Toronto Design Offsite Festival: Come Up To My Room 2015

Last year we were deeply embedded in Toronto’s Interior Design Week, as part of Studio North at The Interior Design Show.  This year, we’re visiting the parallel and definitely more alternative Toronto Design Offsite (TODO) Festival that runs from January 19 to 25. The annual event is a platform to showcase prototypes and installations that celebrate the diversity of Canada’s energetic design scene and as such it provides vital exposure to some of the country’s most promising designers while introducing the public to the practice of design.

Lee Anne

Toronto native Lee-Anne Bigwood, loves noticing, observing and participating in the arts scene in her city. So it’s not surprising that she offered to visit part of this year’s TODO Festival and report back on items and exhibits that might be of interest to us and to you! Her post covers a Festival favourite — Come Up To My Room (CUTMR) — which returns for its 12th consecutive year at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel.

Lee Anne 1

Let’s just talk about the venue itself for a minute because the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West is a thing of beauty. Designed by George Miller, the architectural style is characterized by the rough cut stone and brick and by the dramatic arches over the windows and porch entrances. Using the original 19th century Victorian architecture, exposed brick walls and high ceilings, local Canadian artists have come together to transform the Gladstone’s 37 hotel rooms into experimental, alternative works of art. Since each bookable hotel room in the historic, 125 year old building represents a different artist’s vision, and it is also an event and cultural space, hosting awards, literary projects, social change events, live comedy, and music; no two visits will be the same.

If you go, take the time to admire the charming architectural details.

Gladstone, 2nd floor door hinge

One of the first things you notice after you move past the beautiful welcome desk in the front lobby, where they guide you to start your way up the grand stairway towards the entrance to the festival, is that you’re circling around an ornate, meticulously restored Victorian elevator. It’s one of the last hand-operated elevators in Toronto. If you get a chance to ride it, it feels like you’re taking a trip back in time. The incredibly friendly operator tells me that it still requires electricity, but that it is mostly manually operated.
Also in that magnificent stairway up to the exhibit is the gloriously lush living wall and industrial style lighting fixtures, enhanced and elevated during the Festival by a towering collage that extends up to the top floor.
Titled ‘Ascent‘ by artist Phil Irish, the collage is comprised of many large, richly decorated pieces of thick kraft paper, depicting rugged painted images of mountains and pipelines, which are chopped and reconfigured. The sublime peaks are inspired by The Banff Centre, a globally respected arts, cultural and educational institution, and the references to peak oil were inspired by Alberta’s oil sands, which the artist explains evokes the struggle of both societal and personal transformation.
CUTMR2015 turns the Gladstone Hotel into an incredible art-filled space covering all of its four floors. Although the hotel is already a destination for lovers of art and culture, during the Festival it becomes even more infused with art and welcomes even more people into its already very inclusive space. So much so, that several signs throughout the hotel remind visitors that some of the rooms, though they are certainly artfully decorated, are not part of the CUTMR program.

not art vs. art

Throughout the exhibit various signs are installed, as well as some text art for the keen observer. This expansive installation called ‘Innerventions’ by Denise St. Marie and Timothy Walker, reminds us that signs don’t always have to be authoritative; sometimes they can invite viewers to take a lighter look at their regular activities. These signs are concentrated in the hotel, but as a resident or visitor in Toronto, you may be lucky enough to see some of their work peppered throughout the city.
On the second floor, one of the first large exhibits you’ll come across is ‘Common Thread’, a project created by Sander Freedman, Riyad Bacchus and Andrey Chernykh, celebrating culture, nature and design. It’s inspired by a carpet designers’ story of historical carpet design and craftsmanship in Nepal, India and Iran, and its desire to make a historically polluting and petro-chemical-heavy process more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
For me, what was so striking about the exhibit was the reminder of how many spools of rich string might make up a single carpet. Seeing the unravelled material up close, it was exciting to imagine what a factory for such a process might look like. The installation expands over a whole hallway, with some strands of the string starting on the ground, and travelling up over doorways and into the arches. I enjoyed how they incorporated this installation right into the already existing sitting area on this floor; it was a reminder of how the hotel really celebrates the interaction between artistic impression and regular day-to-day business.
This is a huge part of why I love this Fesival so much. Imagine waking up, and leaving your hotel room to see these:
The sort of common items you would normally find in your hotel hallway, such as water pipes, safety equipment and electricity cabinets, which you would normally gloss over and ignore on route to brunch, are instead framed and highlighted. These are part of a group exhibition on the 4th floor, curated by Carla Poirier and called ‘in a space.’ It’s an exploration of physical composition through the lens of Graphic Design. The artists evaluate the fundamentals of design, and invite the viewer inside an abstract realm of ephemera and merge the line between art and design.
It seems as though their contrasting use of black and white decoration and imagery play on their placement within the hotel and the sorts of shadows and lines that normally exist. There’s a frisky nod to how such common objects as brooms and drying racks can, in this context, be interpreted as ‘art’… or not.  I tried to capture the real cleaning supplies being used alongside their elevated parallels.
An exhibit, located on the main floor in the Melody Bar, reminds me of the Galerie CO designer we showcased in this post, where we explored the idea that we are creating entirely too much permanent waste from plastic. Called ‘Oh Thank Heaven’ the installation was created by Miles Ingrassia and Iris Karuna. While normally the colourful plastic pop bottles are stacked with their black crates, in this exhibit, they’re separated and installed in such a way that they resemble a church altar and stained glass windows. The artists explain that the installation explores urban detachment and the compulsion to discover or designate unconventional spaces as sacred.

