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Q&A with designer Stephen Lindsay, creator of a new kind of Canadian kitsch

By Paige Magarrey
Photography by Lorne Bridgman

Stephen Lindsay works as a cabinetmaker by day and hand makes his own wares at night, taking inspiration from the city itself. Paige Magarrey caught up with Lindsay to discuss his passion for the national identity of his adopted country and love of Canadiana kitsch.

Tell us about your Schtick coat hooks. Where did you get the idea of using hockey sticks as a material?
The shape. It’s not something I grew up with. I had seen hockey sticks before, but they’re every-where here. Using the stick is one of those ideas that just kind of popped into my head. I didn’t just want to put a hook on the end of a stick. So I put two sticks back to back and played around with magnets as a mounting device. It’s actually really hard to get wooden hockey sticks these days. With the first coat hooks I made, I put a posting on Craigslist for old hockey sticks. This one girl had 18 of them. Now I buy them in bulk and I get a team discount.

What about your Kitschin storage units made from old fridge crispers? They’re very eco.
That design came from cycling around the city. There are always discarded refrigerators on the street. They just sit around for days and raccoons go in and out of them. I figure no one else is going to do anything with them, so I’ve made them into wall-mounted storage units.

There’s an environmental aesthetic to your work, of taking old things and making them new.
Everybody’s all over eco-design these days. When I?left Scotland for the first time ten years ago, we didn’t even know what recycling was. So recycling has always kind of hit me here. Canadians are very environmentally conscious. I recently heard the word “upcycling,” where you are recycling, but increasing an item’s value in the process. That’s basically what I’m doing.

Stephen Lindsay
Schtick coat hangers have a magnet on one end that mounts to a metal plate on the ceiling.

­­­Your work fits in with a growing trend of designers tapping into Canadiana. Things like ceramicist Cynthia Hathaway’s souvenir-like sculptures of melting ­­polar bears. What’s with the renewed interest in Canadiana?
I find it really amusing that Canadians love Canadiana. They’re really proud. And Canada, as a nation, is keen to stand out. It does this subtly, in recurring motifs associated with the culture. Most Canadians play hockey growing up and embrace the winter culture, and this translates naturally into a unique style. As a foreigner, I really notice it. It’s all over the place. The word Toronto and the maple leaf appear on so much stuff here.

Is that home spirit any different in Scotland?
If people in Scotland started going on about Scottish stuff, they would be like, “What are you doing?”

The designers who are using Canadiana these days are playing around with kitsch, I think. They’re being a little bit tongue-in-cheek by mixing high-end design with iconic symbols.
Kitsch tends to be a record of where design and fashion has been – the end product of trends. It’s also a humorous reminder of a time when tastes were different. Canadiana design like mine is almost a way for designers to get kitsch right – the second time around.

Kitschin by Stephen Lindsay
Crispers get a second life with Kitschin. The wall-mounted units also incorporate pot hangers and a magnetic knife holder.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t notice at first that your Schtick was made from two hockey sticks. What’s that about?
Yes. And that’s one thing – I like subtle Canadiana. With that piece, I think people have an immediate recognition of the shape but they don’t fully realize what they’re looking at is a hockey stick. They just think I carved that form. People recognize the shape but don’t really make that connection because it’s a different object now. It’s been reinvented.

Sure has. What are you working on these days?
I see a lot of my products fitting into cottages. Cottages are like the ideal Canadiana, where “proper” Canadiana is. I want to find documentation of old cottages to see what kind of fabrics they used. I’d like to get into making furniture with plaids and Canadian fabrics.

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