This holiday season, say it with giant blocks of wood. Got a mantra? A motto? A favourite expletive? French-born Jérémie Laguette, sign maker and owner of Woodtype, is your guy. He can carve it, paint it, and outfit it with low-voltage bulbs faster than you can say “fromage.” And for my fellow anxiety-havers, not to worry: he is very cognizant of fire safety. How does he do it all? Read on as we talk woodwork, typography, and electrical wiring with the man himself. happy

SAD Mag: So, how does one become a sign maker?

Jérémie Laguette: I love typography and have always been a fan of old signage. The first sign I designed was for myself and read ‘CHEESE’. It was for a cheese and wine party that I was hosting. My guests seemed to really like it. Some even requested variations for their own home decor and events. This inspired me to make signs accessible to other sign-lovers like myself.

SM: Tell me a bit about your creative process. Do you have any particular rituals when you’re working?

JL: My process is simple. First we have to choose a word. Sometimes I make signs for fun because I like a certain word but most of the time, my client’s have a word in mind. Next we have to select a font. I do this collaboratively with my clients, and together we find the best match in terms of font style, shape and colour that will tie together the word and it’s meaning. Once the mock-ups are approved, it’s time to go to the workshop! I don’t have any particular rituals, though I do collect a lot of flyers and papers with typography that inspires me.

SM: What would you say is the most technically difficult aspect of sign making?

JL: Most people would think building and painting the sign is the most difficult part. Though this is time-consuming, choosing the right font is actually more challenging. There are so many things to take into consideration. Does the font suit the word, does the font size and shape work with the client’s size requirements, etc.cheese-1

SM: Art and electrical wiring are two very different things. Are you more drawn to the technical or the artistic elements of your work? 

JL: The lights are simply a vehicle to bring my word into the spotlight and give it a cosy and warm feeling. I am definitely more drawn to the artistic aspect of sign making, though the technical part is integral to achieving the right feeling. For me it is two different stages: first I dream about it, and then I find a way to make it.

SM: How do you prevent your signs from catching fire?

JL: All my signs are low voltage so the bulbs do not emit any heat. They are warm to the touch and that’s as hot as they get. They are very safe. We’ve had the same sign in our living room as our main source of lighting for the past two years. We haven’t even had to replace a bulb.

SM: The maximum number of words I’ve seen you use on a sign is about five. Would you say you’re drawn to simplicity?

JL: I do love simplicity! Four or five letters give a bigger impact than long words or sentences do. But overall it is more a matter of space. The longer the word is, the bigger the sign will be. dude

SM: What’s the strangest word anyone has ever asked you to put on a sign?

JL: Nothing too crazy, but a funny one was the word “FETCH” that I did for someone who wanted their dog to have a reminder of what it loves the most. As far as I know dogs cannot read. “DUDE” was an awesome one, as it was for a nursery for a newborn baby boy.

SM: When and how did you wind up moving to Vancouver? What do you think is distinctive about Vancouver’s creative scene?

JL: I moved to Vancouver to 3 years ago. My girlfriend wanted to be closer to the mountains and the ocean. I’ve grown to love it. People are very open and supportive in Vancouver. Everyone I’ve met, especially at my studio space with MakerLabs, has offered tips and advice on how to better my work and make more sales.

SM: Tell me something unexpected about yourself.

JL: Well, I’m a pretty traditional guy in a lot of ways. I make the bed every morning. My girlfriend thinks I’m crazy, but I cannot bear the idea of leaving the house in a mess. I’m also French, from France and have only been speaking English for a few years. I only know how to cook one meal, and that’s a tartiflette. It’s a potato casserole from France with lots of fat and calories. Perfect for a Canadian winter.

Make your Hol­i­daze a lit­tle brighter with a sub­scrip­tion to SAD Mag! From now until Decem­ber 31st, if you buy a sub­scrip­tion to SAD Mag and you’ll be entered to win a cus­tom light-up sign by Wood­type. For more about Jérémie Laguette, check out Woodtype’s beautiful website.

Matt Muldoon is the owner of Knuckles Industries: a rapidly ascending design company that just released (to much publicity) their new 60/61 furniture series.

