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Vancouver cat and coffee shop lovers can rest easy knowing that as of Monday December 14, 2015, our city opened its first cat cafe. With a simple crowd-funding page, entrepreneur Michelle Furbacher gained enough public support to create her dream space, Catfé. The concept for the cat cafe is quite simple; it’s a place where you can enjoy a cup of coffee while a snuggly feline sits on your lap. It is a place that provides a service for those who are unable to keep pets of their own, or who are looking for a unique social experience. And if you fall in love with your snuggle buddy, you can apply to adopt them. I had a chance to sit down with cat enthusiast and Catfé owner Michelle to discuss her new pawject.

By Andrea Hooge
By Andrea Hooge

Farah Tozy: Tell meow a bit about yourself.

Michelle Furbacher: I’ve been a cat lover my whole life, from the magical moment in the first grade when I met my family’s new kitten, through my fastidious collection of Garfield books and the “Punk Cats” poster that adorned my pre-teen bedroom wall. (FYI I would never condone dressing kittens in leather jackets and ripped jeans with guitars now, but my 9-year-old self thought it was the coolest thing ever.) But only after volunteering for the West Vancouver SPCA and the North Vancouver Animal Welfare Shelter did I really start to understand the complexities of cat behaviour. After my own cat, Peanut, passed away two years ago, I started a live-in cat-sitting business so that I could spend quality time with kitties again. Business was good—so good that I barely slept at my own home last year. Through cat sitting, I got to know a lot of different cats with different kinds of personalities, and learned even more about the feline mentality.

I want to provide others with the same experience I was looking for through cat sitting—a space that offers feline companionship for those who don’t have a cat of their own, or just really like hanging out with kitties. At the same time, I have a good understanding of what cats need, and their welfare is of utmost importance to me. I will work hard to create a safe, happy space that will feel like home to the cats until they find their forever home.

FT: Would you describe yourself as a cat enthusiast?

MF: Yes definitely! Though I wouldn’t think of myself as a crazy cat lady. I really appreciate cats and think of them as little people, with their own personalities. I wouldn’t say I love every cat, because they’re all so different. They’re little furry people to me.

FT: Why did you decide to work towards opening a cat cafe?

MF: At first it was because it was a place I really wanted to go to, so I was waiting around for someone to announce they were opening one. That wasn’t happening. I’ve heard that the ones in Japan are hourly rates for you to hang out with cats, whereas the European ones are cafés with cats hanging out; you can stay as long as you want. I actually visited a couple of cat cafes in Europe and I believe that vibe is more fitting for Vancouver.

FT: How do you envision Catfé being a part of the social furrabric of Vancouver?

MF: Because a high percentage of rentals in Vancouver don’t allow pets, Catfé will be like a home away from home for cat lovers in need of some quality cat time (and) a get-away for cat lovers who have allergic partners, or for tourists and travellers who miss their cats at home or students who aren’t able to keep pets of their own. We want the kitty lounge to feel like an extension of your living room, with board games, WiFi, and a library of books. We’ll host art shows for feline-inclined artists, movie nights, readings and more. We are building Catfé for the community—a new space for animal lovers looking for a unique social experience. A place to learn about cats. A new way to facilitate adoptions. A place to spark discussion about the feline homelessness problem in the Lower Mainland, and where cat owners can learn about cat behaviour and proper cat care.

Additionally, there are therapeutic, stress-relieving benefits to spending time in the company of four-legged creatures. A purring kitty in your lap can beneficial in so many ways—(they can) lower blood pressure, improve motivation, decrease anxiety, ease loneliness and ward off depression. Some quality kitty time can improve mental health and increase compassion towards animals, and in turn, towards all creatures. Basically, Catfé will result in peace on earth!

FT: Sounds very pawsitive! What can a visitor to Catfé expect?

MF: As per discussions with Vancouver Coastal Health, we need to have food service completely separate from our kitties, and so Catfé will be almost like two businesses side by side: a cafe and retail boutique for cat lovers, and a lounge space featuring 8 to 12 resident foster cats. Customers can order food and drink from our take-out menu, and bring it with them into the kitty lounge. Access to the cat area will be free with purchase from the cafe. To make the spaces more interactive, we plan to build some window perches connecting the two spaces. I want to have a rotating artist showing their work, maybe make space every few months to put up a new cat-related artist.

FT: Unfurtunately, I don’t own a cat. What kind of atmeowosphere should I expect?

MF: Some people think cats are antisocial, but there are as many different personality types of cats as there are of people. We’ll choose cats with more outgoing and social personalities for Catfé. Being out of a cage and free to roam about (the space will be equipped with ‘cats only’ retreat areas for when cats don’t feel like basking in attention and adoration) will also allow their personalities to flourish.

