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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hair love for Halifax

Halifax's natural-haircare community sets the records straight on the art, science and history of braiding

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 9:45 AM

Nadine Sparks, owner of Unity Hair & Esthetics, will showcase looks at the event. - SUBMITTED
  • Nadine Sparks, owner of Unity Hair & Esthetics, will showcase looks at the event.
  • Submitted

The Braid Couture Art Show
Feb 15, 8 pm
Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street)
braidcoutureshow.com
$35-$45


From ombré hair to pastel colours, hair trends come and go. But braids, from cornrows to the French variety, have long been a hairstyle staple across cultures.

Tara Lynn Taylor is organizer of the Braid Couture Art Show, happening this Saturday at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) and she wants to broaden everyone’s understanding of braiding and textured haircare. “It’s for us,” she says of the event, “but it’s also for non-Black people, so they can see we have our own versatility, we don’t need to look like them.” 

She hopes the event will shed light on the intricate details of textured hair, such as the importance of understanding porosity and density. “There’s a science to it,” says Taylor. “My products are designed in a way that takes the guesswork out of it.”

Taylor is also the owner of Carmalina Naturals, a Halifax-based company that sells natural-haircare products. Along with P3 Hair and Beauty Supplies, she’ll be selling natural haircare products in the venue lobby.

Stylist and creator of Braids By Tasha, Natasha Stephenson, will be braiding on Saturday night along with with her 12-year-old daughter, Na’siya. Stephenson believes the event will encourage more people to get educated about different types of hair and hairstyles.

Stephenson says she’d like the Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia to place more emphasis on braiding. “It's not only Black folk that can braid,” she says. “There’s white people, there’s Asian people that may want to learn or already know how to do it. Taylor even points out that white parents of bi-racial children may benefit from better understanding how to care for their kids’ hair.

This show will also showcase local fashion designers, such as clothing by Hilary Taylor Sears, Hologram Designs and purses and bags by Jaziel Ugbebor. There will also be theatrical, musical and dance performances.

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Tool time

The Good Neighbour makes for an easy way to swap tools with friends and neighbours

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 9:31 AM

SUPPLIED
  • Supplied

The app-based sharing economy has produced no shortage of bizarre and terrible business ideas. Ever hear of Leftover Swap, the short-lived San Francisco startup that aimed to reduce food waste by letting users sell yesterday’s clammy noodles to nearby strangers? Didn’t think so.

But Alberta electrician David Thiessen is out to prove there’s life in the sharing economy yet with The Good Neighbour. With nearly 10,000 users in four western Canadian cities, the tool-sharing app—which allows users to rent tools from nearby users and offer their own on the platform—made its east-coast debut last month. It already has more than 650 users locally, offering everything from reciprocating saws ($10 a day) to cement mixers ($19) to step ladders ($11.29).

According to Thiessen, Halifax is just the right fit: a mid-sized city with a DIY spirit and close-knit neighbourhoods, making for lots of tools in close proximity (so far, most of the users are on or near the Halifax peninsula). Halifax already sports the well-loved Halifax Tool Library (3115 Veith Street), proving that the demand is already there. So if your tool collection consists of little more than a drawer full of old Allen keys, look for The Good Neighbour on Google Play, Apple’s App Store or at its website.

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Hair love for Halifax

Halifax’s braiding and natural-haircare community sets the record straight on the art, science and history of braids

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 1:00 AM

Nadine Sparks, owner of Unity Hair & Esthetics, will showcase looks at the event. - SUBMITTED
  • Nadine Sparks, owner of Unity Hair & Esthetics, will showcase looks at the event.
  • SUBMITTED

The Braid Couture Art Show
Feb 15, 8pm
Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street
braidcoutureshow.com
$35-$45


From ombré hair to pastel colours, hair trends come and go. But braids, from cornrows to the French variety, have long been a hairstyle staple across cultures.

Tara Lynn Taylor is organizer of the Braid Couture Art Show, happening this Saturday at the Bus Stop Theatre, and she wants to broaden everyone's understanding of braiding and textured haircare. "It's for us," she says of the event, "but it's also for non-Black people, so they can see we have our own versatility, we don't need to look like them."

