Photo C/O Repair Café Toronto

By: Anastasia Richards

Our lifestyles tend to be disposable. Many of us are prone to throwing things away and replacing them without thinking twice about it. We reach for simplicity and convenience, regardless of the consequences.

The Repair Café, a grassroots organization based in Toronto, will be hosting their first event in Hamilton at the Worker’s Arts and Heritage Centre as part of the ongoing Division of Labour exhibit. Set to take place on March 30 from 1 to 4 p.m., the workshop will gather community members to learn how to fix things together and address sustainability.

The Repair Café launched in Amsterdam in May 2009. The philosophies of the event are all linked to promoting sustainability, helping out your neighbours and getting to know others in the community. In 2013, there was a small group of citizens in Toronto that heard of the event in Amsterdam and wanted to bring it to the greater Toronto area.

“Whether it be… electronics, sewing and mending, small motor repair, carpentry. Individuals that have the skill set come to the café, usually held in public spaces such as libraries or community centres and they teach people how to repair on their own,” explained Suzanne Carte, curator of the Division of Labour Exhibit at the Worker’s Arts and Heritage Centre.

Not only does the Repair Café provide you with the opportunity to learn to be handy, it provides an opportunity to meet people in your community. While you wait on your repair or even if you just want to stop by and see what it’s all about, you can get to know your fellow neighbours.

“With that, there may be some intergenerational conversation…talking about an object will lead to one’s life, uses for said object, storytelling and all of that. It's about building community and skill sharing too,” said Carte.

We live in an age where disposal and replacement are all too easy. Many of us are far too keen on replacing things once they’re slightly damaged. The Repair Café workshops aim to challenge this notion by facilitating an opportunity for people to learn how to be handy, as part of a community and on their own.

The workshops also aim to challenge gender roles that are present within the context of the work associated with repairs. The Repair Café creates an environment where preconceived notions about gender, such as who can sew and knit or do small-motor repairs, can be addressed and broken down.

The Repair Café wishes to create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere so that even those who do not want to come and get something fixed can still feel compelled to attend and be a part of the community. As an example, Carte will be bringing her iron.

“I could probably go and find out how to do it via a digital platform, but I really want to be able to sit down with a person who can take me through the steps, answer any questions that I have in how to better care and serve this object that then services me,” said Carte.

Attending the Repair Café will provide her with an opportunity to collaborate with others in her community, share stories with them, exchange knowledge and extend the lifetime of her appliance.

The Repair Café hopes to change people’s mindset. Every contribution helps to improve our sustainability practices and it can all begin by learning how to fix the little things.

 

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Photos C/O Steel City Studios

On March 1, creative co-working space Steel City Studio threw a grand reopening celebration to mark the completion of its expansion and renovation. The changes, which began last November, brought better workflow to the space and will allow the studio to grow as a business.

The studio is now 2,000 feet larger than it once was. When the second floor unit beside the studio became available, cofounders Nadine Ubl and Jennifer Donaldson jumped on the chance to increase their square footage. By knocking down the walls between these two units, Steel City Studio now enjoys a brighter and more open space.

Beyond expanding, the renovation involved refinishing the oak flooring on the second floor, replacing the front door with a glass door, changing the tile at the front of the studio, adding a double glass door at the entrance and bringing the wiring up to code. It was important to Ubl and Donaldson to stay within the existing layout and maintain the charm of the 120-year-old building.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BrmHYeWhkCU/

The most significant updates involved making the space more environmentally friendly. The old windows facing east and south were replaced by more efficient windows. Wherever they changed the light fixtures, they also changed the light bulbs from halogen to LED to decrease their power draw.

“[P]art of what we do is keeping in mind [the] environmental component. So by sharing a lot of resources, it means that we can sort of lessen our environmental impact,” Ubl explained.

The studio has become green in more ways than one. The most impressive part of the renovation is the moss wall and ceiling on the second floor. The greenery was done by Greenteriors, one of the businesses that uses space at Steel City Studio. While designed to absorb acoustics in the new open floor plan, the moss also serves to inspire the makers and benefit their health. It is also a sign of new beginnings.

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To celebrate these new beginnings, the studio hosted an event to share the refreshed space with the community. They filled the space with artwork by the Hamilton Female Artists Collective and provided snacks, a cash bar and live acoustic music by musician Murray Thiessen.

They also announced the winner of their Spring Start-up Contest. The contest, which was ran through their socials, was open to creative entrepreneurs, artists and small businesses. They then invited the nominated makers to share their vision and tour the studio. The lucky winners were awarded two months of free studio space.

[W]e hear a lot that people want to gain access to the studio, but they're not really sure how to go about starting or, financially, they're not sure if they can make that commitment. So the point in this contest was to give someone the opportunity to get started in the space for a couple of months and help them to grow their business so that they can sustain staying in the studio,” Ubl said.

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Helping small creative businesses grow is the main goal of Steel City Studio. Not only does the studio offer space on a membership basis, it also provides flourishing businesses with business knowledge and supplies. An example of this is the six-week program, Open Co-tivation, which kicks off on March 12 and is designed to help entrepreneurs keep one another accountable.

In addition to these programs, the studio hosts various workshops, such as the upcoming Screenprinting Basics on March 16. And on March 30, the business will be hosting its seasonal Open Studio, which allows members of the community to check out the studio as well as meet and buy from makers.

Expanding the space will allow the studio to further meet its mandate and grow its influence in the city. There is a definite benefit to being able to work with, support and seek advice from other makers. The studio wants to continue to cater to individuals who are just starting creative endeavours.

“I think what we hope to be is that next step for people that are transitioning into either work in a creative field or into their own business….  [T]hey had everything at their fingertips while they were at school and then when they go to leave it's like ‘okay and now I'm doing this from home, how do I do that?’ So we definitely want to solidify that a little bit,” said Ubl.

Steel City Studio occupies a unique niche in Hamilton by bridging the gap between the maker and start-up cultures. By expanding its space, the studio has more room for Hamilton’s small creative businesses to grow in.

 

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On March 20, Hamilton Bike Share hosted a group event called "Three years on two wheels" to celebrate their birthday.

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