Collection 5 by EG Forge

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Eric Goodwin of EG Forge was my neighbour in Art Central—and he's my neighbour here in the Devenish building, too! We were both looking at renting here at the Devenish and Eric paved the way and was a tenant first. We're both happily settled into our new workspaces. 

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Eric has been busy sewing and designing. He has just released his fifth collection which will become the cornerstone "classic" designs in the EG Forge line of bags, accessories and clothing. Check out the epic films he creates for his fashions.

byebye art central

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The first UPPERCASE studio was a beautiful creative space that I was happy to call home since 2005. 

These cabinets are available for local pickup. They slide out of position. There are two top units and two bottom units. Asking $500 for all of it, will consider any offer. Excellent construction with white spray finish and orange accents. Click the image for dimensions and details.

These cabinets are available for local pickup. They slide out of position. There are two top units and two bottom units. Asking $500 for all of it, will consider any offer. Excellent construction with white spray finish and orange accents. Click the image for dimensions and details.

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Jocelyn and Erin packing a few days ago.

Jocelyn and Erin packing a few days ago.

boxing day

The stack of boxes on Friday afternoon... still lots more to pack. Nearly nine years of stuff! And boy, do I like stuff.

The stack of boxes on Friday afternoon... still lots more to pack. Nearly nine years of stuff! And boy, do I like stuff.

After helping to box up some things, the guys take a break on Monday morning.

After helping to box up some things, the guys take a break on Monday morning.

I have many photos of Finley in front of the wall of cards, measuring his growth by which rack he could reach.

I have many photos of Finley in front of the wall of cards, measuring his growth by which rack he could reach.

Today is the day before the movers come, so we're busy packing up the remaining things. See you on the other side!

Work/Life 3: start the presses!

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 Work/Life 3 is all designed and as of this afternoon, off to the printer. I took this photo to mark the last big design project that will happen in this exact location. (When I think of the hours I've sat in the spot over the past eight years... the result is a library of books and an shelf load of magazines.) The next challenge is to pack up the office in anticipation of the move next Wednesday.

paper stampede this Saturday!

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We were supposed to have our big studio sale last month, but that was postponed due to the flood. For our last hurrah in Art Central, we decided to do something more that just a studio sale: we've invited our friend Janice of Papier Valise to share her amazing selection vintage papers and notions as well.

Paper Stampede is this Saturday July 13 from 11-4 at our location in Art Central (#204 - 100 7th Ave SW)It's an event for paper lovers featuring lots of bundles of great paper ephemera, stationery items and various creative fodder that we have collected over the years. Some furniture, cabinetry and fixtures will also be on offer. Papier Valise, purveyor of vintage treasures will have office supplies, vintage labels, buttons, vintage jewellery-making findings, wall paper and millinery accessories.

UPPERCASE's latest issue has just been released and highlights collage and assemblage—pick up our latest issue along with free paper scraps and old maps for added inspiration. Our Art Central neighbours will also be participating in the event with prints, illustration and photography displays. 

Below are some photos of my preparations of paper bundles to whet your appetite. 

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These are some furniture-themed printing blocks I've been saving for no particular reason. They make beautiful display pieces, so I'm putting them for sale on Saturday.

These are some furniture-themed printing blocks I've been saving for no particular reason. They make beautiful display pieces, so I'm putting them for sale on Saturday.

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Lots and lots of old maps, great for decoupage and collage. I used to use them in making my Near & Far Eclectonotes.

Lots and lots of old maps, great for decoupage and collage. I used to use them in making my Near & Far Eclectonotes.

I'm also paring down my reference and inspiration books.

I'm also paring down my reference and inspiration books.

Lots of great stuff either inexpensive or free!

Lots of great stuff either inexpensive or free!

