New Zealand pop artist Brad Novak put on quite the show last night at Struck Gallery, the art space owned by acclaimed Toronto furniture designer Andrew Bockner. The colourful evening was Novak’s first North American solo show, and his psychedelic and mind-bending pieces packed a punch.
Having developed an international fanbase over the years, Torontonians were particularly stoked to host Novak, whose one-of-a-kind, stencil spray-painted works are exactly what the city’s art scene has been craving: something brilliant and bright that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Novak’s more recent collection stole the show, featuring an imaginative selection of pop culture icons — from David Bowie to Michael Jackson — in Princess Leia’s iconic ‘do, and decked in eye-popping neon. Fun stuff.
To add to the excitement, Novak and Bockner collaborated on two original works and screen prints, which were also on display and available for purchase at the show. If you’re into the idea of adding some character to your walls, stop by Struck Gallery this week — Novak’s pieces and his collaborations with Bockner will be waiting there for you in all their rainbow-hued glory.
Don’t listen to whatever this disastrous blizzard is trying to tell you — it’s goddamn March. Which means fresh starts and ~spring cleaning~ is, for many of us, on the brain. But if you’re like most of us here at Novella, you probably crave more than just an apartment detox this year. In addition to purging all the clutter at home, we’re going to clean up the health and beauty departments of our lives, too.
Read on for our favourite ways to spring clean your self this year!
MAKE THE SWITCH TO ALL-NATURAL
There are a lot of things in this world we should be concerned about, and among them are what we’re putting into our bodies, and what we’re putting into our planet. Knock both of those out of the park by making the switch to all-natural products.
If you’re a complete beginner, start with your beauty drawer. It’s easy to replace things like your deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, even your perfume. Most of your beauty essentials can be found at Saje, a Vancouver-based brand that’s recently touched down in Toronto. All of their scrumptious products are crafted with all-natural ingredients, mostly essential oils — which are well known for their wholistic healing powers.
A tip: make your first step by bringing home Saje’s Pocket Pharmacy, a little packet of their best-selling, all-natural remedies, including their famous headache fix (seriously, this thing beats out Tylenol any day, and in about 30 seconds).
And as for the home, if you want to start turning in your usual chemical-ridden products for greener versions, check out The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier (available in Toronto here). It gives tons of easy recipes and tips on how to DIY your own natural cleaning products using essential oils and other wholesome stuff.
GO VEGETARIAN FOR A MONTH (or, you know, forever)
There are so many reasons to try this. Whether you want to start caring about animals, or you want to do something genuinely cool for your body, or you simply want to find out if you have the willpower to break up with bacon, give it a go. It won’t hurt — believe us. Google “vegetarian meal plan,” hit up FreshCo., and you’re set. Easy as that. Even if you only last a week, you’ll feel better physically and emotionally — and who knows, maybe it’ll plant the seeds for a long-term commitment to the veg life.
TRY A NEW FACIAL CLEANSING TECHNIQUE
We’ve recently discovered this miraculous facial cleaning device that’s basically a vibrator for your face. Seriously — it gives you, like, a face-gasm. Let us explain: it’s called the Foreo, a silicon pad that vibrates against your skin, digging deep into pores while it stimulates blood flow, making you squeaky-clean and glowy. Plus, for those who care, it’s got build-in anti-aging technology. What’s especially cool about the Foreo is you can customize your device based on your skin type, so it’s a personalized facial cleaning experience that leaves you as refreshed as you are clear-skinned.
COMMIT TO A MONTH-LONG BOOT CAMP CHALLENGE
Your “bikini bod” or whatever is starting to beckon for you. Only a few more months (*hopefully*) until it’s beach season, so now is the perfect time to start kicking your own ass into shape. Whether you want to lose a few pounds or gain some strength, challenge yourself by investing in a month of workouts. There are tons of awesome training studios in Toronto, but there’s one in the east end called Optimal Body Fitness (OBF) that has a really, really unique process for their month-long boot camps. Check it out! And stay tuned for our writers’ candid review of their experience during the OBF challenge.
Growing up in Aurora, there was this place on Yonge St. called Elmwood Brides. Every day on the bus ride to school, most of the kids (mainly the girls) would make sure to scoot over to press their noses against the window just in time to catch a glimpse of whatever princess-like gown was on display that morning. In some capacity, that tradition continued for me for years — and when I moved to Toronto, I was beyond pleased to find a similar (if not *gasp* better) treasure nestled at the corner of Broadview and Dundas: Lea-Ann Belter Bridal.
If you live in the city, you’ve probably passed Belter’s stunning corner studio a few times and, if you’re like me, nearly ran a red light at the sight of its large windows, each of which house a bewilderingly beautiful white dress. It’s a the kind of view that would turn even the most bitter of hearts into a hopeless romantic, even if only for that fleeting moment.
