Sarah Granskou: art felt in DTK


A couple weeks back, I found myself wandering the Kitchener Market while on a break from The Summer Institute program at The Working Centre. Serendipity connected me with fibre artist Sarah Granskou who I previously only knew from a phone chat. Sarah is the current City of Kitchener artist in residence and she was busily felting a cave (yeah!) over a couple of days at the Market, along with her crew of helpers. The whole process of felting to the uninitiated like me seems equal parts making and magic. All these sources of fibre go in and sculptural things come out.

I was particularly delighted to meet Sarah as she’ll be joining us Sept 10 for Maker Expo at Kitchener City Hall (and BTW: volunteers wanted!). Felting, as Sarah practises it, is a first-principles undertaking. As I understand it, Sarah grows some of the plants that she later harvests to create the dyes to dye the fibres that get coaxed together into some form or figure.


This was the biggest felting project I’ve seen.

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RAMBATAM I–Newtonian musics in DTK

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A couple weeks back I finally got myself to an Ian Newton jam. Over the years, fortune has repeatedly conspired against me, preventing attendance at Ian’s legendary Blue Dot parties and Kabelsalat series. But not this time, friends. This time I made it all the way to the red planet of Café Pyrus in DTK to catch Ian (as spooloops) delivering his electronic music in a small-audience setting under the moniker RAMBATAM I.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please support it with your pocket change through Patreon. I currently have 17 supporters. If 2000 of Waterloo Region’s half million kicked in a buck or two per post, I would deliver 50 stories per year.  Ok, back to the story.

I’m not entirely sure how I first met Ian. Probably by reputation and probably from photos of a Blue Dot party in the pre-tech Tannery building. Particularly interesting to me is Ian’s mashup of place, performance, music and art in all that he does. A lot of that work is grounded in Ian’s Zero to One studios in downtown Kitchener above Ye’s Sushi. Lots of friends like Melissa Doherty, Sarah Kernohan and Gareth Lichty have had studio space there. That’s the first place I ever saw an LED clock by Bernie Rohde.

The TL;DR: Ian is an instigator of something completely different. He’s right here in Kitchener. He wants to connect. I want five more Ian Newton’s here to catalyze change in the local scene. About RAMBATAM, Ian said:
”Floating somewhere between art and a social experience, RAMBATAMs are conscious, near-future spaces from a parallel universe. We are always seeking new collaborators, participants, ideas and connections. Reach us at’

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For the uninitiated, Café Pyrus is across Charles Street from the bus station…

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Calling all WR makers!

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The TL;DR: I’m asking all makers of all things in Waterloo Region to please apply as an exhibiting maker for Maker Expo. Deadline is Canada Day, which is Friday.

The event is Sept 10, but we need to put the whole show together, so we need your applications in by Friday. Last year at Kitchener City Hall we had 100 makers and 7500 visitors. This year I know we can get even more, and this is where you come in.

Our Maker Expo team puts in tons of time planning the show, engaging sponsors, promoting the event, getting insurance, laying out the venue, recruiting volunteers and putting together a whole whack of makers to share what they love to make.

You may say: I don’t make anything.
I say: probably not true and it doesn’t matter anyway. The purpose of Maker Expo is to get people making stuff. As an exhibiting maker example, I’ve often suggested that a few packs of copy paper and a jug of enthusiasm for paper airplanes constitutes a reason to apply. You don’t need to be an expert in something; you just need to engage people in making something. Throw us your ideas and we’ll figure out if they fit or how you can tune them up a bit (rhyme!)

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You may say: I don’t have time to apply.
I say: the application takes 15 minutes to fill out. Contact info, activity description, tack on a photo and hit submit. I helped my Mom fill out her application and it was a breeze.

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You may say: I think we’re busy that Saturday in September.
I say: come on! That’s almost 11 weeks away. The kids will be back in school for a week, the weather will still be nice, we’ll all want to reconnect after the summer. This is the best possible way you can spend Saturday, September 10. Just one day.

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You may say: …but I’ve never *done* anything like this before.
I say: *exactly!* That’s what makes this so good. The entire community gets behind makers because #1. they’re actually doing stuff instead of just talking about it, and #2. we all get excited by your contagious enthusiasm for what you’re making, regardless of our own interests, and support you.

I’m putting my hand out to you, Waterloo Region. I’m inviting you to leave yer sofa and contribute to something cool. Why be a spectator when you can be an exhibitor? I very sincerely describe Maker Expo as an invent as much as an event. Level up your fun by pitching us an application to be an exhibiting maker. Here’s the link.

At the intersection of community and the maker movement, this is Waterloo Region and we are all makers.


(hand models and some planes: Calder and Arden White)

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The further rise of hardware–Catalyst in Kitchener

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It was a frosty day in January, earlier this year, that I got to take a tour of the proposed Catalyst 137 “smart manufacturing” space on Glasgow. I’d call it a hardware incubator, but the size (465k sqft) and ambitious plans make that moniker seem slightly inadequate.

Last summer, in covering a hardware hackathon at the Hub, I talked about the opportunity in WR for infrastructure to support hardware prototypers, makers and manufacturers. Innovation in the Region over the past couple of decades often occurred in the context of software. That innovation has been slowly shifting to the hardware domain. And with that shift comes the realization that those of us in the make-o-sphere hit long ago: there are gaps here.

