Great Spaces: an artist takes the live-work concept to extremes
A home turned into a workshop, showroom and retail space
Alex Jowett has led a peripatetic life. For much of the last decade, the photographer, designer and multimedia artist travelled the world with his camera and his surfboards, making money by publishing photos in travel magazines. When he was lured back to Canada in 2007 to set up an exhibition of his multimedia work at the Spoke Club, it was meant to be a pit stop. He stayed with friends for a few months, but got caught up in the Toronto art and design scene and decided it was time to look for a place of his own.
Five years later, Jowett, now 40, is living in a 1,500-square-foot studio on Queen West he calls Atelier 688. The place is both his home and his showroom, a combination living and retail space, out of which he sells his own pieces, as well as the work of other Toronto artists and designers—it’s often impossible to know what is and isn’t for sale without asking. “I’ll make something for myself, like my big kayak chandelier,” he says, “and if it doesn’t sell, I just keep it, which is why it works in the space.” The studio is like a playground where Jowett can be as creative and whimsical as he wants. A few months ago, he constructed a canvas tent over the guest bed to give a visiting friend more privacy. He kept it because he liked having his own “gypsy den” in his home. Chances are, the tent will be gone within a few months. But Jowett won’t. He now thinks of his place as a pursuit in itself, a perpetual work in progress, and he plans to stick around to tinker with it for a while.
The giant word painting is by Antoine Jouet, a pseudonym Jowett uses for some of his word art—Jouet also gets credit for a boomerang in the living room and a window with the word “Lies” scrawled on it.
Jowett has lived and surfed all over the world. He carried the red surfboard with him to the coasts of Hawaii, Morocco and Indonesia.
He made this rope light prototype with an old gym climbing rope he found at a flea market. He now uses rope from the Philippines when manufacturing them.
The kayak chandelier is called “the Whaler.” Jowett found the boat skeleton while he was on vacation in cottage country.
Jowett kept the fencing masks after using them as props for a photo shoot.
He inherited the two Paul Tuttle rocking chairs from his grandmother.
The bench was crafted by woodworker Michael Greenwood and draped in reindeer fur.
The tripod lamp is another of Jowett’s own pieces. He made it with a military surveyor’s tripod from the 1930s or ’40s that he bought on eBay.
Jowett took the photograph of a girl with striking green eyes on the island of Soqotra, Yemen.
The wood surfboard was made in Toronto by Lost Wave. It’s purely decorative.
The bull horns are made with recycled bicycle parts. Jowett also makes yak and ram pieces.
Jowett pitched the prospector’s tent to give a house guest some privacy last fall. He decided to keep it as a cozy nook.
The ladder light was an experiment by Jowett and Greenwood. Greenwood built the frame; Jowett added vintage lampshades and chrome light bulbs.
Jowett says the ink and canvas horizon line drawings like this one (he’s made about 30) serve as a sort of litmus test for visitors: people who have spent a lot of time on water recognize the ocean immediately.
Jowett took the photo of fishermen while on his trip to Yemen.
The twisted metal candelabra was made by the Toronto-based designer Zac Ridgley.