Melissa Doherty is the Cloud Witness

Melissa Doherty - Spring 2017 show at Open Sesame 139

Wickedly talented painter and good friend Melissa Doherty opened her show Cloud Witness at Open Sesame on Thursday night. Notable to me is the location of Kitchener City Hall where, 20 years ago, I first saw Melissa’s work, loved it, postponed buying it for 40 minutes and lost that opportunity when the painting sold before I returned. So, lesson learned: if you like the work, buy the work.

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Melissa Doherty. She’ll be giving a talk on her work June 6 at 7pm at OS. The show runs through to June 10. TL;DR: check out the show. Click through for a bunch of pics of artists in one room. This is us.

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3-cent earbud hack


Occasionally in life, a 3-cent, 33 ohm resistor is the solution to your problem.

The problem, in this particular case, was that I wanted to use an old mobile phone headset as a lavalier microphone for doing some audio recording to a phone, but didn’t need the earbuds; just the microphone. So I very rashly snipped off the earbuds, only to discover that the phone no longer recognized that a headset was plugged in. Instead, the phone continued to use the built in mics, which weren’t super effective since the phone gets tucked in a pocket.

I vaguely remembered working on some pesky bugs wrt unreliable headset detection while coding for a local device manufacturer. As DMF explained it to me then, the phone tests for the resistance of the earbud transducer. If it sees infinite resistance, then it reckons there is no headset and we have the aforementioned microphone behaviour. While I found no reliable info on the interwebs about this, I figured I could fake out the phone with a simple resistor. Which, TL;DR, worked.

Now before you judge the horrific soldering job above, in my defense, I’ll say:
1. The blue resistor above is 6.3mm long
2. Ideally I would have used an SMT resistor, but only had 1/4W through hole in 33 ohm
3. The theory that with a hot soldering iron+solder+flux you can “burn off” the green and orange shellac coating the microscopic headset wires and get a solid electrical connection is simply that: a theory.

I coated this mess in a blob of epoxy for mechanical stability.


Clockwise from left: microphone, resistor hack, TRRS 3.5mm connector that plugs into phone. To those tempted to send me Amazon links to low-cost lav mics, I’ve already seen them. This is a makerly thing.

From: Texas Instruments, app note SLAA454 Headset Detection for TLV320AIC33 and TLV320AIC3101/4/5/6 Family

If you’re working on any projects in this domain, I’ll offer a few suggestions:
1. Get a microscope, a decent soldering iron and some very skinny solder
2. Read the very good app note from Texas Instruments (SLAA454)
3. In determining audio routing, phones also need to consider destinations such as Bluetooth, Wifi Direct and probably a few other accessories I’m forgetting.
4. The continuity function on your multimeter will be helpful for determining the pinout of those hair-thin wires on your headset. But first you’ll need to tin those wires.

Thanks to JB for confirming that 33 ohms was a sane value of resistor.

Happy hacking,

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My new co-working space has hammers and fire

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“How about I just work here at the bench?”

I think I first met Sandra Dunn of Two Smiths on a tour of the old Double R Steel facility down on Ardelt in Kitchener. Her business, specializing in both blacksmithing and coppersmithing, occupied one end of that building. A couple years later, I cold-called to invite her to join the first Maker Expo we were launching. She agreed to both join and to allow me into her shop to do a story to promote the Expo. Then early last spring, I caught up with Sandra leading part of an international project to fabricate a railing for a cenotaph in Ypres, Belgium.

Which brings us to last week, when I walked into Sandra’s new shop at 8 Grand Avenue in Kitchener (Bridgeport, for you locals). Regular readers know my photographic predilection for makerly endeavours and good people. I found both, once again, at Two Smiths. Since they had just moved in, all their stuff was still in open crates and boxes, giving me a visual smorgasbord to shoot, and shoot I did for about three hours.

As I was wrapping up, we got chatting and Sandra said she needed some photos for classes and her web site and some printed material. She wanted to hire me for that gig and of course I’m keen to do it. I mentioned I had recently moved out of the co-working space in the old Brick Brewery uptown (soon to become condos) and was looking for a space to work. Sandra had heard that and invited me to pull up a chair to the workbench in her new shop.

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Sandra Dunn, centre, is flanked by Aimie Botelho and Bronson Kozdas who are working and learning in her shop. “You want to photograph us dirty as we are?” they asked. “You’re perfect” said I.

