I Heart Hamilton

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN - September 28, 2011

AGH CIBC Wood Gundy World Film Festival, Hamilton Central Library 55 York Boulevard

Read about my first festival screening earlier in the week - Project Nim.

For my second and final screening from the AGH World Film Festival, I decided to attend one of the free showings downtown at Central Library. It was great to see that so many films were offered as free screenings at the library - I hope people took advantage of the opportunity to watch some fantastic films that wouldn’t normally be shown in larger theatres. It was also another reason to revisit the newly renovated Central Library, which was a brief tour stop for us back in May.

This time around, I managed to spot something we missed then. High up on a wall of the lobby inside the Jackson Square entrance to the library, there is an impressive art installation by Canadian artist Micah Lexier entitled “Said the Source”. The quotation, “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not the whole story” struck me immediately when I saw it - it just resonated with me in that moment and I was intrigued by what it could mean. Not to mention the English Major in me was delighted by the editing notes around it. Upstairs, there is a plaque to accompany the installation, which was first commissioned in 1989, describing its meaning. In short, the quotation was taken from a newspaper article and the piece “honours the art of book production”. The description also acknowledges that the quotation, “can reveal a variety of meanings.” I’m so glad I found this little hidden gem and I encourage others to go have a look at it in person; a photo does not do it justice.

Art installation in Central Library by Micah Lexier

Onto the film - after thoughtfully pondering the art of book production, I appropriately chose to see Waiting for “Superman”, directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim. The documentary takes an in-depth look at America’s education system and the outcome was shocking. The film presents staggering statistics concerning public schools and shows how corrupt and complicated the system is. Following several young students and their families, Guggenheim weaves together their stories and also interviews educators and others in government positions. The interviews are interspersed with Guggenheim’s voice-overs narrating shocking statistics over simple graphics which emphasize their gravity. The film covers many different states and cities as examples, demonstrating this issue is a national crisis and is not limited to specific cities or areas.

One point that struck me in particular was the dismantling of the common belief that certain inner-city neighbourhoods are bad environments which result in bad grades. The film poses that it is actually the other way around - children are being poorly educated, and this negatively affects their surroundings. When students thrive, so do their communities. Many schools are shockingly referred to as “dropout factories” and it is revealed how oppressive the system is; children are not being given a fair chance.

Further showing the injustice of the education system, the documentary builds to its climax of various lotteries that take place in many different schools to determine students’ admissions. The young, hopeful, bright-eyed children who we have been following throughout the film must await their fate among hundreds of others who are vying for the same spot in a school. For many, gaining entrance to that particular school is their only chance for getting an education, getting the chance for post-secondary education, and the chance for a better life. It is a gripping and emotional sequence.

The education system is in dire need of work to turn things around and, while the film leaves you feeling pretty hopeless and at a loss for what can be done, the film also spotlights a few individuals who offer hope and change. Geoffrey Canada is one of those inspiring people and he effectively bookends the film. These remarkable individuals remind us of how one person truly can make a difference, even if it is on the individual level, one child at a time.

This film made me appreciate how lucky I am to have received the education I have. It made the lesson even more poignant that I got to screen this film in a library, obviously a vital educational tool. Speaking of which, Waiting for “Superman” is available to borrow from the Hamilton Public Library, and I highly recommend that you do.

- Kristin
2 years ago on 28 October 2011 @ 12:18pm 16 notes

PIECE OF CAKE - September 27, 2011

Cake and Loaf Bakery 321 Dundurn Street South

My fellow tour-mates and I are obviously quite partial to sweets (every restaurant we’ve been to so far has heard us inquire about the dessert menu, often while still eating our meals) and we have definitely been sampling our way in cupcakes around the City. I had been hearing rumblings about Cake & Loaf Bakery and, after having my first taste of their delicious products at Sew Hungry, I was super excited to visit the newly-opened bakery on Dundurn and find out more about it.

