Art of Craft

MOVments from the week


A weekly round up of the news and cultural happenings we followed this week—and what’s coming up at MOV.

Empire Stadium rising! This isn’t a news event from the week so much as an expression of enthusiasm for the new-old Empire Stadium that’s very quickly taking shape in Hastings Park. So excited about its return! If you haven’t seen the goings on down there, check it out this weekend. (Are we forgetting the misery of watching football in cold November rain? Perhaps.) Blogger Miss 604 blog posted a nice round up of archive images of the original stadium in a December post linked here. The image at left is of the final BC Lions game played there in 1982.

The sea horse comes down: Hastings Street’s iconic Only Sea Foods (sic) sign came down this week. The sign has been dark since the storied restaurant closed last year (read our story on the closure here). Many of you have contacted us asking if we’re now in possession of the sign. Nope! The Portland Hotel Society is storing it in hopes of reinstalling it and reopening the diner somewhere, somehow. John Mackie has a thorough account in today’s Vancouver Sun; local historian John Atkin has a slideshow of the sign coming down on Flickr.

Fewer homeless on the streets, more in shelters. The good news: according to new figures released today, the city’s homeless residents are using emergency shelters. The bad: the shelters close next month. The worse: the number of people without permanent homes continues to grow, rising six per cent per year over the past two years. (CBC)

Wish we could be there: We often suffer a twinge of public program-envy when reading about the goings on at our favourite New York museums. Case in point: tonight, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia speaks at the New Museum. A perfect guest to speak on the use of technology in cataloguing history, and the rise of mass curating! (New Museum)

And lastly… tomorrow night we host DIY@MOV2. I’ve written much about the social-crafting soiree on the blog and there are additional details on our Audience Engagement Calendar here. If you come, please send us feedback either by posting a comment here or via our Twitter account. Oh, and on Saturday morning we’re hosting an awesome felt workshop for kids and their parents; details here. Do hope to see you! Happy weekend.

Image credit: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun files

MOVments from the past week and a look ahead


Our weekly round up of the news and cultural happenings we followed this week—and what’s coming up at MOV.

Think Velo-City-meets-Art of Craft: Last summer, we introduced our new look and mission with Velo-City: Vancouver and the Bicycle Revolution, an exhibit on the rise of local cycling culture. This summer, New York’s Museum of Arts and Design hosts Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle, focusing on “the designs of six internationally renowned bicycle builders whose work in metal, as well as graphics and artifacts, elucidate this refined, intricate and deeply individual craft.” (Museum of Arts and Design)

Better in the ‘burbs? Vancouver’s not the only city trying to create a green businesses hub. This week, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts “added clean-energy companies to the list of business that can get a break from the city if they locate there.” (Globe and Mail)

Wish we’d been there: So often Vancouver’s brightest artistic and design talents are celebrated outside the city limits. Last week, Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen of Molo Design were in New York speaking about a new museum they recently designed in Aomori, Japan. Much like Molo’s design practice, the city is known for its artful paper expertise, hosting an ancient paper festival each year. The museum will “house the festival’s floats year round and give visitors a chance to view the handcrafted floats as they’re being made.” Click the Azure magazine link for slideshow of their work and renderings of the museum project. (Azure)

Coming up at MOV: We’re about to change the scenery here. On Sunday, April 11, our two Cultural Olympiad shows, Tracing Night and Art of Craft, draw to a close. Before they go, we’re hosting round two of DIY@MOV, the social-crafting night we piloted a couple months back. We were thrilled with the response. This time around, there will be workshops on weaving, drawing, felting, spinning, jewellery making and collage. We’ve also expanded the onsite craft market. Click here for the complete list of vendors and to buy tickets. Happy long weekend!

