The Best Neighbourhood Stories Ever!

Wow, sometimes when you’re searching through your old emails, you find some fun stuff—like this poster! The Best Neighbourhood Stories Ever was one of our first events! TBNSE was essentially a storytelling pop-up shop that we set-up at a local Toronto Public Library as part of Culture Days. We had local storytellers share some lovely tales live and we set-up recording equipment to allow the community to share and keep a copy of their own best stories—because who doesn’t have a great story to tell about this awesome city? Though I recall that it was a bit of a stressful day for the team as we worked to coordinate event, it was still a lot of fun. I fondly recall one little girl who came into our booth to record. She started off understandably shy, but we were so pleased to see her hit her stride as she and her mom began to co-tell a story. It was pretty great!

Guerilla Podcast: Pop-up Offices and Work Culture

The Pop-Up Office installation was located at 401 Richomond St., Toronto.

The Pop-Up Office installation was located at 401 Richomond St., Toronto.

At Culture Leap, we often discuss how creative work and industries are evolving, so we were intrigued when we heard that a local design studio, DUBBELDAM Architecture + Design, had created an art installation called the Pop-Up Office.

Here’s how DUBBELDAM describes the project:

Pop-Up Office

There has been a profound shift in the way we work; when all we need is a surface to work on and a place to plug in, the working environment is no longer static. Mobility, adaptability and flexibility are the new key elements of the modern office. The POP-UP OFFICE is an installation using modular units that can be combined in different ways. Built out of reclaimed wood palette boards, separate modules collectively form the modern work place, facilitating both individual work and collaboration. The result is a workspace that is simultaneously bare bones and tailored to the individual. In sinuous forms, the reclaimed boards morph from wall and floor planes into furniture elements. Stripping away the superfluous, the POP-UP OFFICE embodies adaptability. The possibilities are endless; easily transported, reconfigurable and rapidly deployed, the POP-UP OFFICE itself morphs in conjunction with workplace needs. (

Is this really the future of work?  Can a pop-up office fulfill our personal and professional requirements as workers?  What are the cultural implications?

Well, we decided to visit the pop-up office to see for ourselves!  And what field trip is complete without a podcast, right?  So here is our casual Sunday conversation about the concept and practicality of the pop-up office—from inside the installation itself!

Creative Space

Current Soundtrack: 311 - Love Song (<-- play that song on youtube while reading this post - it was stuck in my brain!)

I've been VERY excited about making time and space for creating.  Here's a shot of my sweet new creative workspace.

I've got a fairly large room and so once I rearranged it, I found I had just enough space for a lovely nook of creative endeavours.  I've noticed that I have a TON of different notebooks but that there are 3 or so general areas into which my work can be categorized: Letters, Art/Writing, Projects.

I found these really radfull page graphic images from inside a design magazine and carefully tore them out to create mini wallpaper-esque designs to help split up my desk space visually into 3 areas. 

For me - I really love the ability to have different notebooks for different kinds of work; I also have different pens to accompany each category of notebooks - this may seem excessive but I think of the pens and notebooks as tools - so when I pick up each pen/tool I know exactly what it's intended outcome should be, instead of a generic pen with which I either a) get remarkably creatively carried away and don't get the work I wanted or needed to get done complete OR b) don't get carried away anywhere.

The whole remake of the space cost less than $100: (granted I already owned the desk! but you could find a desk through Goodwill or thrift shops!)

  • $10 for a magnetic white board - for future ideas/projects - the future's always morphing so I like using the whiteboard to jot down ideas and easily make changes and upgrades to ideas as necessary - nothing is written in stone; the future is fluid.  I love that it's magnetic as well so pinning physical items to it is easy peasy.
  • $10 for a cork board - for current projects or things that are stuck or permanent - I actually have changed my cork board into a mostly things that I've done or people I love that make me feel awesome board: you may notice in the picture the poster from an Arkells show that one of the bands I'm in did - it's in the past and something I'm proud of. I like to keep it up to remind me that interesting opportunities come and go and come again!
  • $30 for a cool teal blue lamp and $30 on office supplies!  - I really concur with Scott Belsky from Behance/Adobe in so much that if you don't find your space or systems to be aesthetically pleasing, you are unlikely to utilize it consistently.  So I kinda splurged on multi-coloured pens and beautiful magnets as well as a pretty acrylic blue lamp. I'm proud to report the magnets are holding up new photos for future projects, the pens are writing up action plans and the lamp - well - it's my new bright friend, keeping me company early mornings and late nights while writing, contemplating and actioning my works.

