“Don’t Buy That” gives used items a second life

With the average Quebecer spending approximately $458 over the holidays, as shown through a survey reported by Global News, you can count on people’s wallets being stressed.

Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and the Art Hive hosted a workshop titled “Don’t buy that!” on Dec. 4. Teaming up with Sustainability Ambassadors, the workshop offered alternative gift-giving ideas by creating their own holiday presents and decorations.

Arrien Weeks, a coordinator for the CUCCR, explained that wrapping, purchasing and even making gifts can create lots of waste. “we just came together to try and change that,” Weeks said.

The event, hosted downtown at the Hive, included four different stations. Each was curated to a specific need: a card-making station, ornament crafting, knitting help, and their popular beeswax wraps workshop. It also included vegan baked goods made by Devonly Bakes, a student-run catering service.

Materials used at the workshop were all reused or recycled. “I’m hoping it can make people rethink how they approach gift making, gift-giving, and just trying to reduce people’s consumption at the end of the day,” Weeks said.

The Wednesday evening crowd consisted of a mix of Concordia students, alumni and other event-goers who had never even been to the campus before. Abigail Lalonde, an avid knitter who volunteered for the event said, “The skills that we share with each other are useful. It supports a really good state of mind, which is self-sufficiency. I hope that people can come and learn something. That they can feel included. That they can share with someone.”

Kate Evoy, a student at Concordia, brought her friend Lexi Benware along to the event. The pair was eager to try different arts and crafts. When asked about the workshops’ value, Evoy said “Obviously the sustainability is a huge part of it. Mixed with a community atmosphere, I think that’s such a good way to introduce people to sustainability and the effects of consumerism and all that.”

Events like this one help build a culture around sustainability efforts,” said Benware. “It’s not just one person doing it – people are coming together and making it more normal and natural for people to do.”

The two friends believe that presenting alternatives to the materialistic holiday we all love can educate people on the negative effects of consumerism. Evoy said instead of the typical dooms-day rhetoric she’s used to, she was warmly welcomed.

“It’s more like, come to partake in this, and it’s fun, and we’re doing good things,” she said.

Ivan Chamberland, a Concordia alumna, was inspired by the ingenuity of beeswax wraps. In today’s throw-away society, Chamberland finds herself excited to learn new ways of consuming alternatives to disposable items.


Photo by Laurence B.D.



Do you really have to buy that?

With the holidays right around the corner, it is hard not to notice the insane amount of people flooding the main shopping boulevards.

Our compulsive shopping habits spike through the roof, hurting our wallets and wasting our time. We all feel pressured to have a gift for everyone, as if it is a sign that you care. But more often than not, we buy useless gifts just for the sake of giving a loved one something to unwrap and enjoy for two minutes on Christmas. Is this compulsiveness a sign of the decadence of today’s world? If we know this special holiday is about spending quality time with those we love, why do we keep making it about material objects?

Every time I sit at a cafe and people-watch, I realize how captivating vitrines really are and how successful marketing strategies are in fueling our consumerist behaviour. We are all victims of it, you know the drill: you pass by a shop, you stare at what they have and in less than 2 minutes you find yourself inside. Maybe you’ll buy something, maybe you won’t, but once you have been lured in, there’s no way back — you immediately start looking for something to satisfy an often unnecessary desire.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that fashion is one of the most profitable industries. According to Statista, the fashion sector in Canada alone made US $6.81 million in 2019 and has an annual growth expectancy rate of 8.3 per cent, so by 2023 the market volume will be approximately US $9.37 million.

Going shopping at this time of the year is not just expensive, it is absolute madness. In less than a few moments in a department store, you could find yourself fighting over an ugly pair of boots with a crazy lady that’s determined to get her hands on them. The funniest part is you don’t even need that extra pair of boots. Our consumerism really brings the worst out of us, and we are not doing anyone a favour; we are just contributing to the toxic industry that deteriorates our environment at the cost of fulfilling our material desires. The high levels of dopamine our brain releases when we shop only keep us high for a second. As reported by Elle, studies have shown that those who are more prone to develop shopping addiction (yes, that is an actual thing) are also more vulnerable to develop depression or anxiety.