It’s been a week now and the TL;DR is: Two Smiths is a fascinating nexus of smithing, design, fabrication, tools, projects, goodwill, talent and great people. I’m eager to follow along as Sandra and her crew fabricate the public art piece Spinal Column that she designed for the light rail train stop at Grand River Hospital. In the meantime, here are a completely unreasonable number of photos…

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Monthly arts crawl–tomorrow in Hamilton

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Where does the time go and why am I not getting to the ever-awesome Hamilton more frequently? It’s been two years since I hit the gigantic TH&B United show up at The Cotton Factory on Sherman. And two and a half years since my mind was blown by SuperCrawl. Well friends, tomorrow Fri Apr 14 is the regular 2nd Friday monthly arts crawl in the Hammer and I’m going. Going solo. Not exactly sure where I’m going because the monthly crawl is delightfully organic by nature. Perfect. Hamiltonians, if you see a big guy with a camera wandering James North, say hello and know that I have traveled through the Hamilton-Waterloo Region *arts* corridor (HamWRAC) to see you.

Due to my storytellin’ force of habit, I often do some homework before fieldtrips and this is no exception. I scoured the web for stuff about the monthly crawl, in search of a list of places I should hit. I did find some anecdotal blog posts, old reddit threads, some tweets and a piece in the Spec. The most fascinating find was a film of in-depth interviews called Hearts: A Film About Hamilton’s Art Crawl. This 2015 piece directed by  J. Cody Lanktree and produced by Zena Hagerty clocks in a 90 minutes and offers a really layered look at this arts-ecosystem-of-the-people (my term) that felt really honest. I watched it twice and took notes.

The 2005 origins of the crawl are a bit hazy because there’s really no written history on this loose agreement to stay open a bit later and target art shows/performances/sales to this night. I’m always trying to learn something on field trips and distill out what might be applied in Waterloo Region. The film digs in on some familiar and complicated topics in the domain:
* the importance of gallery owners owning their own building
* involvement/non-involvement from the City
* strong opinions on what value/costs a BIA brings
* gentrification
* re-imagined history of an event once it has had success
* importance of perception of a place
* working collectively to draw crowds
* organizing/not-organizing the crawl
* co-opting of the event by out-of-towners and non-art-related vendors
* even the sweet spot price-wise for selling work during the crawl ($50)

How about this: watch this film today and then hit The Hammer tomorrow. I park in the garage at 32 York Blvd and just wander up James Street. If you hit water, turn around.

Also: who’s up for First Friday WR? (with a nod to Sarnia, Ontario that already runs First Fridays)

Leave yer sofa, find the others.


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Get yer mug on–WPW pottery sale April 21-23

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This is my kitchen cupboard. Aside from a few mugs painted by our live-in artists, it is filled with locally-thrown goodness from the Waterloo Potters Workshop.

If you’re new here, the WPW fired up (ahem) 49 years ago and has called the old Eby farmhouse in Waterloo Park home for almost as long. Keeping the lights on and the kilns hot is in large part accomplished through a spring and fall pottery sale, the former of which is happening April 21-23 at the Rec Complex. Put that in your calendar right now. Details on the spring sale here.

If you buy a mug every year, I can say two things with certainty: you’ll have a cool collection of unique mugs, and you’ll have supported a bunch of talented potters who are also some of the nicest people you’re likely to meet. Oh, and one more thing: you’ll sustain this organization that is the gateway for new potters to take up the craft.

Important note: while I drink from all these mugs, I was not involved in the very artful selection of said mugs. Lisa does that. I did carry the box of pottery during at least one sale.


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1shot #265-market cowboy

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When the buskin’ is done. Haven’t had a 1shot here in a while, so here’s Nicky Lee packing up last Saturday at SJFM. The sun warmed up the picnic tables and this fella’s work ethic emptied my pocket of change. This is us.


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On a personal note…


“If you see the train yard security, tuck the ladders up in closer to the tracks and sit tight.”

So said my Pop back in ‘82 as I helped him re-tag tank cars in the Sarnia yard. By day, he was a salesman of fuels for a Calgary-based company. One of the hassles for suppliers, shipping fuel by rail, was that the tank cars frequently need to be re-labeled as they changed hands. The official approach to that work involved a time-consuming shunting around the yard, then into the approved dock for repainting, and then shunting back out to the yard. Costly and slow.

