Spade on The Street – Free Pizza Mike, Pizza Critic

Okay, but seriously… who doesn’t love pizza?

I could divulge a load of romanticized sentiments about thin crusts, stringy melted cheese, pineapple vs. no pineapple, and it would be beautiful and mouth-watering, but let’s keep it simple and be sound in this unanimous understanding:

Pizza rocks. However you like to eat it.

The goal of Spade on The Street, as you all know of course, is to create a platform in which those who are living their passion can inspire and share with others what it means to live, love and do their schtick.

For Michael Robert Adams Brodie, A.K.A., Free Pizza Mike, that schtick is pizza!
As a lover of everything to do with this notorious baked-and-topped flatbread, founded in Naples, Italy, Mike is presently pursuing his dream of becoming ‘the most famous Pizza Critic on the face of the Universe’, as he puts it. As far as I am concerned, I believe he is well on his way to accomplishing this goal.

So far, his travels have lead him to enjoy pizza from:

  • Manhattan
  • Tokyo
  • Chicago
  • Vatican City
  • Barcelona
  • London

Currently, he is eating and enjoying pizza right here in Toronto, Canada. By channelling his enthusiasm and talents for drawing and cartooning, the world was introduced to Free Pizza Mike on Instagram. By utilizing a sketchbook, tech pens, 128 pencil crayons and a phone with a camera, his account relays daily doses of humour and hunger alike though meditative pizza doodles, pet cats, pizza puns and of course, Mike’s personal critique of the city’s best pizza. Mike has also created a similar and noble project of his own, entitled Home Town Heros (seen on Instagram), where he barters his wonderful drawing skills in an effort to support the entrepreneurial community and generate cross promotion.

Mike and I were lucky to spend two afternoon at Maker Pizza, enjoying a scrumptious pepperoni pie during our first visit, and then probably the best chicken pizza I’ve ever eaten during our second visit (I’m not kidding, we were both very much impressed). Piping hot goodness only added to the pleasure of hearing about his upcoming endeavours within the pizza critic realm, including a charity fundraising event to raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy Canada, which will be launched at the end of April 2017. As per protocol, I created for him a collection of cool bracelets in exchange for my very own Free Pizza Mike cartoon portrait and mech adventure doodle, which are both presently on display in my jewellery studio.

In his downtime when he is not eating pizza, he enjoys classic pastimes and indulgences such as high school rugby (“Go TROJANS!”), Super Mario Kart for Super Nintendo, Kelly Gruber and the 92′ Toronto Blue Jays, Weezer – Blue and Pink Album, The Lion King, Season 8 of the Simpsons (I have to whole-heartedly agree with him on this one. BEST season, for sure), hot yoga and running very fun Marathons.

Oh… and in case you’re wondering what kind of pizza his favorite is?
It’s plain cheese.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about your craft?

FPM: Easy, eating pizza.

After that it would be eating pizza with friends.  Being the world’s most famous pizza critic can get pretty lonely.  I’m lucky enough to have super big group of friends who always wanna grab a slice.

I got a good friend in Frank Furlano a.k.a. Frank the Pizza Tank.  Frank’s a 20 year old Video Game lover who has Muscular Dystrophy.  We got a pretty good mission statement going –  “Frank the Pizza Tank and his side kick Free Pizza Mike are two Internet celebrities bustin’ bad guys for a chance to have a slice of pizza with Selena Gomez.”  It’s gonna be fun.

I’m looking forward to discovering all the ways we can use pizza to save the world.  This month we’re holding THE LOCAL PIZZA PARTY.  A charity event raising money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy Canada.   I’m collaborating with Lululemon, yeahhhaa it’s gonna be off the hook.  We are gettin’ all the fun celebrities to come.  CFL Players, The National Ballet of Canada, tons of Toronto Fashion designers and Video Game Makers.  Also there will be pizza.

Sorry I was rambling.  Did I even answer the question?  Ummmmmmm……Pizza, Friends, Laughter, Fighting Evil and Charity.  Ya, that’s the most rewarding part of my job.  Boom.

Home Town Heros with Free Pizza Mike

A grand, glorious, and gigantic package of gratitude and good vibes goes out to @freepizzamike for a wonderful #HomeTownHeros session at @makerpizza where we exchanged hillarious and awesome art for in-house custom-made bracelets, ate an ooowy-goowy pepperoni pie, and got his photos all fired up for his upcoming #SpadeOnTheStreet segment!

Home Town Heros feature can be found here!

I traded some funky, rustic (rustico? *chuckles*) bracelets for some SWEEEET art!

Keep your eyes peeled for Mike’s upcoming segment and check out his Insta for my instalation of Home Town Heros, Meditative Pizza Doodles, and his critiques on some of the city’s best pizza!

Spade On The Street – Alberto Jossue, Toronto-Based DJ/Producer

We can all think of someone—or several someones—who we know that no matter the circumstances of our lives, whether up or down, these people just make you feel fantastic. Not to mention, they have this effect on others. Many others. Gosh, there’s just something innately magnetising about them, and they occupy the right chemical make-up that makes for a human being that makes you laugh, make you think, makes you feel good, and makes you want to have fun. And what is having fun without a soundtrack to go along with it? Yeah, not as much fun.