Maybe this Christmas we should try to keep our compulsiveness at bay and get what we actually need. Before going shopping, make a list of what is absolutely necessary, stick to your budget, and restrain from overtreating yourself or your loved ones. Our material desires often keep us from appreciating those around us and what we already have in front of us, so why not try something different for a change? After all, we should be focusing on spending quality time and being cozy, rather than wasting our best energies out in the cold, consuming in ridiculous amounts. And hey, if you’re good at arts and crafts maybe you can save a few bucks this Christmas by showing off your skills. It is sustainable and memorable!

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Broken Pencil: Gift-giving it your all

Tips and tricks for financially feasible gift-giving over the holidays

The holidays are always a fun time to spend with your closest friends and family. Each year, it brings us joy to surround ourselves with the ones we love most. However, when it comes to buying gifts for the whole family, budgeting and planning what to get and for who can be a daunting task.

Christmas shopping was never something I had to think about as a kid (Santa Claus didn’t allow me). When you’re young, money isn’t exactly the first thing on your mind.

Now that I’m older, the task has been passed on to me, but I never realized just how difficult and expensive Christmas shopping can be. For struggling students, some of whom may or may not have part-time jobs, finding the extra money to spend even twenty bucks on four or five people can feel next to impossible.

In the past, I have helped my parents with Christmas shopping, which was a huge challenge. In my family, we try to discreetly investigate what other members of the family want, but we tend to end up more confused than we were in the first place. As we grow older, I feel like it’s always a challenge to figure out what we want for Christmas; for the most part, we have everything we could ever wish for. From toys and video games, to a pair of headphones, gift ideas come much easier in your younger years.

As students, we have many obligations that require us to spend money, which can make it difficult to be able to provide everyone in our lives with the gifts they want. Now, you don’t want to overdraft your bank account just for the holidays. I’ve never bought gifts for the whole family or my entire friend group; I usually only buy gifts for a handful of people. For example, my closest friends and I throw a small Christmas party where we buy presents for just one other person. It’s a good way to spend a small amount of money and be able to give something special to a friend.

Remember, sometimes making a gift for someone, or just spending time with family can really show them how much you care more than a store-bought item. Try taking the time to create something by hand; make a card or put together a small scrapbook of memories. Maybe take your siblings out for an afternoon of skating, or treat your mom to dinner at her favorite restaurant. The list of possibilities is endless once you get creative and work within your budget.

I used to give my parents gift ideas for the family, and that was my contribution to the shopping. This year, I plan to start by getting presents for my siblings, then I’ll see if I can afford gifts for the rest of the family. But of course, the holidays aren’t all about material things and spending money. Budgeting has helped me combat holiday-induced stress, but at the end of the day, remember to spend as much time with loved ones as you do shopping for them.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


L’OFFRE illustrates the art of gift giving

Curator Cheryl Sim speaks about the rewarding process of putting a large exhibition together

Giving a gift to a loved one can bring extreme joy to oneself, but there are also mixed emotions of anxiety for the receiver who might not know what to give back.

As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, DHC/ART (The Foundation for Contemporary Art) is exploring the complex concept of gift exchange in its exhibition, L’OFFRE. The exhibition is a culmination of a variety of works by artists from around the world.

As a curator, Cheryl Sim wanted to create a show which would honour DHC/ART’s contribution to Montreal’s cultural landscape. She has been working at DHC/ART for 10 years and has had the privilege of seeing the foundation grow. When she was tasked with curating the exhibition, Sim knew exactly how to approach the job.

“Artists have forever been interested in gift exchange and the offer of their labour to the service of art-making, which is not necessarily going to give you a lot of financial return,” Sim said. “Many artists work in their spare time, they give their work away for free or they show it for free. DHC/ART as a foundation itself represents a gift to the city of Montreal.”

Sim spoke about Phil Collins, who created a collaborative project called Free FotoLab for L’OFFRE. He put out a public call in Eastern Europe, asking people to give him their undeveloped rolls of 35 mm film in exchange for the right to develop the photos of his choosing.

“He is interested in how you create compassion and how do you show empathy. In so much of his work, he is looking at a relationship between himself and the people he needs to rely on to show his work,” Sim said.

The photos Collins developed include both special and everyday moments, like people attending birthday parties, going to the beach and napping. There are a total of 80 slides in the piece.

Lee Mingwei, a Taiwanese artist, has two pieces in the exhibition: Money for Art (1994-2010) and Sonic Blossom (2013). Sonic Blossom was inspired by the time spent with his mother when she was recovering from surgery. This piece is focused on the transformative and healing power of song. On Saturdays and Sundays, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the foundation, two singers will perform for visitors who will sit in a chair and have one of five Franz Schubert’s artistic songs (known as lieders) sung to them. Sonic Blossom is presented in collaboration with faculty and performers from Concordia’s music department.