She hopes the event will shed light on the intricate details of textured hair, such as the importance of understanding porosity and density. "There's a science to it," says Taylor. "My products are designed in a way that takes the guesswork out of it."

Taylor is also the owner of Carmalina Naturals, a Halifax-based company that sells natural-haircare products. Along with P3 Hair and Beauty Supplies, she'll be selling natural haircare products in the venue lobby.

Hair stylist and creator of Braids By Tasha, Natasha Stephenson, will be braiding on Saturday night along with with her 12-year-old daughter, Na'siya. Stephenson believes the event will encourage people to get educated about different types of hair and hairstyles.

Stephenson says she'd like the Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia to place more emphasis on braiding. "It's not only Black folk that can braid," she says. "There's white people, there's Asian people that may want to learn or already know how to do it. Taylor even points out that white parents of bi-racial children may benefit from better understanding how to care for their kids' hair.

This show will also showcase local fashion designers, such as clothing by Hilary Taylor Sears, Hologram Designs and purses and bags by Jaziel Ugbebor. There will also be theatrical, musical and dance performances.

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

LOCAL By Local Girl explores what "made here" means

The conceptual, art-fashion project is stylish wherever it calls home.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 1:00 AM

LOCAL by Local Girl designer Anita Joh sporting some of her wearable art. - TYLERPENGELLY
  • LOCAL by Local Girl designer Anita Joh sporting some of her wearable art.
  • tylerpengelly

LOCAL By Local Girl
To Feb 8
Anna Leonowens Gallery, 1891 Granville Street

W hat does "local" mean, anyway? NSCAD student Anita Joh's artistic persona (and "conceptual brand") LOCAL by Local Girl is an attempt to dig into that question through a series of pop-ups, installations and social-media engagements. The brand includes everyday functional objects, from wearable art pieces like t-shirts and bags to printed matter and book arts.

An institutional setting is new for Joh, however. That makes her grad exhibit, running until Saturday at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, a new experience: "I'm bringing it to the gallery space, which creates a different context," she says. "Everything else has been me popping up in an urban space that I found myself." (Explaining the streetwear vibes that permeate Joh's work.)

The exhibit involves taking gallery posters and invitations, turning them into art pieces themselves. The result? A deeply instagrammable aesthetic that's slick as lipgloss, with Joh sharing a micro-collection that carries an Off-White energy and features mini handbags that read like an edgier take on trendy French designer Jacquemus' micro-accessory.

It is, alongside being a breakdown on what local connections means, a reminder that high fashion and high art have always been RSVPing yes to the same party.

Originally from Vancouver, Joh has lived in Halifax for four years. She associates home with experience, people, community and connections. "You can be local to many places at once, it is okay to bend and adapt that definition to whatever works for you. We all want a sense of belonging and a home but that doesn't have to be geographical or physical, it can be found emotionally and mentally through people," she says.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The skin you're in

Building body positivity through body art

Posted By on Wed, Feb 5, 2020 at 2:33 PM

A few of the designs from Outlaw Country Tattoo's flash-tattoo event in support of Eating Disorders Nova Scotia - EMERSON ROACH
  • A few of the designs from Outlaw Country Tattoo's flash-tattoo event in support of Eating Disorders Nova Scotia
  • Emerson Roach

Outlaw Country Tattoo will join forces with Eating Disorders Nova Scotia (EDNS) to transform Haligonian’s bodies into safe havens during a flash tattoo event this Thursday. From 1pm to 6pm at Outlaw (6103 North Street), artist Emerson Roach will tattoo customers with pre-designed, body-positivity-themed tattoos, ranging from $80-$130. 50 percent of proceeds will go to Eating Disorders Nova Scotia.

The event will be held in support of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA), with 50 percent of proceeds going to Eating Disorders Nova Scotia. 

