Designer-in-depth: heyday design’s Claire Madill

A few weeks ago, CO’s Social Media Coordinator, Lee-Anne Bigwood, was in Vancouver and paid a visit to the lovely Claire Madill of heyday design to see what she’s been up to. We’ve been carrying her pieces at Galerie CO since the spring and love them as beautiful objects, and for holding flowers and kitchen tools. It was high time for a studio visit which, lucky for us, coincided with production on her brand new collection.

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We’ll be carrying her whimsical “slightly crushed cans”, which are safe for drinking but also make sweet bud vases.


slightly crushed cans” (source: heyday design)

For this week’s blog post, Lee-Anne shares her observations following her visit with Claire…

When thinking of Vancouver, it’s easy to pull to mind windows with picturesque views of the ocean, with beaches and century-old trees peppering the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background. You can imagine yourself enjoying the laid back West Coast vibe watching yoga-pants-clad runners and cyclists buzzing by as you drink locally roasted coffee and snack on healthy salads on a patio built for drizzly conditions.

But there is another part of town where the heavy-lifting gets done; in the portlands of the industrial section of East Vancouver. In this part of town, there is less meandering and more passing through, with huge trucks pulling up to loading zones near the massive ships docked from all over the world.  If you take the time to cycle slowly or saunter through, however, you’ll be lucky to come across some sweet spots to visit in the area.

A highlight for me on the way to Claire’s studio was the nearly hidden Cottonwood Community Garden (the oldest in the city, which is at risk of being plowed over to create wider roads for all the trucks):Garden entrance, next to warehouses

The entrance to the garden on Malkin Avenue (this photo and more about the garden can be found here.)

After exploring the neighbourhood on a typically drizzly but balmy Vancouver day, I made my way to Claire’s studio. In an email with directions she had given me the following instructions: “my studio is in a terrific building, full of full-time makers.”

Terrific indeed! The building, though staying true to the blocked industrial style of the area, seems to emit a sort of creative spirit with its bright green exterior.

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The Mergatroid Art Studio Building

“I’m in studio #202 at the top of the stairs.”

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Woodburned/etched photos leading up the stairs to the studios

Claire is incredibly welcoming, but apologizes for the mess. I don’t see the mess that she speaks of, instead I’m aware of the rows of neatly ordered shelves with her work in its many stages.

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One of many storage shelves with her hew “basket” bowls.

The studio is large and brightly lit with natural light, and I ask her how she managed to score such a great space. She tells me that she inherited the studio space from a potter who married her best friend and moved to Montana.

Our discussions about her work come naturally. I start to take notes, but realize that I just want to sit and chat with her about her passion. She smiles freely and she beams with pride around her work.

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Here Claire, wearing a pair of her geometric porcelain earrings, lovingly holds her favourite piece. She explains that this widemouth jar is her most-loved. “I don’t know why, there’s something about the weight of it and it’s so cylindrical. It’s just so perfect.”

She tells me that she is happiest when she is making things and calls herself a “designer/maker”. This doesn’t surprise me, since the kind of gallery-store spaces I’m most attracted to are typically staffed with people who embody the spirit and feeling of a home studio.

Claire isn’t originally from Vancouver, but from Southern Ontario. She went to high school in Whitby. We realized that where she grew up and where she still visits her two sisters and 91-year old Nanna, is where my own family now lives. This pulled at my heart strings a little since my own late Nana would have loved her work and the warm way she welcomed me into her space.

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Claire and her Dad ‘somewhere in Ontario’, secured to filing cabinet with one of her porcelain cube magnets.

I then ask the always popular questions, “How did you get into this line of work? What brought you here?”

Claire tells me that she was really creative as a kid but at the time, one of her younger three sisters became known as the artist. She was never discouraged from creating, but was under the impression that there can only really be one artist in the family. She discovered her artistic self more deeply after her first degree, which was in Criminology (“I thought I wanted to be a cop!”, she laughs). She then thought she would become a photographer. At the time, she also had a line of punk rock wrist cuffs and collars that she made from vintage leather belts.

Subsequently, Claire attended the Emily Carr University of Art & Design on Granville Island in Vancouver. She applied to the ceramics department because, “there was so much to learn. Even with full time dedication, I knew I’d be learning something new all the time.” In her third year she took a mould-making class with Jeremy Hatch and loved it because it was foreign and fun. She started mixing porcelain casting slips and says she has never looked back. Jeremy continues to be one of her design inspirations.

MADE‘ in Toronto was heyday design’s first store and in 2009 she participated in the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit. She has clients all over North America, although most of her work is still sold in Canada. It seems we are nostalgic and connect to the vintage mason jars and baskets that remind us of times with our grandparents, at cottages and other memories of Canadiana.

