The Quirky AF art fair is a chance to celebrate all things unconventional, quirky and weird this art crawl weekend 

As we head into November, many of us are beginning to think about the holidays and the gift-giving season again. Along with events like Hamilton Day and the BIPOC Market, the Quirky AF art fair on Nov. 11 and 12 hosted by Hamilton Artists Inc. aims to help the community with their shopping and support local businesses and artists this winter. 

Quirky AF art fair was first introduced in 2019 during an Art Crawl weekend on James St. N. The fair was created to showcase unique works by avant-garde makers and artists and to foster space for critical and challenging contemporary art practices addressing regional and national discourses. Attendees at the event able to find whimsical, experimental and overall quirky art, crafts and items.  

“The aim of [Quirky AF art fair] is to bring together crafters and designers from across the region, who challenge expectations and take risks with work that is unconventional, experimental, political or all-around weird and quirky,” said Rachelle Wunderink, interdisciplinary artists and a member of the special events committee at Hamilton Artists Inc., in a email statement to The Silhouette

“The aim of [Quirky AF art fair] is to bring together crafters and designers from across the region, who challenge expectations and take risks with work that is unconventional, experimental, political or all-around weird and quirky,”

Rachelle Wunderink, Interdisciplinary artist and member of the special events committee at Hamilton Artists' Inc.

In 2020, the event was held online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, this November, after taking a break last year, it is finally back in-person and the team is excited to bring folks back into their space. This year, the fair will feature jewelry, prints, ceramics, toys, clothing, accessories and housewares from artisans and makers in Hamilton and the surrounding regions.  

“We are so excited to welcome students and the Hamilton community back into our physical space after [the COVID-19 pandemic]. . .We hope all students will come out to celebrate with us,” said Wunderink. 

Interested attendees can check out the Inc.’s Instagram page to learn more about each participating vendor. If any of the works or items interest you, this holiday season, get creative and gift something unique and bizarre by visiting the Quirky AF art fair on 155 James Street North this Art Crawl weekend. 

Comfort is at the heart of local underwear business Bed Peace Intimates

Feeling comfortable in your skin can go a long way. Often overlooked though is the importance of being comfortable. Both ideas of comfort are at the heart of Maya Lyn’s business Bed Peace Intimates.

The idea for Bed Peace Intimates initially came to Lyn in high school. Since then, she gathered the necessary experiences that made her vision a reality. She studied fashion arts and business at Humber College and then took an intensive sewing course at George Brown College before launching her business on Instagram in spring 2017.

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Lyn makes mostly underwear, bralettes and sports bras, usually in bright, vibrant colours. It was important to Lyn to ensure her business was sustainable so all her pieces are made-to-order using made-in-Canada organic cotton hemp.

Since launching, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. An added bonus of her made-to-order model and using Instagram is that Lyn is able to have more interaction with her customers than she might have had otherwise.

“So they'll send me pictures afterwards, or they'll write really sweet messages about how perfectly they fit or how they love the colour,” explained Lyn.

C/O Maya Lyn

At the core of her business is the belief that fabrics we keep closest to our bodies should be comfortable and make us feel good. That’s why she’s very appreciative of the feedback because it helps her to see that her business is fulfilling its goals.

Everything comes back to these ideas of comfort and kindness for Lyn.

“It's all about comfort for me. I seldom call it lingerie because I've never been attracted to lingerie. It's just not my jam but intimates to me that means they're comfortable, they're flexible. You can wear it at work, you can wear it at home, you can wear it when you're resting. And it's also sexy. When you feel comfortable in your body you are prone to feeling sexy and good in your body because you feel comfortable,” explained Lyn.

“It's all about comfort for me. I seldom call it lingerie because I've never been attracted to lingerie. It's just not my jam but intimates to me that means they're comfortable, they're flexible."

Especially in the context of the pandemic, choosing something comfortable (and colourful!) can go a long way in making individuals not only feel more comfortable in their bodies but also for brightening their days a bit.

“I know the few days that I haven't got dressed in the morning, those days are just hazy. And it's kind of fun but you do feel a little bit like the day is just a big blob. So maybe having Bed Peace, putting on a nice sports bra that's comfortable, that doesn't have an underwire and putting on a nice, comfortable, colourful pair of underwear and then putting on some sort of comfortable, but home outfit could be a game-changer for people who are stuck at home and feeling it,” said Lyn.

