COME UP TO MY ROOM, today (Thursday) through Sunday (January 24 to 27) at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West). General admission $10. Free admission to Love Design Party Saturday at 10 pm.
Over the past decade, the Gladstone's yearly alt design exhibition has built a community of designers, artists and makers by inspiring them to create amazing spaces in the old hotel. The carte blanche call for ideas resulted in unpredictable work. To mark the event's milestone anniversary, 10 artists, designers and curators from this week's show and past CUTMRs dish on the inspirations and payoffs of pushing the envelope at Queen West's creative hub.
2004: Christina Zeidler & Pamila Matharu
Come Up To My Room was imagined by us as visual artists observing the design world and noticing that there was a lot of crossover. In our first year, the hotel hadn't yet been renovated, and the idea of bringing in an exhibition was totally new.
CUTMR is unique in that we curate the show by inviting designers to do site-specific installations following their own personal vision. The magical combination of trusting oneself as a creator and responding to the context of the Gladstone is what makes a great CUTMR space. When it's good, it's like opening presents on Christmas morning.
2005: Allyson Mitchell
In 2005 I had a studio at the Gladstone and was invited to create an installation with designer Paul Campbell. Paul and I are both collectors. We compared our stashes and found that we both hoarded brightly coloured crocheted granny-square afghans, pillowcases and placemats.
Wanting to cover as many surfaces in the room as possible with crochet, we hung larger afghans on the walls and used smaller pieces over mouldings and window frames. As a result, the room was covered in a riot of colour and texture. We titled the installation Granny Square Wreck Room.
2006: MADE (Shaun Moore & Julie Nicholson)
We were pretty green in 2006 but were thinking about opening our own store. One of us [Moore] had a few private commissions and exhibitions under his belt, and the other's [Nicholson's] background was in design management and fine art. We collaborated with our friend Andrea Sisson, a wallpaper designer.
Our idea developed into a sort of alternative corporate environment with hot pink, bright yellow, walnut and mirrors as the focus. All the fixtures of an office space were there, but turned on their heads.
CUTMR gave us our first taste of public exposure in a very positive way. We still work with many of the people we started with at the show.
2007: Rob Southcott
Being lucky enough to have shown at CUTMR a few times over the last few years has given me the freedom to create work that is, firstly, important to me.
One of my original concepts started as a series of four chairs. I was trying to express the idea that we can all use a little help from a friend. What I ended up with was a set of interconnected chairs called United We Stand. It's still one of my most successful works, and you can see the original version in the Gladstone lobby.
2008: Daren Johnson
In 2008 I was a wood hack, cobbling together a career rendering other people's design ideas. The CUTMR curators were emphatic about the creative freedom they were giving us. The show wasn't about showcasing objects, so I wasn't interested in using the venue to flog my work as a furniture maker. I wanted to tell a story in a 10-by-10-foot space.
I imagined a birdman occupying room 211. I wove inch-thick, 20-foot-long saplings into a nest. It was a huge attraction. I encouraged visitors to climb up into it, and a strange blanket of comfort enveloped those who flopped down into the woven twigs stuffed with wool.
2009: Studio Junction (Peter Tan & Christine Ho Ping Kong)
We were an emerging architectural firm and had recently been recognized for our Courtyard House. We'd been organizing and curating annual art exhibitions in the house, and CUTMR seemed like a great opportunity to be on the other side and create a site-specific installation.
We've always been interested in small spaces, and wanted, from a perceptual point of view, to enlarge our small room and create a quiet sanctuary. We usually work on projects that take a very long time, but CUTMR requires a different mindset. It was challenging and rewarding for our team to push ourselves in a condensed, intense period of time.
2010: Alexx Boisjoli & Ian Phillips
Participating in CUTMR was part of our adventure of having recently met. We were inspired by each other's work and were looking for a project to do together. Alexx was in the early stages of developing his ceramics company, rcboisjoli, and Ian was celebrating the 25th anniversary of his small press, pas de chance, and had been working as an illustrator.
We wanted people to be physically engaged with our project, so some kind of carnival game where we could give away prizes fit just right. We are sometimes referred to as The Plinko Guys (the installation featured a sideshow game guests played for porcelain prizes including peanuts, beavers and squirrels) and continue to receive requests for hosting NUTZO! People come up to us on the street and say, "I still have my peanut!"
2011: Leu Webb (Christine Leu & Alan Webb)
Originally we were hoping to do up one of the private rooms with something immersive and intimate, but we were offered the Ballroom, where the Love Design Party would be happening, instead. With Alan's background as part of the wabi collective producing electronic music events, it was actually not a bad fit.
We centred on the idea of a cloud pulsating with the music of the party like lightning flashing in a summer sky. To create the cloud, we used a variety of weather balloons that were up to 5 feet in diameter and worked with our friends Jeff Lee and Omar Khan to install lighting inside them that would react to the music. We also wanted to integrate the DJs with the installation, so we put them in the middle of the room to let the crowd swirl around.
2012: Sonia Tyagi
I've attended CUTMR every year since 2005, and the work is always inspiring. It's one of the best art and design shows in Toronto because it allows for imagination to flourish with few rules and invites a very diverse audience. I decided to apply because I was ready to show and tell.
My original concept was a large-scale rug handmade with bow ties. The response to it was a dream come true. I felt so honoured to be celebrated by others and to be among so many talented people. That exposure gave me the confidence to proceed professionally as a designer.
2013: Studio Kimiis (Steven Beites & Christian Joakim)
We were approached by the Gladstone curatorial team to submit a proposal based on their interest in our interactive projects. Impeller is a flexible, lightweight thermoplastic polymer surface composed of oscillating elements that operates in concert with information absorbed from its surroundings.
CUTMR plays an important role, especially as a venue that advances the discussion of contemporary art in Toronto. We realize that good design requires more than a good idea. It requires a home that inspires and encourages exploration.