Meet multidisciplinary designer, maker, and facilitator Naomi Daryn Boyd


May 8, 2023

credit Naomi Daryn Boyd
Credit: Naomi Daryn Boyd

Naomi Daryn Boyd is a multidisciplinary designer, maker, and facilitator from Toronto. They completed their Masters of Design at OCAD University and are a founding member of a place-based design collective and micro-studio called the Roving Designers. On May 23, FENTSTER will present two of their recent textile works during the Mapping Our Stories Art Party. We caught up with Naomi to learn about their design inspirations, their use of textiles, and the value of a daily walk.

Kultura Collective: Hi Naomi! Nice to meet you. Please tell us a bit about your background and your work as a designer, maker, and facilitator.

Naomi Daryn Boyd : Hello! I am a multidisciplinary designer, maker, and facilitator, born and raised here in Toronto. I make blankets, tapestries, and knit objects, as well as analogue collage art, event posters and promotional material, wooden toys, earrings, and baskets woven out of natural fibres. This past winter I designed the set for Icarus Theatre’s inaugural production of Lobby Hero and hosted a series of laser cutting workshops. 

I have a Bachelors of Design with a major in Industrial Design and a minor in Social Practice and Community Engagement (SPACE). This was a perfect combination for me as I have always loved making things, and sharing those making skills with others. My work there led to an interest in design practices that are engaged in social justice, equity, community building, and non-traditional modes of learning. I am a founding member of the Roving Designers, a place-based design collective and micro studio.

I have just completed my Master’s at OCAD University, where my thesis was focused on researching my family’s multi-generational history here in this place now known as Toronto and the broader Jewish community that has grown here, seeking also to establish further connection and understanding of/with the lands and waters that have shaped these territories. Material and craft practices hold a special place in my heart as a means of exploring embodied knowledge, skill sharing, and connections to place. 

Chapter One: A Map Is Born, exhibition installation at Ada Slaight Gallery, Tkaronto, 03/08/2023. Credit Naomi Daryn Boyd

KC: On May 23, FENTSTER will present two of your recent textile works during the Mapping Our Stories Art Party. Can you tell us about the projects on display and what visitors can expect to experience?

NDB: The Mapping Our Stories Art Party will feature a group of artists, including Meichen Waxer, and works that all engage with practices of mapping, connecting to place, and personal/cultural narrative and identity. The theme for this gathering is inspired by the current exhibition in the FENTSTER window gallery, HAMAPAH (Hebrew for ‘the map’), by visiting U.S. artists Adam W. McKinney and Daniel Banks. McKinney and Banks as well as dance Immersion’s Zahra Harriet Badua, will be hosting dance workshops as part of the Art Party, open to all. There will also be opportunities for visitors to engage in some fun collaborative map-making prompts that I’m developing for FENTSTER.

Memory Map, w/ sounds (2021-2022), was a project that I began just after moving into a new apartment. I have always enjoyed going for meandering urban walks, and I wanted to document the process of exploring this relatively unfamiliar place by foot. (Almost) every day, I would go for a walk, taking care to consciously listen and take in my surroundings, without any distractions, and with the specific goal to explore. When I got home (walks would range from 20-120 minutes) I would then retrace my steps, using tapestry wool to embroider the route onto the fabric, as best as I could remember. The different colours of the route correspond to their dates of recording along the edge of the blanket. The spirals on the map represent significant sounds that were heard along the walks, their size denoting relative volume. This process became an important part of my daily routine, and a great way to discover the best neighbourhood nooks. I would highly recommend walking as a mode for practicing being present on the land.

BLOOD, WATER & BATHURST STREET is about navigating an active relationship to land, place, and community through textiles. The Map, made of an 18-metre-long scroll of wool fabric, encompasses Bathurst Street and its geographic surroundings, from the current shoreline of Niigani-Gichigami (Lake Ontario) up to Steeles Avenue (the City of Toronto’s northern boundary). It is unequal parts of my family tree, topographic exploration, historical survey, storybook, and material research. Even before starting work on the map, I needed to walk the land. With To Bubbs’ House I Go (05/13-15/2022) the objective was to walk the 18 km stretch of Bathurst Street between the shore of the lake and my grandmother’s house on Steeles Avenue, wearing wool slippers I had made myself. Similarly to the way McKinney and Banks practice dance as a mode for connecting to place, I found this experience to be quite insightful.