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Comfort is for everyone and Lyn feels strongly about ensuring that all aspects of her are accessible and inclusive.  She offers a sliding scale for those who may need it. She also strives to be size-inclusive, featuring a size range of small to three XL.

In regards to the promotion of her business, such as for photoshoots, it’s very important for Lyn to work with photographers and models who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour.

“Collaborating together and being a part of the collaboration team to be like, “Okay, what would make you feel excited to see on an advertisement for underwear?” [is really important] . . . I'm just thinking about how a brand can be all-encompassing and mindful about representation and tokenism and how to actually just make something that's really cool and authentic visually,” added Lyn.

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Lyn’s Bed Peace Intimates helps to highlight the importance of feeling comfortable in your skin, figuratively and literally, but furthermore it also actively encourages individuals to seek out comfort and helps them find it.

Currently, Bed Peace Intimates is on a brief hiatus but Lyn has plans to resume her business in the spring.

If you asked 14-year-old me what my worst nightmare was, bra shopping was at the top of the list.

As I fumbled with various straps and clasps in a seemingly endless tangle through adolescence, my discomfort with the under-shirt, over-skin layer grew.

And when I moved out of training bra territory and into more “grown up” styles and designs, I was faced with not only discomfort, but a degree of alienation from the sexually-charged marketing of bras and lingerie that greeted me at the entrance of any boutique or store at the mall.

When I was a teenager, it was easy to convince myself that I just wasn’t “ready” yet, “ready” in the euphemistic way my Grade 7 health teacher talked about anything done behind closed doors.

I was okay with that, partially because I found myself in the unfair reality where my body grew up before I did.

But as I finished high school and began my undergraduate degree, I noticed that my aversion to anything that wasn’t a sports bra and plain cotton underwear had only gotten stronger. And by then it was harder to convince myself that what I was feeling was normal. Why was the idea of wearing lingerie so uncomfortable to me?

This inability to even try to challenge myself and explore the seemingly endless world of lace, prints and straps was disappointing to say the least. People around me saw lingerie as an empowering piece of clothing. They were beautiful, they were sexy, they knew it and they were going to make sure you did too. I admired them, but felt that I could never be like them.

“At the time, I came to the conclusion that the parts of my body most lacy, architectural lingerie is meant to accentuate were not parts of me I ever thought of as being especially interesting or attractive.”

 

Rachel Katz

At that point I wished I could just grow up a little bit.

And so, equipped with a more defined sense of self, I began to puzzle over this discomfort on a more frequent basis. At the time, I came to the conclusion that the parts of my body most lacy, architectural lingerie is meant to accentuate were not parts of me I ever thought of as being especially interesting or attractive. I liked my shoulders, arms and back, areas these garments existed on or around, but that were typically not the focal point.

Through a recent conversation with Hamilton-based lingerie designer Rosalie Loney, I finally found some solace in that I was not alone in my sentiments.

“I have so many memories of shopping for bras,” Loney said. “Even like, as a teenager, shopping for bras with my mom and thinking ‘this is terrible’. Like going to La Senza and feeling like [I] must have been the weirdest shape because nothing ever, ever fit.”

Loney’s line, Rosalie Wynne, offers a fully customizable sizing experience, meaning that she is able to offer a much broader range than what is available in most big-box retailers. Poor sizing was an issue for Loney in the past, and she created Rosalie Wynne out of a desire to ensure that anyone, no matter their size or proportions, can find a beautiful bralette or pair of underwear they can wear with confidence.

“I really want women to feel empowered, to be comfortable and confident in their own bodies and to know that you can be super comfortable in your unique shape, whatever it is,” she explained. “I don’t want to choose between being comfortable and feeling pretty.”

Loney’s commitment to working towards universally comfortable lingerie anyone can feel confident in is admirable and her pieces are undoubtedly beautiful. Her work is focused on empowerment, not necessarily sex appeal, and it allows customers to appreciate their bodies as they are and not as objects of desire.

After our conversation, I reflected on the associations we tend to have between femininity, beauty and what is meant to be sexy about women and women’s lingerie. These one-dimensional views of sex appeal are not emblematic of a universal experience of womanhood.

