Playing with Food – A Glimpse into a Food Styling Workshop

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


This past fall, 2019 the studio was invited to participate in an intimate food styling workshop at the Fort Garry Library. In attendance, a group of passionate amateur food photographers, avid cooks and readers who were seeking guidance on photographing food for social media, namely Instagram – a powerful platform to showcase and curate personal and/or professional photography endeavours.

Exercise: Building a breakfast – a morning scene

It is important to use a visual reference for composition – an inspiration shot drawn from the internet, for example (not as replication, but as guidance). We built the following in situ with the participants, touching on still life scenarios, the addition of the human element, and general tips on composition:

  • Coffee, toast with cheese, and jam scene – still life – front angle
  • Granola and yogurt – with human element –front angle
  • Granola and yogurt with egg in cup scene – top down

Outlined here, is a simple guide for you to begin the process of food styling and photography for Social Media

Things to consider / ask yourself as you begin

  • What are you curious about?
  • What is your style?
  • How do you like to engage other people with the food you make?
  • How do you present the food to real-life guests?
  • How do you want to be creative and exploratative?
  • What mood would you like to convey?
  • (dark and dramatic or light and airy; naturally lit or controlled lighting).
  • What platform are you documenting for?
  • (e.g., Instagram, blog, cookbook (print) etc.)


  • Surfaces
  • Backdrops – dark, light, textured
  • Linens
  • Utensils
  • Florals
  • Small vessels for condiments, spices, herbs, etc.
  • Plates – small, salad, dinner
  • Bowls – large, shallow, small, very petite

Note: Look through your grandparents’ or parents’ antique collections. Collect, collect, collect. Look to local makers and artisans.

Prop Quality

  • Nuanced, with patina – especially with cutlery
  • Neutral tones – to let the food shine
  • Wooden boards (e.g., cutting, serving, etc) in various sizes, but avoid orange tones. Go for grey or darker brown wood tones
  • Natural materials (e.g., ceramics (real clay), wood)
  • Smaller-sized glassware and stemware
  • Linen – use real linen (real linen photographs better than blends and synthetic materials, and falls or manipulates nicely on flat surfaces).

Sourcing Props

  • Leanne Muir – small bowls, mugs
  • Karen + Jason Hare – The Root Cellar
  • Old House Revival
  • AAA Consignment
  • Value Village and The Salvation Army

Types of Shots

  • Top down – primarily 1 element or repeated elements.
  • Front angle – offering a sense of the human perspective Front angle – framing vertical space (flowers, bottles, etc.), or photographing with a dynamic background (e.g., in front of a window). Or, horizontal space (landscape), straight-on. Or, capturing depth of field.
  • Human element – adding a human action, such as drizzling a sauce or dressing, dishing out the meal, sprinkling a dry ingredient like maldon salt, nuts or seeds, and shaving parmesan, etc.

Principles of Composition

  1. Compose elements in threes or odd numbers.
  2. Integrate raw ingredients that are part of a dish or are used to garnish or flavour a dish (e.g., citrus, herbs, spices, etc.).
  3. Consider the placement and angles of the utensils (either in interaction with the food, or alongside)
  4. Plate individual portions alongside the vessel in which it was made or is served.
  5. Authenticity – ask how you would eat this and at what stage (i.e., just plated or half-eaten).

Good Mornings ft. Natures’ Farm Granola

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


Please enjoy this brief entry into the world of food styling. The item in focus: sweet bunches of Nature’s Farm granola.
You would be surprised what manifests in our little kitchen and eastern studio nook where most of our styled food photography takes place. With a star ingredient like granola, there’s no need to whip out our tiny portable oven and cookware. Only a little dairy (or dairy alternative), an assortment of berries, some soft morning light, and we have all the elements to make magic.

Setting the Scene

First, we establish the various contexts in which the item could be featured or consumed – in this case, granola – and from there, build scenes that we can ultimately connect with and identify with. Here, we were inspired by the experience of packing lunch in a rush, a mother’s day worthy breakfast, a snack for the road, a morning picnic, a market haul, grandma and grandpa’s kitchen counter, and snacks at work.

Mood + Styling

Each scene may or may not convey the same mood. The mood is informed by the light, the backdrop, the surface and the props selected.

Clear glass vessels were used to feature the textural quality of the granola and showcase the variation of ingredients unique to each flavour.

Brown paper bags add a sense of informality and material movement.
The layering of neutral ceramic plates and bowls add interest to a simple scene with a clear focal element.
Vessels and linens with simple patterns and colour bring lightness and vibrancy.

Utensils used as props are slightly tarnished to avoid any reflected light and to convey a sense of use.