Come Up To My Room also hosts many audio and video installations, along with many multi-layer tapestry pieces, which can’t be fully appreciated without seeing their movement amongst art lovers breezing by, but I had to include this next one because the imagery is so striking. The string from the faces travels up to drape and curtain the ceilings, while the wall with the multiple faces has a constantly changing projection, along with experimental and abstract audio recordings. By Annie Tung, it is called, simply, ‘X.’

X is an installation that cultivates the idea of hidden messages and unknown desires. We sometimes cannot control our words or action and become frustrated. There are no words to explain this frustration but only a desire to break out from the shell.”

Finally, “From now until the end, and now again“, by Fareena Chanda stimulated in me an appreciation of the natural world, as it was presented juxtaposed against a mimicry of that world. The artist explains that the installation

explores the human relationship to our mortality. A walk through a fantastical garden to a final resting place evokes contemplation on our preparedness to face the end. The immersive mixed media installation invites the viewer to commit their mind and body to the physical space around them and imagine themselves undergoing sublimation. The piece aims to height our perception of our temporality in this world by ultimately asking each individual ‘where are you headed?'”


These photos and selections are just a small portion of an expansive and affecting exhibition, which runs until January 25th, with their closing party happening Saturday Night.

Tell us what you think of the installations in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco.

You can follow Lee-Anne’s adventures through Toronto Design Week, via her Instagram account, @littlebitesbig.

Down the rabbit hole: Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary

Happy New Year!

The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings”

This new year, among other things, marks the 150th Anniversary of the classic story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – more commonly known as Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland the mad hatters tea partyThe Mad Hatter’s tea party, from the colour illustrated Nursery Alice, 1890 (source: British Library)

English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – writing under the pseudonym, Lewis Carroll – wrote the story in 1865. It tells the tale of a girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures. Full of philosophy and truisms, the absurdity of the plot and the strong underlying narrative plays with logic and is one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

Alice in wonderland www bl uk

Lewis Carroll, ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (source: British Library)

The anniversary will be marked in several ways by cultural institutions such as the British Library, which will loan the original handwritten illustrated manuscript for Alice in Wonderland to New York’s Morgan Library and Museum and the Rosenbach Museum of the Free Library of Philidelphia this year. The book, which bears its original title of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, was bought by an American dealer in 1928 and returned to Britain in 1948. Later on this year, the British Library will display the book as part of an exhibition marking the 150th anniversary since its 1865 publication.

In fact, there are nearly one hundred events in 10 countries, to mark the anniversary, including a few in Canada. Alice fans everywhere are being encouraged to create their own events, and list them on the official site.

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-rabbit-placematThe White Rabbit by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)

The fantastic characters created by Lewis Carroll have left a lasting impression and become enormously influential in popular culture and literature.

To mark the anniversary, artist Louise Kirk has created a series of designs that pay homage to Carroll’s characters – notably the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.

Alice in wonderland image telegraph co ukLewis Carroll, ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’, 1865 (source: British Library)

Her designs have been translated in delightful homewares in the UK by Avenida Home, which has created an enticing collection of placemats, coaster and trays featuring characters and scenes from the book.

louise-kirk-alice-in-wonderland-queen-placematThe Queen of Hearts by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)

The Mad Hatter by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)
We have received our shipment of placemats, coasters and trays!
louise-kirk-alice-in-the-court-of-hearts-wooden-trayAlice in the Court of Hearts by Louise Kirk (image courtesy of Avenida Home)
Does this post conjure up any childhood memories for you?
Will you mark the 150th anniversary?
Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on our Twitter or Instagram @galerieco!