DHC/ART is a non-profit organization founded in 2007. According to Sim, the founder, Phoebe Greenberg, had a dream to make art accessible to the public by hosting large-scale art exhibitions with free general admission. DHC/ART’s exhibitions are unique because they present mostly international artists while the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a mandate to present only Canadian and Quebec artists. People do not have to travel to Paris or Berlin, for example, to see their favourite renowned international artists.

Sim said one of the main challenges in curating such a large exhibition is choosing a nice mix of media and trying to consolidate large works of art which fit with the theme within the space. The curator explained that the most rewarding aspect is seeing the project materialize after a long process of working alongside the technical department and the coordinators.

The ultimate reward for her, however, will be seeing the public’s reaction to these beautiful works. Montreal-based artists Dean Baldwin and Karen Kraven have created a commission-based installation project specifically for the public reception on the evening of Oct. 4.

The opening reception for L’OFFRE will be held on Oct. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m at DHC/ART, at 451 St-Jean St. The exhibition will officially be on display from Oct. 5 to March 11, 2018.

Student Life

Gifts for your Casanova

Graphic by Sean Kershaw

February 14: just one more day among the birthdays and anniversaries that makes our boyfriends squirm with panic. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to think that girls are pretty easy to shop for. Keep it traditional with flowers and chocolates; keep it simple with a home-cooked meal and a night spent together, or spoil us with jewelry. See? Easy.

What’s not easy, though, is buying a nice Valentine’s Day gift for the men in our lives. You may think that we have everything perfectly planned out, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. We don’t. Guys are pretty much the hardest to shop for because, well, you can’t really give a guy flowers and jewelry, can you?

Concordia graduate student Cheryl MacDonald is writing her thesis on masculinity and young men. According to her, flowers may not exactly be the perfect gift, depending on the guy. “Men will typically feel less masculine if given traditionally feminine gifts because our historical patterns of socialization have taught them to feel emasculated in these instances. We’re taught by our families, friends and others that certain gifts 
are meant for certain genders,” said MacDonald. She added that this is becoming less common, though.

MacDonald went on to explain that if it were not for the gendered pattern of socialization, more men would be comfortable receiving gifts typically given to women. “In fact, we’re currently seeing an increase in the number of men who are willing to break the gender barrier and reveal that they would love typically feminine gifts such as plants, flowers or spa treatments. This is not to say that all men feel this way, but there is evidence of men falling closer to the median on the gender continuum regarding this subject,” she said.

A great tip MacDonald has for seeking out the perfect gift is to focus on interests more than on gender associations. “It’s important to pay attention to a man’s likes and dislikes and show that you’ve taken the time to tune into them. When you view the gift-buying process this way, gender sometimes becomes less of a priority,” she added.

First-year English literature student Vicky Walling had similar things to say about Valentine’s Day gift-giving. “I usually try to get something for my boyfriend that I know he’ll enjoy. I think Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating love between two individuals, so I really want to spoil my man and get him something he might not get for himself.”

She said that she wouldn’t shy away from getting him more girly gifts, either. “I don’t particularly believe in gender roles. Besides, who doesn’t like jewelry or flowers? Guys are a lot more mushy than girls think,” she said. Vicky added that guys just want to know that their lovers really care for them and have made an effort to do something fun and personal. There’s no need to get a dozen roses, but maybe one simple flower will do the trick. Most importantly, Vicky says, is to just do what you’re comfortable with.

So we’ve heard what the girls have to say, but what about the guys? Concordia business student Steven Santillo said that he definitely wouldn’t expect a bouquet of flowers because “women usually get the flowers,” but he wouldn’t be bothered by it either. And he doesn’t mind jewelry. “Jewelry is great. It isn’t just an awesome gift for women, men like that stuff too.” The best gift he ever received for Valentine’s Day was a collage of photos of him and his girlfriend, with his favourite sweet treat, Ferrero Rocher, on the side.

The key to Valentine’s Day is to keep things simple. Sometimes all you need is a cute card with a heartfelt message written inside. The common thread is clear: focus on what your significant other is really interested in, and personalize the gift to show that you put a lot of thought into it. So although it may be a Hallmark holiday, there’s no harm in having a little fun on Valentine’s Day with some thoughtful and unique gift-giving to win your loved one’s heart.

Exit mobile version