“I think especially for queer and trans folks, tattooing can be a way to feel more at home in the skin that you're in,” says Roach. “Every time you get a new tattoo, it's like you're painting the walls of a house that you were given. You don't get to control what the house looks like, and it might not always feel like home, but every time you get a tattoo it's like you're painting those walls into a new one.”

According to EDNS, almost one in 10 people will experience an eating disorder during their lifetime, according to the U.S. National Eating Disorders Association, 42 percent of men with eating disorders identify as gay. But statistics are still limited on eating disorders among trans and non-binary people, and Roach is hoping to help break through stereotypes through this event.

Thursday’s event has already filled up, but there’s still plenty of flash-tattoo fun to be had—Outlaw will be doing a Valentine’s-themed flash event from noon to 6pm on February 14, first-come, first-served. Lineups are expected, so don’t dawdle.

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Pinball’s bumper year

From Propeller's Arcade Room to the Pubcade by Silverball Games, Halifax's scene is dino-mite.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2020 at 1:00 AM

Classic games on classic carpet at the Best Western Chocolate Lake.
  • Classic games on classic carpet at the Best Western Chocolate Lake.

P inball wizards (and would-be wizards) are invited to Propeller Brewing Company's Propeller Arcade Room (2015 Gottingen Street) beginning at 4pm on Friday, January 31, for the arcade's first birthday party, featuring balloons, $5 beers, $10 t-shirts and lots of ball-flipping action.

Since opening last January with a modest collection of pinball and video games both vintage and new, the Arcade Room has blown Propeller up into one of the city's most eclectic pinball destinations, with brewery employee and pinball mastermind Ian Matheson squeezing in new machines "wherever he can find a few more square feet," says Propeller's Evelyn Hornbeck. It's also become a hub for Halifax Pinball League tournaments, and surprisingly raucous crowds of spectators.

Propeller's party caps off not just a big year for its arcade, but for pinball in general in Halifax, which now boasts eight destinations on pinballmap.com, the pinball scene's digital bible. Five belong to Silverball Games, which started four years ago with an arcade at the Best Western Chocolate Lake (250 St. Margarets Bay Road). Last December, Silverball opened the Pubcade, inside The Pint Public House (1575 Argyle Street).

According to Silverball's owner, Allison Amirault, the scene has become big enough and diverse enough that pinball cliques have begun to form. Older fans of vintage machines hit up the Sunnyside Mall Arcade (Sunnyside Mall, 1595 Bedford Highway), featuring classics from the '70s, '80s and '90s, whereas younger players make their way to the Pubcade, with newer offerings, from Iron Man to Game of Thrones to perennial favourite Jurassic Park. “Everyone loves Jurassic Park,” Amirault says.

“It’s pretty exciting to see games that are popular and new internationally, and have them here in Halifax,” says Hornbeck. (You can battle raptors at Propeller, too.)


As for Friday’s celebrations, “There will also be some surprises, but we can’t share them just now,” says Hornbeck. “It’s really just celebrating the space, because it’s been incredibly exciting to see how much people have loved it this past year, and how so many other spaces have opened. It’s amazing how people are into in this kind of fun.”

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

EDNA and jane's next door have sold to Andy's East Coast Kitchen

MasterChef finalist Andy Hay is one of the new owners, and EDNA founder Jenna Mooers is staying on to run the popular Gottingen Street restaurant.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2020 at 4:08 PM

EDNA and jane's owners new and old, from left: Alex Billingsley, Jane Wright, Jenna Mooers and Andy Hay (Heather Billingsley not pictured). - JESSICA EMIN
  • EDNA and jane's owners new and old, from left: Alex Billingsley, Jane Wright, Jenna Mooers and Andy Hay (Heather Billingsley not pictured).
  • Jessica Emin
  After seven years and thousands of brunch-time sweet & saltys, EDNA has been sold. Owner Jenna Mooers announced today the sale of the much-beloved Gottingen Street eatery and its building, as well as jane’s catering and events, the next-door catering business and storefront take-away owned by her mother, Jane Wright. But don’t fret—everything is staying exactly the same.

