Hot New Canadian Designs

Photo: Lamp from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

Hoorah! It’s design week here in Toronto and last night one of my favourite exhibits kicked off with an opening night party in the financial district. Hosted by Toronto store Made, Radiant Dark brings together the work of rising Canadian designers and artisans under a single theme. This year it’s Assets & Values, which challenged contributors to reconsider the value of objects — their role, how they’re made and how they’re consumed. It also posed the questions: What assets are worth maintaining or developing? And, how do our choices reflect what (and who) we value?

Set up overlooking three major banks, the exhibit makes a strong case for investing in contemporary Canadian design. Here’s some of what I saw:

Dollars and sense

Photo: Dollars and Sense from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

Jill Allan’s mouth-blown glass piggy banks (love the cheeky name: Bacon Savers), require the owner to make payments through the nose. A clear version magnifies the contents, multiplying every penny by reflection, while the one with a mirrored finish masks savings so the owner only sees his own distorted reflection. Each provides a different perspective on our complicated relationships with money. Oink!

Photo: Eric Matthew's Jewelry box with gold karat values

Eric Matthews’ jewelry box outwardly displays gold karat values while concealing the beautiful baubles within and Toronto-based Lufic made a nearly 7 foot tall lamp from newsprint (the first pic in this post). By turning a material that’s usually quickly disposed into an arresting design, Matthews illuminates our relationship with trash — and the dailies that fill our blue bins.

A stitch in time

Photo: A switch in time from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

Photo: A switch in time from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

A number of designs drew inspiration from traditional needlework, handmade crafts and the cosy comforts of home. Grant Heaps’ mosaic floral chair covers are meticulously handmade from reclaimed textiles. (By day, Heaps is the assistant wardrobe coordinator for the National Ballet of Canada.)

Photo: Shana Anderson's "where the heart is" pillow collection

Shana Anderson’s Where the Heart Is collection of pillows are digitally printed with quaint sayings like “Home Sweet Home” and designs based on her grandmother’s crocheted doilies.

Photo: Jennifer Graham's black and white wall tiles

And ceramicist Jennifer Graham’s black and white wall tiles combine to evoke a hand-stitched quilt.

Call of the wild

Photo: Call of the Wild from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

Photo: Call of the Wild from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

Other designs evoked Canada’s poetic landscape and wondered how long we can consume natural resources without better regard for future generations. Vancouver-based Propellor Design played with the scale of our vast wilderness, miniaturizing its grand undulations into a sleek box light.

Photo: Kerry Croghan's floor cushions, blankets and placemats

Kerry Croghan offered floor cushions, blankets and placemats that reconnect urbanites with the great outdoors through iconic Canadian images such as loons, bears and wind-bent pines.

Photo: Bev Hisey rugs - maps of Canada

This rug by textile designer Bev Hisey maps Canada’s fresh water assets by rendering its lakes, rivers and tributaries in hand-knotted gold silk.

Photo: Katherine Morley's porcelain forms from Toronto's Radiant Dark art show

Conceived as an alternative to natural coral for aquariums, Katherine Morley’s Saving Seas porcelain forms also make striking vases. Katherine is a curator for this year’s Come Up to My Room exhibit at the Gladstone Hotel, another must-see show happening in Toronto this week.


Photo: Tamara Rushlow's Puzzle Lamps

There were too many great pieces to name them all, but here are two I’m considering adding to my own list of assets. Great lighting is always money well spent. The base of Tamara Rushlow’s Puzzle Lamps can be changed up to be more or less intricate by multiplying or subtracting the number of pieces affixed to its centre axis. 

Photo: Anneke van Bommel Lost & Found utensils

Photo: Anneke van Bommel Lost & Found utensils

And everyday utensils are gussied up by Anneke van Bommel, who looked to antique and vintage flatware to create her Lost & Found series of spoons, which combine silver, gold, enamel and plastic forms with delicate hand-formed designs that are almost too beautiful to use. Almost.

For more design show favourites, check out my post from New York’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Photo credits:
Kimberley Brown

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