Based on vintage Americana and old-school airplanes – the pieces were built with 6061 aircraft grade aluminum – the collection marries craftsmanship and not-quite-functionalism. Does a shoe rack really require speed holes? Of course not, but then, it doesn’t not need them.

Things are going well so far at Knuckles Industries: the 60/61 series was recently featured at Vancouver’s IDS West show, and has been lauded in publications from The Globe and Mail to Montecristo Magazine.

But back to Matt – what kind of person is it that comes up with this stuff?


A Total Hick

Matt was born in Nanton, Alberta, and describes himself as a hillbilly. He grew up going to scrap yards and buying materials on the Bargain Finder, and at fourteen, he built his first piece: a go-kart repurposed from a smashed-up motorcycle.

As an adult, Matt divides his time between Alberta and B.C., and runs his business a bit like a farmer coming to market. He works mostly out of his shop in Calgary, but wheels and deals in Vancouver. While on the west coast, he lives in an enviable loft space on Main and 2nd, but still misses Alberta’s Wild West vibes.

“The part that was hard for me in Vancouver was it sort of separated me from being a hillbilly,” he says.

“It’s a very different scene in Vancouver. Even if I could build a go-kart out of a motorcycle in Van, someone’s going to arrest me if I drive it down 2nd the way that I drive it at home.”


A Serial Killer

Not really, of course. But Matt admits that he looks like one – a little bit – when he’s staying up all night in his shop, alternately listening to classical music and Nine Inch Nails.

“I just fall back to Trent Reznor at eleven or twelve o’clock at night,” he says.

And then there’s his love of machining and clean lines.

“I prefer that surgical look.”


An Awesome Boyfriend

Recently, Matt’s girlfriend needed a new countertop. So Matt built her one, out of some 90-year-old barn wood that was presumably lying around her apartment.

I think there was very little planning that went into it,” he says.

Sounds like a fun date!


A Real Straight Shooter

More than anything else, Matt deals in authenticity. He describes himself as a half-designer, half-fabricator, and is capable of building any piece that he comes up with. He takes pride in his work; loves quality, well-built materials; and believes in completing a project in its entirety.

“I have an obsession with the 1930s and the 1940s, and everything that was made then. Sort of that Americana manufacturing days, when people went to work and made what they did and they were proud of it, and it turned out really well,” he says.

“I have this thing with the work pride of days gone by.”


The Seven Lives of Louis Riel

Had things shaken out differently, Louis Riel could’ve been the Canadian John Wayne. In a fairer world, he should have spent most of the 20th century plastered across lunchboxes, t-shirts and movie posters. His personal biography seems expressly written for a biopic or spaghetti Western: he led two Métis resistances against the Canadian government, was consequently tried and hanged for treason, and spent some time in between in exile at a mental asylum.

Despite the impressive, kinda-bonkers biography, Riel has instead mostly languished in Canadian history textbooks – a genre uniquely suited to sucking all cultural interest out of even the most amazing stories. That is, of course, until now.

Enter Fringe icon Ryan Gladstone, who shows us Louis Riel – heretofore obscure historical figure – re-imagined as seven pop culture archetypes: outlaw, murderer, madman, hero, traitor, prophet, and legend. Gladstone’s impressions run the gamut of genres – taking the audience from hardboiled film noir, to comic book saga, to Harrison Ford epic – with a deftness that belies how hard this must be to pull off. Adding to the show’s impressiveness: he plays all parts by himself, supported only by lighting cues, an antique trunk, and a handful of dollar store props. He brings a loose, comic energy to the role, which makes the show a pleasure to watch. The overall effect is of seeing your smartest, goofiest friend do impressions in his living room – accompanied, of course, by a group of about fifty other people.

But although Gladstone is plenty friendly, the show is not necessarily for the uninitiated. He makes repeated reference to semi-obscure bits of Canadian history, which my fellow audience members – bafflingly – all seemed to understand. Still, it cannot be considered a flaw when a show compels you to go home, break out your laptop, and Google – of all things – “nineteenth century Manitoba politics.”



The New Conformity

“What does it mean to conform?”
“How can we reconcile societal pressures with our unique personalities?”
“Dude, how do I avoid becoming, like, The Man?”