Andy Hay of The East Coast Kitchen, doing his thing during season five of MasterChef Canada. - VIA MASTERCHEF
  • Andy Hay of The East Coast Kitchen, doing his thing during season five of MasterChef Canada.
  • via MasterChef
The sale is to Alex and Heather Billingsley, founders of Toronto-based food-delivery service Mama Earth Organics, and Dartmouth chef Andy Hay, creator of Andy’s East Coast Kitchen and the second-place finisher in 2018’s season five of MasterChef Canada. “Alex and Heather moved to Halifax about a year ago,” says Mooers, “and very quickly fell in love wth EDNA and jane’s. They’ve been close friends with Andy Hay for a while now. My mom has been ready to take a step back into retirement, and for me at the seven-year mark, it seems like great timing for a change.”

As for the new owners, Mooers says that their love of the existing businesses, and their simpatico business and food philosophies, make the sale “kind of a perfect match.”So perfect, it turns out, that neither Hay nor the Billingsleys plan to change much. EDNA will remain open, retain all of its staff and even hold on to Mooers as general manager, as well as head chef Leah Coodin. jane’s next door, the storefront grab-and-go spot owned by Wright, will remain as well. And any changes to EDNA’s menu, says Mooers, are likely to be gradual. 

DANIEL DOMINIC
  • Daniel Dominic
"The food business isn't for the faint of heart," says Wright. "But I’ve had the best two years I've ever had in the last two years, and I feel like I’m leaving [the new owners] with a super team."

EDNA was instantly lauded after its opening in May 2013, making enRoute magazine's 2014 ranking of Canada’s 10 best new restaurants (as Wright's jane's on the common did in 2003), landing multiple times on Jacob Richler’s “Canada’s 100 Best” list and appearing frequently on The Coast’s own Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Awards. (And as our first-ever story about EDNA suggests, we were pretty stoked even before it opened.)

It was also at the front of a wave of new restaurants which have, in the past few years, turned Gottingen into one of the city’s go-to food destinations.

“I live just a block away on Maynard,” says Mooers, “and this community has always meant so much to me. The area has changed so much in just that short time we’ve been here, and it’s pretty amazing to have been part of it.”

Wright, for the time being, plans to take it easy.

"I’ve been working since I was 13, and I’m 61 now," she says. "So there had to come a time. The food business is very physical work." But, she makes a point of adding: "I'm hoping I may have another act in me."

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Kicking the plastic habit


Why local businesses are re-embracing traditional and sustainable packaging

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 at 4:00 AM

Lauren Marshall credits her Real Fake Meats staff for supporting the switch from plastic to paper packaging. - IAN SELIG
  • Lauren Marshall credits her Real Fake Meats staff for supporting the switch from plastic to paper packaging.
  • ian selig

  As a plant-based butchery, Gottingen Street's Real Fake Meats is far from a typical butcher shop. But if there's one tradition co-founder Lauren Marshall believes is worth preserving, it's wrapping her products in old-fashioned butcher-shop paper, not plastic.

It hasn't always been that way: when the shop opened one year ago this month, most of its products were vacuum-sealed in plastic, ready to grab-and-go. But all that hard-to-recycle single-use plastic never sat right with Marshall. "I had guilt knowing over the last year I could make this change, and it was just kind of weighing on me," she says. So, recently, Marshall started selling her plant-based products in more traditional, sustainable packaging.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, with the umami smell of simmering seitan in the air, Marshall's team was busy scooping Mozza Balls, heaps of Sun Parma and thick globs of Cream Cheeze into glass bottles. Other employees were plating decadent logs of cranberry-rolled "Goatless" Cheeze alongside juicy slabs of veggie steak, fat veggie sausages and thin slices of veggie ham. These were all destined for the display case, to be weighed and wrapped up for customers, or tucked away into paper boxes first thing the following morning.

Real Fake Meats isn't the only new local business becoming more mindful of its contribution to the single-use plastics problem. Neighbouring restaurant, Springhouse, recently started offering a $0.30 discount for customers who bring their own containers. A few months ago, Luminate Wellness Market opened its doors in Bedford, offering plastic-free produce and a "refillery" bulk section, where customers can, and are encouraged to bring or buy reusable containers.

