Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Monday, September 8


junction n. 1 a point at which two or more things are joined. 2 a place where two or more railway lines or roads meet, unite, or cross. 3 the act or instance of joining. (The Canadian Oxford Dictionary)

Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, according to the West Toronto Junction Historical Society, “began as an accident of geography: the junction of Indian trails which became highways and finally railways.”

Whatever its origins, and whatever the reason (converging ley lines?) something about the Junction seems to breed joinings, and not just of railway tracks. The local stores, for instance, have some surprising junctions of their own. The main drag, which stretches for several kilometres along Dundas Street West, from about Keele to Runnymede, has an unusually high number of twinned businesses—two stores of the same type existing side by side and producing interesting effects of skewed double vision.

Take the junction of these two, which seems to sum up the fever-pitch gentrification of the neighbourhood. With a deranged proliferation of hand-lettered signs, Sweet Trolley Bakery seems to be reacting to the newer gluten-free, vegan Bunner’s like a desperate lover on the way out, screaming about her cinnamon buns while her rival sits coolly by, confident that her reputation and stylish facade will do the trick.

A similar old-versus-new dynamic exists with these side-by-side salons, although the sense of rivalry is not quite as strong.  Rather, with Eva’s old-school vertical blinds and dark interior you get the feeling of the elderly pro handing on her knowledge to the perky newcomer, with her bubbly sign and bright, hopeful display of Moroccanoil products.

Although there’s something slightly off about both of them. There’s a well-established tendency for salons to be named with hair-related puns—The Mane Event, Headonizm, Curl Up & Dye—and Hair Sprung seems to be trying to follow this trend, but I can’t quite figure out the reference. Eva’s is more simply named, but the disembodied heads on the sign and window produce a disquieting effect, compounded by that ectoplasmic “Eva’s” swoosh emanating from the bottom one. A demon barber-ella and her trainee? Perhaps Sweet Trolley could make the pies. Or, even more diabolically, Bunner's could, for consumption by vegans...

The Book Exchange and Dencan Books are the Felix and Oscar of used bookstores, with The Book Exchange’s select collection of neatly arranged, high-quality books sitting fussily beside Dencan’s sprawling, hoarder-like stacks. You imagine TBE fastidiously shooing stray volumes back to join their fading fellows in Dencan’s cascading window display. But despite their differences, these two have the feeling of grudging friends, or at least brothers in arms. It’s a tough world out there for a used bookstore and if this odd couple can lean on each other to survive a little longer, the Junction will be better off for it.

by Sara Goodchild

Thursday, September 4


It hasn't been the sunniest summer in cottage country.  On a mid-August weekend with temperatures in the low teens and storm clouds brewing, we gave up on swimming and deck staining and headed out to Muskoka's Summer Studio Tour presented by the Artists of the Limberlost. This collective takes their name from a scenic and winding road close to Huntsville. At each stop we rushed inside to avoid the pelting rain and enjoyed both the work and the different cottage styles.

I was very taken with the above sculpture by Brenda Wainman Goulet.  It reminds me of the Greenwich character from the children's book series The Dark is Rising (a must read for the ten year olds in your life).  My favourite stop was at Jerry Friedman's place.  He's a driftwood artist and had set up an interactive display in his shed.  His cottage was the only on the tour untouched by "updates" and  I particularly enjoyed the names he has attributed to his sculptures.

Tuesday, September 2


In an age where churches and chapels are being repurposed into residential condos or community centres, the Finnish decided to build a brand new chapel in the heart of hip Helsinki.  It's not entirely clear what brand of religion will be practiced here, instead, the Kampii Chapel of Silence was erected with the intention of creating a quiet space in the bustling city.  Completed in 2012 and designed by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen, the chapel is operated on a partnership basis by the Helsinki Parish Union, the Espoo and Vantaa parish unions (neighbouring cities), and the Social Services Department of the City of Helsinki.   

The chapel is ecumenical and welcomes everyone irrespective of religion, philosophy or background. The denomination is listed as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and plans to 'hold regular moments of prayer in the future'.  This very non-specific statement alludes to the inclusive nature of the chapel where currently no church services are being held.   

In a culture where people are raised to live with less and share more public space, I think it's a beautiful thing to construct award winning architecture for the purpose of creating a place for peace, calm and a moment to reflect.  Toronto could look to this model and repurpose our churches and chapels into neutral, non-denominational sacred/spiritual spaces.  For this to happen we'd have to prioritize our socialist ideals and turn away from money-making as the primary goal for a successful city.

Monday, September 1


Even for the most dedicated wading pool aficionado, splashing around in the standard concrete circle can get a little dull. That’s why finding this HiMY SYeD labyrinth painted on the wading pool at Sir Casimir Gzowski park was such a welcome treat. According to his blog, the Toronto City of Labyrinths Project, SYeD aims to “create a labyrinth within walking distance of every Torontonian inside the city limits.”

This example is painted in bright shades of yellow, blue and orange and is based on the Chartres pattern. We loved following the path through the water, moving deeper and then shallower as the path moved toward and then away from the centre, and watching the play of circular waves on the surface against the circular path beneath.

by Sara Goodchild

See also Mazes and Labyrinths, Part I, and Mazes and Labyrinths, Part II.

Monday, August 25


The Common Mullein, or verbascum thapsus, was introduced to my front yard by a friend who referred to it as the "Grand Wizard of the Ontario Roadside".  His attempts at cultivation were unsuccessful, however, many years later this spectacular example of the species sprouted.  

Turns out the tiny seeds can remain in the soil for up to a hundred years, often sprouting after a forest fire or a clearing of other vegetation.  The plant is biennial, producing a rosette of soft and hairy leaves the first year, followed by the tall stalk of yellow flowers the subsequent summer. The plant usually dies after this display, scattering almost a quarter million seeds.

Mullein has been used for medicinal reasons for over 2000 years.  It is most effective against afflictions of the lungs such as consumption, croup and coughs. The yellow flowers can be used to create a yellow or green dye and the stalk can be soaked in wax to create a torch.  

Imported to North America in the early 1800's, Mullein quickly spread to all states and southern Canada.  In some regions it carries the vernacular name "Cowboy's toilet paper".  Driving north, you can see Common Mullein along the road and the further you drive, the shorter the stalks. None of these northern brothers can rival the 9' monster dominating my yard, impressive enough to entice a woodpecker:

Friday, August 22


I've always wanted to dye with natural indigo.  There is something magic about the way the rich blue colour is created by the oxygenation of the dye.  What starts as yellow/green in the dye bath quickly turns blue when touched by air.  So, when a friend requested the use of my yard for his indigo kit, I said "Yes!"  Turns out indigo is a great party activity - the excitement of the colour change somehow summoned Dionysus and corks started flying. Sedate folding patterns gave way to tie dye and experimentation.  Although the results were not as successful as the event, the experience left me wanting to try again and perhaps gather up some walnut husks for another event .... Perhaps Hades will show up. 

If you're interested in indigo dyeing, check out a very detailed description of the process here (I haven't tested their steps), and ways to tie and fold your fabric here.