Designers of the Year 2018: Ones to Watch
The rising stars of Western Canada’s design scene.
In addition to our winning Designers of the Year we selected five rising stars (in our fashion, furniture, industrial, landscape and maker categories) to feature in our September issue. Check out their work below!
Fashion Designer to Watch: Jamie Gentry
“Whenever I met people, I would look at their shoes before I even looked at their faces,” says Jamie Gentry. “From a young age, I had an obsession with footwear.”
That fascination turned into a career for the Sooke-based footwear designer, a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. Inspired by the vibrant hues of nature, Gentry integrates meticulous beadwork with striking art-embossed designs to create gorgeous moccasins with a message: Indigenous fashion is more than just a trend. Each handmade pair—made from sustainably sourced materials like buffalo and moose hide—features bold-yet-spare patterns, complete with unique primary colours to encompass an appreciation of nature.
But for Gentry, moccasin-making is an art as much as it is a craft. “I’ve always loved fashion and using it as a way to express my individuality.”— Sam Nar
Furniture Designers to Watch: Studio North
Between the laneway houses, public art installations, climbable bookshelves and lakeside nap pods, Mark Erickson and Matt Kennedy have been keeping themselves busy. But for the partners behind Calgary design firm Studio North, a wide scope was always part of the plan.
“Each scale offers different design opportunities,” says Kennedy. “We can focus on articulating a brand in a hotel or get into tactile elements with furniture.” Working at so many scales informs Studio North’s small-space-focused furniture design. The firm’s sleek, modern stools and benches from their “flat furniture” line assemble without screws or nails; dining tables with natural wood finishes are designed to transform from seating four to seating 10. Because even in small spaces, the duo tries to preserve a sense of play. “Being playful,” says Kennedy, “is about thinking how things can transform.”— David Kitai
Industrial Designer to Watch: Shipway Living Design
For Romney Shipway, founder of Shipway Living Design, a childhood spent in the great outdoors was the first step in his design process.
“I grew up in nature—I had my first boat before I had my first bike,” says Shipway, who was born and raised on Cortes Island, B.C. “Having a connection to the actual wood in the object gives a point for people to connect with, something more to attach to it tells a story.”
Using sustainable materials of the highest biodegradable standard and remnant scraps salvaged from land clearings, Shipway forges simple yet striking pieces—his Ostra collection exudes a sense of playfulness with pure pastel accents—that honour their natural origins, from the inside out.— Sam Nar
Landscape Designer to Watch: Green Elevations
On one of Tania Xenis’s first landscaping projects, her client—a happy homebody—asked that her plain front yard be made into “something nice to look out at.” But to Xenis, principal of Green Elevations, a garden’s purpose isn’t just to be seen—it’s to be experienced. So the landscape designer integrated beech hedging, recalling her client’s home in White Rock, and added a fire bowl surrounded by seating. Now that client spends hours outside in the garden.
Xenis draws much of her inspiration from European garden design, especially work in England and the Netherlands. Her gardens pair these more traditional techniques with sleek and modern elements, breaking up patterns of stone and concrete with hedges and loosely planted European perennials.
With her work in Vancouver, the goal is always to create outdoor spaces that can be beautiful even on the greyest and wettest days of winter, says Xenis: “A garden should be something that makes people pay attention when they walk past.”— David Kitai
Maker to Watch: Benjamin Oswald
After graduating with a master’s in education from the University of Alberta, where he used art principles to better visualize scientific concepts, Edmonton-based ceramic artist Benjamin Oswald took his passion for clay out of the classroom and onto the road. He trained with a professor of sculpture in South Korea and studied under celebrated British ceramicists in the U.K.—but wherever he was working in the world (he’s currently back in Edmonton), Oswald found that his greatest challenge with this expressive medium is deciding which ideas he wants to try versus those that should be tried.
With this sense that he is always “beginning,” he is able to keep things new and in a state of continuous learning and improving—whether through manipulating pure white porcelain into different colours or cutting and altering slip-cast vessels—like his most recent vase collection, which took seven months to get just right. “The concept of a vessel has become a bit of a metaphor for being human to me,” he says. “I think that’s why I love to see my hand-thrown pieces and cut and altered vases in multiples and in relationship to each other. It appears to me that they are engaged in a conversation.”— Laryssa Vachon