Inside, things get even better: the sunny, baby-blue showroom looks like Cinderella’s walk-in closet, each wall adorned with tulle, lace and silk. Downstairs is the studio, where the magic happens.
What makes Belter’s work so utterly enchanting isn’t only the beauty of her designs. It’s also the fact that, despite churning out an impressive 3,000-plus gowns every year to stores across North America, each gown is still handmade by her and her small team, on-site in her flagship shop. She’s even responsible for the beautiful gown worn by Rachel McAdams in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the frock adorned by Sarah Polley in her real-life wedding, and yet Belter continues her passionate affair with old-fashion craftsmanship. And we’re so happy she does.
Like the Elmwood Brides of my growing-up years, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal evokes something uniquely beautiful in everyone who steps inside, or even simply rides by: the nostalgia of the romantic wishes of our youth, twinned with a sophisticated confidence in love. So really, her designs capture what romance is really all about: past meeting future; childlike charm meeting mature passion.
I sat down with Belter in the middle of her sunlit showroom to chat about her renowned designs, her own thoughts on romance, her new brand Astrid and Mercedes and, of course, how she makes it all happen.
NOVELLA MAGAZINE: Tell me the story of how you got into bridal design. I hear it was sort of by accident?
LEA-ANN BELTER: When I graduated from fashion school, the first job I got was to make the wedding gown for my brother’s fiancee. And it just grew from there. I really enjoyed it, even though I’d had no idea I was going to go into bridal when I was in fashion school. But I really liked making her gown, and everybody loved the gown, and people just started asking me. And that’s how I got into it.
And what did it look like?
Oh, it was a full ball gown with a strapless lace top. Very traditional. And it had a detachable train on it, too.
Yeah, it was really, really nice.
Lea-Ann Belter Bridal launched in 1990, and it seems like people fell smitten with your work almost immediately. You’ve been pretty successful from the get-go, and you’ve even designed the gown that Rachel McAdams wore in The Time Traveler’s Wife. How did that come about?
That’s an interesting story. They were filming the movie here in Toronto, and at the time we were on Queen Street. They saw the shop and came in and asked me if I would do it, and I said “sure!”
You’ve been running your regular line for 26 years now, and you recently launched your new secondary line, Astrid and Mercedes. Can you tell me a bit about this new project?
I started Astrid and Mercedes two years ago. It’s just another line — we still make it here, I still design it, but I wanted to do a line that was a little more modern. The Lea-Ann Belter line is a bit more traditional, but Astrid and Mercedes is just kind of funkier and fresher, and it’s at a slightly lower price point.
I definitely get a more playful vibe from it.
Yeah. Lea-Ann Belter gowns are more classic, and the Astrid and Mercedes are a definitely, like you said, more playful.
So right now we’re sitting in your flagship store, but your gowns are sold all across North America?
Yes, this boutique is the only one that I own, but I sell to about 50 stores across North America. We ship out about 20 gowns a week to the U.S. And then there’s all the brides that we do here.
How long does it usually take to make one gown?
The designing I’m doing months ahead. Like, I’m always working on the designs. But just to make it, it’s about five or six weeks from start to finish. But that’s a team — I’ve got 18 people working for me.
So, what’s in the works right now?
Right now we’re working on the sketches for the April market.
And the most cliche question of all: where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
Anywhere. I can see the way a piece of fabric is falling, or I can just think of a feeling I want to evoke in a gown. Anything. Or I look at laces — right now I have a big bag of all the lace samples in my office, so I’ll find one that I really like and I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to use that in everything.”
Each of your gowns is so unique from the rest, but at the same time I feel like there’s something connecting them all. What would you say that is? What do you try to incorporate into every design?
I think it’s just my own sensibility. I’ve always said you can give 10 different designers the same sketch and you’d get 10 different gowns. It’s just how I interpret it. That continuity is just my interpretation coming out. But I do try not to duplicate styles within a line. I try to, you know, come out with 10 styles that are all different so it gives people a variety to choose from.
You’re also known for being very eco-conscious, using special vegetable-dyed silks.
Yes, the mill in India that we buy our silks from, they use all vegetable-based dyes.
And you donate all your excess fabrics to local schools?
We donate to the Toronto District School Board, and there’s some various artists that come in and take all our scraps. We’ve done it for a long time, and they’re thrilled.
I also have to ask about this space. It’s got this antique-y feel to it, like it used to be an old post office or something.
Nope. It was a skanky old Coffee Time! *Laughs*
Ohhh! Wow, that’s hard to imagine. It’s so beautiful in here now.
Oh, it was awful. We gutted the space and refurbished the whole building. Even the basement, where everyone works, it was like something out of a horror movie.
One last question for you: society has changed so much in the past hundred years or so, and so have weddings, but the wedding gown has continued to be such a strong nuptial tradition. Why do you think it’s such an important symbol still, for brides?
