Art Aggregate, collaborative workshop and private studios

Sean McCormack loves getting weird emails.

He’s usually the last place of refuge for desperate people and companies with a wacky idea – “the weirder the better”, he says -who seek him out because they can’t make their (insert strange item) or can’t find anyone to create it for them.

Just recently someone was yearning to have a small, dead lizard board game piece. It’s OK, it wasn’t real. Sean designed and built it, first making what’s called a maquette or model out of plastic with his 3D printer.  Then there’s the restaurant owner who fancied ‘branding’ their logo into their glassware.  Or the new nightclub in Toronto that wanted tables made with built-in ice buckets.

If you think that’s cool, wait till you see the rest of Art Aggregate, the space he and his talented family have built.

Art Aggregate came to life when Sean, among his many talents, was sculpting his creations in his driveway. Not surprisingly, the neighbours weren’t too happy about the noise, and Sean, a creative people-person wasn’t that delighted either; it wasn’t much fun working alone.

He needed a space he could share to make the noise required and where no-one minded if he made a mess. As it turned out, his mother Judy, a textile artist, and his father John, a contractor, also wanted more space for their work. So the family began hunting across Hamilton.

For a while it was a case of extremes: the choice seemed to be either a mechanic’s garage – or a giant warehouse with nothing in between.

But hold that thought, because Sean’s inspiring career and life path beg to be told first.  

At the age of three, he started tap class – and yes, he was the only boy. But that didn’t deter him. He took jazz,  hip-hop and Irish dance classes too, and by the age of 17, he’d become a five-time Canadian Irish Dance Champion. Sean was talent-spotted and he was offered a position with the National Dance Company of Ireland. 

That meant moving to Dublin.

Some parents might have cast doubts (or fears) – but not the McCormacks. Why not? they said. So Sean deferred university and by the time he was 20, he’d travelled and competed in 45 countries.

Professional dancing is a tough if exciting life. You’re performing every day, constantly switching time zones, cultures and food – and in the Irish Dance world at least, you’re old at 25.   Sean was away for five years before he decided to come home.  

He combined his passion for making things with an artistic streak and went to study sculpture at OCAD University.  Afterwards, he spent some time having fun building sets for movies and was even offered the odd part in front of the camera as an extra. But jobs in the industry were hard to come by, so though he yearned to spend his time being creative, bartending paid the rent for several years. 

Sensing this wasted talent, a friend finally took Sean to the side, and told him there was no time to lose:  quit the day job!  

As it turned out, bartending turned out to be key to his next adventure. Two regulars told him about a space on Nash Road he might want to see.  And the rest is Hamilton art scene history. 

Sean’s Dad John set about re-furbishing a site that had sat empty for six years. It’s hard to imagine what it looked like when you see the beautifully-finished studios that have become co-working studios for artists in the city.

And the huge basement workshop houses every kind of tool you could possibly need to create a project in whatever material you fancied – wood, plastic, metal, bronze or fibreglass.  The huge tool-sharing dream is available to rent and to use. There is everything from giant table saws to screen printing frames and anything you could think of in between.

Everything, in fact, that would be too noisy or messy in your kitchen (or driveway).

But hey – when you bring the impossible to life, you need all the help you can get.