The bakery is a wonderful addition to the street – warm and inviting, I dare anyone to walk by it without entering. Once inside, you won’t want to leave! The building, once a house and barber shop, has been completely renovated into a bakery and the aesthetic has a real DIY feel about it, which is what they were going for. The front space is comprised of vibrant green walls, colourful chalkboard menus, a display of delectable goodies, and delicious (and local!) Detour Coffee ready to be poured. I enjoyed chatting with the friendly Amanda and Erin, of the front of house staff, and observed how much fun it must be to work at Cake & Loaf, and they enthusiastically agreed. I then got to tour the kitchen in the back, where all the magic happens, meet some more of the staff, and see some of the baking in action.

The owners, Josie and Nickey, met in 2003 at culinary school. Between the two of them, they have worked at almost every bakery in the City, but running their own was their dream. They got back in touch a few years later and in 2008 they bought the building that would become Cake & Loaf. Location was key, and while they had some options, Dundurn Street proved to be the perfect spot for the new business. Josie reflected on how growing up, there was a nearby neighbourhood bakery on her street, and this was important to her when creating her own. Although Josie and Nickey have been steadily working away, running a community supported baking service, taking custom orders, and working out of the Ottawa Street and Ancaster farmers’ markets, the bakery is now open as a retail shop. The neighbourhood had been anxiously awaiting the opening, since the area was lacking a proper coffee and bake shop, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It didn’t take long for Cake & Loaf to have its share of regular customers. During my visit, many people came in and out, some stopping in for coffee (and being easily coaxed into trying some free samples – myself, included) and one customer put in an order for a custom cake. Nickey is in charge of the custom cakes, creating fantastic edible works of art. They take a lot of walk-in orders, and the cakes in particular are in high demand; Nickey makes about half a dozen per week.

What sets Cake & Loaf apart from other bakeries in the City is their mission to supply their customers with healthy alternatives. Their products are all made from local, organic, and fair trade ingredients. Josie noted that meeting all of the local suppliers has been her favourite part of running the business. From fruits and veggies, to dairy products, to meats, their ingredients come from many family-run local businesses. Not only does this make for the healthiest and most responsible food options, but it benefits the whole community.

I was amazed to learn how much they create – they do a lot of canning and have an array of homemade preserves available, they make their own syrups for specialty drinks, and I got to sample their Russian cheesecake, consisting of unhomogenized milk, and cheese they made from scratch! It was delicious, and has 1/3 less calories, to boot! Gluten-free and vegan lines are also made available. With Josie as the Artisan Bread Baker and Nickey the Cake Creator, there is no end to their talent and creativity, resulting in an astonishing variety of food. Working with seasonal ingredients, coming up with new recipes is part of the fun. Later I also sampled their pear coffee cake, pictured below, which was lovely.

Speaking of samples and, let’s face it, getting to indulge is the best part of visiting a bakery, the girls generously spoiled me by putting together a scrumptious assortment of treats for me to try, including vanilla cupcakes with raspberry preserves in the middle and fluffy cream cheese icing, dark chocolate brownies, date and lemon bars, and some of their famous breads (I especially loved the cheese rolls). This is making me hungry as I write this… I must visit again soon!

I also have to mention a little full circle moment I had while at Cake & Loaf. Contributing to being in tune with the community, local radio station INDI 101 was playing throughout the shop (which we visited this summer). It just so happened to be a Tuesday, and whose voice do I hear announcing the next song? Mr. Max Wray, of course! See, the man is always around on our Tour.

A bakery is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, since I love to bake, and while I’m still an amateur baker, it was so much fun to be around creative people who really know what they’re doing. Being around all of those baked goods, it was kind of heaven. Once again, it was so inspiring to see people’s passion for doing what they love. I can’t wait to go back with the Girls to share with them my latest Hamilton discovery and to try out some more of Cake & Loaf’s savoury delicacies.

