Form meets function for Eastside Culture Crawl artisans
What’s better than a one-of-a-kind art piece? A one-of-a-kind art piece that also does double duty as a striking coffee table, a slick timepiece, or a place to cozy up in front of the TV.
These are just some of the handcrafted homewares you can expect to find among an impressive array of art and design works at the 19th annual Eastside Culture Crawl, happening this Thursday to Sunday (November 19 to 22). Whether you fancy your décor style more classic or contemporary, take to the myriad of artist studios with an open mind and you might just leave with the ingredients for a more unique—and fully furnished—space.
Here’s a sneak peek at some of our favourite furniture and homeware designers at this year’s show and the standout pieces that deserve a spot in your own crib.
(Paneficio Studios [800 Keefer Street])
Designer Arnt Arntzen’s space-age furnishings may look suspiciously like the missing components of a UFO, but they actually borrow from two slightly more common modes of air transport.
“When I was first starting out, I was doing a lot of metal furniture,” Arntzen tells the Straight. “I would go to local scrap yards for materials and when I was there, I noticed a lot of unusual pieces of metal. That’s when I found my first helicopter rotor blades.”
That fateful find made its way into a bench design, where it was repurposed as a surprisingly comfortable seat. Next, he transformed a pair of airplane propellers into a matching, industrial-style bar set. “I was attracted to these pieces due to their high-tech nature, but they also had this very organic shape to them,” the designer says of the teardrop-shaped parts.
Expect similar furnishings at Arntzen’s 19th Crawl showcase, including a coffee table that boasts rotor blade parts as legs and a hall table made from sections of a large airplane propeller. Each piece also incorporates salvaged wood, which the designer hand-cuts from fallen trees around the city.
Ben Barber Studio
(Parker Street Studios [1000 Parker Street])
Coated in shades of cotton-candy pink, robin-egg blue, and soft lemon yellow, Ben Barber’s streamlined homewares stand out in a sea of neutral, cautiously quiet tones.
“Colour is always a strong point in my work,” he shares. “It’s exciting. It can affect your emotions a lot stronger than muted coatings can.”
The designer’s minimalist collection of tables, chairs, and accessories has garnered quite the fan base—a reality made possible in part by sharp attention to accessibility. “I’m always working on how I can use different materials to bring down costs, but that can still produce a product that could last forever,” he says.
Luxury hardwoods and steel—powder-coated in a rainbow of lively hues—make up the bulk of his studio collection, though his modest dining tables and chairs also come in more neutral shades like black, white, and grey.
Barber’s commitment to crafting strong silhouettes that can stand up to an array of wood, colour, and fabric customizations will be clear throughout his display at the Crawl, which will include a number of new prototypes and old favourites like the designer’s solid-copper bowls.
(Parker Street Studios [1000 Parker Street])
These days, anyone can refresh a tattered thrift-store find with a little TLC and some elbow grease. But according to Martina Voss, it’s upholsterers who are the original masters of upcycling. “I’ve always been a recycler because that’s what upholstery is,” she says. “It keeps things out of the landfill.”
Voss’s haute pieces borrow techniques from her experience in fashion design, such as embellishment, appliqué, and the marrying of different stitching and fabric types. Embroidered silk cloths, pearl buttons, and creative cross-stitching—all applied meticulously by hand—breathe new life into discarded furnishings.
“I like to use dressmaking details in my furniture as much as possible,” she shares. In this sense, pieces like her velvet-wrapped vintage-chrome sofa and her Gatsby-era armchair finished with grosgrain trim resemble fashion-forward runway garb more than stationary décor.
Pop into her studio this weekend and you’ll also find a selection of student upholstery projects (Voss runs her own how-to classes on evenings and weekends), plus a new line of luxe vegan-leather chairs inspired by the medieval armour on Game of Thrones.
(240 Northern Street)
Crawl newcomer Jared Pielak’s décor objects are inspired by an unmistakable West Coast aesthetic. His collection of clocks, trays, and bottle openers are handcrafted from warm, natural woods that are further accentuated by a preference for sleek, understated designs.
The full-time construction worker takes cues from his partner, Lauren, who is an interior designer, and brother, Jason, an environmental-design grad. Together, the trio has turned a passion project into a full-fledged business that has come to be known for its refreshingly clean take on a variety of wood works—many of which are paired with chic, metallic accents.
Pielak’s Crawl debut will include a collection of minimalist wood clocks that feature brass, copper, and coloured frames; coasters and serving trays with modern, geometric designs made from marquetry; and wine openers cut from rosewood, brass, and deer antler into a shape resembling a T-shirt. “It kind of looks like a little man in a suit,” the designer notes.
You can also expect to find some equally scaled-back furnishings, like a white-oak table with natural grain detailing and bent plywood barstools.
(Vancouver Community Laboratory [1907 Triumph Street])
Each one of Marty McLennan’s contemporary wood wares tells a story of its past. “As you make furniture, you have to acknowledge or give a wink to those who’ve come before you,” he says. “You have to be aware of the history of it.”
It’s safe to assume, then, that a fair amount of research goes into McLennan’s work—a practice that the former photojournalist is well attuned to. Take his two-legged walnut seat, for example, which draws from mid-century woodworker George Nakashima’s iconic conoid chair, or his maple-walnut-stitched “Franken-table”, a modern spin on the same designer’s butterfly rivets.
“It’s got the same angles that Nakashima used but it doesn’t use exactly his style at all, actually,” explains McLennan. “It’s much more contemporary.”
Other works from the designer include a mid-century-style oak sofa bed, complete with mechanical back, and a tongue-in-cheek wood-burning stove—made from a Douglas fir stump that McLennan rescued from being wrecked by fire—both of which will be on view at this year’s Crawl.