And for once, I did the show right. I went up and down EVERY AISLE IN THE PLACE. My feet are currently incredibly sore and I'm a little grumpy, but I feel like I saw everything and took note of everything that really caught my eye. And I took photos of all of it, which I will now share with you, but first, a bit of a caveat:
As huge as this post is, it features only a small fraction of what's on display. (I believe there are more than 800 OOAK booths/vendors this year.) My personality means I'm drawn to decorative objects, fine art, and that sort of thing. Things I generally avoid, and that you won't likely see here, but that are in abundance at the show: kids' stuff, woollens and knits, clothing, most wood and leather goods, art glass and most pottery, food and edibles. I also steered clear of most of the cutesy stuff (felted creatures, owls, bunnies, and the like), most of the jewellery, most of the furniture, and all of the body/beauty products. All of that stuff is amazing in its own right, but I only stopped to photograph the things that really jumped out at me, which may not be what will jump out at you. So... there. End caveat.
Now, some pro tips:
- Work methodically. I saw every booth, starting at the east end of the centre (end of the alphabet) and moving west, winding up and down every aisle along the way. I know it seems a little anal, but making a plan for the path you want to take (and sticking to it) is a smart move. The show is overwhelming otherwise.
- Wear comfy shoes. SERIOUSLY. I was wearing Toms and my feet are still killing. (I saw a couple over-zealous young "journalists" in 4-5 inch heels, and I bet they want to kill themselves right now.)
- Give yourself a good three hours for your visit. Or even a full 1/2 day. It's better not to be rushed and if you want to see the whole thing, it's going to take you a long time. (Note: if you're bringing babies or little kids with you, as I noticed many did... well, you're crazy. What can I say? The rules don't apply. You may need 12 hours. Who knows?)
- Eat, hydrate and let yourself rest from time to time.
- CHECK YOUR COAT. It's hot as heck in the Direct Energy Centre. I have no idea why. Coat Check costs $2, but it's worth it.
Okay, enough with the tips. Are you ready to see what I saw? HERE GOES!
These fine art paintings by local artist Stewart Jones were the very first thing that caught my eye. I stopped to snap this pic as I made my way along the back wall (before even making it to the first official aisle). Jones does "urban landscapes" and I'm sure his work doesn't come cheap, but I like the realness of his subject matter. Very Toronto.
I know I said I steered clear of most of the jewellery, but this booth was so glittery, it caught my eye immediately. So decadent, so sparkly, so over-the-top. It's fashion/costume jewellery, rather than fine jewellery, but I enjoyed it.
Artist Kat Kaland makes toys, illustrations, accessories, etc. She told me when I popped by that she's moving away from the toys and focussing more on art, and having seen the art -- paintings incorporating doll parts -- just my kind of creepy -- I think she's making a good decision. The pieces shown here, with the hands and the little 3D girl figures, go for about $200.
Again, jewellery is hardly my thing, but it was early in the day and this gold-toned costume statement necklace caught my eye. Moon Rox is owned/designed by a woman named Monique V. Chan.
Hamlyn has been at the OOAK show before, showing off her repurposed art/purses made from books and magazines, but she's also doing framed artworks now, using the insides of the books (paper, illustration, etc.) as opposed to the outsides. Now, in general, I'm a "READ BOOKS, DON'T CUT THEM UP" sort of person, but I like what Noelle does nonetheless. Her bigger art pieces are about $165, while the smaller ones are about $90.
I stopped at this booth because of the hipster-factor. Megan Irish makes these pillows from recycled blankets (vintage Pendletons, The Bay/HSBC classics, army blankets, etc.) hipsterified with prints on top. Her company makes tees and other apparel as well, I think. The pillows are $48 to $108. (The HSBC ones are more pricey than the others.)
Hailing from Vancouver, Claire Madill makes these neat ceramic mason jars. You could achieve the same effect by painting a glass mason jar with flat paint, but nonetheless, these are nice as far a ceramics/porcelain go.
