Montreal is one of those great places that you want to walk, taste, explore and admire from many vantage points. It’s visually stunning and full of surprises.
Like New Orleans, Boston, San Francisco, Vancouver and even Indianapolis (don’t snark, it’s one of our most engaging, art filled and beautiful American cities), it demands you be there for at least four days to a week to see the highlights, longer if you really want to get the pulse and the total experience. For North America, it’s truly a continental town that has the Canadian base, but a Euro flair that makes it stand out from other Canuck cities.
One of the interesting elements to Montreal are the “bones” of the 1967 Expo, a souvenir laden moment in time when “Man and his World” was the theme that dazzled visitors to what the future could bring. It was filled with innovations that sped life up, streamlined work, changed the way we communicate and presented ideas in a decade that was bursting with energy already.
The legacy of Expo 67 can still be found in retro souvenirs and still visible are the infrastructure (90 pavillions were built), architecture, art, and one giant island that drew 50+ Million visitors, and was considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th Century.
The most iconic of course was the mammoth geodesic dome created for the United States by Richard Buckminster Fuller. The sphere was constructed from steel and acrylic cells and was 250 feet in diameter. The interior building is four platforms with seven levels. During the ’67 Word Fair, attendance at the pavilion reached 9 million.
One of the mandatory tasks when you are visiting such a target rich environment like Montreal is to souvenir shop, finding fun tokens of love and memories to pass along, hopefully to come across decades later on a shelf or in a box or drawer, when your trip comes flooding back in a wave of nostalgia. We need souvenirs to remind us of the palpable joy and excitement we had, and really NICE souvenirs at that, not the ubiquitous Chinese, mass marketed cookie cutter crapola they sell in every city across the globe it seems.
Meet Katie Brioux, a young graphic designer http://shop.brioux.ca who lives in Montreal and feels the same way about quality keepsakes. She was tired of the cheap tokens you find in every city tourist trap shop, and especially in her beautiful Montreal.
Thinking about something she would want to own, Brioux created a beautiful set of rubber stamps. Now many of you may think, why rubber stamps? But the precision and level of detail that her stamps capture will take you back to the days spent admiring the Place des Arts, Jean Drapeau Park, the Farine Five Roses sign, the George-Étienne Cartier monument and the Montreal métro. Everyone loves a good artsy stamp, and especially kids and those who still love to send letters the old-fashioned way.
We had a few questions for Ms. Brioux:
Monsters and Critics: The most obvious first question is, when and what caused you to think of making unique stamps for the city? Was it in school, or when you were younger?
Katie Brioux: The idea first came from this affinity I have for old Expo ’67 memorabilia.
People who attended the World’s Fair in Montreal each had a small ‘passport’ in which they could collect stamps of each pavilion that they visited. Each stamp was a small icon representing the country, company, theme, etc., that the pavilion was created for.
I’m a graphic designer and I spend a lot of time working with logos or even just thinking about logos and design (super nerdy, I know). I suppose I just thought about what kind of image or logo I felt would best represent certain boroughs and parts of the city now. Initially I created the stamp images just for fun and because of this particular interest, but since then, they’ve developed into an actual little collection which is pretty exciting. Sometimes you can have an idea for a design or art and it doesn’t really go anywhere. Other times it can keep changing and growing — those are the best ideas.
The first time I actually brought the stamps to life was during the Concordia Student Union Orientation week this past fall. I was working there as a graphic designer and thought the passport/stamp idea from Expo was really fun and wanted to incorporate that into the activities. The original stamps have the dates of orientation which is why I modified them when I started selling them on my own, a few months later.
M&C: What place should have made the list that might in a future collection?
KB: Those are all places or things that are very iconic as being very representational of Montreal, to me. I chose some of the most well-known and iconic Montreal landmarks because they are familiar not only to Montrealers, but also to people who may have just been to this city once or twice.
The Farine Five Roses sign is an obvious one because that’s been a piece of Montreal since the late ’40s — It’s a classic, really. Montreal wouldn’t be the same without it! The Mont Royal one, the triangle, is one of my favourites because it’s the George-Étienne-Cartier statue (better known as the Tam Tams meeting place) on Mont Royal. I feel like where the Farine one might resonate better with older adults who remember its history, the Mont Royal one is special to younger people who frequently hang out in the grass at Tams, a typical Sunday in summertime Montreal.