It isn’t an uncommon practice; I (like more people) bond effortlessly with people who enjoy, listen to, play, and share good music. It’s the focus of this Spade on the Street segment that I have for you all today.

Toronto is notoriously prominent for its outstanding contributions, innovation, export, creation, and expression of music. Renowned for our concerts, annual festivals (everything from NXNE, Camp Wavelength, Turf, The Jazz Festival, and Digital Dreams to name a few), and with a long long list of music venues, the talent emerging and established in T.O. are second to none. A person who is very much a part of this emerging talent is our focus of today’s feature, DJ/Producer Alberto Jossue.

Born in Lima, Peru, he spent some time living in the U.S., to which he eventually settled in Toronto. For as long as I have known him, music has been in the forefront of everything that motivates, inspires, and move him, and he is described as a “master storyteller in his musical compilations” while currently holding residencies with his personal project White Label Promo, as well as NEST Toronto, Cabal Toronto, Spark, Secret Society and Summerdaze. His first EP Moon Dance on 3XA Music cracked the top 20 progressive releases on Beatport earlier this year, and it’s success has propelled him into becoming one of Toronto’s top House and Techno DJs/Producers. Watching this journey unfold for him has been remarkably impressive and exciting, with upcoming performance by him at Senseless Music Experience at the Evergreen Brickworks, and Electric Island, both here in Toronto.

Alberto and I got to hang out last month around the 15th for his session, and as per usually, MAN, what a delight the day was. Alberto and I have been friends for nearly 10 years now, having shared many a Puckish adventure, with my favourites always involving music, be it a discussion, a jam with keys and a guitar, a night out dancing, a documentary (Hendrix was a favourite), or a listening session. After his interview, which was carried out with the suspension of his own chromatic and mind-bending beats playing with liquid flow in the background, he insists we listen to Moon Shaped Pool, the latest album by Radiohead, a huge favourite of his. I had not heard the whole thing yet, and he jumps right into the one song they have only ever played live, and never released until now, called “True Love Waits”. Rather than an acoustic love ballad, Thom Yorke’s voice floats over lucid and light piano that overlaps like river splashes, sunk down deep at times, and standing every hair on your arms straight up when you also rationalise the beauty that this 2 decade-old song has been given. I spent the week after weeping heavy, wet tears everytime I listened to it. It is the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. Anyway, this listening session was followed by good laughs, a hearty lunch and pint at Otto’s Berlin Doner, to which it wrapped up with some stellar photos.

Upon arrival howbeit, earlier in the day, we found ourselves sitting down in his studio, as he simultaneously answers phone calls, eats a yogurt and fruit, and burns a piece of smudge-like wood from Peru, filling the room with loamy, medicinal smoke to clear out the bad juju, all the while polishing up a collaboration project on his laptop.  His beats are going, we get to interviewing, and he wastes no time morphing into ‘master story teller’:


NS – What inspired you to want to get into music?

AJ – See there’s different parts… different events that come to mind… first event would have been the discovery of guitar, which stemmed from my family. One of my aunts who raised me, saw my curiosity with my dad’s guitar, which I was not allowed to touch. And she was the one who introduced me to it, so we did three cords, and that changed my life. Then, once I lived in Canada shortly after that, I remember vividly discovering Green Day and Nirvana and more punk-grunge-geared rock bands, while in elementary school, and translating those three cords that I knew. Between that moment, and Canada, there was a time where I was still into other stuff like surfing, sports, hanging out with my friends, getting into trouble, but those three cords came into play again when I discovered that type of music with that sort of passionate angst that I was feeling at the time. And I figured out that those three cords were essentially the three most used cords in that type of music.

I began to figure out how to play those punk cords on my own. And as soon as I started to realise that I could play the music that I was listening to, it became an obsession to learn all of my favourite music. For 5 more years after that I went back to Peru, and I made a whole bunch of friend in my neighbourhood when I was living back there again, and a lot of them played guitar, that had a lot more experience than me, and that’s when I discovered playing with people. We got together and made a list of all those classic, amazing tracks like Nothing Else Matter — Metalica, Starway to Heaven — Led Zeplin, Hotel California – The Eagles, you know those epic, epic guitar jams, and we locked ourselves up for an entire summer to learn them. And we learned them from top to bottom. That was one of the most prideful moments for me, where I said to myself, this is it. This is what making music feels like, minus the ‘coming-up-with’ part so those are the three things that sparked my desire to perform… playing those songs with my friends while drinking at the park. Translate that into DJing, and it’s literally the same thing. I am performing other people’s music with my twist for my friends, but this time in a way bigger venue, and with a lot more friends.


Figuring out what career path you want to pursue in life, more often than not, can be somewhat of a challenge. We look at our situation and do our best to take the necessary steps in order to walk down the road towards our career goals. Naturally, obstacles can sometimes get in the way, but with your goal in mind, you push on and take a different road. Alberto went on to discuss having to shift your mindset, remain dedicated to what you believe, and how it began with his enrolment with the Toronto Institute of Technology.