Photo: Duncan M. White

Somewhere along the line, my Dad, ever the enterprising hustler, reckoned this could all go faster/cheaper if somebody just dragged some ladders, paint and stencils into the yard and got to it. And this being really a 2-person job, I was one of the other somebodies of a small cast of family and friends, who got roped in to help. This is not the authorized approach.

Click through for a very small bit more…

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Photogs passing it on

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Passing what on? Why, the love of photography and the encouragement that fuels the pursuit of the image for the youth of Waterloo Region. My friends, three great photogs, taking their marks for a photo and chuckling when I told them I wanted very serious faces: (L-R) Anestis Papoutsis, Jason Panda and Lori Crewe. This crew supported the fifth and final year of Imagine a Show, a collection of youth photography, which opened last night in KPL’s “hallway of art” on the lower level.

I’m always on the lookout for WR people doing good work and gunning it so damned hard they don’t have time for self-promotion. I’m particularly enthusiastic about projects that are unique, that without the vision, sweat and legwork of the few, would not happen for us. This is that.

Jason and Anestis hit my radar back in 2013 when happenstance put me at a KCI student art show called After Hours, that they, as teachers, had cooked up for the students and community. It was one of those semi-rare and delightful jams that compel me to find out who is doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Nothing you enjoy here happens by magic. Since then of course I’ve intersected orbits with this dynamic duo at Maker Expo and all manner of other gigs in the art-o-sphere.

Lori, I met in 2014 at her Mindsounds exhibit in Kitchener City Hall. It was a terrific portrait series inspired by people living with mental illness. Her creative visual concepts and tight execution had me thinking about that work for a long time afterward.

All three of these photogs have poured themselves into the bottomless cup of volunteer endeavour, in a domain I love, in a capacity-building… uh, capacity. So this is a leaping high five to them. Well done, merci beaucoup.

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Click through for a seriously modest number of photos, including my faves from this show…

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My blue period in DTK–Blue Dot 2017

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Last Friday I went to church… the church of techno, art and social experience. I finally made it to my first Blue Dot party, which just happened to be in the former Zion Presbyterian Church on Weber at Ontario in DTK. This overnight jam was put together with a tremendous amount of vision and work by my friends Ian Newton and Mars Orlowska and their crew. So: thank you! It was a singular thing, a unique thing, right here.

I’m not versed in the nuances of the music. I’m an outlier from the median age of the crowd. I only really dance when I’m making dinner. And still, it was everything I hoped it would be, based on Ian’s description of connecting people socially in the context of a creative and chill medium.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please consider supporting it with your pocket change. My awesome patrons help me pay for the gear, software and services I need to get this work in front of you. Shout out to Michelle Purchase, our newest makebright patron.  Ok, on with the story!


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A week later, I’m still sort of processing the experience. What I can share is a mostly visual, non-exhaustive walk-through, presented herein. The luxury of editorial freedom for all the community investment work I put here on makebright is that I can experiment, experience and enjoy.

The TL;DR: the most important takeaways from Blue Dot, for me, don’t show up in these photos at all. That’s because they are the conversations I had with friends new and old through the night. And sometimes it’s nice to drop the camera from my face and share some ideas.

More pics…

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For the love of CAFKA

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CAFKA == Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area. It’s a great thing. On this day of Valentinian love, I thought I’d dig up a whack of pics from CAFKA.16 that never saw the light of day and share ‘em with you, for the love of art.

The CAFKA biennial happened last May/June, drawing artists from far beyond our WR borders and stretching our brains through new levels of art experience. It delivers a stunning level of talent on a shoestring budget and is driven by hard workers, fuelled by their commitment to keep this 20-year old happening going. I’ve only been playing close attention for eight years, but I really connected with the 2016 show.

Here’s the TL;DR: as always, if you like the work, support the work. The call is out for CAFKA.18 artists, so artists get your submissions in before Mar15. And if you’re looking to get involved, the annual general meeting is mere weeks away, Mar20.

Above is a photo of Mary Ma’s wicked cool piece called Wind Water Wave. Giant fans billowed this ginormous piece of fabric upon which was projected a video of light on water. So mesmerizing was this piece that people camped out inside the piece. I came back three or four times in the course of June to see this piece. Well, and also to see the people seeing the piece.

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It was on a Jane’s Walk of public art that I started hearing about the CAFKA.16 installations…

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