Since graduating from OCADU this past spring, I have found it truly challenging to not only look for a job, but to stay connected with the design community. Tough as the latter might be to actually follow through on, in my mind it’s an important way to support a career in visual design. The TO Design Offsite Festival made it way easier to get a daily dose of inspiration in, and remind me that art is everywhere.
Here’s my visual diary of what I encountered.
I’m always in awe of other designers–there are so many fields I could have pursued under the creative umbrella, so even though I’m in love with my position as a wedding stationery designer at Paper & Poste, I’m guilty of feeling a bit of job-envy when I meet food photographers or interior stylists or textile printers. Le sigh. The way some of these people take a task assigned to them and apply not only their creative wisdom, but a love of certain materials, or a subtle nod to pop culture is, in my humble opinion, the special sauce that makes a noteworthy designer. I saw a lot of this during TO Design Offsite, especially in the West End.
Because a big part of the festival is made-up of window installations, much of what I experienced was on foot, en route to work or yoga or just around my neighbourhood, and often from behind glass. The installations were small, pleasant surprises among a landscape of things I see day-in and day-out on my commutes. I was fortunate to happen upon about 8 exhibits, and overall my impression was that the creators valued natural materials, organic shapes, and a great deal of movement.
Along Bloor Street, Town card shop and Zebuu featured works with extraordinary flow. I was specifically in awe of the wooden fish, hand carved in Brazil by Edésio; and the tiny, sweet paper pinwheels made by Benjamin Wieler just a few blocks away. On Dundas, Morning Flowers, a Japanese paper and wood piece, still floats in the window at Lubo Design. Further east, Castor Design’s tongue-in-cheek commentary on our current obsession with copper was both a parody and ethereal curiosity at once– movement, this time, in the drip-drip-drip of copper pendant lights.
South of that, Nuvango’s Carnovsky exhibition on Queen Street in the Burroughes Building was electric and organic at the same time, presented as a fluorescent wallpaper (another type of design I would have loved to pursue). The Gladstone’s Come Up to My Room exhibition, which never ceases to satisfy the cool kids, had an entire space devoted to recreating the bedroom from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Sarah Keenlyside and Joseph Clement). I don’t think I even need to explain why I thought that was awesome. Finally, the Smorgasbord exhibition at James Contemporary featured my favourite piece, a set of finger puppet-like utensils by Bettie Cott, who works primarily with carved wood–and who, to me, is just the coolest.
The 2016 Toronto Design Offsite Festival was held January 18-24. Some exhibitions will continue into the spring.