Today I had the privilege of attending the 35th anniversary edition of the Ottawa Signatures Show. This was a unique and enlightening experience, giving me the chance to engage with a room full of very talented artists. The show is being held this week from November 15 – 19th at the Shaw Centre, located conveniently in downtown Ottawa. This third-floor location overlooks the beautiful Rideau Canal and newly renovated National Arts Centre, which adds to the beauty of the event and enhances the overall experience of attendees.
The Shaw Centre, as many of you know, was recently renovated into a world class conference centre, replacing the aging Ottawa Congress Centre. Although not brand-brand new anymore, it still looks superb and offers arguably the most attractive place in Ottawa to host a conference or trade show. Finding the Signatures show on the third floor was an easy task. Accompanying the show, and just outside the trade show floor was a bistro-style restaurant, set up with a bar and unique food options, all of which were reasonably priced. There were many tables set up, perfect for enjoying a meal, or even for just socializing. The facilities truly are world-class and I would encourage anyone to attend events in the Shaw Centre.
Upon arriving, I was met by a short line at the ticket booth, with knowledgeable employees who offered a smooth check-in process. Once inside the event, the sights and smells were overwhelming, with a huge variety of artistic work such as clothes, artwork, jewelry, candles, different types of food, and anything and everything in between. There were so many vendors set up that it was nearly impossible to visit each one of them, but the ones that I did talk to demonstrated that each person in there has a story to tell, and is keen to discuss their inspiration and how they discovered their unique talents. As expected in mid-November, several Christmas booths were set up, but what you won’t find here are tables of poorly made Christmas sweaters and scarves. The offerings for sale were very impressive and were much more unique than what you’d expect to find at a local craft fair. Each and every booth offered a unique product that could be appreciated by all, even if not necessarily their personal taste.
As there are almost 200 vendors on site, and far too many to comment on individually, I’ve selected only a few to mention. I came across a very talented artist named Daniel Lee (www.etsy.com/shop/Uniqueartworkss), who creates art out of leaves using two different methods. One of these methods involves the use of a very fine exacto knife to carve out intricate images directly into the leaf. The second method is using dyes to create images directly onto the leaf. Once complete, he frames them into fantastic pieces of art, ready to be displayed on your wall. The tiniest detail is not missed and the intricate handiwork of this craft is exceptional. He told me that he specializes in patriotic art work such as soldiers with the Canadian flag, and that even Justin Trudeau has one of these masterpieces hanging in his office. Political views aside, it’s hard to get a better reference than the Prime Minister’s. I ended up buying two of these, one for myself and another as a Christmas present.
If you’ve read many of my reviews, you’ll probably see a bit of a pattern in that I tend to follow my stomach, and this review is no different. When I first entered the trade show area, I was greeted by a lovely pair of people offering samples from David’s Tea. They offered a White Cranberry Bark and a Chocolate Macaroon tea. I chose the White Cranberry Bark for my sample, and although I am not normally a fan of fruity teas, this one was pretty delicious. They informed me that it’s a seasonal selection, but available in their stores right now, so I’d suggest that you try it out!
Later on, during my walk-about, I came to the area where most of the food vendors were set up, and what an amazing treat this was!! I simply wasn’t expecting such an exquisite collection of delicious cuisine-al artwork (I’ve just invented that word – try using it, maybe it’ll catch on). There were about 10 different food vendors and I’m pretty sure that each one offered samples!!! This was like a Saturday Costco trip on steroids! I’m a big fan of the traditional caramel/chocolate coated apples that you find in most grocery stores in the prepared foods section. Well….let me tell you, those are nothing compared to what I discovered! Nut and Fudge (www.nutandfudge.com) offers the most delicious apple you’ve ever had. While the price is somewhat steep, at $14 each, these apples are to die for. They are amazing! Most of them are covered in Belgian chocolate, and the flavour combinations are incredible! And did I mention there were samples? There are at least ten different mouth watering flavours to try, so be prepared to invest $140 at this booth alone!! Right on the other side of the wall is a vendor that specializes in smoked meats and sausages. I finally tried kangaroo for the first time (again as a great sample), and had a hard time holding back my spending from the variety of different “pepperettes” that were being offered at this booth, made from meat obtained from farms across Canada. This list of food vendors can go on, with great selections of honey, dips, chocolate and anything else you can imagine. Bring your appetite, but the same rule should apply as when you go grocery shopping, don’t shop on an empty stomach, so be prepared if you haven’t had a meal yet!
As I stated, there are simply too many vendors to go into detail on each one; you’ll need a couple of hours at this show to take in all there is to see for yourself. I highly recommend that you give yourself the time needed to talk to the artisans and learn about their products. It’s one thing to see the displays as you’re walking by, and a totally different thing to learn about the actual art and the story behind it. These products are truly breathtaking.
The Signature show runs all week until Sunday with different events throughout the week, such as “Girl’s Night Out” on Thursday night, featuring Brady Jones from Hot 89.9 and “Friday night Live,” with Live 88.5 providing the musical entertainment. Hours for the event are Thursday/Friday 11-9, Saturday 11-6 and Sunday 11-5. Don’t miss out on this really great event!!
Excerpt from the official media release:
Signatures Show is a marketplace of handmade works by over 180 top Canadian artists, artisans, and designers. Each exhibitor is expertly selected based on the quality, originality, and craftsmanship of their work; they must be the designer and the creator of their respective works, and only work produced in Canada is permitted to be sold. Product categories include fashion and accessories, jewellery, natural body care, fine art and photography, sculptures, woodworking, ceramics, glassware, textiles, leather, toys, gourmet foods, and more.