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Mould-making is a challenging multi-stage process. “It would be enough to just be a mould-maker, there are so many steps. It’s difficult and all consuming, but it’s worth it. I love it.” Each piece goes through approximately thirty steps from beginning to end include moulding, casting, glazing, sanding, firing, sanding again and polishing.

House and Home’s Design Lab has an episode with a feature on Claire, where you can see her in action going through all the steps, pouring and casting her porcelain pieces in this studio.

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The moulds, which Claire makes herself, are made up of four parts banded together with a heavy elastic. You also fill the actual object you are molding with plaster, because you want it to hold its shape, and it’s the outside shape and features that you are creating a mould for.

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If she creates a cast in the morning, she can’t handle it again until the evening. On an average production day she’ll make around 25 pieces. During the Christmas rush, that number can go up to 42 pieces a day.

Claire shows me one of her most popular models; an antique Beaver canning jar she found at her grandmother’s house. This next photo illustrates the way that the final product is about 13% smaller. This is because plaster is water-seeking, so the mould sucks a lot of water right out of porcelain slip.

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Each piece is glazed on the inside, making it food-safe and water tight. The outside is kept matte, unglazed and monochrome, to keep the embossing of the original more pronounced. The focus is on the form coming through.

heyday (4)The final stage: dusting and polishing before shipping out

Claire also makes jewellery, some of which is black, but has a separate set of moulds, a separate section of the studio, and even a separate day that she works on it because she wants absolutely no mix up. It’s imperative that the pieces are pristine.

I wonder, with her attention to detail and affinity towards clean and monochrome in her work whether that style is carried through in her own art collections. “Oh no! I love colour. But I do tend to be attracted to geometric shapes.” I ask her to tell me about her favourite art pieces at home, and after our meeting she sends me photos of two.

She first tells me about a wooden piece she has on her table.”It’s so simple and complex. Instead of cutting it flat on the ends, he’s cut it on an angle. It is like a flat object, trying to be a 3D object but it IS 3D. It’s beautiful.”

Christopher Donnelly

Sculpture by Christopher Donnelly (photo care of Claire Madill)

“I also really love the bright, geometric paintings of Jessica Groome. I have two that I can see from my favourite spot on my couch!”


Left, and top right, paintings by Jessica Groome (photo care of Claire Madill)

I asked Claire about her favourite piece at Galerie CO.

donna wilson rainy day blanket grey“Living in Vancouver must be in my soul now — I love the rainy day blanket by Donna Wilson best.”

As I was preparing to leave, I noticed that she had a bag from one of my own favourite artists in Toronto: Bookhou. Claire loves her bags, and even showed me a hilarious photo of her and two friends all coincidentally wearing Bookhou bags at an art festival. She has traded a lot of products with her. This is what she does with many other designer-makers.

What nostalgic memories do her porcelain pieces conjure up for you? What would you like to store in her gorgeous vases?

Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter or Instagram @GalerieCO

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True green decor

Fall is here. In Montreal, it’s time to bring in the plants and batten down the hatches for another winter.

After a summer enjoyed in the great outdoors, once we seal up our homes for another winter, I wonder how many of us turn our thoughts to indoor air quality. In fact, indoor air pollutants can be significantly higher than outdoor air pollutants. Our homes and the stuff we have in them can contain a cocktail of hazardous substances such as formaldehyde (found in MDF, carpets, upholstery) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassed from carpets, upholstery, paints, insulation, plastics and countless other common products.

Green plants come in handy here. They absorb toxins, removing VOCs from the ambient air, and they actually improve air quality through photosynthesizing — that is, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing energy rich oxygen.

An effort to capture these health benefits is propelling the movement in corporate headquarters, arts institutions, universities and public spaces to incorporate into their interior architecture permanent installations of plants — or living walls. Living walls are covered by plants, which do not root in the ground but in soil or mats suspended on the wall itself.

living wall 8(source:

In addition to being visually stunning and delivering physical benefits, living walls provide psychological health benefits by inserting nature into human (and often corporate) landscapes. succulent wall

A wall of succulents (source:

Most living walls require a significant investment, a relatively sophisticated infrastructure and considerable maintenance commitments that can be met in institutional settings. But there is no reason that the infrastructure can’t be transferred to people’s homes, as long as they have the means and ability to pay for and care for the undertaking. Take, for example, this fabulous creation by garden designer Daniel Bell who created a living wall that runs inside and outside a house in north London in the UK.

The indoor section of the wall(source: the Guardian)

This wall is made from two layers of capillary matting (made from recycled clothes) with a waterproof plastic backing. Slits were cut in the outer felt, plants were inserted, and the opening was then stapled to anchor the plant. This system allowed the designer to create different-sized pockets to suit different plants. The innovative design coupled with clever plant choices resulted in an absolutely spectacular living wall masterpiece.

living wall 7(source: the Guardian)

When I opened Galerie CO in 2008 I budgeted out installing a living wall in the boutique. At the time it represented too large an investment when there were so many other things that needed to be done.