Image credit: Sacha White via Museum of Arts and Design

MOVments from the week—and what to do this weekend

It occurs to me that I ought to be posting a weekly round up of MOV observations from the week. We’ll call them MOVments. Here’s a first take:

Yet another new downtown neighbourhood? In recent years, Vancouver has gotten neighbourhood-naming crazy. Crosstown. Railtown. Now Midtown? The Cecil strip club will make way for a new condo project that the developers hope will anchor the north end of the Granville Street Bridge. Whatever their hopes, the building, called The Rolston, looks very cool (rendering pictured left). (Globe and Mail)

Traffic is pretty well back to normal (oh, the days when the buses shot down the round-the-clock Olympic Lanes on Hastings Street). But there is this bright spot: the new bike lane on the Dunsmuir viaduct opened this week, the first run led by Mayor Gregor, naturally. (Beyond Robson)

Vancouver’s favourite son actor Seth Rogen is back home shooting “I’m With Cancer,” a film based on the story of his friend Will Reiser. (Lainey Gossip)

A national headline, but not exactly news: Statistics Canada projections indicate Vancouver’s visible minority population will be the majority within two decades, “accounting for 59% of the metro region’s total population… up from a current figure of about 40%.” (Vancouver Sun)

Good news for lovers of independent book stores: some former employees of Duthie Books are planning to opening a new store called Sitka Books and Art. Owner Ria Bleumer hopes the store is as resilient as its namesake. (Quill and Quire)

We get the final word: Tomorrow morning at 10:15 a.m. the Museum hosts a craft workshop for kids and parents, inspired by our ongoing exhibit Art of Craft. Entitled “Fabric Sandwich,” it’s a how-to collage session led by textile artist Bettina Matzkuhn whose work is featured in the exhibit. Details on the workshop are on our events calendar linked here. Have a great weekend!

Image credit: Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. via Globe and Mail

Art of Craft: Two upcoming family programs + Handmade Nation

The Olympic Games may be over, but the Cultural Olympiad continues—now without the complications of capacity crowds (fun as they were!). Starting next weekend, we resume public programs with a series of events relating to Art of Craft, one of the exhibits we’re hosting as part of the Olympiad.

On March 13, there’s a MOV Kids & Family collage workshop hosted by local textile artist Bettina Matzkuhn, whose work is featured in Art of Craft. Participants bring scraps and materials from home; we’ll have sewing supplies. The workshop is free with regular admission and recommended for a range of ages, though parental involvement is required. Further details are found on our Engagement Calendar.

We’ll follow that workshop with a second family program on March 20 that will be hosted by ceramicist Eliza Au, another talented local artist featured in the exhibit. She’ll lead a session transforming cardboard cutouts and shapes into 3D animals. Free with regular admission; details here.

There’s also a screening of “Handmade Nation” coming up on March 19 in our on-site, 200+-seat theatre. (Note: We’ve received a lot of interest in this film and highly recommend buying tickets in advance here.) The 2009 documentary by first-time filmmaker, long-time crafter and gallery owner Faythe Levine captures the sprawling DIY craft movement in 15 American cities. By their very nature, DIYers are a diverse, amorphous lot, but Levine might be considered their leader; The New York Times calls her the Ambassador of Handmade. Her film was three years in the making and resulted in the publication of a book of the same name.

In an interview with Threadbanger workshop—and available here on YouTube—Levine says “Handmade Nation” was inspired by what she saw unfolding around her. Namely: a new generation reclaiming almost-lost handmade arts.

“I really believe that the act of making and the process that goes into making creative decisions is what is at the core of DIY and the importance of the movement. And I think that what everyone has to gain from one another within the community, and what this documentary is really about, is that empowering feeling that you get from making something.”

Image credit: 2 days in the rain

Q&A: Jan Halvarson, co-founder of Poppytalk

In March 2005, Vancouver-based graphic designer Jan Halvarson launched Poppytalk, an influential design blog followed internationally by design enthusiasts and shelter-magazine editors alike.

A prolific curator of all things “handmade, decayed, and beautiful,” Halvarson has been at the forefront of contemporary arts and crafts trends, spotting new talent here and abroad. In conversation with MOV, she shares her thoughts on the revival of craft, how the Vancouver scene is evolving, and the local artists she’s following now.