AJ – I did audio engineering there. I figured I would try to make a career out of that. I was never really interested in school. I was good at things, but I was lucky enough to know who I was was when I was very young, and knew I would be miserable if I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I live my life doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, because I only have right now. That could get you into a lot of trouble. You make a lot of mistakes in life, but those mistakes are great because you did things exactly how you wanted. Every time, all the time.

NS – You’re being integral to yourself

AJ – Yeah! I try to make the best out of my life. If I go and spend a day doing something I don’t want to do, I feel like I just wasted a day of my life, and when I’m on my deathbed, whenever that comes, that’s one more day I could have had. That’s the way I see it, that’s the philosophy.


He went on to talk about the struggles of trying to make it in such a competitive industry. Toronto is a place that oozes cool, and with all due respect to my hometown, it’s a blessing and a curse at times. Alberto shares what it means to try and find a beacon to stand within and get people to listen, especially in a city that is both beautifully and predictably equidistant in all that is modish and with-it. He goes on to discuss his involvement and his transitioning into DJing:


AJ – I began DJing seven years ago. You were there, through my learning days, I was finished audio engineering school, and ironically it was right in the boom of MP3s and uStreams, and so it destroyed the industry.

Every studio that I worked with, either went broke, shut down, or had gone completely bankrupt. So there were no jobs. So I had to work shitty jobs that I hated. But I had to pay my bills, and trying to find myself, since I couldn’t be an audio engineer, which is what I had envisioned. And so I said, “Well, back to artist it is!”. I was always a big fan of electronic music. I loved it. And I was always the guy getting into a car saying “Yo, check out this CD… listen to these 8 new tracks that I found that were amazing.”

NS – *Laughs* sounds familiar.

AL – *laughs* Right? So I was already DJing and I didn’t even know it. I’d get into a car and I’d say “Listen to this! Listen to this!” and that’s what inspired me to get everything started. It had to naturally come to you. If your subconscious and impulse is… as soon as you hear something amazing, and you want share that with someone, just to see a reaction and guess how it’s going to make a person feel, and to actually be satisfied from doing that, then you are naturally a DJ. The problem now a days is too many people have been looking at their TV and computer screens for the past 7 or 8 years and saying “That’s a cool thing to do!” “Oh, look at that guy, he’s the center of attention. He’s the party guy. All the girls want him. He’s travelling all over the place…” And that is what people are taking in, and developing the passion after seeing it done. Some don’t start with that passion, they sort of develop it later on, and at the same time, we get an influx of people who not organically attached to it. When we got started, and I’m talking about my generation, and the generations before us… there was no hype. There was no media, it wasn’t on TV, it wasn’t on the radio, it wasn’t on the internet, or Facebook. It was in a warehouse. It was in an underground club. It was, you had to hear about it, and then you had to be there, and nobody was filming it with their phone…

NS – You’re absolutely right, and there is a difference when people realise that.

AJ – I like to think I’m lucky enough to have been one of those guys who knew how turntables works, who went to raves since the age of 17… I’m listening to all of these different artists, I’m making CDs with 20 different genres of music on it, and they’re all great, and little by little, I started this. That’s what drove me into it.


So, our conclusion and the continuation of his perspective on the industry was upon us at this time, and a candid and simple transition of thought and feeling rounded down to this:


NS – What is most rewarding about your craft?

AJ – To be honest… the most rewarding things is I get to do what I want to do. And I’m not spending my days wondering who I’m going to be. I know who I am. I think that’s the most rewarding thing for me personally. Professionally, I get to push good music. Whether it’s an undiscovered artist or someone huge, I have an audience now of people who I can introduce to an alternative to, in contrast to the hollow things that they’re being presented by the media, by radio, and by everyone. DJs are musical freedom fighters. We’re fighting a machine that we can’t possibly beat. You know… *laughs* I’m trying to stay away from classifying genres and specific artists. I don’t want to say negative things about certain artists, but it’s a fight! It really is!

We look at a city like Toronto… Toronto is a very trendy city. It’s amazing because, it’s got everything in it, but it’s very trendy. Toronto loves whatever’s hot. But what I feel as a Torontonian myself… I’ve been here for 14 years, I consider myself a Torontonian… is there is a lot of stuff that’s hard! Right now, we’re on the center of the map. Toronto’s like “WOAH”… We got Drake, we got The Weeknd, it’s like wow, this is crazy, you know what I mean? But there is just so much more. There is so much music coming out of this city, let alone all over the world… there are artist that somehow are still sitting in their rooms like I am right now with my studio gear, and they’re making noise, and they need that push. That’s the DJ’s responsibility. I find that what is rewarding to me as a DJ is I get to help those artists that deserve the break. We walk into a room and we get to decide what these 600 or 100 or 8000 people get to listen to. They’re there for a memorable night. They’re paying money hoping to have a great story the next day to take with them, and I get to put the soundtrack to that. Let’s face it; your best party days are your best memories. So, you get to give them the soundtrack to that time, and you get to chose what artists get that honour. That’s huge. That’s a huge responsibility and it’s so rewarding. It happens every time, where someone goes up to the booth and goes “What is that??” “Dude, what are you doing to me??” “What are you playing???” and you say “Oh, you know it’s A, B, and C from some basement in Switzerland, and he needs your help so buy his fucking records.” And now you’ve just created a fan for someone else’s records. They might have never made the connection if the DJ wasn’t there.

