artist in residence - clay stang

In my day to day life I get to meet some pretty interesting people. People who are following their dreams and pursuing their goals to be artisans, craftspeople, and artists. Many of these people are finding a way to make their true passion an integral part of their lives whether as a career or as a serious side business. I thought it might be interesting to dedicate a post once in while to these people who are following their heart and making it work. I thought I would call the series Artist in Residence. First up is one of my neighbours, Clay Stang a talented photographer and now budding woodworker and industrial designer.

Lounge Chair created with the upholstering help of Martin Kapustianyk.

Clay, I know you primarily as a photographer how did you get started with this new line of work?

My father was a finishing carpenter/cabinet maker so I’ve been around carpentry most of my life. When I lived out west I would design furniture and my father and I would build it together. We’ve built coffee tables and a sofa and numerous little projects along the way. When entering art college I tried doing a double major in photography and sculpture. In the end I had to choose a direction and photography won. With photography I’m constantly problem solving and trying to come up with new ideas and solutions. Wood working feels like an extension of that.

Customized industrial drafting lamp w/cloth wrapped cord.

How would you describe your aesthetic? Where do you get your influences from?

I think my wood working is actually similar to my photography. I’m committed to simplicity and modernism with accents that highlight vintage repurposed elements. When I’m needing inspiration – I like to hit art galleries. We recently were in San Francisco and visited SFMOMA. Seeing the modern California artists like Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen was really impressive. The inspiration is never a direct translation but its usually a spark. A use of colour or unusual design that triggers an idea in my work.

Also found objects are a big influence. My lovely wife Liz and I own a vintage store and I sometimes find myself staring at an object for a long time because I know somewhere in that object is a table, bench or light fixture.

Beam bench, mid century legs with canvas hammock.

Take us through a bit of your design process? Where does an object begin and where does it end up?

I like to incorporate a found object in my design. And I tend to be influenced by the object itself. I always begin sketching and from the sketch comes the solutions. Once the final sketch is finished, I start building & sourcing material. Repurposing an item from the trash and creating something functional & new is really rewarding.

Where can we find your work? Do you take custom orders?

You can find a selection of work at The Arthur and here. And yes I take custom orders.

Ipad docks

Where would you like to see this new line of work take you?

That's simple; a balance. I love photography and am incredibly lucky to have a career in it. Since the digital age I find myself spending a lot of time in front of a computer. Woodworking is physical. Both professions are creative but in some ways they work different parts of the brain. One also informs the other. My relationship with space is considered in both but it's the way in which I manipulate the space that gives me the Balance.

Finally, what are you hoping Santa brings you this holiday season?

There are days when I want so much more and there are days when I recognize what I have is more than enough. Today I’m full. However my son Otis wants a transformer costume, So Santa if you’re reading this...


If you think you might be a good fit for this new running series on my blog drop me a line, with the subject "artist in residence" and tell me a little about what you do.


All photographs by Clay Stang.



create a beautiful life - hoi bo

Don't you love it when a number of things collide and open your eyes to something new and inspiring? Last month, I was shopping in Mjolk and saw their beautiful display of hand waxed, hand crafted bags by Hoi Bo. A couple of weeks later, I was reading Anja's answers for her Hello! Neighbor post and noticed that the one thing she wanted for Christmas was a Hoi Bo bag. Not knowing much about the company but intrigued I started to do a bit of poking around.  Hoi Bo, headed by designer Sarra Tang, is a group of three artisans who create micro production runs (4-6 pieces) of finely crafted leather goods.

Reading the words handcrafted and artisanal and micro production is one thing seeing the process in action is quite another thing. I was blown away when I saw this video of Sarra and her team working in their studio in Toronto. I loved so many things about it from the strength and delicacy of her hands in the opening scene to her thoughts on creating a beautiful life to her belief that in order to acquire a certain aesthetic some things have to be handmade - you just can't get the same results with a machine.

Amazing, right? How much do you want to own one of their bags now? True artistry.

Video directed and edited by Tate Young/ produced and written by Ian Daffern for The Toronto Standard.