Nevertheless, I was committed to the idea of showcasing greenery and inspiring our clients to ‘green’ their own homes. So I set out to find affordable alternatives; ways to install plants inside en masse and in unconventional and beautiful ways. Here are four of the solutions I sourced, that are displayed and sold at Galerie CO and would be easy to install in any home:

1.  Colourful and petite, Thelermont Hupton’s delightful ‘off the wall’ ceramic wall pots are ideal for small bursts of interior greenery in the kitchen, living room, home office or bathroom. With invisible fixtures these simple pots let your plants nestle on the wall creating discrete and artful interior ‘gardens’.


‘Off the wall’ pots (source: Thelermont Hupton)

2.  A larger option is available from Wooly pockets. Made from 100% recycled post-consumer PET plastic bottles, these planters hang on the wall.

news item woolly pockets

Wooly Pocket’s Wally 3 (source: Woolypocket)

They are easy to install, simple to use and modular, allowing you to create a custom-sized living wall to fit your space.

oliver heath comA gorgeous wall created using Wooly Pockets (source:

3.  If you don’t have the space or the inclination for a living wall, Boskke’s innovative sky planters allow you to suspend plants upside down from the ceiling. They are striking on their own, but really pack a surreal visual punch when the three different sizes are displayed at various heights with an array of different plants.


Assorted skyplanters and plants (source: Boskke)

Boskke provides some guidance on the types of plants that love to be raised upside down. In our experience, orchids do especially well in the skyplanters. In nature they grow clinging to tree branches, their roots firmly attached to the bark of a tree, which explains why they are so content upside down in the sky planters.

BOSKKE Sky Planter Recycled medium White Orchid(source: Boskke)

4.  L.A.’s Sheleterblack has created beautifully simple and contemporary wooden wall mountable planter frames. The Garden State boxes are available with contrast detail on half of the perimeter in black, neon pink and neon yellow. They are designed especially for succulents, which are secured through a wire mesh.

living wall shelterblackShelterblack’s Garden State box planter (source:

So, as the air cools in the evenings and the threat of frost approaches, when you bring in your patio plants think about creating your own, affordable, living wall on a smaller scale.

We’d love to see how you create green spaces inside you own home.

Send us your photos on twitter or instagram @GalerieCO or tag yourself as a #COclient to be featured.

London Design Festival 2014: CO connections

As our regulars know, I am partial to British design. I spent many of my formative years living in London and picked up an enthusiastic appreciation of the English sensibility in design, among other things! I get back quite a bit and a couple of years ago I went over for the annual London Design Festival. What a blast that was! The city full of interesting installations, exhibitions and pop-up shops, showcasing the best of British design. It was quirky, colourful, off-the-wall and I loved every minute of it.

ldf_2014_web_banners_top-02This year the Festival runs from the 13 to 21 of September and I’m not in London, I’m in Montreal. But I will be following what’s going on and reporting back.

In the meantime, if you’re lucky enough to be travelling across the pond this week, have a look at what some of CO’s British suppliers are doing for the Festival, and go visit them and say hello, if you can!

Donna Wilson: Rainy Day Pop-Up Shop

For the duration of the Festival, Donna Wilson will be operating a week-long installation and Pop-Up shop in London’s Shoreditch neighbourhood (BOXPARK / Unit 26, 2-10 Bethnal Green Road).

Donna Wilson fabric“Holding hands” from Donna Wilson’s first collection of fabric (source: Donna Wilson)

To create her Rainy Day Pop-Up Shop, she transformed a space into a Donna Wilson wonderland, featuring hundreds of soft raindrops, murals and panels showcasing her first collection of fabrics, a “selfie station,” knitted creatures everywhere, and limited edition products made especially for the Festival. Select products from Donna’s new autumn/winter collection will be available, along with classic pieces from her signature range. Look for her new collection this fall at Galerie CO.

DonnaWilson_Home_5212 - CopyMaurice, Marcy and Big Ted (source: Donna Wilson)

Donna has also designed a series of woollen fruit for the lifestyle boutique SMUG, that will launch during the Festival.

London Design Festival DonnaWoolen fruit design by Donna Wilson for SMUG (source: Donna Wilson)

Ella Doran: Putting the circular economy into action

Ella Doran will participate in a collaborative live installation at the Victoria & Albert Museum during the London Design Festival 2014: “putting the circular economy into action with ‘huate design’ refurbished upholstered chairs”. The installation is in Gallery 99 and is built from several upholstered chairs that are deconstructed and refurbished in the V&A Design Studio.