Finally, in 2018 The Tare Shop on Cornwallis Street became Atlantic Canada's first package-free grocer. "Over the last two to three years, we've seen new businesses crop up that are going completely plastic free," says Marla MacLeod, director of programs at the Ecology Action Centre. "In general, there is just more awareness of just how much plastic waste we create."

MacLeod says that recent changes in public policy will set the bar higher for those who have yet to catch up. Last October, the Nova Scotia Legislature adopted the Plastic Bags Reduction Act, a pending province-wide ban on some single-use plastic bags that is set to come into effect this October. There is also recognition of the plastics problem at the municipal level, with the city's Beyond 3 Rs Program, which launched late last year. That program seeks to highlight businesses doing their part to reduce their plastics footprint.

But reducing plastic creates new challenges. While Real Fake Meats' refrigerators are now largely free of plastic packaging, the to-go freezer is still packed with towers of vacuum-sealed products. Unfortunately, says Marshall, it "makes the product kind of better," sealing in moisture and flavour while protecting it from freezer burn, and extending its shelf life without added preservatives.

Marshall also admits to a bit of concern that making the customer's experience less convenient—such as waiting for an employee to wrap up a purchase rather than just grabbing and going—could lead to a dip in sales.

Regardless, Marshall is pleased with the change, and while she's glad to see plastic reduction becoming a priority of government, she says her real inspiration for cutting down plastic waste comes from her employees.

"We'll always have meetings and speak with our staff and ask them what they think," she says. When she mentioned making a change, and felt her staff was behind her, "That was where I felt the influence [the] most, from the people that I spend the most time with."

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Tough times in the retail woods

Halifax has lost five long-serving businesses in the last six months.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2020 at 1:00 AM

axe.jpg

  If Halifax's business scene is like a forest, it's a joy to see new saplings take root (for example, here's a look at what a batch of newbies are up to on the waste-reduction front). And there's an existential ache when a towering old-growth tree falls. Sure, some death is useful to foster life in an ecosystem, but the last six months have been particularly hard on longstanding retailers. Losing the following five giants so quickly means that in less than a year, the city loses centuries of combined business experience.

Dean's Flowers
Closed August 2019
After 100 years in business, the Stanley Street florist had really made its name. Made it so well that two other flower shops were using the term "Dean's Flowers" in their Google advertising. "So, if someone Googles me or my business, they are hijacked away," wrote Dean's owner Holly Winchester in a Facebook post just before the shutdown. "The Google guy said that I should do the same thing, and use their names and business names in my search words. That is not even remotely something that I would do."


Smith's Bakery & Cafe
Closed August 2019
Started in 1932, the city's oldest independent bakery was a purveyor of all forms of classic deliciousness, from lemon squares to pizza. It closed when its Agricola Street lease ran out. As co-owner Dennis Evans told The Coast: "We can't stay here and we don't have the money to move."


Camera Repair Centre
Closed December 2019
For nearly 50 years, this Hunter Street shop was the go-to place when you had any sort of problem with a telephoto lens, shutter trigger, film uptake sprockets, digital sensor—you know, camera stuff! Like that thing on your phone that takes pictures, only totally different.


Newfoundland Store
Closing January 31, 2020
There has been a grocery store at the corner of Willow and Clifton Streets since 1917, and about half that time it's been the Newfoundland Store. But that era is over now.


Sievert's Tobacco
Closing soon
Last August Craig Sievert broke the news that he would be shutting down his family business, which has been selling cigars and cigarettes and various non-combustible goods on Barrington Street since 1906. Deep discounts to clear out the merchandise began in November, and are ongoing according to the Sievert's Facebook page. The final day looms like an axe.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Hot winter daze at SENSEA Nordic Spa

Get really, really really relaxed at the South Shore’s one-of-a-kind spa.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2020 at 1:54 PM

SENSEA Nordic Spa offers European-inspired spa services in a Nova Scotian lakefront setting. - SUBMITTED
  • SENSEA Nordic Spa offers European-inspired spa services in a Nova Scotian lakefront setting.
  • SUBMITTED

On a 26-acre parcel of land outside the Nova Scotia coastal village of Chester is a spa unlike any other in the province. Instead of minimalistic white rooms with high ceilings, scented candles and in-ground hot tubs, you'll find ice-cold waterfalls, Turkish hammams and cozy fireplaces.