- Kristin

P.S. I returned to Cake & Loaf a couple weeks later, on October 15th, for their grand opening. It was a great success - their bread was selling out fast. They had complimentary coffee, cookies, and sandwiches to snack on (the turkey & brie was excellent!), and the kitchen was bustling with activity as the staff worked hard to keep up with demand. I bought their cheddar onion beer loaf to try, as well as the pumpkin cheesecake. You have to take advantage of pumpkin season while you can! The verdict: amazing!! If you have yet to visit Cake & Loaf, hop to it!
3 years ago on 22 October 2011 @ 1:30pm 12 notes

PROJECT NIM - September 26, 2011

AGH CIBC Wood Gundy World Film Festival, SilverCity Ancaster 771 Golf Links Road

I’ve always wanted to attend a film festival, and with the annual Toronto International Film Festival happening every September, it hasn’t always been an opportune time for me to go. How perfect that the Art Gallery of Hamilton CIBC Wood Gundy Film Festival came along to help me fulfill that goal. The festival, which ran from September 23 – October 2, consisted of a variety of films, many of which have reached great acclaim, being featured at other prestigious festivals such as TIFF and Sundance. Being screened at various locations throughout the city and running the gamut from documentaries to fiction, I had a lot of options choose from.

I decided on the James Marsh-directed documentary Project Nim as my first screening. This powerful film chronicles a scientific experiment headed by Columbia University in the 1970s on a chimpanzee named Nim (full name Nim Chimpsky, a play on linguistics expert Noam Chomsky). The objective of the experiment was to test the theory of whether language can be taught to a chimp if it was raised and nurtured from birth as a human. By teaching a chimp sign language, it was then to be determined whether humans and chimps can communicate with each other in this way.

To raise Nim as a human child, he was taken away from his mother in the first heartbreaking scene of the film and placed into a large family, to be raised by a woman who treated him as one of her own. The film then follows Nim’s journey throughout his remaining years as he is taught how to communicate with sign language and is tossed around from place to place, many of his experimenters abandoning him along the way. The film showed not only the complicated relationships between Nim and his teachers, but the complicated human relationships as well, between the academics who dedicated their lives to this experiment. Hearing from all of the people who came in and out of Nim’s life, we get their perspectives on the project and, interspersed with real footage of Nim’s interactions with all of these humans, the results are conflicting and upsetting as the audience tries to make sense of their motives.

To Nim’s initial family, he seemed at first to be an adorable baby chimp and a fun playmate for the children; however, Nim soon becomes dangerous as he grows into an adult. Inevitably, the chimp’s animal instincts come out despite being raised as a human. His overpowering strength proves to be life threatening and he cannot possibly be contained.

In one of many heart-wrenching scenes, we see Nim’s trauma when he is introduced to other chimpanzees for the first time, as his current teachers abandon him. Having been raised as a human, Nim had never encountered his own species before, which is unthinkable for any species to have to go through.

From living with a family, to being passed onto academics in a stifling classroom, to living in a mansion as he is being taught to sign, to a primitive research center, to being sold to a medical research facility, to an animal sanctuary which only at first seems promising, Nim’s treatment at the hands of humans was an appalling, horrendous injustice. Towards the end of the film, one of Nim’s teachers sorrowfully states, “We did a huge disservice to that soul.” That statement, for me, summed up Nim’s existence, and it was heartbreaking.

Project Nim is an engaging, thought-provoking film, and comes highly recommended. It is a story that deserves to be heard.

- Kristin
3 years ago on 18 October 2011 @ 3:48pm 19 notes

HERE WE GO ROUND TO MULBERRY - September 22, 2011

Mulberry Street Coffee House 193 James Street North

We may have wrapped up our official summer leg of the Tour at the end of August with our Stoney Creek day, but up until this particular tour stop, it was technically still summer. Avishka, Jenny, and I wore our summer-edition tour tees one last time and set out to make a proper tour stop of James Street North’s Mulberry Street Coffee House. We had popped into Mulberry during the May and July Art Crawls, but since it gets so packed on those nights, we didn’t get to properly experience its laid back coffee house vibe. It is a really unique space; the big brick building right on the corner of Mulberry with the “Laundromat” sign out front stands out and is very inviting. A neighbourhood coffee house is definitely welcomed edition to the street.

