The studio is comprised of artists, designers and cultural enthusiasts with diverse interests and disciplines forming a compelling community creating waves off Vancouver Island.
I've been following along with you and Guys' work since the Lower Pandora shop. Where did you two first meet?
We met close to 9 years ago. At the time, Guy was the manager of Four Horsemen and I was a regular customer.
Guy and a couple other friends lived in the Hoy Sun building at the bottom of Pandora Ave in Chinatown. It became a hangout for a large group of us and a hub for a new creative community that was forming in the city. The building was run by Robert Kidd who was one of the original artists that helped revitalize the neighborhood in the 70’s. In many ways we were just trying to carry on his tradition and Upside Studios is still very much an extension of this.
How many people are involved in Upside Studios and what is everyone's specific discipline or role?
There are five partners in Upside Studios, which is divided into two areas— an event space and a shared working space.
Rachel Saunders is our resident ceramicist with her own dedicated studio on the shared working side. With a small staff, she independently operates her pottery business, as well as teaches workshops and private classes.
Agata Atmore runs an online general store called Chill Bay which is a huge supporter of Canadian-made goods and housewares. She utilizes the studio for product and editorial photography, personal shopping, and hosts various events to help support women in business.
Morgan Holmes is our administrative director and runs our music and event programming. He’s our saving grace in terms of operating the studio as a business. He also secretly plays bass and guitar in a band called Amor de Cosmos.
Guy Ferguson is a photographer and works as Brand Director at Viberg. He is responsible for studio related content and organizes regular events usually revolving around movies, basketball and natural wine.
And as for myself, I work out of the space as a freelance product/visual designer. In relation to Upside, I help with the design direction of the studio from event promotion to branding and social media.
How did you guys find the space in Fan Tan Alley? The circular skylight is insane.
Rachel was originally looking for a space to function as a ceramics studio, but the opportunity for something larger with more people involved presented itself.
We were all reaching a point in our lives where we wanted a way to engage with our community and bring something to Victoria that didn’t exist here. We had a lot of encouragement from friends and family, and a particularly motivating suggestion (he called us out) from our mutual friend Amardeep Singh.
Traditional commercial space has become more and more inaccessible in Victoria, but thanks to our prior connections to the Chinatown neighborhood from our Lower Pandora days, we were able to get on a short list for vacancies. It was a long shot, but an opportunity came up fairly quickly and we jumped on it.
Our building dates back to the early 1900’s and was one of the many opium/gambling dens in Chinatown. Most of the spaces were eventually abandoned until owners in the neighborhood had the idea to rent them out affordably to artists like Robert in the 70’s. Our space was occupied by an acclaimed artist and critic named Glenn Howarth for over 20 years and his name still remains on our door.
Oh, and there’s actually two skylights!
How was the turnout for W. David Marx Ametora talk and book signing? Seems like there is a solid men's clothing community in Victoria.
We had a really positive and supportive turnout for the Ametora talk. The event was organized by our friend Ryan, who also works at Viberg, and was just finishing an essay on Japanese fashion. Marx himself is a really passionate and insightful human being. We were super grateful to have him be able to delve into different parts of the book and describe his own experiences in Japan. His knowledge of the history of fashion and culture there is second to none.
It’s true, the men’s clothing community in Victoria is small, but unusually educated and well-informed. This is probably due to the fact that we’re anchored by some really great shops and brands such as Viberg, Four Horsemen, Calculus and re-porter.
What have been some of the most memorable art installations, talks and events at Upside?
Every year, Victoria hosts a small-scale progressive music and arts festival called ‘Pretty Good Not Bad’. We were one of the host venues for a select few artists— Nicolas Sassoon being the most high-profile. He’s shown at galleries such as The Whitney (USA) and Eyebeam, as well as collaborated with Uniqlo. He’s most known for his use of early computer imaging techniques to render incredible digital patterns and projection art.
Other highlights throughout the year have been musical guests— KILLY, Young Braised, and Ken Stringfellow (R.E.M., The Posies).
We’ve had a few accomplished local artists and friends that have presented solo shows as well— Carson Cartier and Jesse Russell-Galbraith are two that come to mind.
Finally, we have played host to numerous pop-up dinners and low-key events with gifted friends and like-minded individuals. These events are usually not promoted, but always have such a positive effect on us and are a constant reminder of what Victoria has to offer.
What are some of your favorite cafes in Victoria?
Coffee-- Habit, Bows x Arrows, Hey Happy
Restaurants-- Uchida (Japanese shokudo), Part & Parcel (casual lunch spot), La Tana (Italian bakery), Fol Epi (organic bakery)
Our friends Matt Chamberlain (formerly of Part & Parcel) and Shane Deveraux (Habit) are in the process of opening a new restaurant/cafe called Sherwood just a couple of blocks from Upside. We’ve been able to sample the menu a couple of times already and can fully vouch for what these guys are doing.
I've noticed a lot of studios and collectives have eventually turned into brands. Any plans to release Upside merch?
We’ve actually recently launched our humble little web shop.
While we’re not actively trying to become a brand, we want to establish an outlet for people to help support Upside and produce things that we enjoy and that resonate with the community. We want our products to be a recognition of what we’re trying to do in Victoria, but ultimately the space and the events are our first priority.
That being said, what is your ideal event or installation at Upside?
I’m really not sure if we can narrow it down to just one dream event, show or installation. What comes to mind is continuing to work on projects with talented friends.
In our first year, we definitely strived to utilize the space to help nurture artists and create a greater sense of community in Victoria. While we will continue to do this, we’re hoping to connect more with our community abroad. We’d love to be able to showcase work from our friends all around the globe that wouldn’t normally have an audience in Victoria.
When can we do a Cafe Nyleta pop-up?
Tomorrow. Or next week? Let’s make it happen.
Special thanks to Guy Ferguson and Edmund Teh.