Holiday traditions: stockings

It’s December. Time to think about decorating the house, inside and out, for the holidays. One way to add an instant feel of festivity is to line the mantlepiece with stockings. But Christmas stockings aren’t mere decorations. First and foremost, they’re receptacles for holding gifts! That is, for children who have been nice rather than naughty.

stocking by mantlepiece 3A contemporary decorated hearth (Source: propertypal)

It is tradition among some, to hang stockings by the chimney on Christmas Eve to be filled by Santa Claus as he does his rounds delivering presents. The evolution of some of our Christmas traditions are a little murky and there are few written records to help.

One of the oldest reference to St. Nicolas goes as far back as the third century. The ancient town of Myra, located in what is now modern-day Turkey, is home to a shrine dedicated to Bishop Nicolas. Over several centuries, tales spread detailing the benevolence and generosity of Bishop Nicholas, and some content that this is where the idea of St. Nick as  a gift-giver began.

Another story holds that the notion of St. Nicolas, a magical night visitor who gave gifts to children, originated with a group of nuns in the Middle Ages. Children were encouraged to leave their shoes out, for gifts. However, St. Nicolas would only leave treats and toys for children who had been good. For children who had been naughty throughout the year, he left sticks, horse manure, sawdust or lumps of coal. Shoes eventually gave way to socks, which gave way to Christmas stockings.

Yet another legend maintains that Saint Nicolas learned about a poor man who worried that he couldn’t afford to pay a dowry for his three daughters. Saint Nicolas decided to help the man, and he took three bags of gold with him down the chimney of the man’s home. Once inside, he found the girls’ stockings hanging on the mantelpiece after washing, and he added the gold bags to the stockings. As the story spread, children began hanging their own stockings in the hopes of receiving gold, or at least gifts on Christmas Eve.

Nevertheless, it is clear that by the 1800s the idea of St. Nick going down the chimney to fill stockings left out by children was an established part of the Christmas landscape. Stockings feature large in on of my favourite Christmas classics, the poem Twas the night before Christmas, written in 1823. In the poem, St. Nick is portrayed as driving his reindeer from house to house on Christmas Eve to deliver presents and stuff the stockings.

Night before Christmas ctg publishingSource: CTG Publishing

For those of you who wish to try your luck with St Nick, we have a beautiful selection of stockings this year at Galerie CO.

 corita rose stocking blog

Luxurious velvet stocking hand-printed by the UK’s Corita Rose (Galerie CO)

christmas stocking wolf blog by nord’s wonderful oversized cotton stockings come wolf, moose and fawn motifs (Galerie CO)


Donna Wilson stocking

Knitted lambswool stocking by Donna Wilson are available in red and green (Galerie CO)

Aline Gilmore stockingAline Gilmore’s stockings made from cozy woolen blankets (Galerie CO)

You could also try and make your own stockings.

There are several resources on line that offer tutorials for how to make stockings using lots of natural or repurposed materials.

stockings burlap 5Elegant elf stockings made from repurposed burlap coffee sacks (Source: habitationBoheme)

Stockings on bannisterColourful and quirky home-made stockings hanging on a bannister (Source: house to home)

Stockings elfWhimsical elf Christmas stocking patterns available (Source: decorating your small space)

If you’re a little nostalgic, like me, and you love the 1823 poem, here it is again just in case you need a little inspiration to get to work on some unique and beautiful stockings to decorate your own home for the holidays.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Clement Moore (first published 23 December 1823)

Night before Christmas(Source:

What are your gift giving traditions?

How do you decorate for the holidays?

Tell us in the comments below, or on our Facebook page or on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco

Holiday traditions: the Advent calendar

As a child, the excitement associated with the lead up to Christmas was marked with familiar traditions that my family engaged in year after year and that heightened expectations for THE-BIG-DAY. The preparations started at the beginning of December with caroling parties, Christmas baking (and decorating), and putting up the tree. They continued right up to hanging stockings, leaving beer and cookies by the fireplace for Santa, and reading “T’was the Night Before Christmas” on December 24th.

Another tradition that I appreciated immensely and that marked the countdown to THE-BIG-DAY was the Advent calendar. Behind each of the little windows, numbered from 1 to 24, was a little treat – normally some cheap chocolate – but a treat nonetheless.

Despite all the marketing to children, as an adult I continue to love the tradition.

advent calendar ferm livingFerm Living’s ‘house’ Advent calendar (Source: Galerie CO)

So at CO we’ve started our own Advent celebration where we handout a little present from our over-sized by nord Advent calendar to the first person to spend $100, every day from December 1 to December 24. It’s a fun way to give back in the form of offering a token of appreciation to our clients and to revel in the smiles and good will that surround the holiday period.

wally 1-24 by nord’s “Wally” cotton Advent calendar (Source: Galerie CO)

The origin of the word “advent” is rooted in Christian traditions surrounding the Nativity. It comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means “coming.” To mark the significance of this event each year, early Christians believed it necessary to prepare for, and extend, the celebrations during the Advent, the period leading up to the 25th of December.