We will have a cat carer on hand at all times to answer questions about cat behaviour and ensure harmony between human and cat folk. ‘Dog people’ may find themselves crossing over to the other side after a little feline companionship.


Catfe is located on the second floor of International Village Mall (southwest corner, overlooking Keefer and Abbott), and is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm, except for Thursdays, when they close to bring in new cats from the BC SPCA. For more information, or to make a reservation, visit Catfe’s website


 IDS West is the Pacific platform for all things design. From the IDS West website:

“During this annual event, occurring in September, Vancouver welcomes individual designers, artists, makers and design-centric brands to showcase their current works, concepts and products. In addition to experiencing installations and features, there were opportunities to hear from some of the design world’s most notable and talented personalities and to connect with a long list of world-class designers that either call Vancouver home, or call on Vancouver for inspiration.

“The Pacific Northwest has experienced a major designboom that has been especially embraced in Vancouver, where the design community has become vast and mighty. Now in its eleventh year, IDS West has had the utmost privilege of seeing it grow, supporting its members and championing it the world over. Below is a recap of some event highlights.”

IDS-1Hinterland Design’s booth stood out for it’s nature-inspired style, dramatic lighting, and bright wall colour.


IDS-2A crowd favourite, the Tidal Flux ottoman by Hinterland Design is a whimsical interpretation of crab traps.


IDS-3The L.A. Exchange booth, curated by Design Milk, brought some to star designers from Southern California to Vancouver.


IDS-4The colourful geometric offerings from Bendgoods at the L.A. Exchange booth.


IDS-21The show was replete with high end style and luxurious materials. A great place for guests to find inspiration for their own homes.


IDS-6Open Studio invited a selected group of designers to participate in a curated installation that entertains the theme of Workspace, providing each participant with 10′ x 10’ of raw space as a blank canvas. Below is a selection of the beautiful work that were on display. Alda Pereira Designs’ workspace is reminiscent of the International style movement, playing with clean lines, simple shapes and primary colours.


IDS-7This statue was damaged during the IDSWest opening party. Poor guy.


IDS-9Interior designer, Gaile Guevara, brings together a collective of makers and artisans to represent her workspace as a culmination of the community and relationships that are integral to her work.


IDS-19A chic yet relaxed workspace by Gillian Segal Design.


IDS-20Marie Joy Designs created a workspace inspired by Our Little Flower Company.


IDS-23Jonathan Adler draws a full crowd for his talk on design, branding, his philosophy of “irreverant luxury” and his progression in the industry from a pottery teacher in New York to becoming the founder of one of the world’s most sought-after lifestyle brands.


IDS-27Canadian and international designers present one-off and custom lighting, glass, ceramics, textiles and surface design in a gallery-like setting in the Studio North presentation area.


IDS-10The Portland Design Exchange featured designers and makers from it’s region.




IDS-13Port + Quarter set up a cozy firepit for anyone looking to sit down and relax. Sadly, marshmallows not included.


IDS-8Barter Co.’s line-up combines practicality with modern forms and fine natural textures.


IDS-16A stately Dinner x Design set by 212 Design Inc. is inspired by the book 50 shades of Grey and features a show-stopping pendant light fixture.


IDS-17This Dinner x Design set by Live Edge Design recalls our inner child with a beautiful tablescape under the treehouse.


IDS-18Medina Design House was inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi for a “night of enchanted opulence”. Guests were mesmerized by the built-in pond and water fountain in the middle of the table.


Find more of Robert’s work here, and check out the IDS West website here.


Architects from the Swiss design firm Herzog & de Meuron unveiled their concept for a new Vancouver Art Gallery to a sold-out audience at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre last night. The presentation started with statements from individuals invested in the project. The lieutenant governor of British Columbia Judith Guichon spoke about Canada’s emerging national identity, a “coming of age” that will require a respect for Canadian artists and a desire to see them flourish. The aspiration to do justice to Vancouver’s contemporary art scene was a recurring theme among the speakers. Jeff Wall took the stage to voice what he claimed was “a point of view typical of artists in Vancouver.” Wall praised the new building’s capacity to host exhibitions that would be impossible at the gallery’s current site, as well as applauding the decision to overlay the building with wood, something he saw as a nod to Vancouver’s vanishing cityscape.

By the time the architects began their slide show presentation, there was little doubt that Vancouver is in desperate need of a new art gallery, somewhere for a new generation of artists to glean inspiration and for people from every strata of the city to gather. Gallery Director Kathleen Bartels described the current building as “literally bursting at the seams.” The proposed new structure will double the exhibition space of the gallery.

