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WantedDesign’s Highlights from DesignTO 2022

WantedDesign’s Highlights from DesignTO 2022

Claire Pijoulat, WantedDesign co-founder, shares her highlights from the 2022 edition of the DesignTO Festival, Canada’s largest art and design event.

I went to Toronto for DesignTO as I have every January since 2013 (other than 2021 because of travel restrictions).

It’s always one of my favorite design weeks. I love its scale, the people, the exhibitions and the format of the Festival. I always come back very inspired, and this edition didn’t disappoint. With the change in date of the Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto, there were definitely fewer international visitors, but there was still a lot to see. Too much to see in the three days I had!

The Drake hotel, new modern wing

This year was a little special and different, as Ontario imposed new restrictions right before the Festival opened. I found myself being the one and only guest at The Drake Hotel, which had just opened a new Modern Wing. Restaurants and cafes were takeout only. Some Festival shows were postponed and some went digital, but others stayed on schedule. The resilient and determined designers who stuck with their plans really delivered, and I’d like to highlight them here in this DesignTO 2022 report.

Design Collaborations and Connections

A theme kept popping back in my conversations with designers during this trip: Collaboration. Whether it was the “Walking Backwards” exhibition, or the DesignTO-curated “Shared Terrain” or the show at Erin Stump Gallery “Slanted / Enchanted”, designers worked together (at a distance) to create new ideas, and collaborative products or installations. Some of them have never met in the real life; others haven’t seen each other in the flesh in months.

Coolican & Company new collection in their Design pop-up gallery

Just like when we went to Milan last September for a “mini” Salone, and like last November when we hosted a smaller version of WantedDesign Manhattan at the Javits Center with ICFF,  it felt like an unusual DesignTO –– not normal, which was not coincidentally the theme of their Symposium, “No Such Thing as Normal.”

However, the beauty of these smaller events is that you get to spend more time with people. I had a chance to have coffee with our friends Christian from Anony and Mary from Mary Ratcliffe Studio, both part of Look Book 2021, and discover Christian’s second and newly opened Milky’s coffee shop.

Anony new object collection, at Milky’s Cloud Room

Canadian Designer Studio Visits

I also took the time to go and visit two designers in their studios. I started my day on Saturday, heading west to Kate Duncan’s studio. Kate is an amazing woodworker who moved to Toronto from Vancouver in early 2020. We’ve been in touch for years and always check in with each other once in a while, but being able to go see where she works and to spend quality time together was priceless. 

After that, I made my way to Hamilton, which is about an hour west of Toronto, where Nicholas Hamilton Holmes Studio is based. Nicholas is actually from Hamilton and told me about how the town has changed over the past decade. Hamilton was an industrial booming town and an important port of Lake Ontario, the Canadian capital of steel. The service industry is now dominating, and Torontonians have started to move their families there. 

Nicholas shared a bit of what the studio is working on for May. He will be part of Look Book at WantedDesign Manhattan and will be showing a completely new collection there.

My Highlights From DesignTO 2022

  • The Grief Gallery at Made Design
    This edition of ‘The Grief Gallery’, curated by WantedDesign contributing editor Charlene Lam, explores the bridging of distance: Between personal and collective grief, between loss and recovery, between physical locations and disparate cultures, between then and now, and between the dead and the living.
The Grief Gallery at Made Design, DesignTO Festival 2022
  • Slanted / Enchanted at Erin Stump Gallery, curated by Jamie Wolfond
    In the studio, designers frequently use ad hoc processes to represent industrial ones, but often these improvised methods are more interesting than the ones they represent. The purpose of this show was for participants to engage in experimental crafts which may fall outside the traditional canon of their discipline.
  • Walking Backwards, curated by Fin & Coolican & Company
    ‘Walking Backwards’ is the result of a collaboration between Toronto-based Coolican & Company and Seattle brand Fin. Inspired by principles of improv theatre, the companies have generated a series of objects through a process that can most accurately be described as “improvised design.”
  • Soft Shield: Allegorical Spaces at Underscore Projects by Svima
    ‘Soft Shield’ is an exhibition of architectural provocations that explore space in relation to the mind, body, and environment, via large-scale digital visualizations, hand drawings, and an ethereal three-dimensional installation.
Underscore Projects, gallery and co-working space
  • Thom Fougere at Mjolk
    This is always on my list when I come to DesignTO. It is the most beautifully curated store I know: from accessories to furniture, you just want every single piece. The new collection by Thom Fougere is simple, elegant and timeless.
New Mjolk Made collection of exclusive furnishings and accessories include a pared-back sofa by Thom Fougere, pepper grinders by Oji Masanori, and a two-sided mortar and pestle by Ingegerd Råman.
  • Shared Terrain curated by DesignTO
    I was very lucky to spend the day with DesignTO co-founder Deborah Wang on Friday, and we got a private preview of one of DesignTO’s curated exhibitions ‘Shared Terrain’ at The Harbourfront Center. The show will be open from Feb 22 and run until the end of March. ‘Shared Terrain’ is a group exhibition that fosters cultural exchange between the Nordic Region and Canada. This exhibition is structured around exchange and conversation between 10 creatives from distant locations who are collaborating with each other for the first time. 
Design Justine Woods

More DesignTO 2022 Picks

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to all the shows. I missed Libations for Liberated Living, featuring Lauren Goodman, who was part of our 2021 Launch Pad. Our friend Eric Mutrie at Design Lines definitely attended the shows I missed though, and wrote about what he loved at DesignTO this year. 

Some exhibitions are still open. Check out the DesignTO Festival schedule as some exhibitions were postponed, so if you are planning to visit Toronto soon, make yourself a list.

Rug by Sophie Dannin, Steel chair by Lauren Goodman