If you hang around kwartzlab enough, you’ll see a regular stream of for-profit makers looking for access to fabrication tools of all kinds (which isn’t exactly the core mandate of kwartzlab). Graduating students of our universities and college must say good-bye to well-equipped machine shops and laser cutters as they depart school. They quickly learn to miss the McMaster-Carr orders that only land at companies and institutions. Startups catching the wave of internet-of-things enthusiasm hit some challenges as they look for production-quality injection molded cases in town. The engineer finishing assembly of circuit boards for a big investor demo the next day gets jammed by the lack of a couple more 0402 1K resistors and no place to buy them in town.

Terry Pender wrote about Catalyst in The Record Wednesday so you should go look at that, along with photos by Peter Lee. Tony Reinhart and Phil Froklage of Communitech put out a great write-up and video respectively the very same day, so check that out, too. That will fill you in on the business side.

The perspective I’ll offer, along with a few photos, is that of a selfish maker. What do I want? Well, I used to answer that question simply: TechShop here in Waterloo Region. Like a YMCA membership for making, TechShop offers training, materials and access to tools that you can’t afford or house as an individual. After a lot of observation (and making) over the past seven years, the answer has become more nuanced: take the tools of TechShop, mash it up with the community within kwartzlab, add in the Shenzhen connections and cost-optimized manufacturing know-how of HAX and that’s what I want. With absolutely zero knowledge of what facilities will actually appear at Catalyst, I’ll break down my list and expand on:

* tools/service
* parts/materials
* help
* space
* partnerships

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In all my travels thus far, this is the first loading dock for rail…

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After spending the day helping makers make at the Cambridge Arts Festival last weekend, I was a little low on gas, but the intersection of the Summer Lights Festival with made-to-order summer weather got my feet on King Street in DTK. My intent was to chat with a bunch of people and I did just that. And shot a few incidental photos, too.

Above, some fire twirling/dancing at City hall in the pool.

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This isn’t exactly a named alley, coming off Young Street, but it demonstrates the social success of crunching people together to achieve a certain density at an event. Big open spaces lead to meandering; tight allies lead to exploration and meetups. Nice work.

More pics…

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Hair at KW Little Theatre


On Thursday, I went to the KW Little Theatre on Princess Street in Waterloo for the first time. Y’all know I try my best to experience as broad a cultural array as possible, so it surprised even me that I had not yet been inside KWLT. It was a couple weeks ago that my friend Mr. Preece said: “Let’s go see Hair!” Me: “Ok.”

The TL;DR: this is a super-committed bunch of people giving it their all. I really enjoyed the performance. In the vernacular of the era depicted in Hair: it was a trip, man. I think I’m hooked on KWLT, too.

Talk about breaking the fourth wall… there were no real walls at all in this immersive jam. We were greeted on the front lawn by enthusiastic in-character actors inviting us to Be In.

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I’m not typically wired to muse to myself: “Hey, I haven’t seen a musical in a while; I gotta get on that.” However what I *am* looking for, always, are things that are completely outside of my usual paths. This was it.

It pains me a little to include these lower-quality photos from my phone, but I think KWLT is an important component of what’s happening here in the community, so we’ll make do. Given that the production of Hair involves the actors completely (and bravely) disrobing, I left my usual camera at home.


I could describe how the band plays live music throughout the production. I could share my thoughts on the parallels I see between the 60’s/70’s era of the show and now insofar as individual freedom. I could observe that it takes an enormous amount of courage to be an actor. But you should really go see Hair for yourself… man. Four more dates left, starting Saturday.

Bravo to the cast/crew/musicians/people-that-do-all-the-other-things! See you next time.

On Princess east of King, this is Waterloo.


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Pop’s camera bag

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Since my Mom passed on my Pop’s camera bag to me, full of his gear, I haven’t been able to open it. That’s a lot of gravity there on the shelf. That bag went everywhere. On boats, on trucks, on trips and to birthdays. Pop would have been 74 today, and man oh man, did he love his birthday. Today I opened his camera bag…

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Startups and Beer—inflection point in WR

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So I had some beers and great conversations with a thousand friends on Wednesday at Startups and Beer at the old Eatons space at King and Water in DTK. Ok, well that’s how many registered for this jam, and by the time I had to bail at 7pm for a Maker Expo planning meeting the place was packed and running through til 9pm. TL;DR: crackling energy, big success.

I try to pay attention to what’s happening around town and this felt like an inflection point, a good sign on the trail. Felt like critical mass achieved. Maybe it was because the sponsors (Sortable, Axonify, Magnet Forensics, Vidyard and Dejero) are all players I like. Maybe it had a little something to do with the great beers and cider from Descendants, Elora Brewing, Block3, AbeErb and KW Craft Cider. (Of course it did.) Maybe it was because this long-shuttered space in the heart of DTK was awakening in the capable hands of Perimeter Development. The dream of a possible grocery store danced in the heads of downtowners.

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A hard rain and gridlocked traffic did nothing to dampen spirits inside.

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I showed up early, as did Mayor Berry, chatting with Simon here.

Click through for a quasi-unreasonable number of photos…

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At King and Young, this is Kitchener.


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On risk…

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I’ve been thinking about this photo for six weeks since I shot it on King Street near Erb. Someone’s bike, stripped to the nuts, still chained to a construction fence. My first reaction was anger: “Who does this?” For a while I considered not posting this at all because: “How the hell are we supposed to get more people biking when they see this?” The next transient thought: “Well, I won’t be riding my bike uptown again.” Then I considered posting it with wry sarcasm: “Remember to lock up yer bike!” But the internet already provides an ample supply of satirical wit, so on I thought. It occurred to me that this bike was a metaphor for our collective capacity to bear risk. Necessary risk upon which our growth as a community is predicated.

We gotta keep riding our bikes.


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