Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beautify the Ugly

Living in Toronto, or at least living close enough to get there by bus, it's pretty hard to walk around the city without bumping into some kind of construction. What an eyesore! I mean, I know that construction is inevitable and it's the only way we can get to that image of the 'perfect city' that we all dream about, but it's turning this beautiful metropolis into an unsightly place full of caution tape and pylons.

Check out this bus terminal in my own little slice of the Greater Toronto Area. Merely the starting location in my voyage downtown, and I've already hit construction. What's the deal with that pylon? Is it covering something? It seems lonely, stranded in the middle of nowhere with no one to tell its problems to.

Moving further into the heart of the city, the skyline is littered with cranes, all rushing to get their condominium up and built before the others.

Photo courtesy of The Toronto Star

But what if we could hide the ugliness away? Drape some sort of curtain over it, like so much dirt swept under the rug when your mother-in-law comes over for another dreadful visit. You may have seen this before...

The Bay Cover

Borrowing an idea from many European stores that are undergoing their own makeovers, this creative cover manages to trick the eye (kind of) into believing that no changes are being made to the building. It's like a sandwich! The slices of bread are the real building underneath and the imprinted cover overtop, with the construction workers and scaffolding hidden inside as the meat. While construction is arguably necessary to improvement, it doesn't have to make Toronto streets look like some kind of dump site. With a little bit of creative thinking, we can really have our cake, and eat it too.

Photo courtesy of The Toronto Star

The covers can also act as advertisements, which are not as pleasing to the eye but get the job done, and probably at a cheaper cost. And hey, cheaper means more people might adopt it! I would prefer advertisements to construction any day. Then again...would I? I'm not quite sure which is the greater evil.

These kinds of coverings pay homage to the trompe l'oeils (meaning "to deceive the eye") that originated in Renaissance painting. Magnificent castles of ye olde would have "windows" painted onto solid brick walls to create the illusion of a view to a lush field (ever present, even in Winter).

While all things ugly must exist in this world, it doesn't mean we can't cover them up with something a little easier on the eyes. And if it's going to be too much makeup on the face and too many advertisements lying to us about every product under the sun, it can surely be a lovely piece of architecture as well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Craft Fair

As you may know, I absolutely love anything handmade. If you made it yourself, it's special. That uneven stitching or messy glue is what makes the item that much more unique and interesting. I can't believe that it took me so long to find out about Toronto's City of Craft that happens twice a year in the Annex. Trinity St. Paul's Church hosts a medium-sized room of about 30 artisans, selling everything from tote bags sporting pixelated genitals to hand-sewn felt "boyfriend badges" (little cartoon faces of boys that you can wear on your chest with pride!).

Having been an avid visitor of the Toronto Outdoor Art Festival, the past few years of the event have left me feeling that it is catered to a crowd a little older than myself. I like to support the artists but I can't really afford a $300 painting or a $100 blown glass bead necklace. It just ain't happening. Plus, there are so many tables that by the middle of the day, it feels like work to see everything.

Even the One-of-a-Kind craft show has become a little crazy during the Christmastime panic. Admission is something like $15, and the vendors pay so much just to have a table that they are forced to raise the prices of their merchandise just to make any profit off their work.

The admission to the craft sale was only a dollar, which I was more than happy to pay. As soon as I got past the door, I was promptly drawn over to a shystery-looking man sporting a brown pinstripe suit and a devious smile. He had a small trunk on a table in front of him, overflowing with more than 50 small glass vials. He told me that each vial contained the soul of a person, collected from willing participants. Further, I could join their ranks if I would give forth a strand of hair plucked fresh from my scalp, and a finger print on a small scrap of paper. Since we all know that this is not the proper method of soul collection, I humoured the man and did as I was asked. If I so choose, he offered, I may find him in the Fall to collect a random soul of someone else's in his collection. I may just do that.

As you may or may not know, I am obsessed with cacti. You know, the plural of "cactus"! I received one for my birthday just a few days ago, and found the most peculiar table at the sale, where a woman was selling crocheted cacti in little terra cotta pots. Of course I had to buy one! While I love my real cactus, there's no way it could survive in my basement lair where no ray of sun can reach. So the real cactus will stay above ground level and the crocheted cactus will live in the perpetual darkness with me.

How cute! And you can't tell, but the portion covered by the pot is actually brown yarn! Heh...soil. I also noticed a woman was selling bags of really cool looking fabric remnants from her past projects. For $15, I got a package of probably 25 scraps perfect for small projects. And included was also a beautiful purple tie-dye-looking scarf, in complete wearable condition! So it's really already paid for itself. And when I can find some time to get the sewing machine back in order, the other pieces will surely become wonderful things as well.

Since I thrifted an old almanac, I have been cutting up maps and using them in different scrap projects. One of the craft tables was displaying prints of maps of the great lakes, with the words "You're Great" screened across them. Very tongue-in-cheek. While they were lovely, they were slightly too expensive considering what was left in my pocket after the cactus and fabric. I noticed that the artist was also selling maps as wrapping paper, sans the text, for only five bucks. I picked one up right away. When I brought it home, I realized that it was exactly the same as the print! If I really want to, I could probably draw the words with a brush pen overtop, but I kind of like the map as it is. Now, all I have to do is wait for a Michael's coupon so I can have it framed.

What a beauty! And I can find my house on it, too. I will certainly be attending the next City of Craft. After the amazing things I saw, I am definitely inspired to fire up the glue gun and make some more crafts this summer.