These are all questions posed by many an obnoxious undergrad in many a smoky dorm room. However, most of these baby Nietzsches don’t turn to their friends and say: what if we explored these questions, but through juggling?

This is how I like to imagine the creative process that went into The New Conformity. And although I wish I could impose a moratorium on dudes telling me their feelings about society, I’m more than happy to listen as long as they use circus arts as a medium. Cause & Effect Circus has here built a fresh, interesting show around some long-tired questions; integrating martial arts, clown, and juggling into a tightly organized piece of physical theatre.

The show opens on three men, dressed in identical grey suits and juggling in tandem. Their synchronicity is impressive; but soon, one of them becomes fed up, and starts pulling out some moves of his own. The result is an hour-long, vaudevillian saga, in which his fellow jugglers try – and fail – to bring him back in line. Not plot-heavy stuff by any means, but it’s a joy to watch the three actors pull off some impossible-seeming tricks with a minimum of technical assistance.

Although it’s impossible to convey the power of the performance without being there to see it, I leave you with one more piece of praise. On a rainy Saturday at two p.m., in the unfriendliest city in the country, a room full of Vancouverites gave the three a standing ovation. Indeed, the New Conformity won out against brunch – and with an endorsement like that, it has to be good.

On opening night of the Accordion Noir Festival, I sat in an airless room on the top level of the Western Front, an artist-run centre just off Main Street. The wood paneling and stuffiness felt fitting for an evening of bellows-driven music—everything about the space seemed to call back to a time before air conditioning and electric guitar. My fellow audience members were a smattering of what could loosely be called East Vancouver types: affable-looking men and women who dressed for the space in breathable layers, and who had the presence of mind to bring cash for the improvised bar. I felt like a rube, I probably looked like one, and I was very quickly losing the appetite for whimsy that had brought me to an accordion festival on a Thursday night.

accordion logo

Thankfully, for whatever else they may be, accordionists are a punctual bunch. Shortly after the listed start time, a fedoraed emcee came out, said a few words, and badabing-badaboom—we were in business. The first performance was a “spoken word opera” devised by a band of local upstarters: Elysse Cheadle, Elliot Vaughan, Aryo Khakpour, and Jonathan Kim. According to the program, the opera was “an examination of the weightlessness of dreaming, and the gravity of waking,” which sounds like it could be right. They made generous use of experimental lighting cues and sound effects—I can still hear the slurping noises that accompanied a particular birth scene. At this point, my worst fears seemed like they were coming true: this evening was going to be weird.


Fortunately, next came a palate cleanser in the form of Steve Normandin, a traditionalist. He is described as a master of traditional French chansons, and his background boasts credits with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and the renowned playwright Robert LePage. The word “accordion” automatically calls to mind amiable, sturdy-looking Europeans; on this, Normandin absolutely delivers. After warming us up with a few songs, he led the audience Pied Piper-style to the sidewalk, where we did our best collective impression of a Parisian street corner. At this point, the evening’s early swelter had mellowed, and the sky had turned a lovely, bruise-y purple. The coupled among us felt compelled to dance – everyone else swayed by themselves – and my terrible mood began to crack. The combination of the night and the accordion felt a little bit perfect—Normandin could perform exclusively in East Van alleyways from now on, and he would probably do quite well for himself.

accordion fest

The final performer was Angélica Negrón, a Brooklyn-based musician and composer, whose accordion was rounded out by the xylosynth percussion of Shayna Dunkelman. Negrón is all bangs and glasses, the kind of person who seems like she can make any hobby seem cool simply via its proximity to her. One wonders if she chose a deliberately old-fashioned instrument simply to test the limits of her powers. In any case, both performers were very, very good. The blend of electronica and accordion felt – for lack of a better word – floaty, and just a touch menacing. The songs themselves spanned far-reaching, upbeat topics such as “The Disappearance of a Young Girl” and “A Happy Song About Death.” These were perfect for sitting alone in a public space and contemplating the future. Despite my early doubts, I deemed the alone-at-an-accordion-festival experiment a success.


If you love the idea of an accordion festival, I’d say you should go. If it sounds stupid and terrible, go anyways. Next year will mark the 9th year of Accordion Noir Fest in Vancouver; whatever your ultimate thoughts, I can predict that it will most definitely be An Experience.