The idea behind the modern Advent calendar, of creating a calendar to mark the days in the lead up to Christmas, originated in Germany. It’s thought that the first Advent calendar was made in the late 19th Century and comprised 24 tiny sweets stuck onto a cardboard frame. The child recipient of this, Gerhard Lang, never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his calendar every year at the beginning of December.

As an adult, Lang ran a publishing house, Reichhold & Lang, and in 1908 he released the first printed Advent calendar based on his childhood experience. He also invented, in 1920, the perforated doors used on modern Advent calendars, to make little shuttered windows containing stories from the Nativity, for children to open every day before Christmas. Demand swiftly increased several companies began to produce the calendars. They didn’t take hold in North America until 1953, when Newsweek published a photo of President Eisenhower’s grandchildren grasping for an Advent calendar.

Ever since the 1950s Advent calendars have been mass-produced and many are no longer strictly religious but have become part of a more secular traditions around the holidays and typically involve colourful packaging and cheap chocolate.

We’ve been looking for some interesting and original interpretations that don’t involve plastic packaging and cheap chocolate and that do involve working together and fun times with friends and family over the holidays. Here are a few that we found:

Why not incorporate your holiday baking into your Advent with a cookie calendar made from delicious sugar cookies. You can find a great recipe here.

advent calendar cookies butterheartssugar blogspotCinnamon and brown sugar cookies (Source: Butterheartsugar)

Simple, rustic and brilliant. On the back of each luggage tag making up this Advent calendar is a Christmas activity or game to do with your family and friends, such as watch a Christmas film or make a Christmas cake.

advent-calendar-via-dandee-designs-via-advent-calendar-ideas-on-oaxacabornLuggage tags / activities Advent calendar (Source: Dandee Designs)

For those more into the idea of consuming words and knowledge than chocolate and treats, you might opt for wrapping up 24 books, and discovering one each day in the countdown to Christmas. A wonderful way to stay entertained over the holidays.

Wrapped books advent calendar (Source: Six Sisters Stuff)

For little presents, this Advent calendar made using Chinese take-away boxes does the trick nicely. Hang the boxes on a string using everyday clothes pegs. They can be placed on the tree, along the mantlepiece or across a display board as seen below.

Advent calenar pinsandribbons co uk Chinese take-away boxes Advent calendar (Source: Pins and Ribbons)

Any knitters out there? This rustic and very homemade Advent calendar involves a certain amount of skill and work to put together, but evokes memories of family trips to the toboggan hill or ice rink.

knitted advent calendar

(Source: CampKitschyKnits)

Finally, each “day” in the calendar below was created using the pigments from a different food source. On the back of each of each colour swatch is a recipe for a yummy holiday dish that corresponds to the pigment on the front of the swatch. Brilliant and creative.
advent calendar - food inspired - recipes on back -

(Source and link to recipes: )

Which is your favourite? What are your holiday traditions? How do you count down the days in the Advent?

Let us know in the comments below. Or leave us a message on Facebook or on Twitter @GalerieCO

October: nature’s reminder to love and devour pumpkin

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The fall colours have been spectacular this year. I am told that the brightest autumn colours occur when dry sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. We have, indeed, enjoyed wonderful weather this fall. Right up until this week it has been sunny and dry; perfect weather for long walks on Mount Royal and for wandering around Montreal’s markets admiring the bounty of this year’s harvest which included, amazingly enough, beef steak field tomatoes right up until Thanksgiving. Unheard of.

Now, approaching the end of October, the later fall offerings reflect the cooler nights. The hardy carrots, onions and cabbages are still around, joined by sweet potatoes, all manner of  squash and, of course, pumpkins.

blog pumpkins danielle levy nutrition comPumpkins at Montreal’s Marché Jean Talon (source:

Pumpkins are everywhere; this is their month. For many of us, it’s the only time that pumpkins cross our paths. The only pumpkin we eat is in a pie at Thanksgiving and the only pumpkin we buy is to carve, once a year, on Halloween.

That level of neglect does not give pumpkin its due.

The pumpkin is more than simply a decorative gourd; it’s a nutritional superstar. It’s packed with nutrients including potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and E along with the disease-fighting cartenoids alpha- and beta-carotene. And it’s high in fibre to boot.

You’ll find similar properties in carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and orange bell peppers.

