Though he’s long since handed off the reigns and uprooted to Montréal, Royal Bison Craft & Art Fair founder Raymond Biesinger can still, occasionally, be found among the weekend-long bustle of tables and foot traffic.
He willed the DIY-favouring take on a fair into existence back in 2007 with some sensible ground rules—keep costs low for artists and patrons alike, which current organizers Vikki Wiercinski and Jim Johansson have certainly adhered to as they’ve overseen its expansion. And back now for the fair’s 15th iteration, Biesinger’s bringing a print rooted in Edmonton history, though it stems from trying to get to know his new home.
“Maybe a couple years after living here, I got my feet on the ground, met some people, felt relatively settled in, and realized that my understanding of Montréal and its history, and the surrounding cities, was quite lacking,” Biesinger says over the phone. “And even understanding the basic layout of those cities and the key parts of them.”
He had some time and was looking to start a self-directed project anyway, so a series of prints was created: one for Montréal as well as Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec—as “an excuse for a getting-to-know-you exercise in my new region.”
Once they were out in the world, more commissions came in, first for Sherbrooke and then Hamilton. Biesinger figured a fine capstone to the whole project would be his old hometown of Edmonton. Of course, as he’d gone along, the level of detail in each had intensified: the original batch took three to four days to complete. His look at the City of Champions took nine.
“Every single city I made, when it would be done, it wouldn’t feel finished until I went a little further than the one before it. So you can call that detail-inflation, perhaps,” he says. “I think it’s just, esthetically I needed them to be more dense and more intricate to keep interested in the project. It just felt empty otherwise.”
Each print is set on a specific date in that city’s history: Edmonton’s is opening of the Summer Universiade in 1983. Biesinger’s prints will be on display alongside the usual myriad of hand-crafted curios the Bison’s built its reputation out of: DIY works stretching from clothing to art to other sorts of things. There’s even the work of who’s likely the youngest Bisoner ever: Max’s Monsters, a four-year-old’s collection drawings of the things that go bump in the night, the proceeds of which he’s donating to help a three-year-old friend battle leukemia. Kids these days.
Fri, Nov 29 (5 – 9 pm)
Sat, Nov 30 (10 am – 5 pm)
Sun, Dec 1 (11 am – 5 pm)
Cosmopolitan Music Society, $2