Featured Product From Nature's Farm

Handcrafted, wholegrain granola that combine the wonderful flavours of whole rolled oats, raw nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Only honey or maple syrup is used, resulting in caramelized crunchy sweetness. A little goes a long way! Hearty enough for trail mix, perfect when combined with yogurt or milk, and delicious as a healthy topping for ice cream. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

• Honey Almond
• Maple Pecan
• Cinnamon Harvest
• Chocolate Chunk
• Help Seed Muesli
• Lemon Lavender


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Bread, The Superior Labor, and a Flower Bag Evolution

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


As we were preparing to launch the retail arm of 26 Projects “26 Market”, we knew that, beyond curating a selection of goods from brands we admire, we wanted to engage every opportunity to contribute collaborative works to the collection.

Quite naturally, we asked our friends over at The Superior Labor (read our edit on their workshop and practice, here) to participate in our first collaborative project for the 26 Market. The product, though at that point was not yet conceived of, had a few initial criteria: it should be dynamic, neutral in style, and multifunctional. However, before we dive right into the process, perhaps some background on why we decided to create what we curiously and unofficially termed “the flower bag” as our first project.

The first phase of our 26 Market – a pop-up of sorts – began with selling fresh sourdough loaves, baguettes, and scones sourced from the locally-loved Pennyloaf Bakery. This was both an attempt to get to know the creative community – our neighbours occupying 70 Arthur – but also a way to make accessible some of the city’s finest baked goods right here in the Exchange District. Every Friday leading up to the holidays last December 2018, we would rise a little earlier than normal and pick up our crate of fresh baked bread and treats, and prepare for the rush of eager building mates to come through our doors.

Upon doing this, we thought increasingly more about other items that were astonishingly hard to come by in our neighbourhood – to offer at our pseudo market. We thought, of course, flowers! Who wouldn’t love a fresh bouquet of flowers on a Friday to surprise a loved one with or to enjoy over the weekend? So it began. Bread and flowers were sold together and even fresh wreaths were thrown into the mix for good measure.

The flowers evolved into a more engaged endeavour, as it was a chance for us to play, style, and photograph. We became flower obsessed, fixating on the various scenarios in which one would need to transport flowers delicately. From a garden, from a market, from one hand to another’s. Thus, The Flower Bag concept was born.

We presented the idea to the owners of The Superior labor whose workshop is located in Japan, just 50 km outside of Okayama on the mountain side. Remotely, we exchanged a few sketches and within a short period, we were holding the first prototype and examining it’s impeccable craft. The bag would be made of durable yet gentle canvas material that would soften with time, and hand-cut leather strapping for handles. It should be rigid yet soft and should lay flat when open; delicately designed to carry flowers, but accommodate the containment and transport objects in a variety of shapes and sizes. Items of almost unlimited length (architectural drawings, baguettes, carrots, etc) can be securely carried with the help of the cleverly-designed adjustable sides of the tote. The leather straps are removable to allow for ease of care and washing. For our first production run, we chose a natural canvas with tan, soft leather straps, and robust metal hardware. We aren’t afraid of a little colour over here. In fact, The Superior Labor applies colour to not only add aesthetic interest, but for waterproofing and durability. Perhaps you’ll see the next iteration in a bright apple red or army green. We’re looking forward!

TSL (The Superior Labor) – Thinking and Creating

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


June 2019, Pauline took her annual trip to L.A., as always, with the plan to visit Baum-kuchen, a shop and studio very similar to our studio and market. Baum-kuchen’s lifestyle brand is an integration of German Bauhaus and Japanese wabi-sabi ethos, brought together harmoniously in Los Angeles, and reflective of the owners’ Wakako and Fido’s backgrounds. The products they create and curate online and in their shop are beautiful, expressive, and very functional. They were one of the first retailers to introduce us to the TSL brand, and one of the first in North America to bring in their product.

The Story of TSL

Broad cuts, durable textiles, and vibrant tones. Each item developed by The Superior Labor is the culmination of engaging one’s imagination within the freedom of the open landscape, and the result of the hands and the histories of their makers.

A special collaborative workshop between TSL and Baum-kuchen was being held for those who wanted to experience and participate first-hand in the craft and process of making with TSL. Naturally, Pauline was in attendance. Raw canvas items of all shapes and sizes, already prepared to be customized by participants were organized and presented throughout the shop. Custom-made stamps, patches, a plethora of brass fittings, and a rainbow of paints were at finger’s reach to enlighten the creative process of making alongside the owners of TSL.