You’ll also find a nutritional punch in pumpkin seeds, which are rich in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc and a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.

So while you admire the beauty of the fall markets, think about how to incorporate pumpkin into your diet all year round. One of my favorite ways to use pumpkin throughout the year is in risotto. Here’s a recipe to get you started. Don’t worry, it’s not an exact science and you can play with the flavours, but I do love the addition of sage, which is something I always do — along with the pine nuts. Yum.

blog pumpkin-risotto

A creamy pumpkin risotto (source: food nine msn)

You can make this dish with lovely fresh pumpkin — now — or with good quality canned pumpkin, which is available throughout the year. And, of course, you can always garnish it with pumpkin seeds. Seasoned and roasted they’re  crunchy, buttery and delicious.

Try this delicious recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds. Or, using recommended cooking times, season them with anything you like. For example, do something classic with olive oil and salt and pepper, or something a little spicier using pepper, chilli, smoked paprika or garam masalsa. Or go for barbeque flavour with brown sugar, chipotle and ground cumin, or something sweet, tossing the toasted seeds with cinnamon and sugar.

blog pumpkin roasted-pumpkin-seedsDelicious roasted pumpkin seeds (source: The girl who ate everything)

So this year, when you go out to purchase the perfect pumpkin for your Halloween jack-o-lantern, let it inspire you to think about all the ways that you can honour this powerhouse of a fruit  (yes, it’s a fruit, related to the melon — not a vegetable).

blog pumpkin danielle levy nutrition com 2Beautiful ripe pumpkins (Source:

And that brings me to the ubiquitous Halloween pumpkin that decorates the stoop for trick-or-treaters.

While we love the classic jack-o-lantern with the triangle eyes and the big toothy grin, we’ve pulled together a few different techniques to help inspire you when you execute your own creation, if you’re looking for something a little different.

When you remove the guts and prepare your pumpkin for carving, don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting.

1. Drilling

It has become quite popular in the last few years to forgo a knife and use power tools — notably a drill — to decorate pumpkins. If you’ve never used a drill to decorate your pumpkin before, here’s a great tutorial to get you started. It’ll help you create designs from something simple and graphic yet really effective like these three pumpkins that spell “BOO” to something a little more involved, complicated and artistic such as filigree patterns.

pumpkin 5 imgarcade

The tutorial covers steps from cleaning and prepping the pumpkin to marking out the design and selecting the right size drill bits to achieve the desired effect. It includes some important tips, like be sure to make the holes large enough that the light radiates out and sufficient air circulates to keep the flame alive inside the pumpkin.

pumpkin 8 flash-screen

2.  Templates

Another departure from a traditional carved pumpkin is to use a stencil to help create an elaborate design.  There are lots of stencils available for free on line, from the very tasteful, courtesy of Martha Stewart, to sites like Zombie Pumpkins, which has a huge selection of intricate zombie-related  and other classic Halloween-themed stencils.

blog pumpkin edgar allan poePumpkins made using templates that evoke the horror of Edgar Allan Poe (source: Martha Stewart)

Once you find a stencil that you like, tape it to the side of the pumpkin. Using a nail, or another transfer tool, start punching holes along the lines designed on the stencil. Punch deep enough through the pumpkin so when it’s time to saw, the lines will make it easier to cut through.  Once the whole design is punched out, cut out the pieces of the design using a small carving saw.

blog pumpkin

Pennywise (source: Zombie Pumpkins)

3.  Free-hand art pieces

Some people are so talented that they can create true artistic masterpieces without the help of templates.  Maniac Pumpkin Carvers in Brooklyn is home to some of these talented folk. They’re real pros, carving more than 400 unique and elaborate pumpkins every Halloween.  In an interview with mental_floss, they shared some useful tips for beginners and experts alike, interested in creating unique and artistic pumpkins. For example, they propose cutting your hole in the back of the pumpkin to keep the stem in tact, rather than the top or the bottom, and they suggest using a wide range of tools from paring knives to lemon zesters, rasps, exacto knives and lino cutting tools.

pumpkin 3 mymodernmetVincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” by Brooklyn’s Maniac Pumpkin Carvers

4.   No-carve decorating

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can achieve some stunning effects without carving. There are several resources on line that will help inspire you to find original and beautiful decorating ideas that don’t involve cleaning and carving pumpkins.