This is not new information, but it took me a long time to realize that this visual definition of womanhood did not mesh comfortably with my own feelings about femininity and sexuality. While I still don’t have an alternative term for my expression of myself as a woman, that internal realization allowed for so much of my discomfort around traditionally feminine, overtly sexual lingerie to make sense.

“And slowly I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea that I can feel pretty in a plain bralette or confident in something lacey or sexy in a sports bra.”

 

Rachel Katz

It was such a relief to finally discover for myself that I didn’t need to find the raciest or laciest undergarments to feel sexy. But I was still left wondering what, if anything, made me feel that way.

I recalled something else Loney had said to me: “A lot of feeling beautiful is feeling comfortable.”

At that point during our conversation, it dawned on me that there actually were undergarments in my drawer that made me feel beautiful and confident and maybe even a bit sexy. And one was a little lacy, one was a fun colour and one was literally a grey Spanx bralette. But they all made me feel beautiful because they made me feel more than comfortable; they made me feel like myself.

“If you’re not feeling comfortable, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing,” she added. “You could look great, but if you don’t feel like you can just be yourself, then what’s the point?”

Loney is right.

And slowly I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea that I can feel pretty in a plain bralette or confident in something lacy or sexy in a sports bra. My body will change, and so will my style and ideas of womanhood and queerness. And slowly I’m learning that all of these elements are inherently beautiful and I can feel confident and even a little sexy because of — not in spite of — all of these different parts of me. ­­

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Steel mills in Hamilton were once the city’s largest employer and one of the main reasons that the downtown core was thriving. However, when the steel industry began to lose its edge, so did the city, leaving a lasting effect that shook Hamilton down to the core.

Hamilton’s downtown looks significantly different than it did a few years ago. In particular, the King Street strip, which once hosted abandoned storefronts and eclectic businesses, has entered a new state of revitalization.

Businesses of all types have been flocking to the Steel City over the past decade in an effort to contribute towards Hamilton’s “renaissance”, a term being used across the board to explain Hamilton’s urban revival.

The options are seemingly limitless when it comes down to what you can do in Hamilton. The changes that the core has faced within the last five years, specifically along King Street East, has given the city of Hamilton a breath of renewal.

However, the changes in infrastructure with the Light Rail Transit project moving forward and the rise in costs of living and operating a business are challenges that several businesses amongst the downtown core are facing head-on.

You can do anything on King Street

From chain restaurants, to co-working spaces to niche, experimental business concepts, the versatile nature of King Street proves that there’s something for everyone. The street is home to a ping pong bar, a game store that doubles as an arcade, several boutiques, vintage purveyors and an escape room, in addition to several other hospitality and retail destinations.

Whitney McMeekin opened her business, Girl on the Wing, along King Street nearly four and a half years ago. Amidst several abandoned storefronts and a diverse range of businesses, McMeekin opened up shop in an effort to bring attention to the area.

“I liked the idea of being off the beaten path a little and attempting to bring some attention to an area that not many people frequented,” said McMeekin. “I also loved the diversity in types of businesses here.”

McMeekin’s business is one of several specialty retail stores that finds its home along King Street and who have opened for that same reason. There is definite character to be found in storefronts along King Street that is hard to find anywhere else. The eclectic range of business ventures, the architectural attributes in which many store owners take pride and the rich history several buildings along King Street hold often make it the best place for one to set up shop.

"It's only going to grow more. Especially with projects like the Spallaci buildings and the condos near King William"

 

Trevor Hunt
Co-owner,
The Fizz

Rising costs of operating

The rise in popular entrepreneurial ventures within the city has also contributed to the overall rising cost of living within the city itself. With a tremendous spike in higher-end business ventures and hospitality services, there has also been a significant spike in the cost for both residential and commercial rental spaces.

From 2013 to 2015, vacancy rates within the city of Hamilton fell to 1.8 per cent from 3.4 per cent, forcing rental costs to skyrocket and lowering the means for affordable rental spaces across the city.

“When I hear other people’s rents around me, especially newer people, I’m always a bit surprised that it’s so much higher than mine. But I signed my lease almost five years ago,” noted McMeekin.

This past spring saw the opening of The Fizz: Soda and Sandwich shop on King Street East. The niche, specialty soda shop, run by Trevor and Amanda Hunt, is just one of many new businesses to open up shop along the King Street strip who pay significantly more than their neighbouring entrepreneurs.