Artist Cindy Cantin makes these bags and wallets from leather and wool felt and I thought they were super chic.
This stuff looks like ceramic, but it's mostly made of cement, which is sort of neat. I know body-parts and surrealist stuff isn't everyone's bag, but I sort of love it. I like the idea of using some of the finger sculptures to hold everyday objects like makeup brushes or razors.
This is not a booth I'd usually stop at, filled as it was with knives and such, but I a few natural skulls caught my eye. These are otter, fox and mink, respectively. I have no idea why I like 'em, but I do.
These felt, mounted animal head pieces by artist Sabine Alpers are very well done. I love natural animal stuff (vintage, generally) but these might please the vegan in you if the real deal creeps you out.
These AH-MAZING charcoal drawings look like photographs. No kidding. That's how amazing they are. Artist Laurie Sponagle really stands out. Bigger pieces are priced at $1600, but there's a nice range of sizes available and the smaller pieces start at $250.
Tammy Shane is another stand-out fine artist exhibiting at the OOAK show. I would have bought one of her pieces in a heart beat if I could have. Gorgeous. Truly. I mean, look at those owls! Those birds! That sky! Love.
Vintage neckties made awesome? Just my sort of thing. I kind of wish my husband would wear a tie every day. (And if he did, I get him a few of these babies.)
These glass candlesticks were pretty fabulous - substantial, yet delicate at the same time. Very unique. Tat Chao is a nice new addition to this year's show.
Photography artist Sarah Tacoma caught my eye. I love how she captures stark branches and winter trees. And her pieces have rustic wood frames/mounts that I liked.
Sarah Hillock's huge paintings of farm animals (mostly cows, from what I saw) done on mylar, were maybe the most striking, unique thing at the entire OOAK show. I've never seen anything like Hillock's work in person before, and I have to say, I've never wanted a huge painting of a cow more. I mean... they're cows. And I'm a city girl. Yet I want one. Immediately.
The name Pepper Mills kind of speaks for itself. These handmade, OOAK wood objects by Cam Lavers Designs Inc. aren't new to the show, but I've always liked them.
I know I said I was going to stay away from cutie-pie felted things, but this booth's wee decorations spoke to me more than the works of other felt artists doing similar things. There's something really authentic and adorable about Him pieces and designer Shima Itabashi seems like a sweetheart. Her English isn't perfect, but that just adds to the charm.
This booth was a bit spare, but what I saw of the porcelain and wood pieces inside definitely left an impression. The stuff I loved most was delicate and white, with slim blue nautical patterning. Very chic.
Some of Grace Eunmie Lee's wee white ceramics are highlighted with bits of shiny metallic and colour, but her monochrome pieces are my favourites. I love their small stature and weird, offbeat cuteness. Some of these wee works are merely decorative, while others are functional (salt and pepper shakers, for example).
Interestingly, while I initially passed this booth during my official "go down every aisle" run, I didn't stop at it the first time around. I'm not sure why. Maybe the crowds were too thick and I didn't get a good look. Happily, I needed to hit a bank machine before leaving which took me on a second trip down row "i" and that's when I noticed Evelyne Rivest Savignac's pretty ceramics. The artist told me she's been a vendor at the show for the last eight years, so if you've been in the past, you may remember her. I was especially charmed by her little leafy bowls. They have the vibe of something sold at Anthropologie (but are much more authentic, of course).
Go to the show. Enjoy. Support your indie artists and crafty friends. And remember, wear comfy shoes. And if you're not too exhausted afterwards, tell me what you got!
P.S. Sorry about the lighting in some of these shots. I'm no photographer and since artists provide their own light at each booth, dimness is an issue.
P.P.S. Shout-outs to my web friends Jen @ Rambling Renovators and Staci @ Switch Studio for letting me talk their ears off at breakfast, Pam @ Cherish Toronto for being my favourite person to run into at these things, and House & Home magazine staffer/editor Margot Austin (who I may or may not have terrified when I declared "I'm obsessed with you!" - because I'm the sort of weirdo who says things like that, apparently). Sigh.