Christine Binswanger (left) and Simon Demeuse, photo by Pardeep Singh
Christine Binswanger (left) and Simon Demeuse, photo by Pardeep Singh

Herzog & de Meuron senior partner Christine Binswanger and project director Simon Demeuse, who are both based in Switzerland, provided an outsider’s perspective of Vancouver. It was lovely to be reminded of the things that make our cityscape unique, as Vancouver often fades to grey for those of us who live here. But Binswanger and Demeuse did not sugarcoat the problems with our city’s urban landscape, addressing such issues as underutilized public space and homogeneous glass towers in the downtown core. Before unveiling the concept design for the new art gallery, every facet of the project was explained, often in response to the perceived issues with Vancouver’s urban planning. A publicly accessible courtyard protected from rain, stacked floors that maximize natural light, and a flexible exhibition space that can used by curators in a variety of layouts.

The presenters leaned heavily on the idea of accessibility, citing free exhibition galleries and a courtyard that can be entered from all the surrounding streets. The new gallery’s role as a public space is rooted in the history of the site. Larwill Park, now a somewhat derelict parking lot, has a long history as a sporting field and gathering place, often for political demonstrations.


Although many in the audience had already seen images of the proposed building online that morning, applause broke out when Binswanger and Demeuse revealed the design; a wooden, stacked building, like a West Coast pagoda. The architects praised the softness and luminosity of the material, especially in contrast with the concrete and glass of the surrounding buildings.

After the presentation, the audience was invited to the nearby building site to have a drink and mingle. Discussions ranged from the gap between the secured funds and what is required to actualize the building to the high-maintenance reputation of wooden structures. The courtyard and sunken garden were the most talked about aspects of the building; most people were impressed with the design’s commitment to green spaces in and around the structure. The distinctive shape of the design caused many to reflect on the Vancouver Art Gallery’s increasing commitment to showcasing Asian art. In her opening remarks, VAG director Kathleen Bartels called Vancouver “a gateway to and from Asia,” something that seemed to inform the design of the new building. Not everyone I spoke to loved the design, although I personally did. One thing everyone could agree on, however, was that there is nothing like it in Vancouver today.

The Mount Pleasant Food Stories project is a growing collection of portraits, stories, and recipes gathered from people living, working, or simply eating in the neighbourhood. A collaboration between local residents Sarah Mathisen, Elanna Nolan, and Kerria Gray, the project aims to explore how food connects people to both new places and old memories. Mathisen, Nolan, and Gray gather their neighbours’ stories of family, ancestry and migration in the best way possible–over a kitchen table and a homemade meal.


Gabor and Eva Make Meggyleves (Fruit Soup)

“I remember that being one of my favorite meals as a kid, and it was a treat to have…”


Gab and his mother talk over Skype on a Friday afternoon. It’s morning in Australia, from where Gab’s mother, Eva, is calling. She’s just woken up to a miserable winter’s morning. Sitting in front of the computer at Gab’s home in Mount Pleasant, it is clear we are on the opposite side of the earth. It is hot. And, it turns out, a perfect time to eat one of Gab’s favourite and most nostalgic Hungarian dishes–meggyleves–a cold sour cherry soup.

“The real cornerstone of the fruit soup is cinnamon,” Eva instructs Gab. “Cloves are also key, but not really mandatory,” she explains. “When making a fruit soup it’s really all about your taste,” and, as Eva points out, getting the beautiful pink colour of the soup just right.

As a child and new arrival in Australia from Yugoslavia, Gab would ask his mom to make his favourite soup for friends when they came to play. “I was very puzzled, because I thought it was so delicious, but my friends didn’t like it,” Gab laughs. “They’d say ‘It’s kind of strange.’” But Gab wasn’t dissuaded by their distaste for the pastel-hued soup. “A lot of the food that [Australian kids] ate was gross–like Vegemite, sausage rolls and meat pies–I was afraid of those. It made me feel okay because I found their food disgusting too.” He now reflects that fruit soup is most likely an acquired taste.


When Eva and Laszlo moved their family to Australia in the late 1980s, they were confronted with the challenges of adapting to a new culture and a new climate. Finding a butcher who could make the right cuts of meat for Eva’s traditional Hungarian and Slovak recipes was difficult, as was the absence of Hungarian paprika on suburban supermarket shelves. Fresh cherries, which in Europe had been Eva’s fruit of choice for the fruit soup, were prohibitively expensive because they were hard to grow in an Australian climate. Eva and Gab both spoke lovingly of the abundance in their previous homes in Slovakia, Serbia, and Hungary.