Last but not lease, the last reward is just to where your from. Your city. You’re contributing culturally. I like to think that my music evokes feeling, evokes spirit, it makes you smile, it makes you close your eyes and enjoy life. It makes you forget about your problems. If we DJs do that for people who are coming every weekend to hear us, we are contributing to the growth of our communities and to our culture. A person goes on with their day after being inspired by what they hear at that show, or the podcast they just listened to. And now they’re spreading that positivity and that good feeling to other people. They’re being happy. That’s huge.

That’s what all does it for me. I gave you a loaded answer, but it was a loaded question.

Spade On The Street – Tom Archer, International Travel & Wedding Photographer

What would seeing the world mean to you if you could see it all?

What if there were no limitations to the places you could go? The adventures you could have? The people you could meet? The things you could see? If you could climb the tallest mountains, or visit some of the harshest landscapes… how would it change you? How would it shape you? How would it shape your view of the world? They say that the greatest relationship you should ever have is with yourself, and in order for it to be fulfilling, you have to nourish it. What better way to do that then to broaden your horizons, and willingly partake in all the world has to offer. The reverence, and the respect that I have for anyone with integral, unadulterated wanderlust, is whole and unconditional. To those who make a career out of it… a living out of it… a lifestyle… you are inspirations to those who may perhaps feel obliged or stuck in their own routines and societal expectation. A spirit full of genuine adventure animates our own bravery and reminds people that nothing is impossible.

This special Spade on the Street piece is happy to highlight its first international submission. I feel honoured to feature in this latest segment yet another outstanding artist and friend within the realm of photography, Travel and Wedding Photographer, Tom Archer.

As per his penchants for traveling, I met Tom and his family almost ten years ago while vacationing in the Caribbean. Hopping on a plane and venturing off to far and distant destinations has been in his blood for as long as I have had the pleasure of knowing him.  Having grown up in a small village in Essex, UK (about 2 hours north of London) he showed a big interest in drawing from a very early age, eventually getting into photography in his early 20’s whilst travelling the world. He began a career as a Police Officer at the age of 21, and went on to do that for the next three years, eventually quitting in order to travel, spending 2.5 years away from home, further solidifying his passion for photography. That was 6 years ago, and he has been doing this ever since.

Like myself, Tom is self-taught in his craft, which I find singularly marvellous, as he is UNBELIEVEABLY talented. It truly does blow my mind what he does with a Nikon D810 and a Nikon D750, his favourite lenses being a 24 – 70mm f2.8, and 70 – 200mm.

Tom has created some of the most outstanding photography that I have ever seen. His wedding photography is, by far, the most romantic, magical, and transcendent images of love that truly do leave a person in awe. Incredibly, he has shot weddings on 5 different continents.

Check out all of Tom’s outstanding photos on Facebook, Instagram, and on his absolutely superb website.

I would also like to thank him and his equally talented girlfriend Julia for taking the liberty of shooting and submitting such wonderful photos for this very special segment, as traveling to the UK was, sadly, not an option for me at the moment. Nonetheless, I am grateful and excited for Tom’s globe-trotting inspiration. He has certainly planted many a seed. Let’s see how quickly they sprout.


Q – What is most rewarding about your craft?

TA – There are many things I love about photography and I could write an essay talking about them all. My main love though is capturing that moment in a freeze frame that will last forever. I think you get so caught up in moments (whether it be witnessing an amazing sunset or marrying the love of your life), that you don’t get the chance to stop and appreciate it. Photography freezes that moment and makes it last forever so you can go back and experience it again and again. Every time I see the smile on a bride and grooms face as they go through their wedding photos it makes me realise why I love what I do so much.

As you know I love to travel and shoot weddings all over. I think I have been to 78 countries now. I love to keep fit, I love to explore, to read, and to watch films. My room is full of books which I never have enough time to read! I taught myself photography and learnt from studying famous photographers’ work and by shadowing a couple of photographers at a couple of weddings. Oh, I have an obsession with ice cream too and eat way too much!

Spade On The Street- Nick Wons, Freelance Toronto Photographer

There is something to be said about trying to share a bit of a person’s story when that story is far too vast to narrow down. That something is, “It’s hard”. How does one try to encapsulate the magnitude of experience had by someone who has spent their every moment treading in an alloy of expedition and adventure? It is certainly not easy. Where do you begin, really?

Today, I’m here to introduce to you Freelance Toronto Photographer, Nick Wons.

If you live in Toronto and are part of one of its thousands of creative communities, you understand that the dynamic of these collectives are always very close knit, in the sense that everyone knows everyone, or knows someone who knows someone. Networking and creative comradery is something I find very special about this city. Emersion into the population of whatever niche you are involved in is to meet creative individuals of all walks of life. And more often than not, you cross paths with someone with such a profoundly grande, impactful, and unforgettable dynamism. If you know someone of this calibre, you know what their presence is like; step asides, all Alphas in the room, because the commander and chief has been designated.