They won’t work to light your porch for trick-or-treaters, but even the simplest designs can be visually stunning like these “heavy metal” pumpkins. They’re sophisticated and elegant, yet couldn’t be easier to produce. All you need is some metallic spray paint, a damp rag (to clean the pumpkin) and some newspaper to sit the pumpkins on. Make sure you work in a well ventilated space. Spray the pumpkins. Two coats work best. Then let them dry for at least 24 hours.

blog pumpkin metalHeavy metal pumpkins (Source: Real Simple)

You could also choose to something a little more design-oriented like these pumpkins designed with a washi tape plaid pattern.  I love washi tape. It’s available in so many patterns and colours, that decorating with it really offers endless possibilities.

blog pumpkin no carve Washi tape plaid pumpkins (source: Real Simple)

To create a plaid effect, use a dry erase marker to map out your design. Then mark it out with tape to the pumpkin’s surface. Try using longer strips because piecing together too many short strips will look sloppy. Begin at the stem and run your tape down the side of the pumpkin, erasing the markings as you adhere the strips to the surface. After the vertical stripes have been made, apply tape around the circumference of the pumpkin to complete your pattern.

However you decide to decorate your pumpkin, it will all be over on November 1. It seems like such a shame that the morning after Halloween when all your hard work gets tossed out with the garbage.

It appears as though lots of people feel that way, so in some cities, communities get together to showcase pumpkins from the neighbourhood in a Pumpkin Parade on November 1st. Have a look and see if there’s anything going on where you live.

In Montreal you can find Pumpkin Parades in Montreal West at Strathern Park and in Outremont at Pratt Park.

A Pumpkin Parade in Sorauren Park, Toronto

What’s your favourite way to get pumpkin into your diet throughout the year? How will you decorate your pumpkin this Halloween?

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

Donna Wilson’s Aberdeenshire Tartan: Home Colours

It’s that time of year again…time to get out the wool and get cozy. We’ve just received an order from Scottish knitwear and textile designer Donna Wilson, including her whimsical fox scarf made from a newly created tartan pattern.

Earlier this year, Donna was asked to design an exclusive tartan for Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the area where she grew up. Her creation is fresh and  contemporary, yet grounded in the heritage and traditions of tartan as an iconic Scottish design.

DonaWilson_part379064Donna Wilson’s tartan fox available at Galerie CO (source: Donna Wilson)

When people think of the tartan, most think of the colourful pattern of the iconic cloth of the Scottish Highlands. It is a wool-woven cloth with a horizontal and vertical criss-cross design in multiple colours. Highland tartans are associated with specific clans, regions, districts and even families and institutions associated in some way with a Scottish heritage. In Canada, most provinces, territories and several counties and municipalities have an official tartan. So does the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Donna highland-dressA display of highland dress (source: Visit Scotland)

Originally, the word “tartan” described the way that the thread was woven to make the cloth: each thread passed over two threads then under two threads, and so on. The pattern is formed by woven bands of different coloured yarns crossing each other and forming intermediate shades. With six yarns this will produce a total of 21 different colours – the pure ones where the same colours cross each other and complementary half tones where each colour crosses another.

Donna tartan-loomA tartan loom in a Scottish mill (source: Visit Scotland)

The attributes of tartan are thus well-suited to the talents of a textile designer who understands design structure and can combine colours with artistic flair. Add to that someone who is fully aware of the important role that tartan plays as a quintessential and iconic symbol of Scotland, its national dress, and in the family histories of the Scottish people and their descendants around the world–and a perfect designer for tartan emerges.

So it make complete sense that Donna Wilson would be asked to design the exclusive tartan for her home county of Aberdeenshire.

Designing a tartan for Aberdeenshire is a huge honour, especially as a Scottish designer,” said Wilson. “Tartan is such an important part of our tradition and heritage, and we should never lose that. I hope to be able to make a difference to the manufacturers who will be weaving it and create something that will be a lasting symbol of Aberdeenshire.” (Uppercase Magazine)

The Aberdeenshire Council asked her to create a tartan fabric that celebrates the area’s craft heritage.

Donna 01291962Donna displaying the finished product (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

Donna set about the task, first by collaborating with Aberdeenshire school children. She ran a series of workshops with local school children and asked them to identify colours that they felt best represented the area they lived in. She combined these suggestions with colours she drew directly from Aberdeenshire’s cultural heritage and natural surroundings to create the patterns in the material.

