Rave: One of a Kind Show

The One of a Kind Show is something that you’ve likely heard of, and possibly have been to, since it’s been happening in Toronto since 1975. It started as the brainchild of Steven Levy, Martin Rumack and June Bibby, when Bibby couldn’t find anywhere to sell her work. They created the craft show and it’s since grown to represent more than 800 artisans, designers and craftspeople, and is the largest consumer craft show in North America.

And big it is – luckily it runs for more than a week (from Thursday, November 22 to Sunday, December 2), which is great because there’s no way you can visit each booth in just a day. We recently took a trip to the Direct Energy Centre to check it out and were blown away by the talent and creativity in the room (we were a bit skeptical that it was going to resemble a church basement craft sale, if we’re honest). There were literally hundreds of things we could have snapped up from handmade flavoured peanut butters, to uniquely-flavoured shortbread, to the cutest little baby outfits and toys, funky jewellery and a ton of art.

Here are some of the great items that we saw (and sampled):

Diane Stewart from Blind River, Ontario, creates “paintings” out of layered strips of fabric. Love this brand-new lace piece showing a waterfall cascading down a series of rocks. Gorgeous (Diane doesn’t have a website but you can contact her by email at dianestewart.artist@gmail.com if you’re interested). 

Lace waterfall detail. 

Fidoodle creates really funky baby toys, that will still appeal to a young parent’s aesthetic. We particularly loved this little doll in primary colours that flips upside down to reveal a butterfly girl. 

Kino Guerin creates hanging chalkboards with his signature curved wood pieces, and the slate salvaged from old house rooftops. They sell for about $300-500 depending on the size, and are worth every penny. 

One of the best sections of the show was the “rising stars” area, which featured young, up-and-coming artisans, designers and jewellery makers. The best piece for sale (in our opinion) was the collaboration  between graphic designer Evann Frisque and found vintage lighting seller Mod Pieces. They created anatomically correct printed lampshades atop one-of-a-kind lamps. 

Another creative lighting option was found in the Wine Planks booth, where Cathy Davison deconstructs used wine barrels into awesome pieces for your home. Everyone was going crazy for the wooden strips turned into candle holders, but we loved the garden balls made from the metal hoops that hold the barrels together. They’re meant for outside, but we picked one up for our dining room (for the low, low price of $50). 

We Beet Everything makes killer beet-based dips, including our favourite, Sassy Horseradish (because, obviously we’ll buy anything that incorporates sassiness). Beets + horseradish = the best new flavour combo.

We instantly thought of our West Queen West bike riding friends when we saw these awesome bike bells. Made by noted Montreal sculpturist Glen Le Mesurier, he’s best known for big, outdoor metal sculptures. But we were into his Star Trek and Toronto bike bells.

One of the best young artists we saw was Patrick Lajoie, who created original woodprints from photographs that he took. They were Canadiana at it’s best, and solidified our commitment to collecting Canadian art. The affordable price tags also helped – each bigger print was about $300-600, making it easy for us to envision a few hanging on the walls.

There you have it! Not just a show for crafty moms and wrinkled old ladies. Get there before it ends – you will love it.

Rave: The Big Band Show

As we’re on the cusp of the holiday month, prepare yourself to be bombarded with Christmas carols, candy cane-flavoured everything and Santa Clauses at every turn. If you’re like us, it’s likely one of your favourite holiday traditions is The Nutcracker ballet. The National Ballet has you covered on that front, with their annual production running from December 19 to January 5. However, if you’re looking to get into the festive spirit a bit sooner, then we’ve got the show for you!

Mr. Andrew Burashko

Art of Time Ensemble is one of Canada’s most innovative and artistically accomplished music ensembles, led by the inimitable Andrew Burashko. Their latest show is The Big Band Show, which features a 25-piece (you guessed it) big band on-stage. Classically-trained musicians are joined on-stage by some of Canada’s most renown jazz giants, to share the power and beauty of big band sound with audiences. 