Once again we were confronted with food-related decisions as we stared at the board that listed Mulberry’s delicious-sounding drinks, baked goods, and paninis. Every time we’ve been, we spot the “I ♥ Hamilton” written in chalk up on the board - we love that! In the end, Jenny decided on some juice while Avishka and I both went for the grilled cheese, which I complemented with some coffee. We also couldn’t help but notice that my plate was peacock-coloured, which was perfect!

The decisions didn’t end there – next we had to pick a spot to sit. Appropriately, for the last day of summer, it was quite warm out but there was a cool breeze that carried with it a hint of fall. We contemplated sitting outside on the patio but when we saw a comfy-looking couch (Jenny noting immediately that it reminded her of Central Perk on Friends!) and chairs, with a coffee table between them, we thought that would be suitable for the occasion. And what was the occasion, you ask? Making this tour stop even more exciting, we had the opportunity to do another interview to talk about our Tour. We met up with our friend Jordan who writes for Canadian Family Adventure Magazine to chat and answer his questions.

We had a lot of fun chatting with Jordan (who had previously joined us on another one of our tour stops – the photo shoot with Jay Perry) and reminiscing about our hectic and eventful past four months. It is always difficult to pick favourites but we tried to recap some highlights in terms of food, the different areas of the City we’ve visited, and anything that stood out as being particularly memorable for us. You could ask any of us individually and we would all give you different answers, and even then, as we continue to tour, our favourite spots change all the time. That’s part of the fun.

Going off on many tangents throughout our chat, we all started talking about our McMaster days, and Avishka and I realized we took a class one year with Jordan, though we didn’t know it at the time. We’re quick to point out any full circle moment like this that comes along, because there have been so many!

We really enjoy the atmosphere at Mulberry Street Coffee House, and certainly won’t hesitate to visit again. I’m glad we could return to make it a proper tour stop, giving it the attention it deserves.

After leaving the others, I made a quick stop while I was in the area. Since it was open, I headed to the Farmers’ Market on York Boulevard to check out Cupcake Diner’s brand new stall, the General Store. It is a great addition to the Market, and since the mobile cupcake shop has already proven to be so popular, a stationary fixture seems like a great idea. This time I tried the Caramel Chew, which was delightful.

An afternoon spent at Mulberry was a fun way to finish off the tail end of summer. Stay tuned for more as we transition into fall!

- Kristin
3 years ago on 14 October 2011 @ 7:49pm 30 notes

SEW HUNGRY - September 16, 2011

Sew Hungry: Food Truck Rally 2011 Ottawa Street

Here at I Heart Hamilton Tour, we’re self-proclaimed foodies. Hamilton is getting to be known for its upsurge of food trucks, and an event dedicated to bringing them all together, plus even more trucks from out of town, seemed like an ideal tour stop. We first heard of Sew Hungry: Food Truck Rally 2011 back in July during our day dedicated to Ottawa Street when we got to meet the Ottawa Street BIA executive director, Patty Despinic. It is amazing how fast time flies, and that the event was here already. The best way to tackle this one would have been to have all four of us there and split up, trying as many food trucks as possible. Since it was just myself, all of the food samplings seemed a bit daunting, but I arrived with an appetite. I wasn’t alone, bringing along an Honourary Tour Member, my dad!

The event ran from 11am – 2pm and had an amazing turn out; the street was crowded with people and the line-ups for the trucks extended far along the sidewalks. First, we walked the length of Ottawa to scope out all of the vendors. One of the most popular spots of the day was Hamilton’s own Gorilla Cheese, which I unfortunately still have yet to try. The line was crazy-long, so we skipped it, but it must be noted that it is Canada’s first mobile food truck dedicated to the grilled cheese. And who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese? It has gained quite the following and I’ve heard enthusiastically positive feedback about it, so we’ll have to keep tabs on their schedule and catch them en route soon.

