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I haven’t studied architecture in the classroom for a few months now, but I have made an effort to continue my learning; I’ve been reading architectural texts, practicing my sketching skills, and working on hypotheticals. In January I was lucky enough to learn of a competition based out of Canada exploring light and the built environment. The theme this year was Interface, where the built and unbuilt environments meet. Living on the coast, I gravitated toward the ultimate interface between land, which is built-on and pretty much under control, and the untamable ocean. I designed a system of lights and gathering points for the trails at Signal Hill, which I’ve nearly fallen from on more than one occasion. The jury deliberated recently and, while I did not place, I did learn a lot from the experience – and I have some new portfolio pages to boot!


DIY: Copper Pipe Dreamcatcher

Some days you feel crafty. So you rifle through pinterest, get inspired, and head to your local home depot. This DIY was simple. We used copper pipe, a tubing cutter (which is not the big, scary, expensive thing that I thought it was), string, scissors, paint, and paintbrushes. It took us a while to decide a shape/design, but we’re pretty happy with the final result. It’s fresh, modern, and colourful. There are so many ways to make this your own – different paint colours, different pipe lengths, different shapes, different types of pipe – the possibilities are endless. A huge thank you to Sugar & Cloth for her DIY modern dreamcatcher post that so inspired us!


Sweet Tooth

One of our favourite parts of a St. John’s summer is Eastern Edge’s Art Marathon Festival, so named for a 24-hour marathon of art-making that’s been taking place for more than 15 years. Since its inception, the marathon has expanded into nearly a week of activities: workshops, performances, talks, and installations. This year, the organizers accepted submissions for a festival zine entitled Sweet Tooth, centered around themes of indulgence, sweetness, and excess. I didn’t have anything to submit at the time, but thanks to Katie’s collection of vintage magazines and a stroke of inspiration, I managed to put a few arrangements together. When I finally picked up a copy I was surprised to see both my submissions on a great two-page spread! While I get the feeling there were few (if any) rejections, it does feel good to see your work in print.


Self Love Files: On Being Bad at the Things You Love

This is my little temporary workspace. It’s in our cozy kitchen, close to the coffee pot and the snack cupboard. Mike and I moved our small kitchen table out, and he’s letting me use his drafting table. On it are my paints, pens, pencils, paper, drawing tablet, computer, and a DIY lightbox Mike made for me (isn’t he the best?). I’ve made a pretty nice space for myself, I’ve got all the supplies I need, and I even have a few clever ideas, but there’s one big problem – I’m terrible at art.

Let me rephrase, I feel like I’m terrible at art, or anything even remotely creative. I love making things, creating, but whenever I do I’m incredibly judgemental of what I’ve made. I look at so many amazing artists and think, “My stuff is total crap compared to that!” I haven’t been drawing/painting for long, but I already expect myself to be as good as my favourite artists.

It’s hard to be “bad” at something you love (“bad” being completely subjective). Sure, you know you’ll get the hang of it over time, but the practicing phase sucks. Sometimes I feel like practicing is just an exercise in failure. And after so many failures, I don’t even want to try anymore.

When art started to become a chore to me, something to avoid, I was pretty bummed out. What happened? What changed? I realized I had made the end results more important than the process. I cared more about what I produced rather than my experience producing it. You know that quote about the journey being more important than the destination? I think that applies here.

My new motto? It’s okay to be bad. Being bad is better than avoiding something you love for fear of failure. Eventually you’ll get there. Enjoy it for what it is. Be kind to yourself.


Christmas Cards

A few weeks ago Katie and I took on a practical design project to teach ourselves the ins and outs of digital layout: Christmas cards! Due to some printing trouble we ended up buying mailable cards from a local artist, but our digital version goes out to all of you. We hope everyone reading this has a happy, relaxing, and snowy-but-cozy holiday season.


The Golden Pheasant

A few years ago the Turner’s Tavern building in downtown St. John’s was turned into a number of high-end apartments and a jewellery store. Maybe the greatest loss from the project was the historic mural which covered the building’s west side.