What inspired Poppytalk?
Back in the day, I was studying graphic design and was using the blog to catalogue inspiration, never realizing or even thinking of a readership.

Poppytalk Handmade was added in 2007. It was hard to find quality work to write about and I was spending an incredible amount of time online looking for inspiration. Etsy was very new and I had started an “Etsy Pick of the Day.” It got so popular that I created a blog just for it, and people started sending me submissions to write about them. I realized there was a need for these artists to be seen and heard, and I loved the idea of giving them a venue to showcase their work. As it was also difficult to find these artists in the sea of shops online, I realized it must be hard for buyers and retailers to find as well. I started curating all this talent and realized that when I did post about their work, people were buying their wares. Hence Poppytalk Handmade, a curated online virtual arts and crafts fair, launched thanks to my husband and partner Earl Einarson, who built the site.

How has craft and the handmade world changed since then?
It’s totally bloomed! People have realized the importance of handmade for so many reasons, which in turn has created a new and positive economic model. So many more artists and designers are able to quit their day jobs and can support themselves selling their work than they were able to in the past, and this is probably due to their online presence with blogs, virtual marketplaces, social networking sites, etc.

The online and local community is also very supportive these days, making it easier to learn how to create a handmade business from the arts. And the general public is more socially aware of the benefits of buying handmade, and how it helps the environment, the economy, and people’s quality of life vs. purchasing mass-produced items made in sweatshops overseas that are sold in big-box stores.

Through our current exhibit Art of Craft we’ve observed a schism between, let’s call them traditional craft artists and emerging craft artists. The traditional crafters seem to take a more formal approach to their work. They have a strict definition of their audience and how and where their work should be shown. Emerging craft artists seem to draw influences from a wider sphere; there’s a social aspect to their work, too. Have you observed something similar?
I think in the past it was much harder to support oneself in the arts and people never took you seriously unless you had some sort of formal education or training. That might be part of what you are talking about. I don’t know, it’s a tough call. I don’t focus on that at all, as I’m more interested in the beauty and meaning of one’s work and how it affects the lives around us.

Why do you think handmade arts and crafts are experiencing such a revival?
I think it goes back to social awareness and genuineness. We want to be good to the earth, we want to create and support community, we want meaningful things in our lives; items that are unique, one-of-a-kind, recycled, and beautiful.

How would you characterize Vancouver’s craft scene?
I think it’s amazing. We have some of the most amazing talent here out there. There’s a sense of Canadiana present in many of their works, from woodland forest inspirations to pieces made from locally found or reclaimed wood to pieces from one’s own unique heritage. I think the scene here is really alive and thriving. It’s probably one of the more established scenes and is also supported by great schools here such as Emily Carr.

Which Vancouver artists do you follow?
Local artists here keep popping up and it’s so exciting. A few come to mind. There’s a collective called Hob Snobs. I also love following student work. There’s Kate Beckett, a ceramic student from Emily Carr, and Alanna Scott, a recent graduate of their communication design program. There are so many little clusters everywhere, it’s hard to mention them all.

Image credit: Poppytalk

A few of our favourite things from the Games



This is less a piece of writing than a working list of our favourite things to come out of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. A caveat: many of these things aren’t directly linked to the Olympics, but may have been accelerated by them.

Favourite transit project: So many column inches have been written about streetcars in Vancouver—why we took them off city streets so many years ago, why we don’t add one down the old Arbutus rail corridor, why we didn’t build a grid of streetcars instead of a subway line. Vancouverites—or maybe it’s just reporters?—are obsessed with the things. So when the (also) much-written about streetcar line between Granville Island and the Olympic Village Canada Line station was reopened for the Games as part of a demonstration project years in the planning—and with free fares to boot—it was something of a miracle. The length of the line is akin to Seattle’s monorail system (read: short) but it’s a needed connection to an under-served area, and fun to ride. More details on the project linked here.

