Life in the Closet (It Can Be Pretty Good!)

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Life in the closet. Photo by Peter Andrew Lusztyk

As a child, the fictional Harry Potter lived in a closet under the stairs. Stella Pak-Guenette can relate. The 11-year-old Torontonian also resides in a closet, her bed tucked beneath a set of open risers.

Though unlike the wizarding prodigy’s cramped, infamous digs, which were the result of familial mistreatment, it’s hard to believe that Stella’s pad is technically a storage space, expertly renovated as it has been. Continue reading

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Weezer’s Pacific Daydream

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Weezer

Curiously, when Weezer – the geek rock group responsible making awkward cool decades before anyone had ever heard of Jesse Eisenberg – announce a new record, their fans tend to experience existential terror, not unabashed glee. In the 25 years since founding, their results are always an anxiety-producing unknown. Such is the case with their eleventh studio effort, Pacific Daydream, out at the end of October.

Will the record be iconic and influential like their first two albums, the Blue Album and Pinkerton, whose songs about rejection from girls, struggles with alcoholic stepfathers and all things nerd (X-men, Dungeons & Dragons) inspired a generation of socially awkward boys to feel more and a generation of punk-pop, emo and alt-rock bands to memorialize their failed attempts to get laid? Or will it be utterly rejected, like 2010’s Hurley, which was so abhorrent to one fan that he attempted to raise $10 million to pay the band to stop making records entirely? (He was unsuccessful.)

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Machine Learning: How Tech Is Changing Design

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Merel Bekking’s ‘brain-scan’ chair

Computer-aided design, or CAD, programs are as new to the world as bell-bottom pants and disco. Architects and designers started trading in their mechanical pencils and drafting tables in the 1970s – around the same time computerized dating started to vie for the place traditionally held by boozy nightclubs and well-meaning matchmakers (hi, grandma).

These days, though, the technology has been updated so drastically that it would be hard to compare the current incarnations to its predecessors (it would be a bit like putting a Tesla next to a Pinto). More than merely assisting creative professionals draw out their ideas, software programs are now helping generate the very ideas and products themselves. Computers are coming up with building layouts, package designs and furniture that are as creative or better than what humans can envision on their own.

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The New Tattoo: Murals

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Gurl, Smile

The history of self-expression is marked by subversive art forms that turn mainstream and gain broader popularity (punk rock, Kim Kardashian). Street art is perhaps the latest, with homeowners choosing to deck their piles, both inside and out, with graffiti-like paintings – as opposed to power-washing it away in a hail of soap suds. Intricately patterned, brightly coloured murals are the new tattoo: architecture-scaled announcements of the personalities and passions of the people inside.

Andrea Manica is a mural painter based in Toronto. She is often commissioned to paint garage doors and fences in the alleyways that twist through the city’s residential neighbourhoods. In part, she says, her clients are motivated to have the art as a way to control the look of a surface that is likely to be covered in graffiti whether they like it or not. It’s their way of having “meaningful or beautiful graffiti,” she says, preventing the kind of senseless, scrawling tags that often mar urban spaces.

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Meet Someone Awesome: Joe Gebbia

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Airbnb zillionaire Joe Gebbia

Joe Gebbia is an up-and-coming furniture designer who should not quit his day job. Not because he isn’t talented. His first collection of office seating and tables, Neighborhood, recently debuted at the prestigious International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, and it’s great – modular furniture that looks sharp enough to sit in a chic living room.

Instead, it’s because Gebbia’s day job just happens to be changing the worlds of travel and business. He is the 35-year-old co-founder and chief product officer at Airbnb. Since launching the home-sharing company in 2008 with two friends, he’s convinced over three million homeowners in 191 countries to open their doors to strangers, helped hundreds of millions of tourists more affordably travel the globe, built a business worth over $30-billion (U.S.) and spurred a new form of economy – the sharing economy.

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I Made Something: Memento Box

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My box

Slow is not my normal speed. So, when I signed up for a two-day woodworking class to learn how to make a memento box, naturally I showed up late, running in with my headphones blaring a podcast, one hand holding a spilling coffee cup, the other hand checking my e-mail.

When I had signed up for the class at Heidi Earnshaw’s Junction Workshop in Toronto, we were told by e-mail to arrive at the studio early to get settled in. It was a Saturday, but I was rushing in from a work appointment that morning and was already stressing that I might be late for another appointment afterward. I was off to a great start.

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Meet Someone Awesome: Sheila Hicks

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Artist Sheila Hicks

Sheila Hicks is a curious combination of artist and anthropologist. She doggedly records her impressions of the places and people she sees and meets, doing so using an unconventional medium: textiles. The 82-year-old, Paris-based American carries a notepad wherever she goes, but prefers to capture her observations using a small, makeshift loom. “It’s a rack with nails on it,” she explains. “I don’t need luggage when I travel. I can get away with my wristwatch, a carry-on of clothes, a pencil, and my little loom.”

Hicks’s woven sketches, which she calls minimes (French for minimal, not a contraction of Mini Me), are currently on display as part of Material Voices, a retrospective of her work at Toronto’s Textile Museum – her first ever show in Canada. Each small tapestry tells a story. Hastings Grand features dried corn husks caught in an earth-toned weave of wool, silk linen and cotton. It’s a send-up to Hastings, Neb., where she was born, that captures the beauty of the quiet, easy-to-overlook place.

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