The Parc Jean Drapeau one is kind of a combination of those two concepts because it features the Calder statue ‘L’Homme’, which older adults will remember as a part of Expo ’67, whereas younger Montrealers associate that statue to Piknic Électronik (outdoor music festival which takes place all summer long on Île Sainte-Hélène). The stamps can have more than one specific meaning per location or landmark — that’s why they’re special.
Next ones coming up are: Cote-des-Neiges featuring the Saint Joseph’s Oratory. Technically it’s the largest church in the country so that’s a pretty impressive landmark for Montreal. Others coming up are NDG and Mile End. Not sure when those will be released, but I’m pretty excited about them. Those boroughs have a lot of personality that I’d like to try to capture.
There’s been a few personal requests for the NDG one so it’s cool to receive feedback from people — Montrealers love repping their own boroughs. They’ll be up on the online shop as soon as I finish them!
M&C: When you look at historical ephemera and photos from the 67 Expo, what attraction would you go back in time to check out?
KB: Being 23 years old, I obviously I wasn’t there during Expo ’67… I do think it’s a bit odd to feel so much nostalgia for something I never personally experienced. My Dad collects 16mm films and so I was practically raised watching TV shows or movies from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I mean, I learned how to thread the film projector when I was four years old. So that’s where I think the mid-century nostalgia came from. The ’60s visuals and colours which I was exposed to throughout my childhood definitely had an influence on my design work and overall interests. The ’60s always looked so fresh and colourful, I still watch some of the films taken at Expo ’67 and can’t believe that that was actually real life!
If I could go back to a certain time in history, I would 100% check out Montreal in 1967. All the footage and photos of Expo ’67 blows my mind and it all seems like such a dream to me. There were a lot of things built only for the World’s Fair and they were shortly destroyed after it ended. I would especially have loved to try the Sky Ride which was kind of like a ski-lift pod which carried you across the Dolphin Lake at La Ronde.
The Monorail ride which traveled inside the Geodesic Dome also looks like something straight out of a science-fiction flick. Lastly, just all the child-like architecture throughout the entire fair really gets me. The 3D trees from the Pulp and Paper pavillion have inspired me a lot, as well as the colourful geometric shapes and sculptures surrounding the attractions at La Ronde are particularly stunning to me. I think they really embody this sense of purity and wonder which just made people happy. I love finding tiny pieces of leftover Expo ’67 symbols and logos around the city, makes it feel like such a special place.
M&C: Do you think you will expand this to other deserving spots in Canada and perhaps the USA? Vancouver to Nova Scotia and beyond? On a small craft artisan scale? Or if you ratchet up production based on demand, will you insist on them being made in Canada?
KB: For now this is a Montreal only project. I’ve had a few people approach me and ask that same question and honestly, I don’t think it would mean the same. I started with Montreal boroughs and landmarks because they mean a lot to me, personally. I think that if I started these stamps for every major city in Canada or even expanding to the United States, it might lose its meaning — I’ve never been to Vancouver and so who am I to pick ‘the most iconic places’ of that city? I just think I’d feel like a phony, to be honest. However, if there was a graphic designer from Vancouver who wanted to contribute or collaborate… I’d be more than open to that idea! I think that it’s important, especially with a project like this, to keep it sentimental and real. That’s where the value is.
M&C: Your surname is French, and you live in Montreal, are you bilingual too?
KB: Yes, I am bilingual! And so proud to be. My mom is a French teacher and so my brother and I were put into all-French schools in Ontario as kids and so we grew up speaking French and English interchangeably. It’s a fantastic asset to have, I definitely am thankful I can speak at least two languages, especially living in Montreal.
M&C: So, as you well know, your dad, Bill Brioux (http://www.brioux.tv/), is a wonderful TV historian along with being a television critic too. What classic Canadian TV series you enjoyed growing up is one that we Americans need to discover?
KB: Wow, that’s probably the hardest question yet! It’s true, I grew up watching all kinds of TV with my dad, Canadian and American. I suppose the most Canadian TV I watched was when I was really, really little, on TVO Kids or YTV Canada.
Those two stations were the only ones I knew and cared about. To be honest, I don’t really watch that much television anymore, save for a few shows which I watch via the Internet (yeah, I’m part of that generation). One thing that I can recommend that I recently got hooked on that’s neither Canadian nor American is Sherlock (BBC), which I find to be more captivating and quirky than the American version, Elementary.I guess that doesn’t really answer your question though… I’d say any further questions about Canadian Televison can be directed at Bill Brioux, he knows an infinite amount of information on that subject!
Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.