From within the Australian Hungarian community Eva was able to track down a butcher, and paprika could be sought at specialty stores. While there were many challenges, Eva explains she began to find settling in Australia liberating. “I was under far less scrutiny, so I could get away with, for example, fish and chips on the beach for Christmas.” Although faced with the challenges of settling in a new place and missing the home she had just left, she also describes feeling that she had escaped from the customs and conformity she felt in Europe as a wife, mother and family cook.

During their Skype conversation Gab begins to assemble the fruit soup, excited at the access he now has to cherries here in Vancouver. As Gab tentatively pits the cherries, measures out the water, and begins to make the fruit stock, he checks in with Eva to make sure he’s doing it right. Eva enjoys cooking with Gab in this way, talking through practical details with him in the kitchen. They both tell us it makes them feel closer.


Emil Reflects on Tempeh, Home, and Childhood

“You show your love by feeding people…it’s almost universal in Indonesia.”


Emil lives in a lovely little house in Mount Pleasant. We sat down together at his kitchen table one summer evening, while Emil told us about his childhood growing up in Indonesia. For Emil, the most nostalgic food that brings back memories of home is tempeh, and he often finds himself craving it: “I’m not generally the most patriotic person…but it’s one of the items that when I cook it, it’s like….home.” He finds it frustrating that it is so difficult to find it raw in Vancouver, though he’s recently found a shop in the Downtown Eastside that sells it the way he remembers. He described to us a few of the ways it is prepared in Indonesia: in thin slices soaked in brine and deep fried, then dipped in sweet soy sauce, or simply eaten with vegetables and rice. In Indonesia many households make their own tempeh, but it is also readily available and affordable in stores. Here it is relatively expensive and almost always processed. “Growing up we ate it 3-4 times a week”.

Emil’s memories of childhood are tied up with particular meals, and his descriptions give us a vivid sense of the rituals and foods that brought Emil’s family together and connected them to a broader sense of identity and place. “The thing about Indonesians is we love snacks, we will have snacks all the time and most are often deep-fried, which is a problem if you are watching your weight [laughter]… If not having meals, we will just hang out on the patio and have snacks there…maybe in jars (crackers, dry fruits) and if not that, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon we will have fried banana with coffee and tea…especially if it’s rainy. Rainy weekends remind me of sitting on the patio eating fried banana and drinking tea and coffee.”

When he was 17 years old, Emil moved to first to Malaysia, then to Victoria, BC, then to Sydney, Australia, and then finally back to Canada where he became a permanent resident. His connections to Indonesia remain strong, and food continues to connect him with his home country. “My parents would always want me to know where I come from…so they always push me to bring lots of things from home back to here…clothes, food, crackers…[mom] really wants me never to forget, and I appreciate that now.”


On Saturday September 26th, Mount Pleasant Food Stories will be exhibiting some of their photos and interviews at Metamorfest. If you’re interested in being involved in the project, you can contact the organizers at www.mtpleasantfoodstories.com, email mtpleasantcooks@gmail.com or drop by Metamorfest to say hello.


“It’s time for men to step up and play a bigger game,” says Dwayne Klassen from centre stage at the Imperial last weekend. “We must own our authentic masculine power and be Champions to women, heroes to children and brothers to each other.”

In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect from Vancouver’s BIL Conference, an alternative and more accessible spin-off of the increasingly popular TED events. Klassen’s presentation on “Man Champions and Woman Heroes,” was just one of more than 60 to grace the stage at Vancouver’s second ever BIL Conference, which took place March 21 – 22. In under two hours, I watched presentations by a scientist, an entrepreneur, a politician and even an ex-monk. The best part? As a by-donation event, attending BIL was completely affordable.

“Unlike TED, our event is open to the public, widely accessible and fully participant driven. When participants arrive at the venue, they help with the creation of the event from setting up chairs to organizing the day’s schedule and everything in between,” says Michael Cummings, co-founder of BIL. “Everyone at the event actively shapes its outcome. It’s about building community and taking ownership of the event as their own.” Founded in 2007, this “unconference” has been hosted across the globe, in countries as far as Afghanistan, India, England, France, and Tunisia.

The schedule for BIL was as flexible as the admission price; speakers could sign up to participate as late as the day itself. In theory, says Cummings, anyone “knowledgeable or incredibly passionate about a certain topic” could opt to speak. Not that this diminishes the quality of the line-up; Luke Nosek (Founder of Paypal), George Whitesides (CEO of Virgin Galactic) and Blake Mycoskie (TOMS Shoes) are just three former speakers to have participated in a BIL conference. Highlights from this year’s conference include Beauty Night Founder and Executive Director Caroline MacGillivray on building a community around a cause; Green Party candidate Lynne Quarmby on science and activism; and General Fusion Founder Michael Delage on fusion energy.

Vokra Ad Final

It’s time to reclaim Valentine’s Day from the Hallmarks of the world and dedicate it to the ones we really love: CATS.