"Offering a pause, a break in your busy life, that's really our intent," says Christophe Debeaumont, owner of SENSEA Nordic Spa.

Originally from France, Debeaumont and his wife, Laetitia Gomthier, moved to Canada five years ago. Avid spa-goers in Europe, the couple wanted to provide Canadians with a unique experience, drawing inspiration from spa cultures across Europe to create something original.

To that end, explains Debeaumont, the couple have embellished the basic Nordic spa concept with ideas from their travels to spas in Luxembourg, Germany, Finland and across Scandinavia. Key to the experience, he says, is being immersed in nature.

"We wanted to create a new, different concept of spa where everything is embedded inside deep nature," he explains. "It sounds crazy, but we offer for you to be literally in your swimsuit in the cold outside in the wintertime."

The Nordic spa experience has three steps, Debeaumont explains. First, spa-goers warm up in a sauna, hammam (steam room) or hot bath. Second, they cool down as quickly as possible.

"The brutal way to do it is to pour a bucket of water on you," says Debeaumont, though there are gentler options, including an onsite waterfall.

Debeaumont says the shock of the cold releases adrenaline and endorphins in the body, inducing a deeply relaxed state afterwards.

The final step, of course, is relaxation, and Debeaumont recommends doing the hot-cold-relax cycle three times to "sleep like a baby" at night.

To induce even deeper tranquility, SENSEA has a lounge with a fireplace, light reading and classic vinyl records, as well as snacks and wine to purchase.

A typical day at the spa costs $50 for basic access. Add-ons like therapeutic massage, and traditional Russian banya—a treatment that involves being whipped with eucalyptus branches—cost extra.

By this summer, Debeaumont also plans to offer outdoor massages and a chance for people to take the experience even further by sleeping in "dream cocoons" (a sort of treehouse) overnight.

SENSEA opened on January 1, with about 100 guests taking in the experience. Located about 45 minutes from downtown Halifax, Debeaumont says the drive to Chester is a great chance to get into nature.

"We just want to offer you a way to escape the city," he says, "and give a pause on your life."

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

Halifax street style: South Street

Scouring the streets for the city’s most fashionable.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 28, 2019 at 4:00 AM

CAROLINA ANDRADE
  • Carolina AndradE

Name: William Kim
Spotted: Corner of Tower Road and South Street
Wearing: Coat, Burberry; Sweater, H&M; Hat, Calvin Klein; Belt, Off White; Pants, Calvin Klein and Shoes, Raf Simons


What inspires your wardrobe? Japanese street fashion. I started showing interest in Japanese fashion culture after going to Tokyo and seeing all these different types of styles. From traditional Japanese dresses to futuristic styles, it is impossible not to acknowledge that Japanese people have an incredible sense of style. But, at the end of the day, I don't have a specific style; I like to wear what I want.

What is your favourite brand right now? I'm currently in love with Acne Studios. I love how their clothes look minimal with innovative designs.

What is your favourite piece of clothing in your closet right now? My Liful Minimal Garments hoodie. It's an oversized sherpa hoodie that's warm and cozy—perfect clothing for the fall-winter time.

Favourite local shops? Elsie's Used Clothing. I like how Elsie's has a variety of clothes—from formal clothes to street fashion—and it's not overly priced for good quality clothing.