Favourite Games spin-off at MOV: There are many. Hosting a binational craft show with a section devoted to the work of local craftspeople and artists ranks highly. The B.C./Yukon section of the exhibit was curated by Kirsti Wakelin and Darren Carcary of Resolve Design (read more about them in this January post), who produced four lovely short films of artists at work in their studios. One of the films is posted on the design section of Wakelin’s website here. We’ll post the videos to the multimedia section of this website soon, too.

Another of our favourite Games projects has been working with artist Ed Pien, whose installation Tracing Night opened here two weeks ago. As a city museum, we don’t often host works of this nature. It was one of those rare cultural opportunities that come along with the Olympics and we were thrilled to have it. Working with an artist of Pien’s calibre has been an absolute pleasure. I’ll post my notes on his recent curator’s talk in the coming days.



Favourite souvenir: Everyone has the red mittens with maple leafs on the palms (us too). Not everyone has one of these beautifully designed, limited edition, graphic umbrellas. Sold for $20 at Vancouver Special (3612 Main St.), they feature a street grid of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside with venues and events highlighted in red. Proceeds benefit the Bright Light public art project.

Favourite flash mob: We’re just not used to seeing this kind of thing in Vancouver. Which isn’t to say we’re a sullen lot, we’re just not typically so… gregarious. On the weekend, a crowd of hundreds who’d been rehearsing a dance routine set to Martha and the Vandellas’s “Dancing in the Street” descended on Robson Street to perform it. Many videos of the shenanigans are found on YouTube here. It was fun, frosh-week-esque, and we can’t stop watching it.

The intimate, evocative work of Ed Pien

Tonight marks the opening Tracing Night, the second exhibit MOV is hosting as part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, and on view until April 11. The launch party starts at 7 p.m.; tickets available here or at the door.

Tracing Night defies easy classification: it’s an installation piece that serves as a stand-alone exhibit; it’s art layered with history, mythology, and psychology; it’s an elaborate drawing that needs to be entered into to be understood, and one heightened by video projection and a humming, eerie sound scape. In many respects, it’s an unusual choice for a city museum, but its location is somehow fitting, occupying a cavernous 1,000-square-foot gallery wedged between our permanent history galleries and Art of Craft, a binational survey of pieces from Canada and Korea (and our second Cultural Olympiad show).

Tracing Night was among Ed Pien’s early immersive works, and now, several years after its completion, it remains deeply personal to him. In an interview with Amanda Gibbs, MOV’s director of audience engagement, Pien described his intention to explore or recreate a child’s fear of, and fascination with, being in the dark. He researched different mythological interpretations of night and darkness, centering on the Rabbit Girl found in Inuit lore. She serves as the heroine of the piece.

“The mood is not meant to be that of a haunted house,” says Pien, “but a seductive experience where you’re drawn into the space… It keys on the possible darkness of the human soul, but it is ultimately a creative and joyful exploration—there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pien is based on Toronto and represented by several galleries; the Pierre-Francois Ouellette Art Contemporain gallery in Montreal has an thorough description of his work and images of it. Click here for details.

On Thursday night at 7 p.m., Ed Pien will lead a discussion of Tracing Night (event details here), focusing on its references to Inuit culture and the compelling work of artist Irene Avaalaaqiaq; I’ll post an update accordingly.

Image credit:

Art of Craft, meet DIY

Though we’re fans, followers, and patrons of Vancouver’s craft scene we don’t often get the chance to throw ourselves into the mix. Tomorrow night we will, hosting a DIY craft night with multiple workshops aimed at novice and seasoned crafters alike. The museum will be occupying interesting territory here, bridging the gap between the perhaps more traditional (classic?) craft world that is represented in Art of Craft, and the emerging, socially driven do-it-yourself/punk/rogue/craft 2.0 world. Two solitudes, as it were.