There aren’t any tights on the Art of Time stage.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself “what the heck does that have to do with The Nutcracker, goddammit?!”. Well, we’re glad you asked. As you may know, The Nutcracker ballet is set to music by Tchaikovsky. What you probably do not know is that jazz great Duke Ellington re-imagined the classic score through the prism of jazz. Pretty cool, eh? Transforming the romantic orchestral composition into jumping jazz melodies is quite the feat, but not for Ellington! The cool cat takes the gorgeous classic and turns it on its head, resulting in the hip Nutcracker Suite

Duke tickling the ivories.

The Nutcracker Suite is the jewel of the program, which also includes Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 1. All three pieces are very rarely performed and, to our knowledge, have never been performed together. The Big Band Show plays tribute to both classical and jazz music, and the relationship between the two genres.

Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest classical composers of 20th century.

The show opens on November 30 and runs until December 1. It’s a short run (only two performances), which makes it even more special. Some people buy limited edition purses, but how many people have seen limited edition big band shows? Not many, that’s for sure. Grab some hot chocolate, spike it if you like (we won’t tell) and kick off the holidays with some culture. You fancy, huh? 

Tickets from $25 to $59 are available online at harbourfrontcentre.com,
by phone at 416.973.4000 or in-person at the box office.

*All images courtesy of Art of Time Ensemble, unless otherwise noted. 

Fave Five: Young Local Artists

Here on the fourth floor, we appreciate
the finer things in life and as such, are taking a moment to honour our Fave
Five young Torontonians who contribute to the arts and entertainment scene
in Toronto.

Born and raised in Toronto and a
graduate of OCAD’s fine art program, Aaron Li-Hill is one of our favourite visual
artists. His dreamy, industrial inspired
pieces employ a variety of mediums; from traditional paints and sketches to a
contemporary use of graphic design and graffiti. His art has been shown in galleries
throughout Canada and was recently included in SPiN Toronto’s first Plywood graffiti
art exhibit. http://li-hill.carbonmade.com/

Not only do we love fashion, we also
love Mother Earth! This is why Little.White.Dress is a local
designer that we’re keeping our eye on. Made up of Ryerson grads
Jessica van Enckevort and Alexandra Wilson, Little.White.Dress focuses on
making unique, eco-friendly bridal wear, cocktail dresses and accessories. We
love their use of vintage and repurposed fabrics, and that each of their
dresses is one of a kind. @LWDressToronto

No stranger to the Canadian music
scene, Devin was literally born into it. Son of Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, Devin inherited more than just the famous
Can-Rock name and has been carving out a place for himself with the Devin Cuddy Band. Their country and New Orleans
blues inspired debut album Volume One was released on the Cameron House’s label, where Devin and his band can be
spotted playing every Wednesday. @DevinCuddy

Photog phenom Petra Collins  has made
her indelible mark on the art world with her nostalgic, sometimes
controversial, but always honest portrayal of young women. At just 19 years old,
Petra’s commercial clients include Urban
Outfitters, Vogue Italia, Chloe Comme Parris and Refinery 29.  In addition to that, she curates the female
art collective The Ardorous We love her unapologetic embrace of all
things feminine. @petracollins

Since she moved to Toronto from Nigeria
as an international student in Ryerson’s Broadcast Journalism program,
Shasha has been an up-and-comer in the documentary film world.  She works full-time at award-winning
documentary production company Storyline Entertainment, and as a
producer/director for Squire Entertainment with Rich Williamson. Her very first documentary Baby
Not Mine
went on to win awards at the Human Rights Docfest and the Montreal
World Film Festival in 2009. Recently,
her documentary about the sugarcane industry in the Philippines, The Sugar Bowl  took Best Documentary and
Best Film at the 2012 Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York, UK. @ShashaNakhai

