Saturday, July 10, 2010


VIRTU was a national furniture design competition organized by a group called Forum & Function Directions in Canadian Design, led by Ester Shipman.
The format of the exhibition was to invite designers to submit pieces. All those accepted were “winners” and became part of the exhibition. Some works not accepted were given “honourable mention” and photos of these pieces were also displayed as part of the exhibition.
This annual competition seems to have spanned a period of about twelve years beginning in 1985 and ending in 1996. I am not able to come up with much by “googling” but here is something from CBC radio on the jury process.

The images here are the front and back of the flyer used to publicize the event. I had the good fortune of exhibiting four pieces in this inaugural event as well as having an image of one of my chairs used for all of the publicity materials and the exhibition catalogue. The publicity materials were designed by Bruce Mau.
It’s interesting to note that these competitions ceased around the time that personal computers and the internet became common. 1995 was the year that Windows ’95 was introduced and the year that I acquired a personal computer and started designing with CAD.
Furniture design of course has changed in Canada over the past twenty five years. Styles and fads have come and gone.
I am not aware of any national Canadian furniture design competitions or exhibitions taking place since the end of Virtu. Of course there are trade shows, industry events such as IDS in Toronto and IDSwest in Vancouver. These are not competitions or juried exhibitions but trade shows, provided they meet a basic criterion, anybody who pays the price is part of the show.

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