Community experiments in DTK

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If you know me at all, you know I love experiments. Especially social experiments.

Brohemus and I dropped by Goudies Lane in DTK on Thursday for what was billed as “First Thursday at Goudies Lane People-only Pocket”. The general idea is to limit traffic to the pedestrian kind entering the lane off Queen Street, put out some tables and chairs, get some music and painting going and see what happens. Well, the TL;DR is a lot of people passed through or hung out in the lane, chatting and eating. Together. So *that’s* a data point. And it jives with my experience that we learn way more about community building by *trying* approaches rather than *talking* about approaches. So hats off to the doers, the social innovators, the risk takers who must defend the spend on this gig. In fact, there was a lot of surveying and focus-grouping and input-getting that got us to here, but I just want to show the doing. Here’s the story from Catherine Thompson leading up to this event. Watch for the next one, first Thursday of July. In the lane.

More interesting than bistro tables or food vendors is painting on walls with spray cans, and that is what I first saw. I rarely forget a face I’ve photographed…

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and even partially hidden behind a respirator, I can tell this is Whos One. I first photographed him in the Laurier Library where he was exhibiting his work in 2015. Then last summer, I caught him painting riverside at the Cambridge International Street Art Fest. He’s part of The Firm, and you can follow their work on Instagram and Facebook. Hire them here.

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Perfect evening for casual chats.

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Grand Porch Party 2017–coming June 11 to Uptown West

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If you’re new and don’t know about The Grand Porch Party, get this in your calendar right now: Sunday, June 11, 2017 2pm-5pm in Uptown Waterloo West (more specifically: here). It’s porches + live music. It’s free-no-pay, hipster-friendly, dog-friendly, wheelchair-friendly, kid-friendly, teenager-friendly, well you get the idea. If you can, buy merch from the players. I’ve been loving this super-chill neighbourhood jam for five years now.

I dug up a few pics from *last* year so I could show you what awaits.

Here’s Rufus and Sam. Unfortunately-placed water bottles aside, these guys are the top shot for this piece because, man, they can *sing* and play. Serious talent. And here’s the hard part for you: when you find someone you really like, you’re going to be torn between sticking with them through their whole set or moving up the block to hear other artists. That three hours goes by quickly.

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I see Colin. Hey, click through for a completely reasonable 8 additional pics from last year, but most importantly, get yourself to the Grand Porch Party on June 11 and bring your friends. Big shout out to the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, porch providers and musicians who make it happen.


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Another Tri-City Stopgap art popup starts today

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What: 40 artists showing work in the back of ZM Cycle and Fitness
When: today+ Tue-Sat (see facebook for hours, I will be tending the show Wed 3:30-6pm)
Party: May 27, 2017, 7pm
Where: 131 Strange Street, Kitchener (map link)
Really where: go all the way down the right side of the building all the way to the back
Park: some parking in the **back** lot at 131, some street parking on Waverly or Cherry
Bike: Iron Horse Trail, then east on Gage, cut through school yard to Strange
Transit: #7 gets you to Park and Dominion, #31 gets you to Park+Glasgow, 23 min walk from Charles Terminal/DTK
Who: organized by Tri-City Stopgap artist collective (Mike Ambedian, Nadine Badran, Sheila McMath)
Cost: free-no-pay

Here’s Mike hanging work on Saturday.

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 to new patron Tom Nagy! Ok, on with the story!


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I stopped in a bit earlier in the week on Thursday to see how things were going. Totally different venue this time, same great people making it happen.

The TL;DR: come to the party on Saturday night, 7pm. It will be fun.

The Tri-City Stopgap first did a popup show back in 2014. It was terrific. Great mix of artists and work, which I gather is sort of the point. Same deal this time. This crew attracts talent across a broad range of experience. Same deal this time. It feels like a show by artists for artists. Mike, Nadine and Sheila are just the nicest bunch of people you’ll meet. Super-chill. For me, it felt like a perfect opportunity to try out some non-representational work out of recent experiments in the studio.

Speaking recently with Mike, he noted that finding a venue and especially one owned by someone who understands the idea of a pop-up is challenging. In this case, the match up of art with cycling under one roof for a week seems like a good fit toward making the world a better place. Mike asked me if I could imagine this as an artist-run space and I told him I would always answer yes to that question, wherever we stand. If you’ve got space and would like to support a popup show, come to the party and meet the crew and see firsthand what it looks like. Then connect with

Click through for a few more pics…

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Open Jam at The Jazz Room

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Andriy Tikhonov (left) along with Steve Montgomery, a director with the Grand River Jazz Society and sound engineer Jeremy Bernard tried a social/musical experiment on Saturday: they hosted an open jam for jazz and blues players at The Jazz Room in uptown Waterloo. And, TL;DR: it was terrific, another one is likely, you should go.

I caught wind of this via Jason White, my jazz-playin’ brother from another mother, in a Facebook post on Wednesday. And with scant details, I showed up and shot some pics, because as we always say here: if you like the work, support the work.

Speaking of support: 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 with deep thanks to James, Ben, Michelle, Donna, Glenn, Chris, Vince, Ursula, Rob, Matt, Eric, Agnes, Jon, John, John, Jeremy, Karen, Cam, Daryl and Brent.  If your name’s not on the list, high five somebody’s whose is: they sponsored this piece. Ok, on with the story!

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I’ve intersected orbits periodically with The Jazz Room since it’s birth back in 2011 when I first met Stephen Preece (Pres. of the board of directors). Such was my enthusiasm for this great new thing, that I wrote several community-investment pieces including the building of this stage and the refurbishing of this piano, both shown above.

There’s violinist Erik whom I met on King Street a year ago. Click through for a substantially unreasonable number of pics…

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Melissa Doherty is the Cloud Witness

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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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