KC: How did you get involved in the Mapping Our Stories event? What attracted you to this project? 

NDB: FENTSTER curator Evelyn Tauben came to see the debut of BLOOD, WATER & BATHURST STREET back in March. The exhibition at the Ada Slaight Gallery, titled Chapter One: A Map Is Born, served as the Map’s introduction to the public, where folks from the community were invited to contribute their own narratives and knowledge to the project. I am incredibly excited to be showing this work truly out in public space for the first time; it will be installed on the north side of College Street by FENTSTER, which is just about a block east of Bathurst Street. I believe this kind of work can truly thrive in situ, and I will once again be inviting folks to contribute narratives and information to the Map. I am keen to meet new members of the local community and always look forward to sharing stories with others with history in the area.

Map Details, Chapter One: A Map Is Born, exhibition installation at Ada Slaight Gallery, Tkaronto, 03/08/2023. Credit Naomi Daryn Boyd

KC: In creating this project did you discover anything that surprised you? Did the project evoke special memories for you and your family?

NDB: BLOOD, WATER & BATHURST STREET provided ample reason and opportunity to dive further into my family archive of materials, including photographs, oral history interviews, and other media like postcards and letters. Of particular interest to me were addresses where my relations had lived, worked, and gone to school. My family has been in Toronto for over a century, so there are quite a few significant sites. I was able to consult various cousins and grandparents who contributed further knowledge and memories tied to those places. I tried to visit as many of the addresses as possible, especially ones that were before my time generationally, and many of these buildings are still standing. 

Ancestors from both sides of my family grew up in Kensington Market and present-day Chinatown in the 1910s and 20s. Over their lifetimes, they gradually moved northwards, roughly following Bathurst Street and the broader Jewish community to different enclaves at Eglinton, Lawrence, Sheppard, Steeles, and beyond. It was fascinating to compare personal and historical timelines, especially in relation to other marginalized communities that have thrived along the western periphery of the city.

KC: How were you inspired by the process of map making?

NDB: Maps have always captivated my attention, particularly those that employ creative and imaginative modes of visual representation. Each person has a unique perspective on place, space, and they situate themselves in relation. To me map making is fundamentally about exploring connections between things, whether that be familial relations or material artifacts, and not necessarily about creating an ‘accurate’ depiction of a landscape. Maps are also a wonderful medium for exploring how a diverse group of folks might have completely different interpretations of the same thing or place. 

To Bubbs House I Go, Part Two (05/14/2022). Credit Jerry Yang.

KC: Can you tell us about your use of wool, embroidery, and textiles in your work? 

NDB: I’ve been interested in a variety of textile craft practices since I was young, basic friendship bracelet making grew into weaving, knitting, embroidery, and so on. I find textiles to be a very forgiving medium to work on, both in terms of fixing misplaced stitches and in the context of reusing/upcycling materials. I am always keen to discover orphan skeins of wool at thrift stores, and have also received many material donations from different family members (unused wool from my grandmothers, buttons and sewing supplies, and other bits of textiles that my relations have collected). Working in textiles and craft is also important to me from a gender perspective; all of my femme ancestors practiced these skills, dedicating many hours of unseen and underappreciated labour over the decades. They were (and are) highly skilled makers and artists in their own right, and it is my honour to continue developing my creative practice in a similar tradition. These hand-craft practices tend to be tedious, repetitive, and time consuming, especially at a large scale. While it is sometimes challenging on the hands, I find this working time to be quite calming and meditative.

KC: You recently completed your Master of Design at OCADU’s Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media & Design program. Mazel tov! What else are you working on right now?

NDB: The Roving Designers are a design collective and micro studio created to foster co-design and co-creation in a sustainable, inclusive and decolonial manner. Our aim was to bring design work out of the confines of buildings and into parks, plazas, sidewalks, and anywhere else in nature or public space. We have hosted workshops and skill sharing sessions, and published Workbook 01, a series of eight active prompts from various collective members. We have since hosted a book club, created a postcard series of Prompts On Walking, and continue to meet and share resources.

