Toronto show is one of a kind

Route 401 Licence Plate Map of Canada 1

Artist Anthony Kentris of Route 401 has made a name for himself with his vintage licence plate industrial art map of Canada that was set atop rustic, reclaimed wood. (Anthony Kentris/

Story by Lynn Burshtein Writer

TORONTO, ONTARIO — The spring installment of the One of a Kind Show (OOAK) took place with over 450 artisans descending upon Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre to hawk their homemade wares.

For decades, Canada’s most talented designers — and the shoppers who love them — have been making the pilgrimage to the downtown core twice annually (there is also a Christmas edition). OOAK has grown steadily over the years, both in terms of numbers and notoriety. The DIY trend has been popularized by Pinterest, Instagram and Etsy in recent years. In fact, Etsy Canada occupied a large sponsored space at the show. Vendors work hard to entice a discerning public in the form of upcycled clothing, shortbread cookies and organic body scrubs, to name just a few.

Many Trinkets For Travel Junkies

Aside from the aspiring Martha Stewarts in the crowd, the show has much appeal for travel junkies too. There are practical but unique items for globe-trotters, as well as some lovely travel-themed gifts for those currently grounded. As someone who fancies herself as part of the former category, I entered OOAK on a mission for some useful pieces for the frequent flier but ended up with a memorable piece of travel-related artwork.

After a quick sip of coffee to get my energy up the first booth I visited was Margi Laurin…Maker of Stuff, who sold spiral-bound travel journals
recycled from old library book covers including 1950s pulp fiction love comics, childhood favourites like Little House in the Big Woods, and a slew of Star Trek book covers ($20).

These kitschy, repurposed travel journals could certainly help resuscitate the waning popularity of traditional travel writing; iPads be gone. Only drawback? For one thing, the considerable amount of space the bulky journals would take up in your carry-on. However, for those who do have enough room in their luggage, these nostalgic-looking ditties will certainly inspire.

Journals weren’t the only recycled travel goods available at OOAK. Zut Designs from Montreal sold repurposed journals as well as cosmetics bags, subway card and passport holders, all made from recycled car tires. Despite their origins, the end products were actually quite sleek. Meanwhile, Toronto-based Tenacious had funky, bold coloured purses, wallets and e-Reader cases that were incredibly lightweight. While I still have too many swag tote bags to use up before I could justify purchasing any more, I would seriously consider buying these as gifts.

“Have Fun And Travel Light”

Next up, I spotted Diane Kroe’s travel clothing booth. With the slogan “Have Fun and Travel Light”, Diane sells colourful, stylish and travel-friendly apparel that coverts into a multitude of ways (e.g., a halter top becomes a shawl which becomes a skirt, and so forth).

Diane Kroe ensemble

Diane Kroe was showing off her travel clothing line at the One of a Kind Show. (Diane Kroe/

She demonstrated seemingly endless uses for her various pieces. When I asked Diane what the mathematical possibilities were for each item, she replied, nearly infinity. In fact, she said many of her customers show her ways to wear the clothing that even she hadn’t thought of before. Diane has a large following on Twitter including a number of travel bloggers who act as brand ambassadors. (Hey, Diane, no need to look any further!)

Even though I was on the hunt for things that might appeal to the active traveler, I came across some beautiful home decorations that were travel-inspired. County Cupboard had a collection of vintage Canadian map-themed pillows (maps of Ontario locations including Muskoka Lakes,
Prince Edward County and the City of Toronto). These conversation pieces are made from linen-cotton canvas covers atop large, down-filled pillows and seem very sturdy. Other works of Canadiana included mixed media art, such as the custom-made, reclaimed wooden flags made at Liza Wallman’s Halyard Flags.

Over to the Halyard booth, where you could find renderings of maps from countries around the world – but obviously it was the Canadian flag that was clearly the crowd favourite. Meanwhile, at the Route 401 booth Toronto artist Anthony Kentris was making a name for himself with his vintage licence plate industrial art, especially his large map of Canada that was set atop rustic, reclaimed wood. I loved both of these Canadian-inspired works, but I went rogue on the artwork in the end, and decided to forgo patriotic works.

For my next artwork purchase, I decided to choose Caledon-based Patrick Lajoie’s gorgeous photograph of a place in the U.S. that I visited a few years ago. I think it would be great to have a memento like that on my wall to remind me of one of my favourite trips while in between journeys. The cool thing about the OOAK Show is that whatever your interest, background or taste there is something here for you.

If you missed this years event, don’t worry. OOAK will return to Toronto again, just in time for Christmas.

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