music? I grew up sounded by Motown and classic rock records, but Buddy Holly sparked my very first crush, musically and romantically. Any compilation of his hits I adored (and still do!).

Three of your favourite films? I’ll go for Man on Wire, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Clueless.

An under appreciated Vancouver event/person/feature that you think deserves a closer look? This city is filled with so many talented people that are not celebrated in the way they should be. But I’d have to pick Banquet Atelier and Workshop. Sarah Edmonds and Tammy Lawrence create gorgeous paper products that are produced and printed in Vancouver, yet the accolades they’ve received are mostly from out of town. I adore the work they do and hope you do, too. Read more

CULTURE CRAWLING: With Michael Thomas Host And Tanja Hinder Of MTH Woodworks

November 13, 2012 

by Michelle Sproule | Meet Michael Thomas Host and Tanja Hinder of mth woodworks. They’ll be in their Parker Street studio during this weekend’s highly anticipated Eastside Culture Crawl (November 16, 17, 18), so be sure to drop in and check out their super-cool stuff…

What do you do? We design and build original furniture using locally salvaged trees and organic resin. Every piece is one-of-a-kind and a guaranteed conversation starter. The bloom collection is our revolutionary way to showcase the beautiful local rain forests. We are complete rain forest junkies and our designs have become an outlet for us to bring the forest into our living room.

How many years have you participated in the Eastside Culture Crawl? This is our third year. We absolutely love it.

If you were to describe the ECC to someone who had never attended, what would you say? It’s your opportunity to saunter around and check hundreds of talented and local artists. Everybody opens up their doors and welcomes you to check out their work. You’d be surprised what a pile of talent can be found under one roof.

What are you most excited to be working on right now? Our new collection piece (Style no. 13). The photo doesn’t do it justice.  The inlays are Yellow Cedar which are over 400-years old. It’s just unbelievably unique wood and we really enjoy working with it. PS: It will be showcased at the Crawl.

Why is the East Van a good place for art? The east side, especially our building (1000 Parker Street), has a strong community vibe and efficient infrastructure, but it’s not a manicured place. A little dirt can sometimes be very inspiring. Perfection is boring.

How do you get ready for the Crawl to begin? We CLEAN the shop from top to bottom, install the displays, dim the lights, and put on some tunes. Now all we need is for you to come by and check us out.

What’s the first thing that you do when the Crawl is over? Go home, put our feet up, order pizza, and chat about all the great people we met and amazing feedback we had.

OTHER INTERESTING VANCOUVERITES

VANCOUVERITES: 5 Minutes With Michelle And Jon Of The “Green Couch Sessions”

September 17, 2012 

As noted in this morning’s Scout List, Pecha Kucha Night Vol.23 goes down this week. The theme this time around is Art & the City. We checked out all the presenters and became fascinated by the concept of a second hand green couch touring around the city and country like a moveable stage for bands to perform on. Wanting to know a little more, we caught up with The Green Couch Sessions creators Michelle Allen and Jonathan Krauth and asked them a few pre-PKN questions…

Where are you from? What neighbourhood do you call home and why do you love living there? Michy: I am from the far reaches of Northern BC. I call the Fairview neighborhood home now and I love living here because we are only 100 meters from the Sea Wall and a 5 minute bike ride to the dog beach. JK: I am from Caracas, Venezuela but I call Vancouver home, love everything about it … the mountains, the beaches, the ocean, the lakes and sometimes even the rain.

Can you explain briefly, the concept of Green Couch Sessions? We are a grassroots music film project working with local, Canadian and International artist to capture musical moments on a magical Green Couch around the city of Vancouver and across the country. The couch is a digital venue; our most prominent fans are from the UK and Brazil.

A lot of people will immediately equate your project with Vincent Moon’s La Blogothèque Take Away shows. What sets Green Couch Sessions apart? Ever since I was in film school I have been a huge fan of Vincent Moon, he has been a huge inspiration. The Green Couch Sessions are more than a simple take away show. The physical entity of the ‘Green Couch’ creates a unique defining thread to all the videos. The imagery of a vintage couch in different locations, a beach, a field, an alley way creates a distinctive impression on the musicians as well as our audience. We have been creating a small community and generating local support for a lot of Vancouver’s emerging artists.

What’s in this project for you? We want to create a space that merges the art of film and music with the landscape of our city. The personal concerts by fantastic musicians aren’t too bad either.

Do either of you have a background in music? We don’t have a background in music. Jon is a filmmaker and has been behind a camera since he was a kid. We both have a deep appreciation for music and the creative experience. We worked in the local music scene on the video side for a few years before starting the sessions and really saw it as a way to give back to the community and give a lot of artists who are starting out a chance to make a great looking video.

Strangest place you’ve seen the green couch? Sitting outside a dumpster near Davie Street. We saved it immediately and it became our muse.

One place you’d love to see the couch travel to? Too many to mention, so I’m going to keep the locations local. Roof top of the Convention Center. A boat in False Creek. Wreck Beach at sunset. The VAG. Grouse Mountain SkyRide.

A local musical talent/band you’d love to see on the couch? Dan Mangan for sure! He’s sorta the big one. We have tried a couple times but he is a very busy man.

Have you ever had a band so large that they didn’t fit on the couch? Who was it? We filmed a session last year with local electro duo Humans. They had the amazing and talented Carnaval Band cover Avec Mes Mecs. 30 people that formed a giant circle around the couch and they all played an instrument. You could totally feel the energy in that room.

What was the last non-Green Couch concert or musical encounter that totally blew your mind? Last weekend we traveled with The Matinée to Desolation Sound. We took a boat to Grant Lawrence’s family cabin and they played for an awesome mix of locals on the deck as the sun set over the mountains. We are big Matinée fans. They are the nicest group of guys. Their new album keeps getting stuck in our heads and watching them perform this very stripped down private concert in such an epic location was something truly special. We will never forget it.

Ever found anything good under the cushions? A few guitar pics and a couple pennies. The real treasure is in the green vinyl. It absorbs a tiny bit of every musicians musical soul when they sit and play. We know this because the Green Couch is a little heavier after every session … or maybe we are just getting weaker.

OTHER INTERESTING PEOPLE

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