They are the ones that offer endless snuggles, unconditional love, and endorse your plans to lay on the sofa all day watching Angelina Jolie movies. Their fluffy physique demonstrates the need to delete My FitnessPal off your phone for good, because really, if I eat a serving of Oreos, I don’t really want to know how many grams of sugar that is, thank you.

Don’t have a cat to snuggle? Now’s your chance to see what all the fuss on YouTube is about.

For the month of February, SAD Mag has teamed up with the Vancouver Orphan Rescue Association (VOKRA) to help connect you with the life-partner you’ve always dreamed of. It’s simple:

Adopt a cat or kitten from VOKRA in the month of February and we will give you a free 1 year subscription to Sad Mag, starting with the Cat Issue!

The Cat Issue, launching February 21st at Make Gallery (257 East 7th Ave)
The Cat Issue, launching February 21st at Make Gallery (257 East 7th Ave)

Simply email hello@sadmag.ca your address along with proof of adoption, and we’ll hook you up with some thematically appropriate reading material for your long stints on the sofa in a puddle of cuddles.

Happy Feline-times day!


SAD Mag and BLIM present CAT WALK

Want to celebrate your love of cats? Join us in fawning over SAD Mag’s latest release: the Cat issue (no. 18), dedicated to our feline friends (somebody had to do it)!

A 48-page full-colour stunner filled with original art, photography, and stories by Kristin Cheung, Dina Del Bucchia, Ola Volo, and more!

We’ll be kicking things off with a feline-inspired fashion show, curated by Blim and Keiko Boxall, at 9PM. Then we’ll knock your cat-themed socks off with a dance number by the infamous Light Twerkerz dancers ft. MC AutoKrat and DJ Rich Nines. 

Come early to see the magazine & check out the art show (by Ola Volo), stay late for tunes and drinks.

Party hosted by Cynara Geissler: writer, editor, book publicist, and fierce defender of the selfie. Cynara is a print enthusiast (in both reading material and frocks) and her closet houses a litter of cat dresses. She co-hosts Fatties on Ice, an independent feminist podcast on pop culture, film, and new media.

Sweet beats by Philip Intile of Mode Moderne


The annual Blim Holiday Market is back! Join us and 48 local vendors at the Fox Cabaret on Saturday December 20th from 12 – 5pm for shopping, snacks, and Santa Garfield.


The Blim holiday market is the place to be, even if you’ve managed to finish your holiday shopping in November like a champ – it’s a cozy, intimate gathering of some of Vancouver’s most thoughtful and talented creators and collectors. You can expect handmade accessories, jewelry, vintage clothes and knick knacks, cards, gifts, and sweets to be abound amidst the glorious glow of the Santa Garfield photobooth.


There’ll be hot food prepared in-house by Japanese cook Open Sesame, and two free raffle draws at 2pm and 4pm. We’ll also be there selling back issue magazines, subscriptions, and gift packs at a discount! Feel free to swing by for a hang out or a high five.


As per usual, our vendors are going to be on top of their game. Here’s three to peruse:

Sleepless Mindz
Sleepless Mindz

Sleepless Mindz will be selling short- and long-sleeve T-shirts, denim jackets, denim shorts, and bandanas. Some of them are reversible, some of them are patched, and all of them are awesome.


Rachel Rainbow will be attending, selling accessories and jewelry! Shrink-plastic geometric unicorn earrings, tassels, and necklaces. Rachel Rainbow is grounded in whimsy, nostalgia, and fanciful colours, and as described by Rachel, is created for pretending.


Aomori Workshop will be on site with natural body soaps, shampoo bars, chapsticks and more. From ginger to australian coral, these handmade goods are perfect to check off the rest of the friends on your gift list. Everything is reasonably priced and smells delicious. Aomori also takes orders for bridal showers, weddings, and other events.


To find out more about the Blim Holiday Market, follow @blimblimblim and hashtag #blimmarket on Twitter. Admission is by donation.


help support BAM

Bam! What do you get when you mix a fashion show, live music, and a bow tie tying contest? BAM: an Alopecia Awareness event happening at Ginger62 this evening, Wednesday June 19th. Partnering with Suki’s Hair Salon and Knot Theory, Erin Leach and Tanya Huang are fundraising for the non-profit organization BAM (Bold Alopecia Movement), by mixing sugar, spice and everything nice in order to create a fun and memorable event that is close to their hearts. Two of Erin’s favorite bands, Their There and Dogwood & Dalia, will entertain, and Tanya’s tie tying contest—as well as a fashion show featuring hairstyling’s by Suki’s hair salon—means the night is sure to be a hit.