City Living: Planet IndigenUS at Harbourfront

What’s the best thing about Toronto? There is always
something new to explore! This weekend is no exception. It marks the beginning
of the Planet IndigenUS festival at the Harbourfront Centre in association with
Woodlands Cultural Centre in Brantford. IndigenUS is the largest contemporary
international Indigenous cultural festival in the world and it only occurs once
every three years – so we don’t want to miss out (maybe we should see someone
about our fomo).
The festival celebrates current Indigenous culture.
With almost 300 performers from seven different countries taking part, the
presentation of Indigenous culture varies wildly. The acts range from Pow Wow Step to a Mongolian-folk-punk-rock
blend, to a high-energy technicolour dance performance by an Australian
company and a woman who weaves herself into a basket.
IndigenUS starts today and runs until Sunday, August 19, which means ten days
packed with great music, theatre, food, art and, if you’re willing to make the
trek to Gretzky’s hometown, even comedy. The selection of free fun to
participate in this weekend is overwhelming so we’ve listed our must see events

Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre.

A Tribe
Called Red (ATCR) and Electric Pow-Wow
DJ Bear Witness, DJ NDN and DJ Shrub of ATCR created
their own blend of traditional drums, Jamaican dub and club beats, which they
call Pow Wow Step (and you thought Moombahton was the new thing). We can’t wait
to bust a move to some new beats. You can catch ATCR at 11 p.m. on Saturday,
August 11 at the Harbourfront Centre,
235 Queens Quay West.
Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre. 

with Trade Winds
Australian dance-theatre company Polytoxic is known
for big bright performances. Trade Winds,
a story about the cultural exchanges that took place during the exploration of
the Pacific, is certainly a powerful visual experience. Polytoxic’s show starts at 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, August 16 to 18 at The Natrel Pond, 235 Queens
Quay West.
Image courtesy of Harbourfront

Ursula A.
Johnson: Basket Weaving Performance Art
Johnson has a theatre background and is able to turn
herself into a living piece of through her basket weaving. She will spend eight
hours creating her cocoon and emerge a butterfly. Just kidding, but we
definitely want to stop by for before and after shots. Ursula will be
performing from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 18 at Harbourfront Centre Site,
Queens Quay West.

Derksen: Electronica Cellist
Derksen is an award-winning Aboriginal cellist from
Alberta. She combines classic, folk and electronic styles to create her own
cross between traditional and contemporary music. We love classic strings with
an electric charge – and the girl’s got chops – she’s performed with Kanye West!
Derksen will be on the Redpath Stage,
235 Queens Quay West at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 18.

Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre.

Heck Init
Comedy Night with Don Burnstick and Charlie Hill
Okay, Brantford is a little far (one to two hours from
downtown, depending on traffic) but it does claim rights to Gretzky and Bell,
plus, it boasts a casino. Burnstick and Hill will be there poking fun at
stereotypes and political issues. These guys are talented; Hill has appeared
with Letterman, Leno and other famous funny folk. Burnstick and Hill will be
performing at Woodlands Cultural Centre,
184 Mohawk Street, Brantford.

Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre.

Mongolian folk/punk ensemble
This group from China preserves tradition in the form
of the horse-head fiddle, tobshuur and throat singing and adds electric guitars
and drums. The resulting sound is an exciting blend. Hanggai can be seen on Redpath Stage Friday, August 10 at 7
235 Queens Quay West,
on WestJet Stage Saturday, August 11
at 3 p.m.,
235 Queens Quay West
and at
Woodlands Cultural
Centre, 184 Mohawk Street, Brantford at
8 p.m.

Fashion-able: Power Ball street style

Last week, we headed to the always-fun, 14th annual Power Ball, a vibrant and original contemporary art party in support of The Power Plant gallery. 

Being the 25th anniversary of the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, the theme was Quarter-Life Crisis. The theme brought out some great outfits, unique accessories and an excuse to party like we’re 25 (best year of partying ever, right?).  We started the evening at the VIP event sponsored by Soho House and Grey Goose where we enjoyed delicious food, cocktails and an awesome performance by Dragonette. 

Following the cocktail, we made our way over to the Power Plant for even more food (a massive roasted bison) by Mark Thuet, art installations and a whole lot of dancing. Below we’ve compiled a few of the unique looks from the night that topped our favourites’ list.

Dragonette takes the stage in a delicious watermelon top.

Leather, blue & a choker.

