15 Canadian design talents test the boundaries of aluminium

Aluminium is centre stage for a new exhibition in Toronto showcasing how 15 Canadian talents mould and anodise the machined material

Curved metal designs
Left, Conduit wall vase by Zoe Mowat. Right, Stutter light by Calen Knauf
(Image credit: Zoe Mowat, Calen Knauf)

Aluminium may not have the nobility of bronze or the warmth of wood, but the utilitarian material is the unexpected focal point of a showcase of Canadian design, opening in Toronto this weekend. Organised by MSDS Studio and designer Jamie Wolfond, ‘Aluminum Group’ brings together new work from 15 of Canada’s brightest design talents who have each created objects made out of machined aluminium. Ranging from practical prototypes to pieces of sculpture, the diverse showcase casts the versatility of this oft-overlooked material into the fore.

‘The show is really about the material and the process together,’ explains MSDS Studio’s Jonathan Sabine. ‘Aluminium is a relatively soft material, but it is hard enough to hold very tight tolerances and sharp edges, so it’s ideal for machining. It can be anodised afterwards, which is a finish that adds basically no thickness, so it retains a fresh-off-the-mill feel.

Participating designers were presented with a simple brief: the design must be made by machining solid aluminium and was something that they felt was truly beautiful. ‘Machining is one of the cornerstones of modern fabrication but it’s labour intensive, and as labour costs have risen in the west, it’s become kind of a luxury.’ Sabine continues. ‘A combination of CNC technology and the rise of high-skill prototyping shops in other parts of the world have made a show like this possible. As people interested in object making, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.’

Black tubes & bowl

(Image credit: Anony)

Red metal wall hook

Above, Temp by Anony. Below, Omega by Caine Heintzman

(Image credit: Caine Heintzman)

‘We wanted to create a moment for independent Canadian designers that would be relevant both inside and outside the Canadian design community.’ Jamie Wolfond explains. ‘I had been working with an incredibly talented aluminium machining factory in Shenzhen, which makes high tech machining very accessible. So Jonathan had the idea to combine these interests.’

With works ranging from minimalist trays and vessels to Rachel Bussin’s clever ice cube tray and more complex designs such as Anony’s tableware collection and Wolfond’s highly machined Frog Vase, the material appeal of aluminium has progressed far beyond its industrial roots.

‘Aluminium is a ubiquitous material. We interact with it all the time. What gives these pieces their unique but consistent quality is the process of machining.’ Wolfond says. ‘To make something in large production runs, it’s generally most efficient to work with aluminium in castings or sheet metal. Since the work for this show was made in editions of one or two pieces, we had the opportunity to work subtractively, which, in combination with anodising, creates uncannily perfect objects.’

Black telescope

Telescope by Castor

(Image credit: Castor)

Red interlocking boxes

Compound Bowl by Geof Ramsay

(Image credit: Geof Ramsay)

Silver metal cylinder with silver plate

Thread Lamp by Jamie Wolfond

(Image credit: Jamie Wolfond)

Silver table with glass on top

Folding Table by MSDS

(Image credit: MSDS)

Silver bowls & vases

Gasket Vessels by Tom Chung

(Image credit: Tom Chung)

Silver metallic tubes

Conduit wall vase by Zoe Mowat

(Image credit: Zoe Mowat)


‘Aluminum Group’ is on view 16-19 January at ESP | Erin Stump Projects. erinstumpprojects.com


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Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.