This weekend I bought an original piece of Canadian artwork. I love supporting local artists, and it was within my budget.

“Blue Jay with Bottlecap”, 2011, by R. Houston

I bought it from the Northern Beaver Gallery in Toronto. If you haven’t heard of it, it may be because it’s a pop-up gallery. It made a one-night appearance at this year’s Nuit Blanche, near MOCCA (the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art). Although the gallery features the work of several artists, it’s small and easy to miss:

Northern Beaver Gallery, Toronto

“Blue Jay with Bottlecap” measures aproximately 2″ x 2″, and cost me a Toonie ($2) from a vending machine.

I didn’t choose the Blue Jay with Bottlecap—it chose me. I know that sounds kind of woo-woo, but as the Gallery says, it’s a chance possession. And watching others purchase artwork from the machines, it was clear that, even as adults, we still get that thrill of surprise that came with the randomness, or perceived fate, of our childhood vending machine prizes.

The Northern Beaver Gallery is the brainchild of Rebecca Houston, a fine arts student at York U (and, I’ve now discovered, the artist who created my Blue Jay with Bottlecap—score!)  Everything about the Gallery is homegrown, including the gallery itself. (Have you ever noticed that all those vending machines in grocery stores have beavers on their flaps? It’s because they’re made by a Canadian company called the Beaver Vending Machine Corporation. The large, square, big-enough-to-hold-mini-artwork model is called the “Northern Beaver.” I love trivia.)

The Northern Beaver Gallery will be making more appearances in the near future. If you’d like to become an art collector while surviving on, say, a freelance writer’s budget, you can find out where they’ll be next at And if you’re an artist who can work in tiny mode, the Gallery is taking submissions. You won’t get rich, but if nothing else, you will likely make someone’s day when they purchase one of your little gems.

I will probably frame my little artwork…it may be with a craft frame from the dollar store (see: budget, above), but it will still fit in just fine with the rest of my prints, which weren’t nearly as much fun to purchase.

4 thoughts on “Art-O-Matic

  1. I love this idea! So much more meaningful than regular vending machine junk and so accessible! I have an artist friend I’ve passed your link along to – it might be right up her alley. What a cool thing to have more permanently located in tourist locations – like Stratford! – or Art Gallery gift shops or the like. A fine art souvenir – cool!

  2. Artvendu is brilliant. Rebecca Houston’s art work is delightfully organic, intricate and so Canadian. Walked from Parkdale up to Yonge and Bloor on Saturday. Sorry I missed it. The BlueJay with Bottle Cap is definitely an object I would love to find. For a toonie! What a steal!

  3. Pingback: Pocket Art « Ann Mayer

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