Design Week Highlights
This year was the 10th anniversary of Toronto Design week, a multi-day, multi-venue fashion, design and art festival. Coinciding with the festival which highlights independent artists is the much larger, Interior Design Show.
Along with my employer and partner I attended a number of events including ADDRESS show hosted at Lightform lighting showroom in the King West neighbourhood, Come up to my room held annually at the Gladstone hotel and It starts out Rough, a small sculptural exhibit at Inabstracto on Queen St. ADDRESS SHOW
ADDRESS had its East coast debut this year at Design week. The show generally showcases female, or female identifying makers though this year there were some exceptions. The show is the brain child of Kate Duncan, a Vancouver furniture maker who has recently moved her practice to Toronto. The show displayed a nice variety of designers and mediums from sculpture, painting to furniture. Kates work was a big stand out, its simplicity and geometric purity is certainly on the pulse with current trends in minimalist furniture design and is an expression of superb craftsmanship and use of materials.
Come up to my room
Every year the Gladstone hotel invites artists to redecorate rooms in its historic guest rooms and corridors. This year there were many interesting, engaging and interactive rooms including a mystical pagan-like rainforest with ceramic sculptures and a black light psychedelic victorian boudoir. One exhibit that was particularly engaging and thought provoking was a series of chairs designed and built by architect students at the University of Waterloo. The chairs were each designed with a notable person in mind and designed to reflect these individuals. Personally, I think this is a brilliant exercise in conceptual design and the use of objects and craft to communicate a narrative. Also the level of craftsmanship rivalled that of Sheridan Furniture students which is impressive.
Speaking of Sheridan, there was a nice representation of C&D alumni in the "orange room", which featured objects crafted monochromatically and unapologetically, orange. This bench was a personal favourite, designed and built by two former Furniture students, Natalie and Hena, it had the refined and structural integrity one would expect from two Furniture grads. To me this piece is the perfect example of the playful, tongue and cheek spontaneity that creates thoughtful and engaging design moments.
It Starts Out Rough
For me the most memorable exhibit was It Starts Out Rough by sculptor Julie Jenkinson at Inabstracto, a furniture showroom on Queen St West. This show displayed Julie's unique found-object sculptures and furniture which elegantly balanced the deeply narrative folk art aesthetic with a sense of contemporary now-ness.
This was my personal Highlight of the festival for many reasons. Julie's use of industrial by-products is consistent with my own personal desire to use existing materials and recycles objects in my work. This recycling of materials applies a pre-existing history to the piece that elevates it and enriches its connection with the user.
Julies sculptures make me wonder about the distinction between visual art, or "non-functional" sculptural design; and functional object design ie: Furniture, vessels, clothing. And how it seems as though there is a grey zone that has been carved out by makers and designers where objects occupy both fields, "collectable design". So my big question is, is this bridge between art and utility a viable and sustainable pursuit for makers or is it simply a trend in artists seeking function and perhaps purpose for their artworks?