One place I knew I had stop at was Madison’s lemonade stand. I had heard of Madison’s story in recent news – the 10-year-old’s cooler was stolen this summer where she set up her lemonade stand outside her house. I was, of course, saddened by the story and couldn’t believe anybody would do such a thing. Shortly after, Kitestring Creative Branding Studio (which I had so much fun visiting recently for a tour stop) decided to step in, presenting Madison with a brand new lemonade stand at their studio, along with a donation supplied by The Cossart Exchange, giving Madison free entrepreneurship classes*. The young entrepreneur was then asked to join the Sew Hungry event, which was perfect. I spotted Madison and her bright yellow stand and stopped to say hello and try her famous lemonade. She offered pink lemonade as well as the traditional yellow. I opted for the traditional lemonade, and it was very refreshing! It’s fantastic to see someone with so much initiative, and at such a young age, and I’m happy to have her included as one of our tour stops.

After some lemonade, it was time to get some food. I also made it a point to visit Cake & Loaf Bakery’s tent; I have wanted to visit their newly opened bakery on Dundurn. I have heard a lot of great things about them and, of course, I love me some baked goods. They had the cutest customized cookies for the event, shaped like buttons with “Sew Hungry” printed in icing. Cake creator and pastry chef Nickey was running their booth, so I got a chance to meet and chat with her. With quite the selection of goodies, I took her recommendation and tried their Ginger Crinkles cookie, which she said is very popular with customers. It could see why – it was delicious! I look forward to visiting them again soon - stay tuned for my upcoming entry on the bakery.

Right next to Cake & Loaf was Hero Mobile Café. What better way to compliment baked goods than with some coffee? Owner Rob House is another connection I made through Hamilton’s ever-growing Twitter community, so it was great to meet him and chat about our shared love of the City. We both agreed on how Hamilton has always been an amazing city with so much to offer, and an event like this is no exception. Hero Mobile Café is strictly a mobile operation that also caters events and serves from the Ottawa Street Market. My dad sampled the cappuccino – thumbs up from him!

Cake & Loaf and Hero Mobile Café

It was time for our main course of the day – Smoke’s Poutinerie. The chain is located all over the country, including Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and Winnipeg. They just set up shop here in Hamilton, on George Street. Business has already been booming in the Hess Village location – ideal for an appealing late-night snack after the bar. They had a small selection of poutine available at their food truck, from classic poutine to with a variety of meats, such as bacon or beef. My dad and I both opted for the Traditional Poutine and were pleased with our choice. I grabbed a menu to peruse; clearly I’m not a poutine connoisseur yet, as I was unaware of the various ways to make poutine! Check out their location on George Street for a staggering variety of the classic Canadian dish.

Smoke’s Poutinerie

We continued along the street and decided to check out the Ottawa Street Farmers’ Market. The girls and I want to visit more farmers’ markets in Hamilton, specifically the next time we get together to cook. The market was small, but had quite a bit of produce. It’s still peach season, so they were out in full bloom, as well as tomatoes, berries, and all kinds of veggies. The market is open Fridays and Saturdays – if you’re in the area on those days, definitely make a stop.

My last goal for the day was to stop by Cupcake Diner to say hello to its owner, Natalie. It was a fantastic day for Canada’s first mobile cupcake shop, having sold out within 2 hours of the event. The diner also sells cute t-shirts, which read, “Show me your Cupcakes!” or “Saaaweet!” In addition, Cupcake Diner now has a stall at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market on York Boulevard, and the grand opening was the following day. They are definitely another favourite of the city.

Big line up at Cupcake Diner

Honourable mentions go out to the other vendors we spotted: Shriner’s Kettle Creek Popcorn, Sweetness Bakery, Kool Jim’s Ice Cream Truck, El Gastronomo Vagabundo, Topline Pizza, Mike’s Submarines, Bonfire Catering, Dora’s Deli and Catering, Caplansky’s Deli, and cafés/restaurants on Ottawa who had tents outside their establishments: Cannon Coffee Company, Café Limoncello, Buckeyes Smokehouse, and Sestres Coffee Shop.

While I could have eaten more (the other girls can attest to this – I can eat!) I enjoyed everything I sampled, and it was a really fun and unique event, gladly bringing our Tour to Ottawa Street once more.