Being a lover of dance parties, hair, bow ties, fashion and great music, I jumped at the opportunity to support BAM. Not only is BAM increasing awareness about the autoimmune condition Alopecia Areta, it’s actually one that will get you involved! BAM’s Alopecia Awareness Event is not your typical fundraising dinner or auction: this dance party will keep you on the edge of your seat. Fortunately for me, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the ambitious and always smiling Tanya Huang. As the founder of Knot Theory and one of the organizers of BAM, Tanya found the time (somehow!) to chat with me on a hot sunny day about her business, BAM, and of course, about Tanya’s experiences living with Alopecia Areta.

FT: When did you find out you had Alopecia Areta?

TH: I was in Taiwan [when] my hair fell out completely. They didn’t tell me what it was. They just said, have a baby and it’ll be okay…. I was 10 years old. The last time I had my hair [was at] age 16 when I went on this diet. I was about 90 lbs. I ruined my health [because] I thought if my health were down, my hair would grow back. [However] six months later, I lost my hair again! So three years ago, the same time I started Knot Theory, I started a support group. [Right now] we have 45 members in BC and we meet every month in person. Not everyone is brave enough to come to a meet up; it takes time. Because of this group, it helped me become more open about [Alopecia]. No one knew I had Alopecia. I thought I was confident [but] there was still something I was not okay with for my whole life. There are some people in the group that totally impress me. This girl, who’s had it for two years. She lives in a suburban area, she came downtown one time, and thought ‘hey, I don’t know anyone here. I’m going to Starbucks without my wig on!’ She did that for the first time and said it felt great. I thought, wow, I couldn’t do that! I think that listening to stories like that [really] helps. I started going to hot yoga without my wig. It was really good, because everyone was still blow-drying his or her hair and I was done!

 FT: What reaction did you get from friends and family when you posted the Alopecia coming out video on YouTube? 

TH: [It] was overwhelming! I didn’t expect so many people to reply and post something nice. I didn’t expect my friends to react badly of course. [However,] I was worried about the people who would find me attractive. The sex appeal! I’ve always thought this doesn’t look good; guys would see no sex appeal since hair is so strongly associated with beauty and femininity. It took me a long time to [think] I could rock this. This one guy I was seeing at the time, I told him about it [before the video], but I didn’t show him. After a couple of months, he asked me to see it. He was so turned on. This was one of the hottest guys I’ve ever been with!

FT: How was your experience on Dragon’s Den? Did it teach you anything?

TH: It was a lot of fun [leading] up to going into the den. […] It was kind of nerve-wracking preparing for it, but once I was there, I was so excited! I wasn’t nervous at all. The dragons were nice. I got all five of them to say yes to me; I thought I was getting airtime for sure! I [honestly] cared about two things: the image of Knot Theory was good, and that I get aired in front of 3 million viewers. I know a lot of people thought we got funded, but almost no one I know [that goes on the show] gets funded […] I learned what I already knew going in… it’s show business. It’s not really a show, about business, it’s [just] reality TV. My plan was if I got an offer, I’d say yes. If they were mean to me, I would make a scene, scream and cry. Maybe get a reality show offer! It was a good experience…the process of being in the studio was fun.

FT: How did you come up with the concept of re-inventing ties and why hasn’t anyone ever thought about changing it up before?

TH: I studied computer science [in University] even though I’ve always loved both art and science. I always wanted to do fashion. I kept saying, I’ll do it I’ll do it! It got to me one day [that] I was all talk! I quit my job after six years. [That same] month, I was looking at my old sketchbooks and came across these ties that didn’t look like ties. I actually hated ties! This is something I admit to more now. Before I wouldn’t want to say that because a lot of my fans like ties. I developed an appreciation for ties. They [actually] haven’t changed in centuries; they went through a lot of forms in the last few hundred years. Everything else [in fashion] has changed but ties are just ties. [One night] I was watching Battlestar Galactica and came up with twenty designs. I made a prototype; [this was] the first time I put on a tie. I thought that it looked good on a girl too. I could pull this off based on something artistic that you could wear. Ties don’t have to be functional. [For example,] pants have to be comfy, but ties are just ties. You get to have a lot of freedom with it. When I started it, I wasn’t thinking functional. I designed something very architectural. Then I thought people would like it if I changed the colours. Some people like the knots, some like the art of it. The first design took 11 months; it took a year to start the company. That’s why no ones done it, because its too hard!

FT: How did you get involved with BAM?