I will also be participating in the Spring Craft Fair at the Tranzac on May 27 and 28 with new collage work, earrings, and other goodies!

Memory Map, w/ sounds (2021-2022). Credit Ron Boyd.

KC: What’s inspiring you in Toronto right now? 

NDB: Talking Treaties Collective. Talking Treaties is a multi-year project from Jumblies Theatre + Arts that artfully shares Indigenous history and awareness of the place now called Toronto. They have created a variety of incredible educational resources, collaborative workshops, and performance-based works that hold space for conversation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens of this city.

KC: What’s inspiring you Jewish-ly lately?

NDB: Via Maris. Coming from an industrial design background, it is tremendously exciting to see the work that Via Maris is doing to reconsider how we might design Judaica to support contemporary Jewish life. Their ritual objects are beautifully designed and consciously manufactured, including kosher mezuzah scrolls that are handwritten in Israel by female Soferets.

Jessica Tamar Deutsch is a New York based illustrator who creates incredible educational and narrative work. I am particularly inspired by Deutsch’s hand written and illustrated Ketubahs, they are beautiful and inventive iterations of a cultural artifact that holds immense religious and personal value. 

KC: Lightning round questions!

NDB: Applesauce vs sour cream? Both!

Raisin vs plain challah? Raisin

Poppy seed vs prune Hamantaschen? Poppy seed

Zaatar vs Harissa? Zaatar

Spinning the Dreidel vs finding the afikomen? Afikomen

Shawarma vs falafel? Falafel

Tuna vs egg salad? Tuna!

Naomi Daryn Boyd (they/them) is a multidisciplinary designer, maker, and facilitator from Toronto. They completed their Masters of Design at OCAD University and are a founding member of a place-based design collective and micro-studio called the Roving Designers. Naomi got their BDes at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, majoring in Industrial Design with a minor in Social Practice and Community Engagement. They are grateful to live and create on these lands, the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River First Nations.

Learn more at: | @nodealbig

Mapping Our Stories is a multi-media art party on inspired by the current exhibition in the FENTSTER window gallery, HAMAPAH (Hebrew for ‘the map’) created by Adam W. McKinney and Daniel Banks. Experience and interact with works that use the metaphor of maps to intertwine personal narratives and memory as well as stories of migration and place. Featuring artists Meichen Waxer, Naomi Daryn Boyd, Zahra Harriet Badua as well as McKinney and Banks. The art party is part of a season long production of FENTSTER, Prosserman JCC and DNAWORKS that will culminate in the Canadian premiere of HaMapah / The Map Dance-on-Film, an award-winning film where McKinney returns to and dances in his ancestral homelands in Benin, Poland, and across the United States to trace the intersections of his African American, Native American and Jewish heritages.

Presented by FENTSTER, Prosserman JCC and DNAWORKS with No Silence on Race, Jewish&, LGBTQ+ at the J, dance Immersion, Jews of Colour Canada, Makom: Creative Downtown Judaism, BAND: Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue & Kultura Collective. 

HAMAPAH, installation at FENTSTER by Adam W. McKinney and Daniel Banks, 2023

TUESDAY, MAY 23 | 7 – 10 PM
Mapping Our Stories | A Multi-Media Art Party
FENTSTER @ Makom, 402 College Street

Hamapah / The Map: Dance-on-Film Screening & Storycircle
Prosserman JCC, 4588 Bathurst Street
Pay What You Decide Tickets: $10 – $54 |
‣ 5:30 PM | Dinner & Dialogue gathering for Jews of Colour and their loved ones
‣ 7:30 PM | The Canadian theatrical premiere of HaMapah / The Map Dance-on-Film and DNAWORKS’ signature “storycircle”.
‣ 9 PM | AFTER PARTY with live music from the Juno-nominated Jaffa Road

HAMAPAH | On view into June 2023
FENTSTER @ Makom, 402 College Street

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