- Kristin

* Stacey Escott, The Hamilton Spectator
3 years ago on 5 October 2011 @ 6:57pm 21 notes

SUPERCRAWL - September 10, 2011

Supercrawl James Street North

Even though we have only experienced a few James Street North Art Crawls, it was time to amp it up and take on Supercrawl! This was the 3rd annual Supercrawl – an event full of music, art, food, shops, you name it. The event was expected to draw 40,000* people throughout the day, and with the Locke Street Festival and the rooftop concert at Jackson Square for Country Music Week’s Fan Fest also happening simultaneously, Saturday, September 10th, 2011 was the day to experience Hamilton to its fullest. I spent a total of ten hours at Supercrawl and didn’t even make it to the other events. Needless to say, I was beat by day’s end! Fittingly, this will be a super-sized blog entry.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I set out with Honourary Tour Member, Stacey, to meet Avishka at the main stage. Stacey and I first walked the length of the street, which was closed from York to Barton, to take everything in. The street was lined with tents of various vendors and food trucks, and was already bustling with people walking about. Many intricate art pieces were also scattered along the street. One of the more impressive pieces was located on top of Mixed Media’s building – two puffy, inflatable human figures by artist Max Streicher^. There were three stages set up at York, Colborne, and Barton, and with so many amazing live acts playing throughout the day, we had a lot to see.

Meeting up with Avishka, our first stop was to check out the main stage at James and York which was hosted by Roz Allen and my new friend and co-founder of Kitestring, Chris Farias, who I had just met two days before when I made a tour stop of the agency. The two were a terrific pair, bouncing off each other and entertaining the audience in between the live acts. They played games with the crowd and had a ton of free swag to give away, including some gift cards to James North’s own MEX-I-CAN (we managed to snag some!), which was one of our very first tour stops. As Avishka and I would say, it was a full circle moment. Another new friend of ours, Sergeant Jay Turner, joined Roz and Chris onstage at one point. We got to meet Jay afterwards and it was great to meet one of our Twitter friends in person and share our mutual love for the City.

Roz, Jay, and Chris on the main stage

On to the music – we planned to catch sets by Dinosaur Bones and Young Rival, who played back-to-back. Dinosaur Bones are a Toronto-based band who I had seen play before at Casbah, about two years ago. I picked up a free CD of theirs back at that show and it’s great to see how far they’ve come since then, having garnered more attention, and the crowd at Supercrawl loved them.

Next up was Hamilton’s own Young Rival. Being a local band, I don’t know how I haven’t been more familiar with them! However, no time like the present, and Avishka, Stacey, and I became instant fans. We loved their sound and were bobbing along to their songs the whole time. The bassist, John Smith, having heard of us Tour Girls, spotted us from the stage. Making Young Rival’s Supercrawl set even more exciting, it was the first day of filming for their latest project – a documentary that is to be made of their upcoming tour. In another moment of happenstance, one of the directors of the film is a friend of mine, co-founder of Last Frame Pictures, Brendan McCarney. Along with co-founder Mike Gillespie, they have already filmed a tour doc of Meligrove Band and directed a music video for Ruby Coast. They are hitting the road with Young Rival and will film the band in unusual locations along the way, which is sure to make for a unique documentary. Brendan was up onstage filming during their set and got a few shots of the crowd – if that footage makes it in, maybe you’ll be able to spot Avishka and I in our bright tour shirts. We were, after all, front and center. After their set, Brendan introduced us to drummer Noah Fralick, who had also heard of our Tour. It was awesome to chat with him about what we’ve been doing and hear his enthusiasm and appreciation for Hamilton as well. We wish Young Rival all the best on their tour and can’t wait to catch them again when they’re back home!

Young Rival

Since it was such a gorgeous day and it won’t be long before the cooler weather creeps in, we spent the majority of the day outside, unlike previous Art Crawls where we’ve ducked in and out of many shops and galleries. There was so much to see and plenty of photo opportunities to take advantage of. Stacey was our official photographer for the day, snapping away whenever Avishka and I felt the urge to pose with some artwork. We even got to make a little art of our own – there was a section of the street dedicated to chalk art. Being encouraged to participate, we couldn’t resist grabbing some pink and white chalk and making our mark on the streets of James North.