Chain vest adds a little oomp to any outfit. 

Watercolour dress – fitting for the waterfront venue.

We’re still digging pantone orange.
Pops of colour and pretty smiles accessorize well with Thuet’s party eats. 
We love a good short suit. 
The only people who seemed to be truly creative with their outfit. Approved.
Photo from Post City.

We’re firm believers that shoes can make an outfit. 

Pink tips + mint = love. We’ve talked about these On The Fourth Floor before

Rave: Creative wedding gift ideas

If you’re like us, most weekends this summer are already booked with weddings, leaving you with the daunting (and expensive) task of buying many, many wedding gifts. Choosing something from a registry is definitely the easiest option, but not always the cheapest or most personal gift to give. And while we know the newlyweds will appreciate the gift (after all, they chose it themselves) there’s something a little unsatisfying about spending $100 on coffee mugs. So if it’s more meaning and less money you’re after, here are some creative wedding gift ideas.

Artwork: This idea works best for a couple you know well, as you’ll need to know their style and preferably what their home looks like. Whether it’s a photograph or a painting, there is no shortage of places to buy inexpensive, yet beautiful, artwork in Toronto. With a philosophy that “everyone should be able to afford a piece of art”, Art Interiors (446 Spadina) is the perfect place to start. They also offer a gift certificate option if you don’t feel confident choosing art for someone else. 

There are little galleries all around the city as well as art work for sale in lots of restaurants

Vintage: Buying vintage is another way to give a special gift without breaking the bank. While your friends may be registered for Riedel wine glasses, they are most likely not going to be given vintage champagne flutes. One of our favourite stores, BYOB Cocktail Emporium, has everything cocktail related under the sun. From vintage glasses to gimmicky wine decanters, this is the place to go for a unique yet useful gift.

There’s something special about receiving a one-of-a-kind gift.

DIY: Another vintage inspired option is to simply refinish something, be it a table, chest, old mirror or bookshelf. Everyone has a soft spot for a homemade gift, and if it’s done well, it will look even better than something new. 

Turn something old into something new and you have the perfect gift!

A part of the wedding: If DIY projects aren’t your thing, there are other ways to turn your skills into a wedding gift. Whether you’re a DJ, photographer, or in a 90’s cover band, lending your services to the bride and groom will help cut costs on both ends, and will add a personal touch to the wedding.

On second thought… maybe stick to DJ’ing.

Honeymoon: Our last idea comes in the form of a gift certificate. Plan something fun for the bride and groom, whether it’s a nice dinner or day of snorkeling on their honeymoon, or simply a his and hers day at the spa after the wedding. They will have done so much planning (and spending) themselves that they will love the idea of you completely taking care of something indulgent for them. 

A surprise adventure for the bride and groom? A+ gift idea.

The main idea is to try to be creative. With a little thought and research you will be sure to find the prefect memorable wedding gift. And if all else fails, there’s always a good old custom throw, right?

City Living: Toronto’s Public Art

There are winter sports people, and then there are the rest of us. And the rest of us, when the temperature dips below zero, flock to the same places: the movies, the mall, maybe the ROM or the AGO (and we’ll be honest, the bar). On the next sunny weekend, why not avoid the crowds and take your own little art tour of Toronto? Dress warmly, pick up a tea and take a stroll to enjoy the great public (read: free) art our city has to offer. 

Thanks to Toronto’s Percent for Public Art plan, 1% of the cost of significant construction projects in Toronto must be spent by the developers on art for the public. This has resulted in significant, million-dollar works of art gracing the streets of Toronto. These are a few of our favourites.

Tembo, Mother of Elephants

These guys were the first to Occupy Toronto.
Image source.
Bob Barker says that Toronto isn’t suitable for elephants. Don’t tell him that we have a second herd nestled between two buildings at Commerce Court Courtyard (King & Bay, south side). This bronze sculpture of a mother elephant with her two tiny, adorable babies is by sculptor Derrick Stephan Hudson.