Raw, open, pulsating… this person is like the lava stream you can’t peal your eyes from while watching from the solid rock bed that surrounds, catching the heat as they move. And if you know Nick, or have seen his work, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The dude’s blood is T.O+, therefore he encompass this rhythmical combination of Homespun Urban Animus, Gentleman Rapscallion, and a Wicked Sage Rudeboy. He’s hard to forget.

Our own meeting dates back to the beloved days of Loaded Fridays at Inside, Down One Lounge, and when Toronto Jungle was a Nina Spade staple. It takes a certain type of respected, genetic debauchery to keep up with it, and I’ve since understandably bowed out of the lucid scene aspect. Nonetheless, I will forever remain, at heart (and through my Sol Republic’s and bright orange bandanas), a ‘ginjie junglist’.

Nick gracefully and vociferously commands the Drum N Bass community here in Toronto, as well as frequents the Montreal scene, capturing titillating events on his DSLR, and charming comrades with his jocularity. With a sizeable creative projects and collaborations catalogue, he has experienced working with some of the City’s finest. The inventory can include the likes of TELEFILM Canada, TIFF, ETalk Canada, Montreal Gazette, Narcity Toronto, and more.  His talent has lead him to shoot the likes of Skrillex, Action Bronson, Bag of Trix Crew, and an extended list of celebrities, musicians, and performers, claiming to “feel at home” amidst the hustle and bustle of events, festivals, night clubs, and red carpet events. And for me to sit here and attempt to list his credentials is not possible. He has, successfully and masterfully, done so much.

One thing that I must certainly make mention of, is his magic on social media. Dubbing himself ‘The Puddle King’, Nick probes Toronto neighbourhoods, armed with his gear, to shoot the fabric of our City, having a particular fondness for puddles and reflections. His Instagram (@nwons) is a marvel that must be followed, as well as his additional social media on Facebook and Twitter. Also, be sure to check out his photo collaborations with Eckhart Soul, ANSER, and Vice x Virtue.

I met up with Nick in late October to not only shoot his segment, but to also discuss what I feel is a true testament to his creative savvy and capability: His involvement with Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s annual all-night celebration and multi-exhibition of art installations. Its exhibitors includes well-known, independent, local, and international artists, and our 2015 edition featured the likes of Inside Out Project artist, JR, having installed one of the top 5 featured exhibits of the evening. Nick was selected to shoot JR’s installation, and over a beer, and followed by a righteous meal at Barsa Taberna in Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence district, we discussed precisely how he was able to land the gig.

And so, Spade On The Street’s first interview segment was born.


Nina – So tell me about the shoot you did for Nuit Blanche, how did everything unfold? How did you manage to get that gig?

Nick – First off, I hate heights. Absolutely hate heights. So I have been shooting for The City of Toronto for 5 years now. This year, JR was one of this year’s featured artists and so they gave us the option to choose, and I had missed the boat on asking who I wanted to shoot. I want to shoot JR, and they said well unfortunately, it has been filled, and I was like, uh! I love his work, I follow it all, they said okay, let’s see what we can do, maybe we can speak with the photographer, and try to switch it up. I was like, awesome. So, we go in for a briefing, and in my head, I pictured that they were going to do something there, at city hall, because if you ever look at JR’s work, it’s always shot from above, and it is always big scale. Initially, their plan was to project images that he had shot ONTO Nathan Phillip Square, so there was originally no wheat paste installation, so hearing that, it crushed my hopes and said, you know… I figured that there’s sure to be something cool I can get out there on social media. It wasn’t until the night before Nuit Blanche that… okay, I get on my social media, as always… get on my Instagram, Scotiabank is one of the people I follow, so I see them on my feed, and they post, “Getting Ready In Nathan Phillip Square.” And they show a photo of wheat paste being put down on the ground with people’s portraits that JR had been doing.

Nina – And that’s when you found out about the change in presentation.

Nick – Exactly. So I was like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’ I mean, this was 8 o’clock at night, the night before… city hall is closed. And I need to try and get in touch with the right person ASAP because I need to get access to shoot this from above, because I know the angle, and there’s the fact that they are using a wet liquid to apply these portraits of people onto the ground… If you’re lighting it from 360 degrees the way that they did, you’re not going to shoot a single image of the installation that won’t have light reflecting off and glaring in your face at some point in the photo. So I was like, okay… I need to go to the roof. I put together an email and I emailed the reps at City of Toronto and told them-

Nina – This is the night before?

Nick –  The night before, yes! So I said something like, I know that this is crazy last minute… at this point now, I think it might have even been 10pm the night before… knowing me… anyway, *laughs* so I said “We have got to get this shot. I just saw what Scotia Bank posted, this NEEDS to be documented from above, no ifs, ands, or buts.” They get back to me and mentioned shooting it from a window, but the windows have on them this… anti-bird-whacking material….

Nina – *laughs*

Nick – You know, that stuff on the windows, they’re like these little dots that are inches apart…

Nina – ‘Avian repellant’.