The Paper Stampede begins at 11am sharp on Saturday morning! (No sneaking in beforehand, you'll have to wait until Saturday please.)

why Art Central failed

With the recent confirmation of the TELUS sky development at the corner of Centre Street and 7th ave SW, the days of the Art Central building are finite. As I mentioned in previous posts about the news of its demolition (here and here), I would like to express my opinion on why the Art Central concept failed. I think it is important to examine this while the experience is fresh. My intention is not to be negative—I hope that this post will offer insight and information valuable for other arts-based businesses, communities or similar concepts in Calgary's future. I have loved my time in Art Central and it was this location and concept that pushed me to move my career beyond freelance design into a satisfying and challenging career as a design and publishing entrepreneur. I will always be grateful for the nearly nine years that I called this building my creative home.

When I first visited Art Central in November of 2004 at its grand opening reception, it was love at first sight. There were just a few tenants at the time, but I was immediately taken by the potential of a three-level community of artists, artisans and designers. A fan of vibrant creative places like Vancouver's Granville Island, I had often wondered why my city didn't have something similar. 

At that point I had been working from home as a freelance designer for nearly a dozen years and I was itching to get out of the house and try something new. In Art Central, there was an empty unit with great big windows, a brick wall and a raw interior that really excited me. I knew it was a place where I could create my dream studio: an open concept design office with a bookstore component. I hoped that Art Central would be a destination for arts- and design-appreciative customers, drawing them to the bookstore and gallery aspect of this new venture. I was confident that my design business would grow and support the leasing costs, so "UPPERCASE gallery, books and papergoods" as it was called back then, would be a side experiment with no financial expectations. I didn't have a business plan, just a two-page letter describing my intentions along with some verifications of my ability to pay rent. And here I call myself out a bit: I didn't really know what I was getting into! I had hopes and dreams, but I didn't have the ability to make a proper long-term plan. Fortunately, I had a successful business that was carrying the burden of the lease and costs, but other early tenants were starting from scratch. I assume that, like me, they were taken by the concept but perhaps, like me, didn't have much more than a dream.

I was overjoyed when the landlord, Encorp, accepted my proposal and I became a tenant. The early mix of tenants was vibrant: painters, ceramicists, jewellers, fashion designers… all working in their studios, making the art that they were selling. There was a great restaurant serving affordable and excellent fare (I remember lineups for their upside-down pancakes for weekend brunches!), a quirky coffee shop and some anchor galleries with high quality offerings. For the first few years, it was exciting and challenging to be part of something new, to figure out how to bring in customers and to participate in events like First Thursdays which brought out some amazing crowds. We were buoyed by the potential. 

In my first year of business as UPPERCASE gallery, books and papergoods, I had around $30,000 in sales (this does not include my income from design). Had the gallery been all that I was relying on for income, this would not have been enough to support the business, let alone a family. Many Art Central tenants had side jobs or day jobs (with the added burden of staff) in order to make their rent. Because of the difficulties of personal schedules, juggling jobs and commitments outside of Art Central, business hours were often varied throughout the building, to the frustration of the visiting public. Consistent business hours and opening on weekends became a contentious issue and the landlord never enforced this lease requirement on its tenants, to the detriment of all.

From the public's point of view, there was always the perception that Art Central rent was subsidized or artists received governmental support in some way. This was definitely not the case, the tenants and the building owners were for-profit (whether profit was ever realized is another matter). The assumption that the artists were receiving other financial support became a problem within a few years. Our popular monthly First Thursday event had lots of attendance, but when you asked gallery owners about their sales, the increased traffic did not equate to higher sales. In recent years, First Thursday became a burden to many tenants and the event fizzled not only within Art Central but at other venues in downtown Calgary.

In the formative years, Art Central management provided marketing assistance through ad placements and even an occasional magazine-style publication inserted into the Herald. In the hey days, there was a budget for these initiatives—and as a designer specializing in arts and culture, I was pleased to provide these services to the landlord and have them as a client. I overhauled the Art Central logo, designed ads, photographed tenants and layed out their magazine. Because of this involvement in the "brand" of Art Central, I have always been particularly passionate about the concept and invested in its success in a way beyond a typical tenant.