Monument to the War of 1812

 Not children’s toys.  
Image source.
A favourite of anyone driving along Lakeshore, did you know that this sculpture is actually a military monument? In a CBC interview in 2008 artist Douglas Coupland said “I wanted to create something that was just a quick haiku moment for people driving by or walking by to think about the War of 1812.” Got it? Not toy soldiers, although it was built by a company that makes dinosaurs for theme parks. Find this piece in front of the Malibu at Harbour Front Condominiums (Bathurst & Lakeshore). 

Straight Flush

An image doesn’t really do a light installation justice. 
Image source.
Head to the Bay & Adelaide Centre to experience James Turrell‘s $3-million light installation for yourself. The installation features shifting light playing on glass panels. This can be viewed through the outdoor windows, but for optimal viewing enter the lobby. If someone asks, tell him or her you’re there for the art. 

Woodpecker Column

A tourist took this photo – have you noticed this before? 
Image source.
10 points if you’ve noticed this gem outside of the Metro Convention Centre (222 Bremner Blvd.). Made of steel and glass and over 100 feet tall, the sculpture by Toronto’s Fastwürms is a tribute to nature.

Canoe Landing

If this were in Europe, you’d make a point of stopping.
Image source.
Another piece by Douglas Coupland, this giant red canoe at 95 Fort York Blvd. overlooks the Gardiner. Climb in (it’s allowed) and wave to everyone parked in traffic.  According to BlogTO, it’s also one of the ten best makeout spots in Toronto, perhaps an incentive if you’re art-seeking with a reluctant companion.

The Audience

 Look carefully at all the various facial expressions.
You’ve probably noticed this sculpture when strolling around downtown. Celebrated Toronto artist Michael Snow was commissioned to create this for the city and it’s one of the most interesting pieces to spend some time gazing at. Make sure to check out both sides. Pretty cool that we have a piece from one of the men who’s been named “one of the most significant artists in contemporary art and cinema of the past 50 years.” 

Learn More

There are hundreds of pieces of artwork lining Toronto’s streets. Keep your eyes open and stumble upon it naturally, or seek it out with a few of these resources:

The City of Toronto has put together an Art Walk brochure detailing 22 public works of art downtown. If you prefer driving or live in the north part of the city, try their North York Public Art driving tour.

Let a professional lead you to the city’s hotspots. Walk TO offers an Art in the City tour for groups of 10 or more all year round. Get a few friends together and contact them to book a tour on a sunny winter weekend.

While researching this post, we found a great series of posts by Brian McLachlan looking at Toronto’s art on Torontoist.com. Read them here.

We also found Toronto Sculpture, an amazing database and gallery of sculptures in Toronto. Search by location and plan your own route in a new neighbourhood. 

Rave: Another Africa

On the fourth floor we have a soft spot for anything art-related. From galleries to performance to film to music. When its good, it makes our souls happy, creates debate and inspires us at work where we represent so many different artists.

Last week, we received an invitation to Canadian Stage‘s season opener, Another Africa. The play takes the audience through several incredibly emotional and expressive stories, which are broken down into three parts: an introductory monologue and two one-act plays. 

We loved each of the one-act plays for different reasons. The first, Shine Your Eye, tells the story of Nigerian princess/computer hacker Gbene Beka, daughter of an assassinated political hero who is trying to determine if her life will continue on a Nigerian path or a Western one. The play is set at an Internet scam company in Nigeria, and uses technology, dance, music and animation to explore the impact Western and African cultures have on each other.

The powerful characters, moments of levity (especially the Soulja Boy-inspired dance routine), and insight into the other side of the “Nigerian prince” spam emails that we regularly receive were great. The difficult inner struggle that Beka goes through as the people in her life pull her towards their goals without considering what choices are best for her, is one of the most compelling parts of the story.

The second play, Peggy Pickit Sees The Face of God, explores African experiences from the cozy living room of a North American home. Two couples reunite at a dinner party, and catch up on their lives from the past six years. One couple spent time working as doctors in Africa, while the other couple stayed in North America, bought a house, and had a daughter. 

