The Joy of Stick – Slinging Lowbrow Art to Saskatoon


A man’s sudden screaming pulls the restaurant out of its collective weekend slumber. Flailing his arms wildly, the entire room looks up from their morning coffee. But the flapping man is far too immersed in his own business to notice the weary stares and apprehension. Standing at a vending machine, his attention is completely attuned to the wad of paper now in his possession—a handful of assorted stickers, some handmade art and a snarky DIY fortune that reads along the lines of “We are all just garbage humans, trying our hardest not to be thrown out on garbage day.”

Welcome to the world of Scummy Magic, where one dollar buys you a piece of limited-edition highly collectable art and life advice. Or, to some, weird scraps of crap.

Inhabiting Saskatoon, Scummy Magic is a world filled with the doodles, illustrations and zines of local artists, a place where the emotional response is paramount to monetary transaction.

Part mobile gallery, part pop-up retail fun, Scummy Magic is an illustrated sticker art project that takes on the form of a travelling exhibit that is part retro vending-machine nostalgia and part affordable adhesiveness. Dispensing stickers, hand-made zines, limited edition screen prints, DIY life advice and whimsy, Scummy Magic is a design collusion that exists in the spaces where entrepreneurial visuals meet street art and everything can ultimately be purchased and enjoyed for the price of one dollar.

The idea isn’t exactly a new one. Art vending machines have permeated a number of unconventional spaces across Canada. For example, Montreal has Distroboto, a cigarette machine that
no longer sells cigarettes, but instead dispenses the work of emerging artists of all disciplines—visual arts, film, animation, music, literature and poetry, crafts etc. But it’s still a novel idea for Saskatoon, poking out like a proverbial sore thumb at local art markets and galleries where the hustle is palpable.

Scummy Magic is curated by Chris Morin and Joanna Graves. Follow us on Instagram: @scummymagic

Bizarreness notwithstanding, it’s hardly a sustainable business venture. The profit, typically at most a jangle of coins, is laughable, even in the hustle-everyday world of lowbrow, weirdo arts. Dollar stickers aren’t going to buy that yacht we’ve always dreamed of. Getting rich isn’t in the cards—it never is. Instead, we look to public reaction for our gold.

Setting up the Scummy Magic art vending device at a art-and-antiques style marketplace in a Saskatoon university bar, the response is heartwarming, head- scratching and hilarious.

Like a pack of ravenous voyeurs, we sit at a table within view, our faces obscured by menus, cups of coffee and breakfast bric-a-brac, trying to blend in with our surroundings. Trying to keep our gawky eyes from popping out of our skulls every time a curious looky-loo approaches the big red machine.

Two people approach the machine and make their purchases. Reviewing the dispensables, they embrace, mouths locking despite the laughter that is already dancing on their lips. It’s a lovely scene worth remembering.

The next customer looks grumpy, face crestfallen as wordlessly glances at the tiny piece of art. The package is unceremoniously dropped to the floor, left to mingle with bottle caps, used ketchup packets and other barroom offal.

The next person to receive a sticker is the screaming man, who seems far more stoked than anyone about the machine and its bounty. Maybe he’s in love with everything, but we secretly hope his emotion is infectious.

The next is an earnest couple with a toddler in tow. The tiny human is given some money for the machine, only to have the prize snatched away from them, a sticker that reads “THE COFFEE IS POOP” in bold, drippy letters. The child’s wails rival those of the previous man’s screams, and another piece of offbeat art finds a new home in the trash bin.
By the end of the day, once the patrons of the market have cleared, we open the machine and deposit the accumulated coins into our pockets—a whopping $14. So worth it.