Of all the programs we’ve hosted over the past few months, none has gotten as much attention as this one. So, why all the interest in a museum taking in the DIYers? What’s this movement about? Quick summary:

New crafters are learning those lost arts of knitting, sewing, printing, etc., that skipped a generation;

The return to the handmade is a reaction to an increasingly digitized world (though the DIY movement relies on the blogosphere and sites like Etsy to spread the word);

Some craft movements reclaim public space, in celebration or protest. Yarn bombing, for example, sees a message knit into chainlink (such as the one scrawled along the fence at Oppenheimer Park, protesting the park’s redesign), or a surface decorated to enliven a stretch of sidewalk (like the one pictured left at the sprawling Davie Village Community Garden). For more on Yarn Bombing, click here for details on the recently published book of the same name, written by Vancouverites Mandy Moore and Leeanne Prain.

Maybe there’s some combination of all of the above at work, but above all else, we think craft 2.0 is simply a sign that long-silo’d artistic practices are merging into a looser, artistic form that doesn’t require formal education or training. Craft, art, design—it’s all for the taking, making, and interpreting. We hope tomorrow night’s event captures a slice of that energy. Blim’s Yuriko Iga will lead a session on button making and screen printing. Knitgirl Robin Love will direct a knitting circle, and illustrator—and Art of Craft exhibit designer—Kirsti Wakelin will lead a round of exquisite corpse, a technique where words and images are collectively assembled. Incredible materials have been supplied by Opus and Blim. Oh, and Got Craft, Yarn Bombers and Blim will have a selection of their crafts for sale (reason enough to come, if you find the learning how to knit in public daunting).

Image credits, from top:

Black Cat Doll - Ari, by artist Mia Hansen.
Davie Street Community Garden, from

Art of Craft opens tonight! Herewith, a preview

Here’s a task: design an exhibit that’s actually three exhibits in one, relying solely on images of the featured objects supplied in a PowerPoint file—objects that won’t arrive for months. Such was the challenge of Art of Craft, a rich, binational survey of contemporary craft presented with the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad that opens tonight. Exhibit designers Kirsti Wakelin and Darren Carcary of Vancouver-based Resolve Design opted for a simple, spare concept that belies both the complexity of the 173 objects on view and the themes each gallery incorporates in layer, upon layer, upon layer. The range of materials is staggering, too, covering ceramics, textiles, glass, wood, and metal, among others.

If there is a central thesis to Art of Craft says Wakelin, it’s that the world of craft is incredibly broad and doesn’t have a boundary. “Most craft is fine art but the word ‘craft’ has typically referred to the technical ability of doing or making. That’s changing.”

The first gallery or show-within-a-show, entitled Unity and Diversity, is a national survey of works that were recently shown at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in Korea. The 75 pieces were selected out of 1,400 submissions to six juries coordinated by provincial and territorial craft councils overseen by the Canadian Crafts Federation.

Unity and Diversity represents a more traditional or classic approach to craft, but there’s a lightness here, too, and a common rejection of nostalgia. Many of the artisans question old ideas about Canadian identity, motifs, and history, while others challenge preconceived notions about the materials themselves: Springtime by Nova Scotian Dawn MacNutt looks as though it were made from wicker. In fact, it’s painted bronze-cast wire—and weighs a tonne. The nine ceramic figures of the work fine lines by Margaret Matsuyama (pictured left) are a comment on what she sees as a Canadian tendency to broadly categorize “diversity” while overlooking individual differences. “Diversity in multicultural Canada is often broadly defined by categories that overlook complex, subtle differences of identity.”

The second gallery turns its attention to crafts produced on the West Coast. By Hand/B.C. and Yukon was also a juried show, but when it reached MOV it hadn’t been formally curated. Carcary and Wakelin organized the objects by medium and added a multimedia section that focuses on an area they find fascinating: process. They shot and produced a series of two-minute films of Vancouver-based artisans Peter Kiss, Barbara Heller, Jinny Whitehead, and Barbara Cohen—all with pieces on display here—to capture studio life and the intimacies of the creative process. “By seeing what’s involved in the making of an object, you develop a greater appreciation for the skill involved,” says Carcary. “Each artisan creates a tangible object on film, but their approaches are so totally different.” For some, the materials determine the final outcome; for others, they’re just a means to an end.