Other practical factors that contributed to Art Central's difficulties was the years-long construction of The Bow tower and lack of easy and affordable parking (though we are conveniently accessed by the LRT right at the front door). A perplexing aspect throughout the years has been Calgary itself: the perception of the arts within Calgary; the stereotype of Calgary being just oil and gas, Stampede and Cowtown; the gulf between downtown and suburbia; and the lack of "life" downtown after hours and on weekends. 

The economic downturn had a huge impact on Art Central. We were at the peak of its potential and this is precisely the time when marketing should have continued in full force. Instead, marketing ceased. I think many tenants relied too heavily on the building to bring in customers, rather than finding their own specific customers. A negative attitude developed between some tenants and management, fostering gossip and rumours. Management became increasingly silent in their communications with tenants. Art Central lacked stewardship. Without a formal tenant organization, it was frustrating to band tenants together with a common vision and most meetings were for airing complaints rather than taking positive action.

Encorp's attention seemed to be diverted to other ventures such as Fashion Central a few blocks away. In our building, there were short-term tenants with wares of questionable quality. Vacancies increased overall. The common question asked by returning customers was, "What's happening to Art Central?" to which we had no answer. For my part, I closed the retail aspect of UPPERCASE at the end of 2009. By then I had launched the magazine and it showed much promise; I could not handle the investment of retail inventory plus print bills so the decision to pursue publishing was clear. I closed the retail aspect of my business with some regret, since my store and our events did bring in faithful regulars to Art Central and I knew that ending that era would impact my neighbours. However, success throughout my tenancy at Art Central was due to my flexibility and adaptability. My business has grown year after year and I am very fortunate. Willing to experiment to find my niche and customers over the years has been a strength. I am grateful I had this challenge through Art Central and that ultimately I have developed UPPERCASE publishing inc: creating a quarterly magazine and books for a small but international audience.

By the time the Art Central building was sold a few years ago to Allied Properties REIT, the Art Central concept was already in steady decline. Allied purchased property, not the concept. Remaining tenants tried to revive the concept with a new website and organizing events, but by then it was too difficult of a task. With the attrition of more tenants, less and less foot traffic and the persistent rumours of the building's redevelopment, it was impossible to resuscitate. Allied Properties have been good landlords and I have appreciated their forthright approach to the redevelopment. 

Though UPPERCASE will be leaving the building in August, Art Central tenants still require your support over the next few difficult months. Drink a great cup of coffee at DeVille, pick up a lovely floral bouquet by LaFleur, invest in great contemporary art by Axis Gallery, adorn yourself in beautiful handmade jewellery by Franny E, enjoy a meal at the Colonial… these tenants and many more are eager for your business. Thank you for being wonderful neighbours.

Thank you to all my customers and subscribers over the years. I've had the pleasure of getting to know you in person and online: you are generous, kind, motivating and your enthusiasm for UPPERCASE is simply amazing. Thank you.

 

what's going here

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The development plans for the current site of Art Central were just announced:

"Telus is planning to build a $400-million, 58-storey, 750,000 square-foot tower at the site of the current Art Central building, it was announced Thursday.

Art Central, located at 100 7th Ave. S.W., will be demolished to make room for Telus Sky, which the company says will transform Calgary’s skyline with “an architectural marvel, creating a dynamic community of blended urban living and working.” Telus says it will transform the entire 7th Avenue block into “one of the most technologically innovative and environmentally-friendly sites” in North America.

It will include the first 26 floors of office space and 32 upper floors, comprising 341 residential units." Read more on the Calgary Herald.

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I was certain that a new skyscraper in proximity to "The Bow"—the smooth, uniform tower with diagrid designed by Foster + Partners—would try to be its complementary opposite. So I wasn't surprised by the architectural design direction of the "Telus Sky". I predicted that it would be faceted, crystal-like and have a twisting column and that's exactly what this building is. The architect is the Bjarke Ingels Group of Copenhagen.

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I do like the street-level design, I think it is an elegant solution to the requirement of hosting an LRT station right outside the entrance. Certainly a world of improvement to the entrance of Art Central, which I think was always a detriment to its success. (Here's one of my posts from a few years ago, with an image.) I am also glad that the plans include a residential component.  