The Superior Labor brand and its prefecture reflect the owners, Makoto-san’s and Yoshimi-san’s growing understanding of the need to work and live within an open, unencumbered environment to fully express one’s self. Their compound is located 50 km from Okayama – just a 20-minute train ride away. Their workshop inhabits a previously active primary school that was built in 1949 and closed in the 1990’s. Always seeking freedom in their working environment, Nap Village – the name of the prefecture – is purposefully sited on the mountainside, surrounded by forest. Old cherry blossoms, maple trees, and ginkgo trees remain and thrive on the grounds, carving a space for employees and residents to rest, take their lunch, and socialize. The owners’ home is also sited within the compound where they live with their family (a dog and two children), while classroom spaces have been transformed into a leather atelier and office. The TSL retail shop in Nap Village offers a dynamic space that features standard products, new items, and limited-edition garments, with the option to order custom-made pieces on site. Unique experiences are always expected via workshops to help customers and visitors get a closer look into how the products are crafted. The couple also spends significant time at schools guiding workshops and sharing their love of thinking and making without boundaries. In this case, with children – which they attest – is paramount in its capacity to continuously inspire new ideas.

Combining experience and knowledge in leather and canvas material, in addition to a background in car mechanics, the work-wear inspired pieces created by TSL express a creative understanding of combining high-quality materials through attentiveness to the material’s inherent qualities. Original brass fittings are gently tapped with a wooden mallet by hand for dimension and presence, then tacked onto each piece. The application of paint not only adds colour but functionality, providing waterproof durability – ultimately giving purpose to this aesthetic treatment. By way of the machines they use every day, there is clear know-how and craft, from a treadle sewing machine for leather items for ease of rotation and beautiful stitching, to the use of other heavy-duty sewing machines that work to combine various materials like leather, cotton, and nylon.

Creating durable pieces that become more beautiful with time is their expertise – pieces that soften and weather. Fine leather notebook carriers, for example, the ones we use and love, are keepers and organizers of thoughts that we can sense will endure and grow beautiful patina. Expect a life of positive moments and perhaps a change in organizational habits with these products. We know you will covet them as much as we do.

The Analogue Lifestyle – Thinking Through Our Hands

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


Here at 26 Projects, we are lovers and practitioners of analogue. We believe that sometimes the best ideas can come from pen to paper and that engaging in the physical action of inscription and scrawl is part of the creative process. From writing, planning, sketching to even painting, we record and communicate information through written words, and with the aid of simple drawings to describe exactly what we mean.

When strategizing and planning, we like to take notes. Sometimes neatly, other times quickly, and almost always only legible for our eyes to read. When we jot ideas and questions, we are thinking through our hands. From mind to hand, from pen to paper, to execution. The reason for how much we love and value our journals and respective writing instruments is because our preliminary and ongoing process heavily relies on this analogue practice.

In both our professional and personal lives, our analogue lifestyle is comprised of planning, documenting and jotting ideas into our journals and day planners. Whether it be in a Maruman Mnemosyne notebook, a Traveler’s Notebook, or a Midori and Notem planner tucked in a The Superior Labor leather organizer from our 26 Market collection – we all have our favourites to keep with us as part of our daily essentials – our creative companion. Our analogue tools help us slow down in our fast-paced, digital world to distill what is most important in our work, and allows for the creative freedom to explore all possibilities in a project. Even when we use our devices, we opt for the analogue experience – an ipad with its Apple pencil is still a version of a simple pen and paper combination.

In these last few weeks, we have taken note of the surge in the analogue movement as a result of the extra time to think and feel the need to escape the humdrum of everyday life at home. From journaling to express emotions, establish routine and record ideas, to creative freedom and art. There’s never been a better time to journal…

A Branding Project Close to Home – 26 Market

MAKE  •  [publish-year]


What began as a little in-house retail passion project, has now expanded into a full-fledged e-commerce shop. Here, we take you through the process of building a unique identity for our 26 Market.

You may have noticed that we’ve been working on a special side project – our 26 Market. What you may not know is that this project has been in the works for almost 2 years. If you ask two of our senior staff members, they can attest to the evolution of 26 Market as being quite spontaneous, but all the while, calculated.

Inspiration: The Market Wall

In our first iteration, Inspiration was taken from the 26 market wall in our studio where products are currently displayed. The square, a subtle graphic element was assigned to the wordmark, a direct representation of the design of our market wall.

Art Direction: Hand-made

The notion of “objects handmade with love” needed to be expressed in the logo. We introduced hand-drawn graphics, which resulted in experimenting with a completely hand-scripted wordmark with an illustrated hand as the primary motif to animate and support the logo.

Final Logo: Well-Curated

As a way to distance the process from the literal expression of a hand, more attention was put towards the idea and act of hand-picking and curating well-crafted items to be shared with the community. The hand-drawn graphic style was maintained to create the font for ’26 Market’ in a serif style, used for its aesthetic contrast to the 26 Projects logo.

This spur-of-the-moment branding project was both a challenge and a feat, being so close to home – a sort of offspring of 26 Projects. Seeing the last iteration come to life was like falling in love. The narrative we had in our minds finally took form, becoming a visual representation of the brand that we feel is beautiful, classic, and playful.