I think a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to really show their style, so I’d say that’s why it’s continued on. I also think that as a tradition, getting married is a huge thing in someone’s life, so it’s really important for people to celebrate it somehow. As a bride, it’s your opportunity to wear the gown of your lifetime. It’s your chance to walk the red carpet.
Whether you legitimately detest Valentine’s Day or secretly adore it, Toronto is planning a whole slew of events in celebration of L-O-V-E. From heart themed raves to card making workshops, you’ll want to check out at least one of these — no matter your relationship status.
Le Dolci is hosting a series of love-themed baking classes from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14 ($150-$180 per class, per couple). The Valentine’s Macaron Class is sold out (boo), but you can still register for the Valentine’s Pastry, Pie, Cupcake or Chocolate Truffle making classes!
Mackenzie House is teaming up with The Gravenfeather Studio for their “Wish You Were Here” love letter-writing workshop ($15 per person). Craft your own postcard using an old-fashioned pen and ink, watercolours and images from the house’s own print shop.
The Winter’s Tale is playing at the Coal Mine until Feb. 20, so you can celebrate the day of love with a dose of dramedy.
While it’s not really a Valentine’s thing, Wavelength Music Festival is on from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14 at the Garrison and Markham House, featuring Calvin Love, Foxtrott and a bunch of other gems from the indie scene.
Toronto burlesque groups Skin Tight Outta Sight and Boylesque are putting on Be Mein Valentine ($25 — $40), a deliciously raunchy Valentine’s show at the Gladstone Hotel. It’s a must-see.
For a more sophisticated night of romance, “Serenades for Special Hearts” ($50 per person) is a benefit concert taking place at Loft404. The intimate soiree will feature drinks, appetizers, and of course, love songs from Jory Nash, Laura Tremblay, host Murray Foster and more. Proceeds will go towards SickKids’ Camp Oki.
The Valentine’s Big Band Dance at Palais Royale ($50 per person) promises a classic Valentine’s Day experience. Swing with your SO to the sounds of a live band, all while overlooking the lake. You can choose to add a dinner to your night, bringing the total cost to $100 per person and bumping your ticket to VIP.
“Dinner and a Show” ($125 per person, which includes a $25 tax receipt) at the Banknote Bar treats you to a three-course dinner and a performance of Chelsea Hotel — The Songs of Leonard Cohen. Yum.
A romantic dinner at the zoo? Yes, please. “First Comes Love” ($160 per couple for non-members) is a quirky Valentine’s date idea, including an intimate sit-down dinner before getting to meet some of the animals.
A South African wine tasting? Yes, please. Hosted by iYellow Wine Club, “i Love South Africa” ($59 per person) lets you sample over 20 wines and pair them with delectable snacks at this cultural culinary experience.
“Valentine’s Fireside at the Inn” ($40 per couple) actually lets you cuddle your person in a stunning historic living room at Montgomery’s Inn. Sip mulled wine and savour sweet treats in the cosiest setting.
Valentine’s Brunch at the Old Mill Inn & Spa ($39.95 per person) has become a lovely little tradition for couples, families and BFFs. The romantic setting and delicious menu makes for a relaxing and fun Valentine’s afternoon.
Ripley’s Aquarium is hosting a romantic Deep Sea Soiree ($50 per person). Drinks, hors d’oeuvres and aquatic life! It’s like the perfect recipe for romance.
For those who like a good rave, the Promise Heart Party ($35 per person) *promises* to be an unforgettable one. Set inside an abandoned warehouse at 35 Strachan Ave., it’ll feature mind-bending decor and great music.
Toronto sex club Oasis Aqualounge is hosting “Lovers’ Paradise” ($80 per couple). An RMT will be on-site for sensual massages and a Heart Opening Tantra workshop will take place at 9:00 p.m. Or check out some of our other favourite sex clubs here.
Sound Image is an annual photography show that showcases and celebrates some of the best in Toronto’s music photography scene.
Last night was the opening night of this year’s edition, and as usual, Analogue Gallery was crowded way beyond capacity (it never ceases to amaze me how many people that tiny showroom is able to fit). Photographers of all levels of expertise — pros, semi-pros, amateurs — showed off their hand-selected work of live shows, meaning the walls were bouncing with the likes of Kanye, AC/DC, The Weeknd and a rainbow of others.
Though the winning portrait has already been selected (Vanessa Hines’ glorious snap of Leon Bridges, which I unfortunately didn’t manage to take a photo of for you), all of the photos adorning the walls were captivating in their own right. No, I’m not just saying that — there’s something about live music photography that really draws out emotions. Really good live music photography makes the viewer feel like they’re there, front row and centre, watching the artist perform, and literally every single portrait caused that magic. And maybe it helped that it was so damn packed in there that I probably could have crowd-surfed out the door.
The exhibition goes on until February 5, so make sure you stop by the gallery to check out some of these incredible pieces! And maybe even — wink wink — bring a print home.