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Where I work: Rage Room Halifax

Terry LeBlanc facilitates good clean fun, big ol messes and smashing things (safely) into smithereens.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2019 at 1:33 AM

SAMUEL TURPIN
  • Samuel Turpin

Rage Room Halifax
2820 Isleville Street
rageroomhalifax.ca


WHAT HE DOES
Terry LeBlanc has become desensitized to the sound of breaking glass. "I love seeing people genuinely happy!" he shouts over the sound of a computer monitor in the next room being obliterated by a golf club. Perhaps it's odd to associate happiness with a place where people vent their rage, but LeBlanc, co-owner of Rage Room Halifax, says people consistently leave with a smile on their face. At Rage Room, the tiresome warnings you've heard throughout childhood—"be careful with that" or "please don't touch that"—are disregarded. Instead, when clients emerge, cheeks flushed and slightly out of breath, LeBlanc simply asks, "So, what was your favourite thing to break?" 

WHO HE IS
Before Rage Room, LeBlanc co-owned a glass business on Isleville Street. When it closed, he knew he wanted to keep the space and start something new. "The area is growing," he says. "I didn't want to leave." A horror-themed escape room came to mind, but LeBlanc wanted something that would attract a broader audience. He googled "smash a room," discovered the concept of rage rooms and the deal was sealed. "I think I spent all night watching videos of people breaking stuff," LeBlanc says. Compared to his glass business, he says Rage Room has much higher levels of customer satisfaction. "People never smile when they get a bill for a new window," he says. "But the percentage of people who walk out of here disappointed is very low." Along with managing Rage Room, LeBlanc is a chef at Mount Saint Vincent University. Eventually, he would like to add a food element to Rage Room, effectively merging his trade and business together.

WHERE HE WORKS
LeBlanc and his mother, Donna LeBlanc, opened Rage Room in May 2018. To transform the space, LeBlanc installed cameras, lined the concrete walls with boards and purchased safety suits. He also made sure that each room was supplied with a Bluetooth speaker for clients who wanted to play their own music. LeBlanc buys items from Mission Mart, Auction Hut and Rick's Riches Thrift Store to stock his endless supply of "smashables"—the objects that are destroyed. After clients leave, LeBlanc cleans the room and recycles all electronic waste and glass. Occasionally, people ask to repurpose the debris into art. As a result, LeBlanc has several miniature Zen gardens assembled from scraps of metal and shards of glass on display at the front desk. On top of providing people with a place to purge their energy, Rage Room has unexpectedly become a way for LeBlanc to support local non-profits, keep waste out of landfills, and even inspire the odd local artist. 

SAMUEL TURPIN
  • Samuel Turpin

WHY IT WORKS
People seek out Rage Room for all sorts of reasons, and LeBlanc welcomes them all. "We're entertainment first," LeBlanc says. "It's all about having a good time. If you happen to de-stress while you're here, then that's great too." He has seen people bring in stuff their exes left behind. He watched a family convince their 81-year-old grandmother to take a crack at breaking something. Another time, when LeBlanc asked a client how their day was going, the individual simply said, "Well, I'm supposed to be at the altar in five minutes." Rage Room Halifax provides a safe, controlled environment for people who are in need of catharsis, an adrenaline rush or just a good laugh. No matter who you are or where you're at in life, LeBlanc believes everyone needs to cut loose from time to time.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

SHOP THIS: Shad Bay Weaving

Bring the outdoors inside with Allison Pinsent Baker's ethereal, hand-woven wall hangings.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 15, 2019 at 12:46 PM

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The next-best-thing to a picture window on a big, blank wall in your bedroom might just be a woven tapestry from Allison Pinsent Baker. A multi-disciplinary artist based out of rugged Shad Bay, her one-of-a-kind works capture the coastlines, colour schemes and visceral vibes behind the landscapes people love to lose themselves in. Selling her mostly custom pieces under Shad Bay Weaving since 2017, Pinsent Baker uses ethical, natural fibres (many of her yarns are custom-spun and hand-dyed by her mom) and up-cycled materials, like driftwood mounts, to transport you a little further into the wild.