In our travels we ran into our friend Jamie, another Honourary Tour Member. We planned to make our way over to Blue Angel Gallery to catch Xo.Ex.Oh’s play a set outside. Quite the crowd formed as Danielle and Kenda began to sing and the audience was very receptive, clearly enjoying their music. An eccentric audience member who decided to bust a move right in front of them made for a very entertaining start to their set. You just had to be there – those moves simply cannot be described. Avishka and I spotted a photographer from The Hamilton Spectator, Kaz Novak, who was there capturing all of the action. Kaz took our photo when we were featured in The Spec back in July, so we were pleased to see him and say hello. After their set, the girls scurried off to get ready for a fashion show they were to partake in a little while later. In the meantime, Avishka, Stacey, Jamie, and I wandered off again to explore some more.

Xo.Ex.Oh’s playing outside Blue Angel Gallery

We learned via Twitter that Jamie “Gunner” Smith, program director at Mohawk’s INDI 101 was broadcasting live from Supercrawl, along with McMaster’s CFMU program director, Jamie Tennant. Avishka, Jenny, and I did an interview at INDI 101 in August but had not met Gunner, so it was the perfect chance to stop in and introduce ourselves. Not long after we stepped into His Glory Disco, where the broadcast was taking place, Gunner offered to have us do a quick interview on the radio. With barely enough time to think, a microphone was in my hand and I was talking about our Tour live on the air! With Avishka right with me for support, I had a lot of fun chatting with the two Jamie’s about what we’ve discovered about our city. I think I’m getting the hang of this radio business. Gunner and Tennant are also involved with Hamilton’s annual C+C Music Festival, which coincided with Supercrawl. A 2-disc compilation is available to accompany it, which includes some of the best music in the city. The CDs were made available and we were quick to scoop up copies. You can download the full album for free here.

Chatting with Gunner live on the radio

From there we headed back over to the street outside Blue Angel Gallery where, I have yet to mention, was a stunning work of art. Painted onto the street with incredible precision by the Bomb Squad Art Crew was a replica of the famous “Birth of Venus”~. This artwork doubled as a catwalk for Green Dress Designs’ fashion show. The designer, Valerie Cousens, creates clothing described as “waste couture,” by “re-designing what you already have” and taking custom orders. The models, including Danielle and Kenda of Xo.Ex.Oh’s, strutted their stuff in the unique one-of-a-kind pieces. A huge crowd surrounded the show, all vying to get a glimpse of the fashion and art. The show concluded with a finale of the models walking out holding artwork created by Valerie, herself.

Green Dress Designs fashion show on the Bomb Squad Art Crew’s street creation

By now it was getting to be later in the evening and Avishka, Stacey, and Jamie had to call it a day. I wasn’t quite finished with my Supercrawling, so I set off in search of friends and found, who else, Max Wray. You knew that was coming! Picking up more friends along the way, we geared up for the night’s pièce de résistance, a performance by Broken Social Scene. Amidst an incredible sea of people, we managed to find a spot fairly close to the stage with the best view we could hope to have. The crowd patiently awaited the band, who were a tad late, but made up for it by beginning their set by stating they would just keep playing indefinitely, guaranteeing their fans a full set. They sounded amazing and, being such a huge ensemble, they are a unique concert experience and definitely one of Canada’s finest.

We rounded out the night by relaxing at This Ain’t Hollywood where a showcase was taking place in conjunction with C + C Music Festival. Alas, I didn’t stay for too much longer, since my energy came to a grinding halt and it was time for me to hit the hay, as they say.

It was most definitely a Super Saturday and I’m so glad Avishka and I could experience our first Supercrawl together and log it as an official Tour stop. We love the James North area, and this is just another example why. Moreover, it is yet another example of why we love this city.

