Arts Market is Toronto's first year-round artisan market, if you can believe it. And admittedly, I couldn't. I had to pause to think about it, but indeed, there are only transient occasions in which we can peruse a plethora local handmades or one-of-a-kinds. There's the mother of them all--the One of a Kind Show--and lots of little events popping up here and there, especially around the holidays. But a permanent indoor space is something Toronto has been lacking, something Daniel Cohen would eventually push to change.
I meet Daniel on a rainy afternoon on my first visit to the Leslieville market. He greets me with a incredibly friendly "hello," but I can't help but let my eyes wander to the shapes, colours, and textures displayed behind his head. Crafts seem to seduce my rudest of social tendencies, alas. I manage to reaffix my gaze to Daniel's face as we get to chatting about his initial vision for the space.
"It wasn't my idea," he says. "Actually, it's the oldest idea ever; they have these all over the place. Toronto just didn't have one." An artist himself, Daniel recognized the need of local artists to have a space available to them all year round. So he set out looking for a venue, "driving up and down every street in the city, and stopping wherever these was a rental sign." Not able to put a lot of cash down up front, he and the landlord--who loved Daniel's idea, by the way--were able to settle upon an agreement, and Arts Market opened for the first time this past July.
The space is currently occupied by 43 different artists, all of whom moved in with an initial one-month deal. "If it works for them and works for us," Daniel says, "they can stay as long as they want."
Most of the artists aren't there as I tour the space, but I do meet Aminda Wood who is sitting by her fantastic spread of fabric cufflinks ($25), handmade coffee cuffs of recycled materials ($10), and--my favourite--rings made from old watch parts ($25). Her space seamlessly morphs into another--the Spontaneous Press Bookstore--which appears to be unmanned. Sort of. "Dear Mysterious Customer," begins the letter left in the bookstore's typewriter. "I regret that I have failed repeatedly to meet you and compose a Spontaneous Press for you, despite your repeated visits. Please know that I greatly value your patronage and if you would like, would be happy to finish your prose ASAP..."
I ask Daniel for clarification. He explains that the owner of the shop is a writer, and beyond stocking the shelves with second-hand hardcovers ($6) and paperbacks ($5), she will compose custom bits of prose based on suggested inspiration. Or just a glance at you. I'm more interested in the deliberate prose and scan the spines that include Bob Dole's One Soldier's Story, Jonni McCoy's Frugal Families, and plenty of hardcover classics including Anna Karenina.
I next discover the pieces by the mother and daughter team of Hilary and Carla Lipkin. Hilary creates beautifully earthy pieces of log art, but it's Carla's paintings that have really garnered my attention. Don't cringe--they're pet portraits. Dogs, specifically (I can't resist!). But these acrylics on wood are more artsy than creepily obsessive, and priced at $650 and up, they're not for the casual poodle fan.
There's much more to see, and I go on exploring Sharon Hart's delicious-looking spreads and homemade preserves, handmade accessories (including a gorgeous handstitched vegetable tan leather bag for $100) by Kiki Lou, and all sorts of percussion instruments by One Ten Instruments. I'm sure I wasn't able to take it all in on this first visit, but then again, Arts Market isn't going anywhere.
Photos by Morris Lum