TH: I was talking to Ken Takagi [the president of] Suki’s last year, and it got me thinking, we have a pink bowtie that’s the same colour as their brand; maybe we can collaborate! In March, I decided to do the video [about having Alopecia on YouTube]; it got a lot of response. So [this year] I talked to Ken, and I said ‘hey, how do you feel about a hair salon donating to people without hair?’  He said ‘Okay love it! Let’s do it!’ At the same time, Erin Leach from my support group wanted to do a fundraiser to celebrate alopecia. So I thought ‘Let’s all combine!’ So its Erin, Tanya, Knot Theory, and Suki’s! We wanted to do something that’s actually fun; we have a fashion show, a bowtie tying contest, and a light-hearted alopecia Q&A. The idea of BAM is to get people more exposure. [When you] give more exposure to the public about alopecia, it becomes more sexy.

see you there!If you want to support the cause, hit up BAM’s Indiegogo page to either contribute to the fund, or buy tickets to the event happening June 19th at 7pm. Tickets are $10 dollars to get into Ginger62, PLUS you get a free drink when you enter. 100% of the proceeds go to charity. Such a steal of a deal!

chromeras: one of the final projects out of VFS's GD28s

Every two months a new group of students emerges from the bowels of Vancouver Film School’s Video Game Design Program. They are battered and weary but, as their final effort, must pitch and play their treasured final projects for an audience comprised of industry employees. This night can make or break it for young designers in the early phases of their careers. It’s about getting yourself noticed: making your mark before the next graduating class—only two months behind you—is also on the market. It’s tough, but for some VFS graduates, myself included, a successful “Pitch and Play” night can mean being picked up by a company immediately and bypassing the job hunt completely.

The end of May saw the 28th round of students from the Game Design Campus finish their games and ready their teams to present. At VFS, we call them the GD28s—I was a GD27—so you get the picture. I feel close to these teams; they’re living through a life-changing experience that changed my life 180 degrees. & just a couple of months ago, in fact. So I was curious about them, and decided to tag along to the GD28’s Pitch and Play in order to see what a difference two months makes.

During the Video Game Design program, students pursue a couple of different “streams,” which can include level design, programming, art and narrative/writing. Most students try and combine their streams according to what they want eventually to do: someone who wants to build environments would get the most use out of level design and art. The GD28s split themselves between the streams evenly, which gave the class as a whole a balanced talent set. So, when it came to splitting into teams for their final projects, the teams themselves were also balanced. This is important: imagine if you had to create a game with three artists and no programmer. It would be very difficult, but not impossible. At VFS all student teams are recommended to be between three and five members, most teams try and make themselves at least four members strong to try and give themselves as much digital muscle power as possible.

As industry night began, the audience filtered inside, greeting old acquaintances along the way and finding their seats. Sean Smiley, the announcer and “Presentation Skills” teacher at VFS, took the stage and introduced the GD28s and their first team, the students behind Demonella. It was time to see what each team had been laboring over these last months and to celebrate the challenges they’d overcome—and Demonella’s team had certainly faced a unique problem: they were the only team in the class with only three people.

Even so, Demonella’s talented trifecta rendered a fourth person unnecessary: their game has such unique style of art and such an interesting set of enemies (in the form of exploding teddy bears that chase the player about the stage after coming out of a “Build-a-Bear” machine) that nothing felt lacking in execution or design.

The second game, Big Jet, was one of the great unknowns for me. During my time in production, they sat all the way across the production floor from me, and this was the first time I’d ever had a really good look at their game. In Big Jet the player is a robot who creates tornados to hurl objects from the environment around him at incoming enemies. Big Jet brings with it a unique soundtrack, recorded by the team themselves, along with collaborators from the other campuses.

The best part about being indie is that you get to do whatever you want and no one can tell you otherwise. In the world of games for every game that gets completed there are a hundred that get left on the cutting room floor or that get canceled partway through production. The third game presented, Bullet Rider is one of those games where the concept is probably too absurd to have ever gotten a green light by the likes of EA, but in traditional indie spirit Bulletrider’s team didn’t let it stop them: in a world where the inside of every gun is an office building, bullets are ridden and guided to their targets by morbidly obese middle aged men with mad log rolling skills. Bulletrider, is reminiscent of retro arcade games and the recent fad of run-forevers on mobile devices.

Coming into the home stretch was the second five-person team, presenting their technically impressive game, Chromeras. For any lover of Mario Kart’s “battle mode” this is a game for you. Chromeras is a four-player game that allows players to compete with their friends in four different game modes. As with Bullet Rider being indie is all about doing things that other people haven’t: Chromeras took a big gamble by trying to be the first networked multiplayer game to come out of VFS. Senior technical instructor and self-proclaimed supreme overlord Peter Walsh had this to say among other things, “A great night with some really impressive games—including our first fully networked game with Chromeras—this is definitely the team to watch in future. Also incredibly impressive was The Horroring.

The Horroring: a unique game with excellent execution (get it?)