You could swap some of your less utilized office supplies with friends to save a few dollars - artists need to think about such things! (My friends and I are mostly stationary/office/art supplies nerds and so swapping is a convenient and cheap method of feeling like I've got 'new' items!).

I'd been fascinated by videos for small space inspiration - The Itsy Bitsy Apartment with big design - SpacesTV

I'm looking forward to 2014 and cooking up some big ideas in my cozy new creative nook.

Winter No More! On Creative Productivity and Surviving Winter

The view outside our Make It Work workshop.

The view outside our Make It Work workshop.

The days might be getting longer, and the air outside might be getting warmer, but I have a hard time putting behind me the crankiness that accompanies frigid weather. This winter rolled around with the same unwelcome bitterness that I am used to each year. As you may have guessed, I don’t deal well with the cold months. Unfortunately for winter-curmudgeons such as myself, if you live in South-Western Ontario, those months can last anywhere from October to April and beyond (yes, beyond).

I live for the warmth of late summer to early fall, and the quiet optimism of the first months of spring. But because I like where I live, and because I wanted to find a different way of not just surviving butthriving in these months, I knew I had to have a plan and start approaching it all differently.

I began to pay attention to my energy and responses to the changing weather. For a while now, I’ve been dreaming of carving out time to properly work on personal projects – writing, drawing, and other creative pursuits. Typically the energy and inspiration to create comes in spurts, but I wanted to hold on to that seed of hope just a little bit longer this time. Could I somehow channel this creative energy to survive the reclusive months of winter?

With this question an experiment was born at the start of this past winter, and one that is still ongoing – a restless pursuit to channel the dreaded feelings that can accompany the cold into a time of creative productivity and focused awareness. I eventually found that feeding this restless part equated to a deeper sense of curiosity and wonder. Consequently, I became at least a little more productive, understanding and present, not to mention better able to practice self-care (I'm still learning).

I started with facing practical truths – I wasn’t going to get anywhere in this experiment without taking care of my health first. When I felt good, I would work out. When I felt under the weather, I would just practice yoga, or sleep as I needed to. I tried to make it a point to not feel guilty about resting as much as my body needed, and only made exceptions if deadlines absolutely had to be met, or if there were personal responsibilities that absolutely had to be addressed.

None of us live in a vacuum, so I also started paying closer attention to my community. I nurtured relationships that were inspiring, and most importantly, were based on trust and respect. I spent time and got to better know and appreciate some incredibly honest, courageous and generous people. Culture Leap sessions were helpful – I got together with like-minded peeps, each with a secret stash of dreams and passions of their own. The sessions helped me recognize the importance of valuing (and setting aside) the time and energy it takes to execute projects, especially with a full work schedule, and different barriers and responsibilities.

I made it a point to not only avoid the urge to hibernate, but to do the exact opposite. Earlier last year I ventured out by myself to parties or events where I didn't know anyone, and I tried that again with the ushering of a new year this winter, terrifying social anxiety be damned. I embraced opportunities when I wasn’t completely tired or feeling defeated to meet new people and properly hear out their stories. When I say hear out their stories, I mean really hear it out – shut up and actively listen to the person in front of me. Sometimes these would turn out to be chance encounters, special in their own transience, but other times, I would manage to make a connection that lasted beyond the moment.

I sought out inspirations across all cultural mediums, but especially in music. I listened to old-school jams that I’ve relied on for good ol’ motivation, but I also paid attention to musicians that would help me focus on the odd, whimsical magic of winter, like the likes of of Sigur Rós. I remember walking to a friend’s house on the coldest day of winter this year, wind blasting so hard that street signs were creaking and bending, snow cascading in dizzy clusters from above, while listening to Hoppípolla. The biting cold might have been a pain, but the overall experience was remarkably beautiful.

So where did all of that leave me? I don’t have any easy answers on how to cope with winter, how to cope with low energy and spirits, or how to be a productive-creativity-superhero. But so far, I’ve been able to cope with the onset of the cold and all that it brings better than most years. I began to better understand how to stimulate productivity in self-imposed projects, where there were no external pressures and only self-motivation to nudge me to keep at them. I started to value and celebrate trying as conquering, instead of seeking perfection (and freaking out when I’m nowhere close to perfection). I settled into a somewhat consistent routine that helped me get better at breaking up my time into segments that were manageable.

Stay tuned as I continue to experiment with different methods to build creative productivity! I'll try to post updates here on the blog.


This post was also published on Three Little Sparrows, a lifestyle blog based out of Boston, Toronto, and Calgary.