The original Golden Pheasant mural faded into obscurity half a century ago but it was recently painstakingly and expensively restored by two local artists. This kind of history is so easy to preserve – a low-upkeep iconic image and way-finding device for the downtown – that needlessly destroying it is especially sad.

This post is a partial digital reproduction of the most recent mural that I put together from photos. I love the style, and the whole situation is one I’d like to look at in some sort of future project.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

A little while ago I entered a local call for artists put off by the Spring Garden Area Business Association. The purpose of the call was to get artists to identify their ‘Vision of the Spring Garden Area.’ Unfortunately, the call ended up being cancelled at the last minute, but in case anyone was curious, this is the piece I had submitted and this is the little write up I included with my submission:

“The entry is a digital image composed of original photos taken entirely in and around Spring Garden Road. It is focused on enhancing rather than reinventing, building on existing structures and spaces. Locality and nature are emphasized to transform the street into a vibrant downtown core. The inspiration for the piece came from the street’s namesake: The Public Gardens. After walking through the Gardens I realized I wanted to recreate what I saw there on the street – colour, vibrancy, and simplicity. By making more room for nature and small, independent business I believe my vision for Spring Garden achieves just that – a street as beautiful as the Garden it’s known for, with plenty of room to grow.”



I lived in St. John’s, NL, early in the “development vs. heritage” debate that keeps so many cities up at night; but I recognized it as the beginning only after moving to Halifax, NS, a city in the thick of it.

Facadism is a popular buzzword in areas with identifiable heritage districts. Usually taken to mean the retention of a heritage building’s street-front but little else, the original facade is propped up while a new building is erected behind or inside it. The practice may preserve the streetscape in a literal sense, but it shows only skin-deep concern for conservation.

If the solution were easy there wouldn’t be a debate. The ideal resolution for many (and for myself, at the moment) would be to preserve and repurpose heritage buildings, making creative interventions and sensitive densifying additions where possible. Unfortunately, a city’s development is often dictated by those who see heritage in terms of bottom line and public image, and who view design as superfluous. A culture and construction industry which makes it much more expensive to use an existing structure than to build a new one doesn’t help.

I first encountered facadism in Halifax last year after reading an article in Spacing Atlantic. Two of the projects mentioned are photographed above, the Barrington Espace at the top right and the Waterside Centre at the bottom left. I agree with the author that the first makes a nice addition but  I believe more forcibly that the second is a failure, both of design and conservation. Not pictured are the faux-heritage infill additions that allow entrance to the parking garage. When heritage facades are used for literal window-dressing it looks less like respect and more like appeasement.

For Newfoundland and for St. John’s, where I hope to return to work one day, I would like to see citizens and the government tackle the issue head-on. A proactive plan that doesn’t see development as inherently destructive and heritage as an impediment would go a long way to ensuring healthy city development and good city design.


The Workterm

For the next couple months I am out of the classroom and into the office. After an intense and uncertain job search I am now working with an architecture firm in downtown Halifax. A “nine to five” job may sound foreign to students (especially closer to the nine end) but for me it’s a refreshing break – I’ve been in school for more than a few years now and it’s nice not to have to bring work home with me.

I also enjoy experiencing the city in a different way: I like recognizing the regulars on my morning commute, walking downtown in the cool morning air, trying all the nearby office cafes, and taking lunch on the waterfront. I like having time to read for myself (even if I’m still reading about architecture) and having the evenings free to work on personal projects or unwind.

The above are a few of the cellphone photos I snapped yesterday.


The World of the Future

Here’s a quick little art project I recently did just for fun. It’s a mini-magazine that explores the idea of retro-futurism. It has 4 pages, each one showcasing a different aspect of life in the future (as it may have been envisioned pre-1960). Topics covered include: business, science, fashion, and travel/transportation. The front cover has an excerpt from this BBC program, which technically aired in 1969 but was just too good not to include. I’m not sure what I had more fun doing, making this silly little magazine or doing the research for it. I mean, who can beat clips like this: