Two Tales of a City opens in Hamilton!

As February wrapped up, we prepared our bunting and banner components to be shipped up to Hamilton for the install. Sara and I went to Canadian Tire to buy Scotch Guard to weather-seal and water-proof the work.

We bought two different kinds, both sealed the fabric adequately after setting to dry for a few hours.

Next, we stopped off at Jodi‘s studio in The House to help her finish cutting and sewing the rest of the Helvetica text letters.

The letters are black with a backing and a layer of Heat N Bond Ultra adhesive in between, for mass and stiffness.

Jodi had mentioned that she was fortunate her surger hadn’t had any problems throughout the project. Shortly thereafter, a needle bent and we had to switch to her other machine to complete the remaining letters.

Once all materials were in one place, we counted, folded, and packaged everything up to fit neatly in this tiny little box. (Amazing!) This was sent off earlier on in the week to Hamilton Artist’s Inc so that Julie could start the install before we arrived on the 9th.

Once in Hamilton on March 9th, we headed to Hamilton Artist’s Inc to check out how the install was going. The bunting looked awesome on the front of the building!

Another shot from James Street.

Pieces of this bunting will be distributed to various individuals and organizations in the final stages of the project.

The banner along Cannon Street, an unforseen frosty wind tunnel, wasn’t fully installed yet. We helped Julie measure and install for a few hours.

The install was a lot more slow-moving than expected, mainly due to the wind.  We were able to get a few letters up before heading over to the Farmer’s Market to set up for the workshop.

This space, called the Community Kitchen, is for rent by the hour in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market.

A white board wall? Pretty awesome. Wish we had one of these on hand at all times!

The workshop began with a discussion about headline stories that the rest of the country hears about Hamilton, then we started talking about the local stories, both published and passed on orally, specific to the city and city residents.

We ran the workshop in both French and English, as we had both French and English speaking people in attendance. Julie was on-hand to help translate. I wrote attendee’s comments and answers  on board-meeting-sized sheets of paper lined up on the wall.

We then moved the conversation toward places in Hamilton, favourite places, places you avoid, places you go to speak/hear french.

Julie helped out with writing when a lot of good things were being said and I couldn’t keep up!

Everyone had a lot of good insights, as most were originally from Hamilton, or just generally curious and good observers of their city surroundings.

Stories of development for buildings previously sitting vacant in the downtown core, tales of infrastructures designed to keep people moving, failed and forgotten industries, rumours of neighbourhoods with bad reputations and stories of missed and seized opportunities were all shared.

This woman, a francophone, had a lot of insights into local francophone culture. She also told some amazing personal stories about her experiences as a francophone in Hamilton.


Some favourite places in Hamilton: James St N, Bibliothèque central, Musée sea beaux-arts de Hamilton, The Starlite, among others.

We then passed along a big sheet of paper and re-wrote an exquisite corpse-style history of Hamilton, in Franglais. Starting with the past, the story moved through to the present and then the future with each participant’s additions.

As the story was being passed around, we began work on our collaged maps. Using scraps of fabric, card stock, glue and sharpies, participants made artistic maps of a site, place or space in Hamilton discussed previously.

I used these strips of arrows to show one-way roads in the downtown core, namely Main St, and King St.

There were lots of fun materials and patterns to pick from.

Here a participant is adding to the Hamilton narrative while another is making their map.

Finished brainstorm sheets; What stories is Hamilton telling the country?

What are the local stories that nobody else gets to hear?

Where was the first place you visited in Hamilton?

What is your favourite place in Hamilton?

What places/things/people do you avoid in Hamilton and why?

Where can you hear people speaking French in Hamilton?

And finally, where is the heart of the city? The general consensus is that Jackson Square, the multi-use complex that hosts the Farmer’s Market, the public library and  a mall in the downtown core, is the heart of the city. Also, the monthly Art Crawls that happen the first Friday of every month were also considered to be a driving force in the city. We decided this question needed to be asked to more people, so we took it back to Hamilton Artist’s Inc to ask Art Crawl attendees.

Back at HAI, we set up a table in the lobby for Art Crawl perusers to interact and participate.

Signs in both English and French were displayed, asking Art Crawl-goers to draw us a map of the heart of the city.

With super-sized post-its and some bright coloured sharpies, we thought this activity would be fun and quick for people of all ages and abilities attending the Art Crawl.

I drew an example, a rough interpretation of Jackson Square.

Everyone was having so much fun drawing maps during the Art Crawl!

We had to leave before the night was over, but we are looking forward to having a look at these maps, and possibly including them in the forthcoming Two Tales of a City publication.

The first iteration of text of the banner on Cannon Street; NEW TALE NO EXCUSE

Watch out for more messages over the next two months! Want to participate? Fill out our Hamilton form, aussi en Français.



Initiate! Open Frameworks Detroit

I’ll be presenting Broken City Lab at:
Initiate! Technology + Collaboration + Community + Change
Saturday, 2/25, 5-9:30 PM
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
4454 Woodward Ave Detroit MI, 48201

Looking forward to a great discussion on creative uses of primarily open source technology and open source approaches to creating art and social change with a bunch of awesome talented people.

Hope to see you there!

Two Tales of a City: Acrylic Medium Transfers on Fabric

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been testing out methods for transferring photocopies onto fabric using acrylic medium for the banner and bunting that will be installed on the exterior of Hamilton Artist’s Inc.

Rosina picked up this 1000ml tub of acrylic medium for The Store at SoVA‘s Store. We had some leftover scrap material to play with that we picked up from our technician and collaborator Jodi Green‘s studio at The House.

Using some photocopies of historical articles we collected from the Hamilton Archives regarding francophone feats and struggles and both the textile and steel industries in Hamilton, we got to work doing a few different test transfers .

The medium is applied directly to the fabric then the photocopied paper is placed over the fabric and rubbed in to ensure a crisp image.

We tested on both light and dark coloured fabrics, as well as pure white, to see the difference from one tone to the next. Then, we set our tests to dry overnight in the BFA studio at the SoVA.

Here’s an example of the bacl side of one of our photocopied articles. The text was photocopied in reverse so that it would come out onto the fabric in the correct direction.

The back of on of our tests before setting to dry.

After the first tests had dried at least 24 hours, we got to rinsing them to see the results.

They came out nice and clear! Here’s an example on white fabric.

Another sample soaking for a few seconds in cold water. After trying a sample with hot water, we soon realized that the heat was removing some of the transfer. It seems that cold was the way to go.

Our stack of photocopies.

Next we decided to do a few more tests on a larger surface area to play around with style and placement of the photocopies on the fabric.

Hiba was around working in her studio and giving us helpful hints for rinsing out the fabric transfers.

The remnants of paper post-rinse.

Sketches describing two different methods for transfering; one with medium painted directly on the fabric, the other is painted onto the paper then pressed into the fabric.

Our tests from last time drying. They all turned out well. Some were more interesting than others.

Old photographs of sewing machines made in Hamilton & Region during the 1800’s.

More samples of tests.

After picking up the squares from Jodi, we placed them out on the floor in the general shape of the sign they will become.

I rinsed off the larger tests we had done from last time.

Here’s the first test, medium painted on paper.

The edges were curling and the transfer was not very durable.

Two of the tests hanging to dry. The one on the right will be similar to the end results.

Just for fun, we did a test with clear glossy medium (rather than solid matte) The results were interesting and cool but would only work well on solid coloured fabric. Future t-shirts perhaps?

We started by cutting up all the photocopies in preparation for transfering 16 36″x36″ squares.

We also arranged the events from the timeline Hiba and I compiled during our last trip in Hamilton to be photocopied and transfered onto the Hamilton History timeline bunting.

A giant pile of pre-cut photocopies. After Cristina arrived to help, the pile of 8.5×11″ paper was reducing quite fast and we plowed through it in no time.

Dried samples from previous tests.

Our photocopied strips ready to go. It proved useful to dedicate a whole table for laying them out.

I wipe down the table before laying out two squares for transfering. Always important to start with a clean work surface! Soon after, Rosina and Kevin joined us.

We laid out the strips before securing their placement with the gel matte medium. We went with a broken grid pattern that sometimes crisscrosses over and under itself.

We had fun! We decided to keep working until we ran out of medium for the day.

Hard at work.

We each hard a slightly different method for applying and adhering the transfers, all with the same basic idea; paint the medium onto the fabric then rub and scratch the paper into the fabric.

After cutting up all of the articles and finishing to transfer 8 / 16 squares (each one will hold a letter to spell a word on the giant sign on the side of Hamilton Artist’s Inc), we ran out of medium and called it a day. Rosina will be finishing these squares today and we will get started on transferring the bunting on Thursday.




Two Tales of a City: Hamilton History Hunters Day 2

We spent the day in Hamilton again, this time walking around downtown as Official Hamilton History Hunters, building a timeline of Hamilton’s history with the help of city residents and visitors around Jackson Square, a multi-use complex in the downtown core.

Both Hiba and I had specific tasks that we alternated during our investigation. Hiba had our timeline, pins and post-its while I started off with the camera and a clipboard with research articles from our last trip up.

We met a lot people who ere eager to speak about Hamilton, others were rushed or didn’t have much to say.

This man was visiting Hamilton because his wife was in the hospital. He was a retired auto worker and had some good insights into that industry.

Our timeline quickly started to fill up with experiences, events, feelings, regrets, and hopes for hamilton’s past, present and future.

This person was a student and spent some time briefing a few articles and marking key words and phrases.

This woman was an infinite source of information about Hamilton’s Steele and Textile industries. I feel like we could have talked with her for hours.

Hiba did a fantastic job taking down her points for the timeline as she spoke. I think we must have had 5 or 6 different post-its filled before we continued our hunt.We used sewing pins to attach the post-its to the timeline. It was fast enough for me to manage but Hiba was having a hard time reaching from behind it.


Halfway through, I handed the camera off to Hiba and donned the timeline. I quickly realized that I now needed to renegotiate moving through city space.

Lots of hustle and bustle around Jackson Square on this morning, we headed out super early to catch students and workers on their daily commute.

It seemed productive to hang around the bus stops to spark up conversation with people coming on and off the bus.

This guy had some good stories about Hamilton’s past. As I was talking to this guy, Hiba was having a good discussion with another enthusiastic Hamilon Historian.

We were catching many people’s curiosity and interest. Some people were too busy to talk, some didn’t have much to say, and others enjoyed the invitation to share. One lady was just hanging around this area because she was looking for an address and couldn’t find it.

We had some yellow police officers follow us back to our car, I think they thought they were protecting us from the homeless people outside of this mission. I felt pretty safe, though. The night before, we also saw police officers on horses downtown. The only other time I’ve seen that was in Calgary. 

After about a solid two hours we returned to our parking lot and looked over our gathered notes.

Close up of our findings.

What will happen in Hamilton in 100 years?

What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

What happened 100 years ago in Hamilton?

What do you hope for Hamilton in a 100 years?

What did you do yesterday in Hamilton?

What will happen in Hamilton in 100 years?

Hamilton history.

100 years ago, the mafia came here from the old country.

Hamilton’s past.

The two day trip turned out to be really successful! We met and talked a lot of interesting people throughout the streets of Hamilton. Thanks to everyone at Hamilton Artists Inc. for making our stay enjoyable and productive.



Two Tales of a City: Hamilton Industry notes and articles

I ventured to the CAW centre today to take advantage of the free WIFI and do a bit of research on the history of industry in Hamilton. I found some interesting articles about a abandonned knitting mill that was bought by Toronto Developpers and is being transformed into condos.


The Hamilton Textile District located on Ottawa Street is the largest fabric and textile district in Canada and also Hamilton’s top tourist destination.


This 1920’s commercial district in East Hamilton grew out of the local textile and fabric industry
which manufactured everything from sewing machines to clothing. Today the Textile District is
a thriving shopping area that has found its niche in fabrics, sewing and home decor. It is also
the site of the very first Tim Horton’s location.