“Property prices are rising for sure. I myself pay more than my neighbour who has been here for only a few years prior to me,” said Trevor Hunt. “It’s only going to grow more. Especially with projects like the Spallacci buildings and the condos near King William.”

With higher-end condos on the rise within the city, specifically projects such as the Royal Connaught, the costs of living and working within the city will most likely continue to grow over the next several years.

Moving forward at light speed

In August 2017, the province  gave the city of Hamilton a green light on the well-debated Light Rail Transit project. In its current state, one of the LRT routes takes form along both Main and King Streets from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.

Major construction of the LRT lines are set to take place from 2019 to 2024, a five-year gap that may reduce traffic for business and host other complications that construction often sees.

Kerry Jarvi of the Downtown Business Improvement Area notes that the specifics of how this construction will take hold are still up in the air.

“I think most people are aware that there is going to be construction and that construction can be difficult. Our role [at the BIA] is to make it as seamless as possible,” said Jarvi. “We don’t have a lot of specifics on what exactly [construction] looks like yet. It could be that the whole route is up for the whole few years or it could just go block by block.”

Other business owners along King Street have voiced their concerns regarding how this construction can impact their business. Some businesses have come up with secondary access points to consider, depending on the nature of the construction. 

Hamilton rising

The revival of the downtown core, specifically throughout King Street, has brought an onslaught of change within its demographics. The former blue-collar, working class individuals who were once at its centre are now being overwhelmed by a rise in students, families and Torontonians who are looking to make Hamilton home.

In addition to the changing demographics that the city is seeing, dozens of investment companies are looking at Hamilton as a new hotspot for new opportunities in business or financing. Several vacant apartment units along King Street are seeing investment and restoration as Hamilton continues to grow, which ultimately increases the overall value of the buildings and testing the affordability of the lower storefronts.

This rise within these demographics and investment opportunities that Hamilton has to offer can ultimately lend to the increase in specialty business ventures, but the thriving nature of the city’s state of renewal will most definitely continue throughout the next several decades, which may challenge the state of independent businesses within the core.

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Sarah O'Connor
Staff Reporter

For Coffee:

Homegrown Hamilton

27 King William Street

Phone: (905) 777-8102

Email: info@homegrownhamilton.com

Website: www.homegrownhamilton.com

Facebook: Homegrown Hamilton

Twitter: @HomgrownHam

Fair Trade coffee is probably the first thing people associate with the term. While there are many places around McMaster that sell Fair Trade coffee (such as Union Market and My Dog Joe), it’s nice to explore the city a bit more and experience the downtown core. Homegrown Hamilton freshly roasts their coffee right in front of you using only Fair Trade and organic beans from around the world. They offer a variety of coffee flavours as well as snacks for you to enjoy. The café-by-day, bar-by-night, offers weekly live entertainment by local and non-local artists.

 

For Food:

Ten Thousand Villages

162 Locke Street South

Phone: (905) 522-1626

Email: Hamilton@villages.ca

Website: www.tenthousandvillages.ca

Facebook: Ten Thousand Villages Canada

Twitter: @VillagesCanada

Celebrating its 68 Anniversary as the largest Fair Trade retailer in North America, Ten Thousand Villages is definitely the most interesting of the shops because everything it sells is fair trade: coffee and tea, jewelry, and food items from India, Bangladesh and many other places. Additionally, Ten Thousand Villages also sells a variety of fair trade chocolate and spices for cooking− a great way to spice up Ramen Noodles or a way to liven up dessert!

 

For Art:

The Quirky Crocodile

600 Upper Wellington Street

Phone: (905) 387 0404

Website: www.thequirkycrocodile.com

Email: the qurikycrocodile@hotmail.com

Facebook: The Quirky Crocodile

Twitter: @quirkycrocodile

The Quirky Crocodile is a brand-new store to Hamilton that opened its doors on Feb.1. As well as selling fair trade coffee and tea, The Quirky Crocodile also sells gorgeous Fair Trade metal wall art from Haiti. The wall art is unique as it is recycled from steel oil drums and made with a hammer and chisel. The Quirky Crocodile also sells bamboo wind chimes, decorative masks, and products made by local artists such as hats, mittens, and sock animals.

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