The adventurous couple explains their time in Africa, while the couple who stayed at home tries to justify why they didn’t take the risk of traveling abroad and experiencing life in another country.

There’s obvious tension between everyone, which is slowly revealed by stopping the action for each character to deliver an aside directly to the audience. The scene then rewinds to an earlier place, with a new layer of meaning given to the action and dialogue as a result of the information shared. Even though this play is very different from the first, they fit together well, with Shine Your Eye providing a lot of context for the Western issues and setting of Peggy Pickit.

We walked away deep in thought and conversation about our different interpretations of each story. Exactly what we hope for.

If you haven’t seen this play yet, take the Globe and Mail’s advice: run to get tickets and see it as soon as you can.  Another Africa is on stage at the Bluma Apprel theatre until Saturday, October 22. Better yet, buy online with Canadian Stage’s clever “click and save” promotion. Every day, tickets are offered for between ten and 50 per cent off. Score tickets here and thank us later.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on Another Africa: @rockitpromo @canadianstage.

Images courtesy of Canadian Stage and John Lauener. 

City Living: Abstract Expressionism at the AGO

The fourth floor recently took a Friday afternoon field trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Our goal? To view the AGO’s newest exhibition – Abstract Expressionism – with minimal crowds. We highly recommend visiting during summer work hours, if you’re lucky enough to have them, and while school is still in session to escape throngs of students (just a few days left to see the art without mobs of people).
While we’re in no way insinuating that we’re art critics, we did want to share some of our experiences. First off, a brief explanation of Abstract Expressionism is needed. Similar to the Surrealists, abstract expressionists emphasized spontaneity and subconscious creation. This style emerged after World War II and was seen as being rebellious and anarchic as it deviated from traditional standards of “art”. 
Now, on to the actual art.
While the pieces by Jackson Pollock (13 of which are on display) are the most recognizable and undoubtedly impressive, we found we were more drawn to the work of his wife, Lee Krasner. Krasner developed a private language of symbols in her pieces but doesn’t explain what they mean – leaving the viewer to impart their own meaning. Krasner’s art, like many female abstract expressionists, tends to be more lyrical or poetic than her male counterparts.

Lee Krasner’s Gaea.

We also loved Helen Frankenthaler’s Jacob’s Ladder. This piece showcased a technique called stain painting. Like Pollock, Frankenthaler laid her canvases flat on the floor instead of upright on an easel. She would then pour thinned paint onto her raw canvas letting it soak in. The resulting image is a bit watercolour-y, a bit Cubist and totally pretty.

Helen Frankenthaler’s Jacob’s Ladder.

Finally, make sure you give yourself enough time to sit down and stare at the Rothko paintings for a bit. There’s a whole lotta theory behind the colour field style that have become the hallmark of his work. Read up on it if you like, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss the works without giving them a second (long-lasting) glance. 

Mark Rothko’s No. 5/No. 22.

Staring at each segment individually changes your perception of the colour next to it. Rothko was about more than just relationships between colours – he wanted to express the “big emotions” through his works. His brightly coloured early works are much more optimistic than his dark and bleak final paintings. 

Our final thoughts? Get ye to the AGO and drink up a wonderful exhibition of colour, emotion and technique. 

Find the Art Gallery of Ontario on Twitter: @agotoronto

Do Me A Solid: Powerball 13: The Thirteenth Floor

It’s that time of year again for Toronto’s most notorious art party, Power Ball. The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Canada’s leading contemporary art gallery, will host guests as they enter Power Ball 13: The Thirteenth floor. This legendary party raises funds every year for The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and is known as one of the quirkiest, most fun parties in town.

On Thursday, June 16, Power Ball brings a world of mystery and intrigue; a place where no one has been before. Party-goers can shake their money makers alongside Canada’s artists, fashion insiders and social butterflies. Be prepared to break out your coolest kicks and your wildest outfit. A celebrity chef is soon to be announced and is sure to bring some interesting plates to the palate.

Tickets are on sale now and are extremely limited. To purchase, call 416.973.4000 or visit http://www.thepowerplant.org/. We’ll see you there.