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.

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