For the project, Ella teamed up with two London-based designers (Kyle McCallum and Avantika Agarwal) to create experimental fabrics. She created several designs from material that she collected on a recent trip to Iceland to tie together the look of the diverse chairs that feature in the installation at the V&A.

LDF Ella Doran foldability_collaboration_test_1Folded fabric modules by Kyla McCallum, made of Iceland inspired print fabric Ella Doran designed for the installation (source: London Design Festival)

LDF Ella Doran digital_printing_on_yarnElla Doran’s ‘Rekki in Reykjavik’ digitally printed on horizontally stretched yarn – step 1 ofAvantika Agarwals’s reweave process (source: London Design Festival)

The installation is presented in conjunction with Galapagos Design and The Great Recovery (RSA). Establishd in 2012, and based on the insight that our linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of manufacturing is throwing up major economic and environmental challenges, The Great Recovery aims to facilitate a shift toward more circular systems, and considers the design industry as pivotal to this process.

Learn more about this interesting initiative that pairs designers with waste management workers to come up with innovative ways to think about new products:

Garudio Studiage: Canine Cartography – Dogs of London

This year, for the London Design Festival, Garudio Studiage will exhibit their interactive magnetic map installation, “Dogs of London,” which explores the connection between Londoners and their dogs (Volte Face, 21 Great Ormond Street). The moveable dog illustrations allow viewers to match their favourite areas and animals.

ldf dog_map_final_wholeDogs of London magnetic map (source: Garudio Studiage)

Where do you think the crazy haired Chinese Crested, or the impeccably groomed Afghan Hound would live?

ldf dog_map_final_detailDogs of London magnets (source: Gaurdio Studiage)

A new range of fridge magnets based on the dog illustrations from the map has also been launched so you can take your favourite dogs home.

ldf dog_magnetsMagnets to take home (source: Garudio Studiage)

HAM: designjunction

HAM will be part of designjunction. Designjunction is among London’s leading design destinations showcasing the very best in furniture, lighting and product design from around the world striking a balance between creative and commercial.

ham-superhero-rabbit_product-images Superhero rabbit print (source: HAM)

HAM will launch its latest collection of ceramics, along with new rabbit prints and cards. Designjunction takes over a centrally-located 1960s sorting office (21-31 New Oxford Street) and you can find HAM at stand G3 on the ground floor.

ham-croquet-rabbit-card-1000-x-1022_product-images Croquet rabbit card (source: HAM)

You will be able to see (and purchase) a full selection of HAM’s new pieces at Galerie CO as of the end of September — including the mugs!

SCP: Simplified Beauty

During the Festival, SCP East (135-139 Curtain Road) plays host to “Simplified Beauty”, an exhibition of contemporary design, a celebration of things made as they should be. Co-curated by SCP founder Sheridan Coakley and British-Japanese designer Reiko Kaneko, the show features a blend of work from Japan, America and Britain, exploring how different cultures approach simplicity and beauty.

SCP-at-London-Design-Festival-2014_dezeen_784_8Adderley Works pendant designed by Reiko Kaneko (source: SCP)

A selection of Japanese products are showcased from the Ishinomaki Laboratory, the internationally acclaimed centre of ceramics, Mashiko, glassware from the Shotoku Glass Company (including the new Ando drinking glass designs by Jasper Morrison), a collection of everyday products by Sori Yanagi and a range of cleverly functioning kitchenware, tableware, utensils and cloths from Matsunoya and Metrocs.

LDF MashikoMashiko ceramics (source: SCP)

From the United States, the show includes a selection of furniture and objects from Brooklyn-based duo, Fort Standard. And SCP presents its own autumn/winter collection for 2014.

SCP-at-London-Design-Festival-2014_dezeen_784_1aElmer sofa by Luch Kurrein, part of SCP’s A/W collection 2014 (source: SCP)

Thornback & Peel: Silent Auction

The talented duo of Juilet Thornback and Delia Peel are launching their new fabric colourways during the Design Festival. To celebrate, they are inviting visitors to drop into the shop in Bloomsbury (7 Rugby Street) to place a bid in a silent auction, for a chance to own a beautiful, vintage mid-century modern chair upholstered in the new fabric. The proceeds of the Silent Auction will be donated to Music as Therapy International, a UK registered charity which devises and delivers innovative, high-impact music therapy projects around the world.

Thornback-and-Peel-LDF-on-Little-Big-BellSilent auction chairs (source: Thornback & Peel)

In the new collection, their classic prints – rabbit & cabbage, pigeon & jelly and jelly & cake – are now available in mustard, charcoal, grey, indigo, duck egg and old pink. Thornback-and-Peel-Silent-Auction-LDFNew fabric colourways (source: Thornback & Peel)