Last week brought ingenious design to every corner of Toronto, and Azure trekked all over the city, checking out launches, exhibitions and talks. Here are five designers to watch: a collection of creatives spotted at the Interior Design Show and Toronto Design Offsite Festival that presented inventive design and are bound for great things.
By Erin Donnelly and Tory Healy
1 Khalil Jamal, seen at Studio North, at the Interior Design Show
Now a Toronto Design Week veteran, returning for the fourth consecutive year, Toronto designer Khalil Jamal may have snagged a high-profile client on Friday: one of the show’s keynote speakers, Paris designer Ora Ïto expressed interest in acquiring a custom version of Neo-neo for his own home. The Mondrian-inspired unit features shelves designed as slide-in trays that can be easily moved around, from the wall to the table, for instance. The shelves were shown alongside two pieces featuring accents in a coordinating palette: Clip piles up wool cushions between the arms of a metal frame to form a chair, while Column stacks felt discs around a central column, to build a reconfigurable side table.
2 Oscar Kwong, seen at the Interior Design Show and Toronto Design Offsite Festival
Calm washed over us as we observed Oscar Kwong’s work. Offsite, he displayed ceramic dishes at an apothecary, and a tea set and beechwood table at an artisanal chocolate shop; at IDS he showed off an even larger collection that included a serenely glowing floor lamp. At the heart of it all: well-being. In fact, the OCAD University grad revealed that for his thesis he sought to create an emotional experience.
Now a resident at the Harbourfront Centre’s Craft & Design Studio, Kwong is experimenting with a variety of materials and scale, even dabbling with outsourcing designs to other artisans. Most fascinating is the narrative behind his pieces, his philosophy about objects and the clear consistency of quality, sensitivity and aesthetic. A fan of Nendo, Kwong has also worked with one of Toronto’s most meticulous studios, MSDS Studio. We look forward to watching how he further merges his character illustrations into his work and the variety of objects and materials he chooses as his career blossoms.
3 Shelter Bay, seen at Come Up to My Room, at the Gladstone Hotel
The multidisciplinarian Rob Southcott is hardly a novice. Over the years we have published his works, including his assembly of steam-bent chairs; powder-coated metal paper planes that function as wall hooks; and towering mirror that glows from within, thanks to LEDs. What is new, and is sure to fast-track his career, is the company he launched this January with former eyewear designer Sarah Cooper. Shelter Bay’s inaugural product release is a lighting collection, called Union, made-up of seven interchangeable, hand-welded steel parts. With four finishes and three coloured cords, there are hundreds of possible combinations. CSA-approved, the lights are made here and ready to ship, and with component pieces ranging in price from $69 to $129, they certainly will.
4 Nina Dubarry, seen at Prototypes, at the Interior Design Show
Working as an interior and industrial designer since 2010, the Spanish talent Nina Dubarry got her start at larger firms before venturing out on her own in 2014. In addition to being shown at Ventura Lambrate in Milan last year, her Takeme table was exhibited at NUDE during Habitat Valencia and was selected as one of that design week’s top 30 innovations. Built for travel, the indoor/outdoor table was easily disassembled and packed into its convenient carry bag for the trip to Toronto from Dubarry’s studio in Barcelona. (Not that it helped the airline to deliver it on time; the piece almost didn’t make it to the show.) Displayed at IDS with all four components in oak, the table also comes in a version with an MDF top; the legs are dipped in protective rubberized paint – available in any colour.
5 Watson Soule, seen at the In Series show, at the Propeller gallery
Toronto duo Watson Soule translates the texture of canvas-bound paintings into functional art. Rugs are the natural outlet for the pair’s vision and talents: Janna Watson’s bold abstracts provide the inspiration, and Nico Soule’s knack for upholstery renders flat paint into lush fibre. At the In Series show, they presented the complete evolution, from experimentation to final product, of a trio of beautiful designs. The Big Swoop guides the viewer from an original abstract painting to its translation into a New Zealand wool rug, hand-tufted here in Canada, and another, hand-knotted in wool and silk, by Weaver & Loom in Nepal and Pakistan. The products are gorgeous and make you think about geography, cost and quality.