Nick- Yeah! So there’s no way you can shoot a photo through that window without getting at least one of these dots in your photo. I tell them again, this is the situation, this is what I need… I can’t be speaking to security, and they tell me I can only shoot this from a window. I CAN’T shoot this from a window, it NEEDS to be unobscured. I got a reply telling me they’d see what they can do. No promises, but we’ll see. And I said “Okay…. do what you can…. but at the end of the day? THIS is going to be the shot you want. And it will be the shot that, if you don’t get it, you’re never going to get it again, and you will regret that you never got it. And it’s always going to be one of those moments…”

Nina – Precisely.

Nick – I like to NOT have those moments in my life.

Nina – *laughs*

Nick – so at least I said something about it. My email was sent off to officials. We didn’t get a reply until 2 in the afternoon, day of Nuit Blanche. I needed to be on location, and shooting at 7pm. In 5 hours from then, I had to be at city hall, get up there, and shoot it. So the shot is taken at about 7:30-8:00 at night. And man, it was just so awesome. After I sent my final shot to them, I was like “and here you go”. I gave it to them that night, and said “I told you, it would be awesome.”

Nina – But it really was awesome.

Nick – Thank you. So that opened up to me asking them, “So, now that I’ve done this at night, can I shoot up there during the day?” And that is one really valuable thing that I have learned too, from this experience… you really don’t know what you can get away with until you ASK.

Nina – Absolutely. And that’s truly great advice.

Nick – Yeah, and I think that a lot of people are afraid to ask in many cases and it’s like, sure you can try to go about other ways of doing things, whether you’re exploring buildings or… I actually know somebody who’s a rooftop photographer in Toronto…. VERY controversial…. And instead of putting himself in a position where he could be charged with things like mischief, or a break-and-enter, he asks, you know? If you have a criminal charge on you, you can be indicted for anything in America, for instance, if you want to cross the border, and if you get a charge and you go to the states, they’ll say ‘we don’t want your kind here.” Anyway, so I ask, and I’ve got a lot of places that I have been permitted access too. I can’t talk about it right now, it’s confidential, but I got the permission to. I asked. They are high profile places that have been shot in the past, but the people who organize everything aren’t pleased with the shots that they have-

Nina – And they’re entrusting you to take new photos because they know you have the know-how, and know how good your work is.

Nick – I got a portfolio to show for it. I’m not just a dude with a camera. I’m actually a skilled professional who wants to come in and document it and make it worth your while.


Nina – One of the things that I was having a look at was other photographers from Toronto who are similar to the ones we’re talking about—rooftop-photographers. Those men and women who grab their cameras and scout the city for those perfect shots. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is there are similarities in their chosen locations. I do see a difference between your own style, and everyone else’s of course when you’re shooting the same locations. What do YOU think differentiates yourself from those who shoot like you, or maybe even mimic your method?

Nick – Hmm, interesting. Um. I mean, image wise, it’s tough to say. I don’t think there is much that differentiates me, other than it’s my personality. It’s my style and assets, you know. We have different editing techniques of course, I do try to look at things differently that the next guy… whether it’s my puddles, or my reflection shots, which is something I’ve really sort of become known for now. That’s the thing, it’s like it’s certainly my personality because I deal with clients and image wise… I get to tell MY story. I kind of share the way I see things and the way the world is the way I look at it. And we have all walked different paths, and if my photos are something that people can attach themselves to, and really appreciate and get a FEELING out of them–

Nina – Do you enjoy that there is this sort of ubiquitous connection between Toronto photographers?

Nick – Yeah!

Nina – There’s sort of a connected community there.

Nick – Totally. There is. I mean, there’s a lot of really good people out there shooting. Sometimes there’s a lot of ego, but when you strip it down, there are some really good people in the photography community in Toronto, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of them, and MORE as time goes on of course. Instagram has actually been a big one for me. Instagram has connected me with SO many Toronto photographers. It’s crazy. I’m going out this Saturday with four photographers I meet at a shoot for a clothing company that I got in contact with because they started liking my photos, and gave me a bunch of stuff to shoot people in. Instagram is a great tool. A picture speaks a thousand words. I mean, that’s more than I can fit in a Twitter 140 character limitation. Twitter doesn’t speak to me *laughs*. But Instagram does. Instagram is my twitter.

Nina – So here is the golden question: What is most rewarding about your craft?

Nick – The power that an image can have. That’s huge. It can invoke such a wide, wide, wide range of emotions. If a photo is personal, it can bring back so many memories, good and bad. To a person knowing the situation regarding a photo, and have a tie to the image, or even people who never had any connection with anybody in the image, or the situation…. I’ve lost a lot of friends in my life. I’ve been grateful to have been able to photograph a bunch of the friends that I’ve lost. After they pass, you know, it sounds really terrible to say it, but people don’t really learn the value of images of people until they’re dead. And it’s that sort of thing, you know… to see friends, family, loved ones… you use your images as an anchor. It’s something that can be grounding, and bring back good memories. It’s something people can come back to. I mean, that is incredible…. Wow…. I’m at a loss for words now even thinking about it… you know, images like that are better than any magazine spread, better than any paycheque…. It’s like that joke meme that goes, “I’m a photographer: My superpower is I make people immortal.” That whole thing really rings true when the sad things happen. And, of course, the GOOD things. I tell people “I’m going shoot you right now, you know. You’re never going to age. This place is never going to change in this photo. I’m going to capture this moment, and we are going to come back to it always.” Everything is going to stay the exact same. I’m able to capture, for a lot of people, including myself, a lot of emotion. The ability to be able to lock that down for people and give them that-

Nina – To take a finite moment and make it infinite…

Nick – Yes, I take seconds and I push them out for eternity. Not even seconds…. One two-hundredths of a second. One one-thousandth of a second! That power is just unreal. It pays the soul, which is most important. Its stuff like that that makes me keep doing what I do.