Indeed. The last game of the night was certainly not a borroring, a snorroring or The Horror Ring (thanks EGM), but The Horroring: a unique concept with an excellent execution. My first thought upon seeing The Horroring’s large and well-populated world unfold was “I can’t believe one artist did all of this.” This game brought together seamless design and a charming world with just the right amount of musical ambiance to truly captivate the audience. The artist in question, Alejandro Borjas, says he was relieved at the end of the night that everyone’s presentation went off without a hitch, not all of the graduating classes can make this claim.

After the presentation, assorted industry employees, many of whom are alumni, wandered upstairs for a chance to meet students and have a few drinks. Usually, at the end of the night the head of the VFS Game Design Campus, Dave Warfield, kicks everyone out and sends them to a pub, but not this time! Several industry veterans were having such a good time playing Chromeras that poor Dave was shouted down as he tried to empty the development floor of people. According to Harry Scott, the level designer from Chromeras, “Alcohol and multiplayer games don’t always mix.”

I’ve got to say that the most impressive part of the whole night was certainly the art. In every class there are one or two games that shine visually and occasionally one where the team clearly lacked a strong artistic lead or direction. But for the GD28s, all five games were nothing short of gorgeous. One industry veteran, who shall remain nameless, but who has been around since VFS Game Design’s inception, said that he thought this was the strongest class he had ever seen.

congrats, GD28s!

This spring, Sad Mag mailed disposable cameras to various Canadian electro-pop bands so we could see what they see and wander where they wander. Maya Postepski, drummer of Austra and one half of goth duo TRST, was one of the lucky participants in Sad Mag’s Disposable Camera Project.

Get a sneak peek–before Saturday’s  Mad Mad World Party–of the various objects, subjects and locales on Maya’s radar, and read her thoughts on music, feminism and feeling like a rock star.

Maya Postepski


ARIEL FOURNIER: Maya, you toured with Vancouver artist and musician Grimes, who holds strong opinions about stereotypes in music.  What did you think about Grimes’ open letter about sexism in the music industry? Did you identify with any of her points in particular?

MAYA POSTEPSKI: Touring with Grimes was awesome, I think what she’s doing is relevant and interesting. Her open letter was brave and refreshing. So many female artists or public figures are afraid to even say they’re Feminists—I found her letter very intelligent and compassionate, and powerful. I liked how she specifically explained how being a feminist does not make one a ‘man hater’ and how she went into details about her family, her father and brothers. Being a feminist does not make one a man hater. I am in line with that and I think the word Feminist has way too many negative connotations, which is a such a shame. Being a feminist, in my mind, means I’m looking for women and men to gain equality

AF: What was it that grabbed you about The Organ’s music before you went on tour with them?

MP: I liked the sound, the aesthetic, [and] the nostalgia in Katie’s performance of the vocals. I loved how sad and romantic the songs were. I also loved how greatly they’re crafted—the pop structures in each track are impressive and sophisticated. Each song is barely over three minutes long and hits you where it hurts. Wicked songwriting and awesome musicianship.

AF: How influential was The Organ for you?

MP: They took me on my first real tour. That’s a huge deal—I felt like a real rock star, like my dreams came true, like they saved me from all the horrible thoughts I had of failure as an artist. I felt like I was finally real, like I mattered, and that was very empowering. As a fan I was also very inspired because I finally found a band that I looked up toward, that I could relate to on some distant level, and that I believed was writing music for people like me: young, gay, and confused.

AF: Maya, we talked about how Vancouver used to be less associated with an innovative music scene in your mind. Did Vancouver seem like a more interesting place to you when you were a teenager or when you joined up with The Organ’s tour? Do you feel now that that has changed?

MP: I don’t know Vancouver intimately enough to comment that deeply but I think it’s been a city that people in Canada consider to be kind of sophisticated or fancy, bourgeoisie. I guess it’s quite expensive and getting really developed with condos and the nouveau riche, as is Toronto. With money comes innovation, so there you go. I don’t think any of that affects the art scene though. In fact, I think it draws artists away because artists are generally not wealthy so they leave and go to cheaper cities like Berlin or Montreal. I might do that soon as well, heh.


More photos from the Disposable Camera Project will be on display at The Gam Gallery on May 18th. Come hang out with us at the Mad Mad World Party and peruse photographs by HUMANS (Robbie Slade), MODE MODERNE, AUSTRA and CITY OF GLASS; Lauren Zbarsky, Alex Waber, Brandon Gaukel and Matty Jeronimo.

{cover photo of Maya c/o Hannah Marshall}

“Sad Mag’s Disposable Camera Project is like a behind the scenes from the folks who are in the scenes you wanna get behind.” –Katie Stewart, Sad Mag’s Creative Director.