From Wikipedia article on the Economic History of Hamilton:

Canadian patent laws and the underemployed workers skilled in machinist trades lured an important new industrial enterprise from the U.S.A.- the manufacture of sewing machines by Richard Wanzer. From this development there evolved the ready-made clothing industry, which William Eli Sanford introduced locally.

City of Hamilton Document Re: Cannon Street Knitting Mills

A few links to articles:

Knitting Mills

More on Knitting Mills

Even more on Knitting Mills

and more

Potential interviewees:

writer of this article on sustainable steel industry in Hamilton

 McMaster University Steel Research

Also, this is my aunt who works at DOFASCO (steel company in Hamilton)


Two Tales of a City: Interview with Ariane from le Centre Français

Below is the transcription of the interview Rosina and I had this fall with Ariane from the Centre Français in Hamilton. While going through what was discussed around the topics of francophonie in Hamilton, I came across a good amount of ideas and phrases that could be interestingly interpreted when paired in context to the steel industry. It became clear to me that the Steel industry versus other minor industries important to Hamilton’s development, such as the textile industry, tells an interesting story when paired with the Anglophone culture in Hamilton versus a variety of other language-based cultures forming in the city over the past 40 years.

At the end of the interview we asked about words in either language that cannot be translated. I think this would be a good question to ask on an online form in the near future.

Below is the interview (in french), and as a comment to this post is the  compilation of the phrases picked out of the conversation to be used as further research. Please read the interview (you can translate it roughly using google if you need to) and add your comments and suggestions for potential interviewees, as well as further interview questions for a steel industry representative, an anglophone, and a textile industry representative.

Thanks again to Ariane at the Centre Français in Hamilton for providing some insights into francophone culture and identity in Hamilton.

Continue reading “Two Tales of a City: Interview with Ariane from le Centre Français”

Homework: We Want Your Promo!

Are you involved with an arts-related event taking place in the Windsor-Detroit region around October 21 & 22? Broken City Lab would love to include information or promo for your local arts event in our Homework Conference Welcome Packages.

Please mail or drop off 150 copies of handbills or flyers (no larger than 8.5×11″) by October 17 to

BCL Homework Welcome Package Promo Material

3-307 Josephine Ave

Windsor, ON

N9B 2K9


Questions? Concerns? Email


Homework: Call for Volunteers

Are you an avid photographer / videographer looking for some real work experience? Get involved and help out with the upcoming Homework conference and get free promo on our blog!

Broken City Lab is looking for volunteers to document the conference through video and photo.

Please e-mail by Monday, October 17th and be sure to specify:

-your contact info

-your availability on Friday, October 21 from 9am-9:30pm and Saturday, October 22 from 9am-6pm (we’ll divide the days into shifts)

-the type of camera you use

-any career or volunteer related experience with photography/videography you may have

-3-5 photos or up to 1 min of video, content must include people.


We’re also looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help us out with Guest Services. This is a great way to network with local, national and international artists, scholars, writers, thinkers, and doers and learn about social practice!

Please e-mail with your contact info and availability on Friday, October 21 from 9am-9:30pm and Saturday, October 22 from 9am-6pm by Monday, October 17th.

ATTC Calgary Day 6: Mapping Calgarian Kindness

Wednesday morning we set up for our last day of Urban Discovery with Truck Contemporary Art‘s CAMPER, this time stationed in Central Memorial Park. The theme for the day was “Finding Urban Sophistication and Warm Western Hospitality.”

What we wished to explore was the notion that Calgarians are on average a kinder population. We also were curious if there were any trends in the areas that these kind acts occur. Josh, Todd, Randy, and I handled on the day’s activities, while Justin took a break after a marathon work session on our upcoming publication (which we’ll be posting soon).

Before and after a visit from CBC Radio’s Karen Moxley, we cleaned off and re-used our blackboards from Day 4 with a new goal in mind: to find distinct examples of friendliness at street level. Although the park had far fewer pedestrians than Stephen Avenue, we were still able to get useful feedback from Calgarians, while at the same time allowing them to take a break from their busy day to recall previous acts of kindness.

Continue reading “ATTC Calgary Day 6: Mapping Calgarian Kindness”