Spade On The Street – Benjamin Tillmann, Visual FX Artist

The beauty and wonder of films and animation can take you on adventures that go well beyond a story; the composition and construction of the visuals behind what is on the big screen are obviously paramount in the delivery of a motion picture, and should evoke a ubiquitous sense of being very much a part of the unfolding feature. They are an escape from the redundancy of life. Film is a beloved, magical art that is ever evolving, always expanding with new innovations and technology, and continues to capture humanity’s heart after decades of uncanny and spellbinding amelioration.

I give credit to Ben Tillmann on being what I like to call an expert on the subject. Truth be told, I also give him credit for being one of the most multi talented and adventurous individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. A few of his credentials include lighting and composition for numerous animated films (a personal favorite of mine being the Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov produced animated film 9). And whether it’s racing competitively with the Canadian Dragons in Tanjong Beach, Sentosa, to indulging in his penchants for travel and photography, he is an inspiring person who truly is living life to the fullest, utilizing his incredible gifts, and following his dreams. After not seeing him for over a year, I was lucky to be able to spend a day with him during his current visit to Toronto this week, allowing for not only the occasion to catch up with the person who I have affectionately coined my ‘Pen Pal’ –a catch up inevitably includes a fair bit of fun, an equally fair amount of eating, and a venture to the cinema–, but also allowing for the opportunity to relay to all you Nina Spade Studio Fans his Spade On The Street segment.

Thank you Ben for your contribution to the Spade Blog. Continue to inspire those you encounter in life with your vivacious and artistic spirit.

Q: What is most rewarding about your craft?

BT: “– Entertaining and transporting people to other worlds — even if only for a few hours — and possibly even inspiring them in the process if I’m lucky —

…And that I am constantly learning and becoming better at what I do on a daily basis.
……And that I get to use both sides of my brain.

Okay, there are lots of reasons why I do what I do for a living. Most of it has to do with the fact that I’m still a kid at heart and even though I’m not telling my own stories, or in complete creative control of the projects I work on, I do get to be part of a team that creates worlds. Worlds which have the potential to inspire the imagination of children, both young and old, on a daily basis, in all corners of the earth. It can be pretty staggering and humbling when I actually sit down and think about it.

I also get to work with bleeding edge technology. So bleeding edge that when I’m not troubleshooting tools/proprietary software designed by our studio, I’m testing the possibilities of new tools from other companies months before they’ll hit the general population. It forces me to constantly be evolving as an artist and pushes me to be better today than I was yesterday and even better tomorrow. It also has me constantly switching between left and right brain thinking so I don’t have to abandon the technical and problem solving side of life which I get a kick out of to fully pursue my artistic dreams.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that I’m a visual fx artist (lighting TD/compositor/surfacing artist) for ILM/LucasFilm working in their feature division.

— Capturing the beauty in a split second of time before it’s gone forever —

These days, when I’m not at work, I’m most passionate about my photography. Especially when I’m on vacation. I don’t buy souvenirs. They don’t actually represent the emotions I’m feeling or the emotions of the location I’m in. You can’t reduce a person or a sunset or an ancient buddhist temple down to a piece of plastic. It’s just not possible. Especially in Asia where every market seems to have the exact same souvenirs on display outside of stand after stand after stand. Even a photograph doesn’t capture the true beauty of the moment, but at least it can capture a small taste of what I was feeling or what my subject was going through at that exact point in time. And I’m getting better with each picture I take too.  Maybe one day I’ll actually be able to snap a photo and think to myself, ‘yes, this is the entire moment, encapsulated in a single frame of time’.

(*cough* shameless self advertising *cough*)

— Escaping for a moment —

Moving to Singapore forced me to quit my band and, in an instant, leave that entire world behind me. It was one of the hardest things I had to do when I moved out here  Music is an intricate part of my life and has been for as long as I can remember. I have no idea how old I was when my parents signed me up for piano lessons, but I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t play. Although I no longer get the adrenaline kick I got from entertaining a room full of strangers — or an empty room with a single person, depending on the night — I still play bass and guitar several times a month, usually after a long day at work, or during a rare lull on weekends, to escape from whatever is currently holding me down in reality. Losing myself to rhythm and chords and sound and not having to think, but rather just do is almost more rewarding than any of my other artistic releases. Plus, I’ll occasionally be lucky enough to have a friend or two within earshot that I get to entertain as a small added bonus.

