Maplestone Mosaic Gallery in Creemore

Yesterday I and three other mosaic artists from the Toronto area took a trip to the small Ontario town of Creemore, population 1300, home to the only (as far as anyone knows) art gallery in Canada dedicated exclusively to mosaic art.

The front of the gallery, on a snowy dayCreemore is also home to Creemore Springs microbrewery, which adds to its tourist appeal. Well, it did for me.

Gallery interior, showing a red wall with mosaics and large window with Creemore Springs Brewery visible outsideThrough the large picture windows of the Maplestone Gallery, large snowflakes that were slowly falling onto the main street of this tiny town yesterday looked particularly picturesque.

Abstract mosaic on gallery wall in greens, blues and browns

A Terry Nicholls mosaic on the right

The gallery’s two rooms are filled with mosaic artworks by contemporary local and international artists in a range of styles and materials. From rustic to glitzy, in layered glass or wood and stone, from fine art to functional objects, from the nature-inspired abstracts of Terry Nicholls to the precisely crafted compositions by Lin Schorr, to Heather Vollans‘ work with upcycled and reclaimed materials, Maplestone gallery has an inspiring variety of contemporary mosaic art on display.

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Portfolio design for application to the graduate architecture program at Daniels

Portfolio coverFor the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on laying out the portfolio which will accompany my application to the Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto.

Going back to school to get a Master’s degree in Architecture has been on my list of “things I will do someday” for a couple of years now. Over the last six months, I’ve had the opportunity to get to a few things on this list, and am now really excited to get this application done as well.

Daniels Faculty of Architecture at U of T has one of only two graduate architecture programs in Canada that takes in students from all academic backgrounds, not only those who have a Bachelor in Architecture. The only other school that offers similar entry options is UBC. I’m hoping to get into U of T and not have to relocate my husband and two children to the other side of the continent. Especially since Daniels sounds like the ideal place to be.

Portfolio spread showing three abstract watercolour works

Five-storey brick building

Daniels Faculty building at 230 College St.

About a month ago, Daniels held an open house for potential applicants to their Masters of Architecture and Landscape Design programs. The day-long event included Q & A sessions, drop-ins on current students’ project reviews, and tours of the building and the art gallery that houses previous year’s student thesis work.

Attending the open house was, for me, the most useful step in preparing for this submission. Nothing in the admission requirements or the faculty website was as informative as this in-person visit and as revealing of the atmosphere of the school – of how young and forward-looking the faculty is, of the latest technology available to the students (there are laser cutters, a 3D printer and a CNC router on site), of the school’s focus on urbanism, on ideas about the future of architecture and just ideas in general.

Gallery display showing wooden objects with complex jointsA very surprising thing you will notice if you visit the faculty’s Eric Arthur Gallery where the student thesis work is on display – and do visit it if you have the chance, it’s free to the public and incredibly interesting – is that many of the Master of Architecture projects don’t really have much to do with architecture. This year, there is one that explores complex wooden joinery, and another that’s a stylish design for a wearable biofilter and diagnostic environment for use in pandemics.

A gallery display showing bio-filter face masks and disagnostic wear

Gallery display showing bio-filter face masks and diagnostic wear

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Fragments of books: An Optimist’s Tour of the Future

To understand how much I enjoyed Mark Stevenson‘s An Optimist’s Tour of the Future, the first thing you need to know is that after I borrowed it from the library and read it, I went out and bought a copy and read it again just four months later. In my life as an unstoppable devourer of literature, this was a first. Usually a couple of years pass before I re-read even the most beloved of books, since my reading lists are so long that they give birth to baby-reading lists who in turn have baby-readings lists of their own in the time that it takes me to get through them.

Cover art for Optimist's Tour of the Future

Of all the cool things described in this book, there is not one word about jetpacks. Why they put one on the cover, I might never know.

However, a few aspects of An Optimist’s Tour proved completely irresistible and demanded an immediate re-read.

First, the number of new scientific ideas and emergent technologies that are described, accessibly and engagingly in this book, is incredible. Did you know there are several different research groups who’ve successfully created genetically engineered bacteria that consume waste CO2 and excrete fuel, such as diesel or ethanol? Or that an AI has learned not only how to derive new scientific laws, given a bunch of raw data, but also how to explain the meaning of the results it found to its creators?

None of the ideas in the book are hypothetical. In the course of writing it, Mark Stevenson visited (a very impressive roster of) research labs and startups that have conducted successful experiments with and built working prototypes of some mind-blowing technologies. From flexible solar film printed quickly and cheaply in big rolls on a former photographic printer, to nano-coating which can protect anything from clothes to monuments from weathering and dirt, the stuff of science fiction is being made manifest  today in laboratories around the world.

The second aspect that makes An Optimist’s Tour of the Future such an enjoyable read, is how damned optimistic it is. In startling contrast to most books dealing with the subject of the near future, this one maintains an unwaveringly positive outlook about the success of and the possibilities offered by these nascent technologies. Lucidly and rationally, (but often excitedly, because it’s going to be so bloody cool when it ramps up and really gets going), Stevenson explains the potential of each technology to transform the lives of individuals, societies, and the planet for the better.

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