Donna Girl with PaintSome colourful submissions from the children of Aberdeenshire (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

To be a true Aberdeenshire tartan, the design needed to have input from local people to find out what colours really represented the area and who better to do that than our young people? I loved working with them and I hope that being part of a process like this will inspire them to think about the possibilities of a career in the creative industries.” (Donna Wilson in The Scotland Herald)

You can see the process unfold here:

As a result of the workshops, the following seven colours were selected for the final design, a palette that reflected the natural beauty of the region:

Donna Aberdeenshire Tartan (2)Final colour choices to feature in the tartan (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

Old Meldrum: A gold/copper inspired by the stills at the Glengarioch Distillery, and as one pupil pointed out—it’s also the colour of whisky!
Stonehaven: A pinky red seen in Aberdeenshire sunsets, and a colour often spotted at the infamous ‘Aunt Betty’s’ sweetshop in Stonehaven.
Aboyne: A frosty lichen green found in the Ladywood Forest.
Fraserburgh: A lilac/blue symbolizing the seas and skies around Fraserburgh.
Kintore: A forest green from all the woodlands around Kintore.
Harvest: A barley colour that reminded Donna of the farm where she grew up, and her favourite time of year.
Peterhead: A minty green from the seas and sea spray of Peterhead.

Donna aberdeen farmAn inspiration for “Harvest” (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)

The tartan is woven from 100 % lambs wool in a Scottish mill, which spins its own yarn directly from the fleeces and uses it to weave the textiles.

The tartan that emerged is a beautiful representation of the region. It is available to purchase by the metre from Donna Wilson. It’s also available in her whimsical fox-shaped scarf, which is available at Galerie CO.

Donna TartanDonna Wilson’s tartan design for Aberdeenshire (source: Donna Wilson)

What do you think of Donna’s new tartan? Leave us a comment below or let us know on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO

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.

Galerie CO’s Proust Questionnaire: Ronel Jordaan

The body of work produced by South African designer, Ronel Jordaan, represents exactly that which Galerie CO was established to promote.

We met her a few years ago at Capetown’s annual Design Indaba, a design show that attracts exciting exhibitors from all over Southern Africa and is truly a hot-bed of creativity. For CO, it was a perfect fit. Ronel Jordaan’s work is contemporary, functional and beautiful backed up by a sophisticated understanding of the concept of sustainability to which she is firmly committed.

Ronel Jordaan 5Inspired by the eloquence and serenity of nature, Ronel uses pure South African merino wool to create, completely by hand, her collection of felt rock cushions, pebble carpets and textiles. We sell her rock cushions and ottomans to dedicated fans all over North America. They are sublime. With no stitches they look just like beautiful rocks.

Ronel Jordaan rocks(Source: Ronel Jordaan)

She is committed to practicing fair trade and all her pieces are made with an eye to environmental and social responsibility. And job creation is at the forefront of her business. Her workshop is staffed by people from local communities whom she has personally trained and several of whom are now felters of international standing.

Ronel Jordaan’s business is a success story. In May of this year industry editors at New York’s Contemporary Furniture Fair awarded her the very prestigious Editors’ Choice Award as the best of this year’s exhibitors in the textile category.

Ronel Jordaan portrait

Ronel Jordaan (Source: Design Network Africa)

Achieving this level of success is no mean feat, particularly given the added mandate that she imposes on herself and her production to employ sustainable processes. Yet she has made it work without compromising on her design or sacrificing quality. Read on to learn a just a little bit more about this very inspiring designer.

Galerie CO: What is your current state of mind?

Ronel Jordaan: Filled with happiness.

Galerie CO: What does sustainability mean to you?

Ronel: To be able to constantly produce ethical, eco friendly designs and products, and to manifest growth.

Galerie CO: What was your first artistic creation?

Ronel:  A drawing of a teddy bear.

Galerie CO: What is your favourite work of art?

Ronel: A painting done by a friend Zak de Villiers.

Zak @ exhibitionSouth African artist, Zac de Villiers, at his exhibition. (Source: Ronel Jordaan)

Galerie CO: What kind of weather makes you feel the most creative?

Ronel: All kinds of weather. It is pressure that is my best friend when designing.

Galerie CO: What keeps you busy when you’re not working/designing/creating?

Ronel: Gardening.

Galerie CO: Who is your favourite designer?

Ronel: Campana Brothers

campana-brothers-864x484Brazil’s Campana Brothers. (Source: Galerie CO via

Galerie CO: What is your favourite meal?

Ronel: Mozambique Prawns, on the beach, over a basic grill.

Mozambique beach

On the beach in Mozambique (Source: Ronel Jordaan)

Galerie CO: What is your most treasured possession?

Ronel: My son’s wedding ring. He and his wife were killed in a car crash.

Galerie CO: What do you most value in your friends?

Ronel: Listening and always being supportive.

Galerie CO: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Ronel: Having a glass of wine at sunset in the bush veld.

Mozambique  beach sunsetA glass of wine at sunset (Source: Ronel Jordaan)

Galerie CO: What is your greatest extravagance?

Ronel: Art purchases. I have no more wall space!

Galerie CO: What is your favourite city?

Ronel:  Lalibella, Ethiopia.