Find her work at Argyle Fine Art (1559 Barrington Street) or—if you have a beautiful view you’d like to keep forever—email shadbayweaving@gmail.com for a quote. 
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Every single winner from the 25th annual Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Awards

Click here to celebrate your city

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2019 at 1:28 AM

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Charity Doucette rises and shines

How learning traditional Mi’kmaq beadwork helped an artist see the beauty in her own culture.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Charity Doucette beads for hours. - COREY ISENOR
  • Charity Doucette beads for hours.
  • COREY ISENOR

Shimmering opals, oceanic blues, cream white pearls; that's Charity. Fresh sweetgrass, shapely moose antler, textured birchbark; that's Mi'kma'ki.

Charity Doucette, of Potlotek First Nation, combines the dazzle of trendy jewellery with the meaningful beauty of Indigenous beadwork to create show-stopping pieces that represent a restored pride in her heritage. "Know your worth—because that was the thing I struggled with," Doucette says, via FaceTime. "But, now I can see my worth."

In February, after years of selling to friends and family, Doucette created @beads_bychar, an Instagram account that showcases and sells her Mi'kmaq beadwork jewellery. In eight short months, the 20-year-old amassed over 1,000 followers. Her designs have been worn by Indigenous and non-Indigenous folk all over Canada and the US. 

What sets her apart from her contemporaries is how she incorporates symbols of Mi'kmaq culture—like hand-harvested and braided sweetgrass, real moose antler and artificial sinew—in a way that reflects her personal expression of beauty.  Though her beads aren't locally made, they're bought from an Indigenous entrepreneur in Eskasoni. Doucette ensures every aspect of her creations are locally sourced and supportive of her community.

"I like to take from the earth because Native people protect the earth," she explains. "I put that touch into my work because that's what I find is important, and that's what our people look towards." 

Doucette's eyes sparkle brighter than her shiniest jewels as she reveals handfuls of braided sweetgrass and thumb-sized gems. It's hard to imagine she was once embarrassed to call Potlotek home.

"I always had such an ugly concept of my culture," she says. "We were always centred out as the 'white kids.' We got bullied because we were 'white' and not as dark as other Natives." She learned to defend her mixed identity on and off reserve—especially at her predominantly white school.

"I never wanted to say I was from the reserve."

In 2008, Doucette's mother, Jeannie Marshall, took her kids to live at a hotel until Potlotek's habitually unsafe water was clean enough to boil and drink again.

"We don't even make our dogs drink our water," Doucette says. 

One day, all Indigenous students from Potlotek were called into the school gym. Doucette remembers the humiliation as she and her peers were rounded up and told they were allowed showers at school if they brought their own soap. 

"It was so embarrassing," Doucette says. She recalls shamefully explaining to classmates the reason for her absence. "They're really grossed out by you because you live somewhere where you can't even drink or do anything with your water."

Water conditions at Potlotek improved, but that didn't stop kids at school from targeting Doucette and her friend. "They were always on her back," she says. "'Oh, is the water making your skin that brown?' they would say. 'Shouldn't Charity be darkening up too?'"

These experiences, Charity says, soiled her Mi'kmaq pride. Then she was introduced to beadwork.

As a child, Doucette found comfort in drawing; a talent her mother recognized—and hoped to preserve—in her late grandfather, who was a chief. When Doucette was 13 years old, the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Summer Games were hosted at Potlotek. For her worried mother, the games meant boys from all over Mi'kma'ki would be eyeing her teenage daughter. Marshall called her close friend, Marcia Johnson, and asked her to teach her daughter how to bead. A hobby supposed to distract Doucette from boys soon became an obsession.

"When I started beading, I saw the beautiful things in my culture, my reserve and traditions, instead of looking at the bad things that happen," she says.

Today, Doucette is more proud of her heritage than ever before. The young entrepreneur is currently studying hairdressing at Elevate Beauty Institute of Cosmetology in New Minas, and dreams of opening her own full-service, Indigenous owned-and-operated salon.

"I want to be able to have a safe place for people to go," she says.

Doucette hopes her beadwork inspires other Indigenous women to find pride in their traditions and pursue them. 

"Traditions that we've always held onto are still beautiful," she says, "even though our living conditions aren't." 

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In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 39
February 20, 2020

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