The third gallery, entitled simply Craft from the Republic of Korea, offers a representation of objects used or found in the Korean home. It’s more thematically concise than the Canadian galleries, but the exacting attention to form and materials is the same. Some of the pieces have a distinct Pacific North quality to them, too (Bae Se Hwa’s incredible white birch lanterns, Easylight-01, would be right at home at the B.C. Wood Co-op; ditto Kim Kyung lae’s Branch Chair, a high-backed piece made from ash, maple, and ebony woods with a seat fashioned from cord).

Wakelin and Carcary are themselves involved with Vancouver’s craft scene, participating in a regular craft night or “crafternoon” that brings together anywhere from a handful to 15 friends to create anything and everything from knitting to collages to stop-motion photography. The idea inspired the Museum’s DIY@MOV craft night coming up on January 21, and Wakelin will be leading one of the sessions. (More on all that later.)

There’s a lot of ground covered in Art of Craft—and far more to cover still. In the coming weeks, we’ll look at contemporary craft in Vancouver and how various practices are evolving. However you spend your time in the exhibit, be sure to pause near the entrance to watch the projection of close-shot photographs of some of the works featured inside. The discipline and skill used to achieve such extraordinary detail is precisely what Art of Craft is about.

Image caption material, from top to bottom:

Selection from The Meditation of Order by Eliza Au.
fine lines
 by Margaret Matsuyama
Gallery wall featured in By Hand/B.C. and Yukon gallery
 by Noelle Hamlyn Snell

Farewell 2009! Here's to 2010

Been a quiet holiday season at MOV (and quiet on the blog front! It’s been awhile!). Consider it the calm before the storm. In just under two weeks we’ll open Art of Craft, an exhibit that comes to us via the Cultural Olympiad. The exhibit is a national survey of Canadian craft with a section devoted to works from B.C. and the Yukon, and another section featuring 47 objects from Korea. (More posts on Art of Craft to come. Meantime, buy your tickets to the opening party on January 13 here.) A second exhibit from the Cultural Olympiad opens on February 4 and features the incredible immersive work Tracing Night by Toronto artist Ed Pien. Details here (and, again, more to follow in upcoming posts). In addition, we’ve extended the run of Working Wood, our look at the work of five Vancouver woodworkers, to February 7. Ravishing Beasts continues to the end of February. It’s a packed house.

But before we get too far into 2010, a quick look back. 2009 saw many changes to the physical landscape of Vancouver. A few things stand out.

—The Canada Line subway/SkyTrain system opened in September, and already draws 90,000 riders a day. Overdue?

—The Pennsylvania Hotel completed a painstaking and inspired heritage restoration in early January (image above), providing 44 studio apartments and on-site services to the area’s homelesss.

—The removal of the scaffolding around the original Woodward’s building revealed—at last!—the store’s old painted advertisements on the brick, reminding us of a time when picking up stationery was a regular errand.

—Outside Woodward’s, more neighbourhood changes. The storied Only Sea Foods (sic) restaurant closed after a drug investigation; Pigeon Park reopened after a lengthy redesign, though still seems in a state of transition with area residents continuing to gather half a block away.

—Across town, Slickety Jim’s Chat ‘n Chew—the cluttered east side eatery that drew a crowd long before Main Street was cool again—burned to the ground. Part of Slickety’s appeal was its tired decor and resistance to the new, minimalist polish underway at many of its neighbours. What will take its place?

—The reallocation of a car lane on the Burrard Street Bridge for bicycle traffic was a major news story this summer, and then the lane opened and, well, nothing happened. It just seemed to work.

All that talk of the cyclist’s place in the city worked in our favour, and timed out perfectly with Velo-City, our exhibit on Vancouver’s ongoing cycling revolution. It was a year of changes for us, too. We’ve written about some of them extensively here on the blog, so let’s just leave it here: 2009 was an incredible year of change for the Museum and the city. And 2010? More ahead. We’re looking forward to all of it.

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