— Seeing my thoughts expressed on the page —

Which is evident by how much I’ve already written. I started writing when I moved to Singapore as a one way conversation with my family and friends back home. That way they could go through the experience with me even though they weren’t experiencing it themselves. It’s almost been 3 years now and I still write almost every night. I’d like to think I’ve gotten better, and that I actually have followers on tumblr leads me to believe I’m not half bad. Although I really don’t do it for anyone other than myself. It is totally 100% self serving and I’m okay with that.  It’s actually gotten to the point where I’m legitimately coming up with ideas for screenplays and/or novels, but that would require putting the blog on hold…”


Mixing a Wee Bit of Business With Pleasure – Nina Spade Meets Producer & DJ, Jon Gooch

I’ve decided to take this entry down a different route today, relaying one of my many adventures in jewelry making with a social twist.

I never enter contests. Ever. When you’re as busy as I am, the opportunity to hear about an intriguing event or opportunity can sometimes pass me by. That, and I just never have motivation to make the effort. It’s such a fleeting thing to me, contests.

I have three BIG passions in life; exploring/creating art (particularly jewelry, of course), food… and music.
I’m an audiophile; From indie to drum and bass, classical to bhangra, jazz to reggae… you name it, I listen to it. Ask anyone who’s close to me what would happen if I ever lost my iPod. And having been trained classically on piano with the RCM, I even tried my hand at being a keyboardist for a heavy metal band when I was in college, which was glorious fun.

Long story short… One of my favorite artists in the so-called ‘dance’ genre is a gentleman by the name of Jon Gooch, AKA Feed Me, AKA Spor, producing electro-house under his Feed Me alias, and drum and bass under his Spor alias. His music is diverse, fun, and enginuitive. However, I have a penchant for multifaceted creativity; Jon sings, plays and records his own instrumentals, designs and manifests the graphics (he is a remarkable visual artist), mechanics, and even robotics behind his performances, and much more.

There was a promotion for his summer tour, Feed Me’s Psychedelic Journey, and it also included a contest to win a Meet & Greet and hang out backstage in the city of your choice. I remember looking at the add for it, and feeling atypically positive. I actually had a good feeling when I looked at this application.

So I entered.
What a surprise it was finding an email in my inbox a few days ago congratulating me on winning the contest (I scared my dog when I jumped out of my chair and let out a gargantuan “WOOOOOO!”… kind of like the Spence Diamonds commercials). As soon as I had some spare time that day, I made Jon a bracelet (because that’s what I do).

Now, as much as I love dance music and dancing, I have my reservations about giant dance festivals, and not just because I’m 29 years of age; As it turned out, Feed Me was set to perform at VELD here in Toronto, which can get wildly expensive, with single VIP passes sometimes adding up to $255+. Hark, they gave me two complimentary free VIP passes. AND… backstage access. Okay, I’ll go to VELD under those circumstances.

So, I rallied up my girlfriend Jasmine, and we set out on our adventure. The day was wonderful. We enjoyed ourselves with large water bottles in tow, lounging, eating poutine, dancing, and meeting new friendly faces. Jon’s set began just after 5 in the afternoon, and as expected, it was convivial, high-energy, and hearty. He performed many of my old favorites (One Click Headshot, Cloudburn), some new songs off his latest EP (Patience, Alarm Clock), and even some new tracks that will be on his upcoming LP. Naturally, I was in my glory. When his set was over, we met with Reuben, the stage manager, and he lead us to the trailers behind the stage where Jon was cooling down after playing in the summer sun.

The man is TALL. Was not expecting that. He shook our hands with a sincerely beholden smile, asking us what we do, and offering us a drink (we were turned down our request for water by his manager, who insisted on two Steam Whistles instead). He was incredibly charismatic, and at the same time, casual is the simplest of ways. Humble and true-blue. And my age. His tshirt (which was covered in a print of monarch butterfly wings) delighted me. We discussed touring. Jasmine, being a musician herself, enthusiastically asked what it was like to tour the world. We contemplated the curious life of the butterfly, and what what it would feel like to be one. We drank ice cold Steam Whistle under the air conditioner. It was all so nice.

Shyly, I gave him his bracelet, which I gingerly placed inside a tiny a linen pouch, and to which he claimed “Ooo, and it’s in my own little Hobbit pouch!” when I handed it to him. He put it on right away, smiling, rotating it around his wrist, and fingering the beads.

After hanging out, we were told he was being whisked away to do an interview with VICE, but not before I could get a photo.
“How could you not get a photo?” Reuben said.

We said our goodbyes and our thank yous, and I told him that he was extraordinarily talented, and that I’d always be a big fan. He told us he hoped to see us again.

I am incredibly and providentially fortunate to have had so many wonderful experiences and adventures, especially within this past year. In the span of about 16 months, I am pleased to say that I’ve encountered the most liberating, creative, successful, and connection-filled circumstances and wisdom. I am also humbled and thankful for the successful route Nina Spade Studio has taken. And it’s exciting to know that there is more to come.

Meeting someone whom I respect and admire so much, and have them like something I’ve made for them, tugs my heartstrings. I wish Jon so much success on his creative journey. And I am grateful to Three Six Zero management for choosing me as the lucky winner…

…Because when someone you admire so much takes a photo with you, holds up his wrist, and says “Oh wait! make sure you get the bracelet in there too, eh?”, you can’t help feeling anything else but lucky.