Church_of_Bet_Abba_Libanos,_Lalibela,_Ethiopia_(3328424359)Spectacular rock hewn church of Bet Abba Libanus, Lalibela, Ethiopia (Source:

Galerie CO: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Ronel: Creating employment.

Galerie CO: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Ronel: Being able to concentrate. My mind forever wonders.

Galerie CO: What is your motto?

Ronel: Carpe Diem.

Galerie CO: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Ronel: Ja nee.  Only South Africans will understand.

Ja-neeGalerie CO: Apart from your work, what is your favourite item at CO?

Ronel: So difficult but… the life size wire gazelle.

impala standingLife-size wire gazelle by South Africa’s Streetwires (Source: Galerie CO)

We’d love to hear how you’d incorporate Ronel Jordaan’s exquisite rock cushions into your decor. Leave us a comment below or let us know on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO

Compost: not just for worms

In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away.

While there is nothing natural about urban living, composting our organic waste mimics natural processes carried out by insects, worms and micro-organisms to decompose dead plants and return valuable nutrients back to the earth. Importantly for how we live now, composting also reduces waste sent to landfills, methane greenhouse gas emissions and the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers. Fully composted organic waste is a rich, natural fertilizer that helps create beautiful gardens.

If you live in Montreal, you might have heard the recent announcement that by 2016 we’ll have four City-run composting facilities. That’s great and timely news. composting-533x181In Canada, organic waste makes up the largest component of solid household waste, at around 50% ( This means that if the average person composted all of their organic waste, up to half of the garbage that goes into landfills could be diverted.

While we’re not close to 100% participation in composting, some provinces are doing very well. In 2011, an average of 61% of Canadian households composted their kitchen and garden waste. During that year, provincial composting varied widely, from highs of 96% in Prince Edward Island and 94% in Nova Scotia to lows of 43% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 42% in Quebec. Compost of kitchen-yard waste by Province (2011)(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

At the provincial level in Quebec and other provinces, clearly there’s room for improvement. In the City of Montreal the statistics are equally dismal. Every Montrealer produces approximately 514 kg of organic waste each year or which only 11% is composted. (CBC News)

Part of the problem has been that Montreal lags almost ten years behind other major Canadian cities and sits below the national average when it comes to curbside organic waste collection and composting. For example, Toronto has been collecting organic waste from single-family households since 2005 and expanded its program to apartment buildings and condos in 2008. By 2011 71% of households in Toronto had access to curbside collection, compared with 30% in Montreal. Composting by curbside collection, select canadian cities(Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).

While waiting for the City to institute a curbside collection program, some Montrealers pay for weekly pick-up services from organizations such as Compost Montreal. They’ll give you back a portion of the composted soil later in the year from a pile like this: compost montreal pile

(Source: Compost Montreal)

But, given the lack of City services related to composting, you’re not alone if your garbage looks like this when it goes out to the curb: organic waste

(Source: CBC News)

If you have a backyard, you don’t have to wait for 2016 or hire a service. You can start you own backyard composter. Choose an outdoor compost bin and put it in a location that is easily accessible, and has good drainage. It can still be in amongst other plants and bushes, as long as it’s not entirely shaded the whole day.

Composter in the garden - galvanized steel

Composter iavailable from Galerie CO (Source: Garden Trading via Galerie CO)

Collect your organic matter, which includes cut grass, leaves, straw, hair, paper, vegetable and fruit cuttings, egg shells. It does not include fish, meat, bones or dairy products.

compost do-and-dontsDos and don’ts of composting (Source:

To prevent fruit flies and other pests, it’s a good idea to keep a pile of cut grass, garden clippings or peat moss to sprinkle over top each time you add organic waste.

Depending on the size and style of your composter, you will need to rotate the organic matter. This can be done with a pitch fork or a shovel.

The amount of time it takes your compost pile to produce finished compost will depend on the material you add and the effort you put in. A compost pile that that is turned often and receives a balance between “brown” and “green” waste materials will decompose faster than one that is not maintained or is tilted too heavily in favour of one particular kind of waste material.   compost What goes in the backyard compostGreen vs. brown organic waste (Source:

So, be patient and be kind to your compost and it will reward you with your very own ‘black gold’.

compost black goldFinished compost (Source:

Try it at home. And if you’re in Montreal, encourage the City to keep its word so we all have access to widespread composting in the next couple of years. Meeting its stated goal of composting 60% of Montreal’s organic waste once the new facilities are up and running would put Montreal back in the pack when it comes to urban composting and is something to be celebrated.

Do you have any composting tips? We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve reduced your own landfill contribution. Leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO. Keep Calm and Compost