- Kristin

* Graham Rockingham, The Hamilton Spectator
^ Otino Corsano, Akimbo
~ Graham Rockingham, The Hamilton Spectator
3 years ago on 1 October 2011 @ 12:27pm 19 notes

FLYING KITES - September 8, 2011

Kitestring Creative Branding Studio 65 Walnut Street South

For our first official tour stop of September, I had the pleasure of dropping by Kitestring Creative Branding Studio on a chilly afternoon that already felt like a fall day. After finding each other through Hamilton’s huge and incredibly supportive Twitter community, co-founder Chris Farias offered to have me visit the studio and I was excited to meet him and find out what they’re all about. I had perused their website several times to get a feel for the company and I loved it right away – from the arts and crafts and candy motifs, to the brightly coloured profiles of each Kitestringer with their playful job titles and descriptions. It was really accessible, friendly, and inviting, as were all of my interactions with the team, through e-mail and Twitter, prior to meeting them. I was pleased to discover that walking into their studio was the same experience, like I was stepping into the website itself. The office has a very welcoming and homey feel to it, so bright and colourful, while still being a professional space. Each room is painted a different colour, and candy, toys, and books are sprinkled throughout the agency on the tables and shelves. There was such a positive energy about the studio right away.

I sat down for a chat with Chris, as well as Margaret Lintott, the Client Bedazzler, who I actually took a few theatre classes with at McMaster, and told them more about our objective for the Tour, what some of the highlights have been so far, and what we’ve learned about our city. Meg Coppolino, the Communications Rockstar, then joined us and I got to ask them all about the history of Kitestring and what they do. The agency was co-founded by Chris and Jenn Hudder four years ago, with their original location on James Street South, before moving in March of this year to their current location. Basically, they create and support brands, giving them the tools they need to communicate with their target audience. This includes everything from creating a logo, to setting up a website, to helping them work with social media. All of the essentials for starting up a brand, they’ve got you covered. As their tagline states, they’re all about giving you, your business, “what you need”. Everything is backed up by extensive research, the results determining the target audience for your company and what they require, and developing business strategies from there.

Kitestring have worked closely with all types of local businesses, both large and small. One of their most recent projects has been the re-branding of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, with their clever “Hipster Beethoven” campaign to attract a younger audience. Another client is Mabel’s Labels, which began as a small business by a group of mothers who created a unique product for labelling their kids’ various belongings.

Through learning about how Kitestring approaches their clients’ brands, I found out that my first impression of the agency is exactly their goal – they believe that “brands are experienced through all of the senses [and they] think of their studio’s brand in the same light” (taken from their book, Sweet Success). Consistency is essential with every aspect of Kitestring; whether you are speaking to them over the phone or walking into their office, they aim to give you the same feeling every time. As noted, this is also their objective with all of their clients. It is a unique perspective to take, giving them so much potential and opportunities to be creative.

By getting the chance to experience another local workplace, this was another inspiring example of people doing what they love. Chris reflected on how he has worked for several ad agencies over the years but was not happy with the work environments, which is why he took it upon himself to create his own agency, a place that is a positive, relaxed, and fun place to work. It’s this type of setting that is conducive to the creativity that thrives at Kitestring.

The team also hosts events called HYPE (Hamilton Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs). These bi-monthly mixers are a chance for young business-savvy individuals to chat and network, but the catch is, no business cards allowed! This avoids the stuffy atmosphere that can come out of typical networking events, creating a more laid back atmosphere to mingle while still making connections.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Kitestring has written two books, Sweet Success: A Short Story on Brand Baking and Make Lemonade: A Short Story of Social Media. Both of these miniature, colourful books with simple illustrations are written playfully as children’s narratives, outlining strategies for creating a brand and using social media, respectively. Make Lemonade is available for purchase on Kitestring’s website, and all of the proceeds go towards buying books for local children’s hospitals.

Before leaving the studio, I took a walk through the office to snap some pictures and to take a peek at more of the brightly coloured rooms. I was introduced to another Kitestringer, Josh Gordon, the Creative Cowboy, who handles the graphic design. I even got to meet their intern, Ben, who is a puppet. Yes, a puppet! This is my kind of place.

It was fantastic to get to meet more creative, innovative Hamiltonians who contribute great things to the City. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at Kitestring and hope to visit again!

- Kristin
3 years ago on 26 September 2011 @ 11:31am 16 notes