The Making Of | Vignettes

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“If we can get 10,000 people into the space it would be unbelievable. Well, that’s the goal!” says Leigh Wright, the creator of Vignettes Design Showcase, as he sits on the back of his pickup truck and stares at the old Edmonton Reuse Building across from City Hall. 

We were chatting months ago, as work was just beginning on the building to transform it into one of the signature events for the inaugural Edmonton Design Week. Mismatched paint covered the exterior that’s since been replaced with the word ‘VIGNETTES’ emblazoned across the front, while a Kristopher Kanaly street mural (put up during the Rust Magic festival this summer) adorns the east wall, and an original Giselle Dennis mural is now featured on the west wall.

Inside, 14 teams of designers have been unleashed on three floors of the building at the corner of 100 Street and 103 Avenue, turning it into a gallery of design vignettes – eight-foot-by-eight-foot spaces that they were free to imagine in any way. Five interactive art installations of Canada 150-inspired landscapes have also gone in, along with a stylized pop-up dining restaurant and a retail store.

Inside and out, it’s an entirely new building.

 

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But touring the empty, gutted space was also inspiring. “We were considering a lot of different spaces, but we want to use a space that’s on its last legs, to reactivate it. The Reuse Centre was the perfect space – square footage, accessible with parking, unused spaces,” says Leigh.

It’s easy to see Leigh isn’t afraid of a challenge. Now in its fifth year, this year’s Vignettes is the biggest; Leigh is intent on reaching more people with the event.

 “Even in high school I wanted to be an artist. In university, I took business with a major in marketing, but during that time kept doing design and trades-work to cover tuition. It’s been a long journey, but I am happiest when I’m tackling big projects like this. I want to help draw people into design, and saw a niche to bring attention and to change people’s thoughts around design.”

 

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Without spoiling the surprise of Vignettes, we couldn’t resist sharing some behind the scenes of this incredible transformation. Be sure to see Vignettes in person, launching this Friday, Sept. 22 and running until Oct. 15.

 

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Five Minutes with Leigh Wright

 

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How was the concept for Vignettes created? 

It was born through travel as so many ideas are, I was so inspired on a trip to New York and I thought “why can’t these things happen in Edmonton?” So when I returned to Edmonton I launched the first iteration of Vignettes (in 2013). What can I say, I’m a yes guy! 

 

What is your all-time favourite vignette? 

They’re all so amazing and creative in their own way, but if I have to choose. … Years ago (when Vignettes was held at the Sugar Swing Ballroom in Old Strathcona), there was a Bluegrass themed vignette with a live band playing inside of it, and last year I loved the Bunkhouse, it could actually be used in a home, which was so cool to see. Also, there was a whiskey briar patch with finishes on it that were impeccably executed, and of course both winners were obvious showstoppers.

 

What inspires you about Edmonton, specifically as a designer?

We have an amazing design community and so much work coming out of our city that we should be proud of. Yet, locally it’s been hard to get people excited about design. It will be great seeing how Edmonton Design Week and Vignettes help grow that passion and awareness. 

It’s also important to give a shout-out to our community; it’s so tight knit and everyone believes in what they’re doing and is willing to lend a hand. The whole shop local, buy local, support local movement is truly what makes this city flourish. 

 

Long term, where do you see Vignettes? 

At our first few events we had 100 people come through and at the time, that was a huge success; last year Vignettes lasted over two weekends and close to 5,000 people came out. Ultimately, we hope every year that that momentum and awareness keeps growing. For Edmonton as a design community, I want people to come from all over the world and see this glimmer of hope that we are a design city, that we are focused on and have put the time and energy into becoming a hub for design. That’s where I want to see our show go and our city go! 

 

Why is design important to you? 

Because it’s my life! 

 

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Vignettes will be hosting Edmonton Design Week’s official Launch Party on Friday, Sept. 22, from 4-11 pm. Everyone is invited; get your tickets here!

Edmonton Design Week Team