The timeline for development is tentatively that Art Central will be demolished early next year. Current tenants (and any new short-term tenants) will have at least until the end of 2013. What will replace a demolished Art Central, the community that this development displaces? I do not know. The Art Central dream was a failure, despite the best efforts of many people. 

For me, and UPPERCASE, I am relieved that the official announcement has come, there's a visual representation of what is happening—and I have a new office secured in The Devenish building on 17th Ave SW.

Though I strongly disagree with the marketing/media slant of saying this new building is a proof of Calgary's triumphs and rebuilding post-flood (the Art Central building remained powerless though perfectly unharmed in the flood and is a serviceable building with many dedicated tenants), I am pleased with the design and resigned to the redevelopment.

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With the contents of my basement emptied to the street, and now the necessity of reducing what I need to move to the new office, the past couple weeks have been about adapting, purging, packing... and moving on. 

The countdown to the UPPERCASE studio move begins!!!

Audrey Mabee at Axis Contemporary Art

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My neighbour in Art Central, Axis Contemporary Art has an exhibition of Audrey Mabee's work on display until October 13. You may recall that Axis owner, Rob Mabee, was our Olympic correspondent this past summer. Audrey is his talented mother. If you're in Calgary, please make a point of stopping by to see this show. Both Beautiful Bitmaps and Audrey Mabee's work will be up for next week's First Thursday.

Below is a view of the upper level of Art Central with UPPERCASE and Axis side-by-side. There are some nice new chairs around the rail—a good place to sit with your laptop or book. Deville is just off to the left and has excellent coffee and lunches.

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jeweller: Kari Woo

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Kari Woo creates simply beautiful sterling silver jewellery such as the pendants shown here. Some whimsical, some graphical, her earrings and pendants are expertly crafted. For those of you in Calgary, you might remember Kari as one of the founders of Influx Jewellery Gallery, my neighbour in Art Central. Though Influx has a new owner (please visit Amanda at Influx for contemporary Canadian jewellery), Kari has moved to Canmore to raise her little boy and is still making work. Visit Kari's Etsy shop to peruse her wares.

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hello neighbour: David Daley

David Daley is a new neighbour in Art Central. He received a month-long St[art] residency courtesy of the Calgary Allied Arts Foundation and is painting in a studio in the lower level. I was immediately interested in knowing more about David's work since it combines signpainting, design ephemera and arresting colour combinations. Given the confident execution of his work, I was surprised to learn that David has only been painting for a year. His fine lines and meticulous work at first look to be silkscreened when in fact they are painted by hand with fine brushes.

My career as a mixed collections conservator has seen me working in art galleries and museums to preserve and interpret artworks and objects of cultural property. Over the years, I have acquired a very good understanding of artistic styles and design aesthetics. No longer content to simply preserve the works of other artists and originators, I’m now finding ways to express the artistic ideas I have been collecting for a long time.

I have a fascination for nostalgia and love vintage aesthetics and styles. To me, learning about other eras and exploring the sense of ripeness that different times possess is fascinating. Examining the timelessness and subjectivity of modernity compels me: every age is modern for those who live in it. But what things are constant about popular culture and sub-culture and what things are ever-evolving? What remains ageless and what is a fleeting trend?
— DAVID DALEY
I have started making paintings from images taken from black market 20th century erotic material. Tijuana Bibles were illicit underground comic books which put comic characters, celebrities and even politicians of the day in sexually explicit situations. The little booklets were mass produced from the 1930s to the 1950s and I have used the cover designs to make paintings in vintage or pop-art colour schemes.
I like to produce art that has a raw visual appeal: art that I think looks good. To me, the flirtatious messaging in the Tijuana Bible covers carried over well to the paintings by expressing a playful and fun look at life and sex. Fashions come and go but some of the pleasures in life transcend the prevailing modes.
— DAVID DALEY

If you'd like to get in touch with David, please contact him by email.