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In part three of our twelve-part interview series with Toronto Design Offsite Festival designers and artists, Mason Journal speaks with Shaun Moore and Julie Nicholson, the owners of Made:  a retail shop providing Canadian-focused furniture and objects in Toronto’s west-end.  As founding members of the Festival, Shaun and Julie share their insight on the state of the Canadian design industry from the perspective of founder, designer and business owner.

Mason Journal: How do you describe your craft/expertise/practice/business?

Shaun Moore: MADE is both a design studio and showroom which we operate together. As a design partnership we engage in the design of objects and interiors, installations, commissions, collaborations and curatorial projects. In our showroom we are committed to the representation of compelling functional works made on a small scale in Canada.

Creative collaboration is integral to both our curatorial and design practices. Through a combination of quality and concept, we hope to engage discussion and dissemination surrounding function, aesthetics and Canadian identity. We’ll often speak on panels, lecture, and critique or jury design in many different venues as a way of exposing people to Canadian Design and with the hope of encouraging fresh talent.

Our combined backgrounds cover: design showroom and art gallery management, curatorial projects, furniture designing and making, art making and installations, event planning and design. We’d get bored if we only had one hat to wear.

Mason Journal: Are there any guiding principles or core values that would define the curated collection of items offered through MADE?

Julie Nicolson: We have a focus on a high quality of production aligned with considered materials and the fusion of function to an idea. I think the collection overall, represents articulate works which provoke a positive and thoughtful response in the viewer/user.

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MJ: Are there any overarching concepts, methods or materials that you strive to retain as the foundation to your personal work?

SM: One of the main concepts in my personal design work is that materials and colours are temperature based. When working with multiple materials or colours I attribute levels on a hot to cold continuum to each. I believe that you can achieve balance and steer the spirit of both the piece and the space for which the object is intended with these “temperature” combinations. In my furniture designs, I love to work with a combination of wood and metal; a finish can steer metal from being a cold material to a warm one while a single wood tone can be shifted from warm to cool dependent upon its metal pairing. For me, there can be infinite possibilities for a single design when working with this principle.

MJ: Briefly describe your involvement in Toronto Design Offsite Festival. 

SM: We are just two of the founding members of the Festival initially working with the other founders to cross promote our events and to structure the core goals and values of the Festival. We continue to present and cross promote our exhibitions and events and works within the swelling ranks of offsite offerings of the Festival. This year we will be presenting “Look I Like” a special installation by Christina Zeidler in our showroom along with a launch of several new products by a slew of Toronto designers. We are co-organising, curating and participating as a venue in Do Design on Dundas Street West.  MADE will also be designing a lighting installation for CUTMR this year.

MJ:  What has brought you to contribute to the festival in this way?

JN: Everything we do as MADE is about engagement and working for more and more people to understand the kind of work we represent as well as produce ourselves- as an independent design company, this contributes to our making a living.  TO DO works towards engagement within the design community and simultaneously reaches out to a wider audience in Toronto and beyond, so it’s like riding a bigger wave.

MJ: What are your goals and objectives as a participant and contributor to the festival?

SM: As participating venue(s) we have several motivations. To gain exposure for: 1st the designers showing at MADE (Deanne Lehtinen & Christina Zeidler); 2nd for the many designers exhibiting shopfront in our neighbourhood for DoDesign; 3rd for our showroom and all the designers that we represent and 4th for our fellow neighbourhood businesses.  Separately as participants making work for Come Up to My Room, our goal is mainly to attain exposure which supports our business and engages our own creativity but we also have a long standing relationship with CUTMR and were excited when they asked us to be part of the 10th anniversary celebration.

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MJ:  As you are both active design practitioners, how would you describe the current state of the Canadian industry from the perspective of a business owner?  Where would you like to see it progress in the coming years?

JN: Right now, I see an industry that is trying to push forward in a positive manner despite some financially conservative years. I’d like to see more and more people thinking sustainably about design as something to be invested in for the long term. Emphasis could move away from what can be done for the lowest cost which encourages an attitude of disposability or easy replacement and instead consider attaching values of quality and longevity to output.

SM: I think that economically, most industries (including design) have been having a rough time recently. Because there have not been many design jobs available we are seeing an increase in self-directed and self-produced design work. People are making things happen on a smaller scale rather than depending on jobs in big companies. It means that much of the work that we are seeing is more personal and usually more interesting. I would really love to see smaller (and perhaps struggling) manufacturers working with independent designers to uncover the hidden potential in their businesses.

MJ:  What hurdles do you find most restrictive in Canadian industrial designers penetrating market?  Are there any strengths that allow Canadian designs to be more effectively received?

JN: Canadian designers have some tough hurdles to get over. As an independent, it is costly to develop and produce ideas- there are some designs that will be too prohibitive to actually get going without the support of a manufacturer or some other kind of funding. If designers manage to self-produce, it is not likely to be in a large number.  Another challenge is to market their work from that point – do they undertake this themselves- which takes their time away from designing or do they invest yet again to further their products? There is also some disconnect, where a lot of manufacturing sectors in Canada underestimate the benefits of working with consulting designers who could enhance the development of their company’s products.

That said, those very challenges make for extremely self sufficient designers who are proficient at so many things and are determined to work creatively through each issue. I think that determination has led many designers to come up with excellent products that attempt to speak directly to their market – developing ways to get both attention and appreciation.

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MJ: How does Toronto Design Offsite Festival benefit you as a designer and a business owner?  How does it impact the design community at large?

SM: There has been a long struggle for visibility of Design in Canada. Things have steadily improved over the past 6-8 years but the Offsite has been fantastic for getting more people out and involved; producing, exhibiting and viewing design. The Festival helps to create a bigger buzz than any of the exhibitions could do individually. Offsite began unofficially with Come Up to My Room, then we introduced our Radiant Dark series, Katherine Morley started Capacity, Joy Charbonneau began her series and now there are over 40 events. It’s an amazing progression from one to 5 shows between 2007 and 2010 and then since the inception of TODO we’ve gone from 5 shows to 40 events in just 3 festivals.

MJ: What can we look forward to seeing from MADE next?

JN: We’ll continue a steady introduction of great new designs alongside our custom projects. There are a few curatorial projects simmering for the coming year but it is too early to reveal anything. Of course we’ll be back for Offsite 2014, but in what capacity we’ll need some time to decide.

For more information on the Toronto Design Offsite Festival, visit www.todesignoffsite.com
To learn more about MADE, visit their website at www.madedesign.ca

Or visit their showroom at:

867 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Canada

All images courtesy of MADE.