It all started with the mailbox. Just as every journey begins with a single step, the crazy quilt house at 473 Clinton Street in Toronto began as an innocent craft project undertaken by a recuperating invalid. Following a serious construction accident and months of difficult rehabilitation, the man of the house, Albino Carreira, decided to jazz up the family mailbox, below. That was in 1994. Needless to say, the scope of the project has expanded considerably since then.
From the street the house is somewhat disguised by shrubs and trees. A yellow arbour and dowel mosaic fence hint at the decorative folly beyond but it would be easy to pass by without really noticing the place. Pause for a moment, however, and the brown/grey blur comes into focus, a visual cacophony lying just beneath the surface.
Carreira has a friend who works at a pool cue factory and instead of destroying the warped cues, they have become the fodder for this fantastical, outsider art project. The most elaborate piece of the puzzle is the covered porch; the door, walls and ceiling (below) are a complex riot of pattern constructed from cue dowels, small plastic toys and myriad bits and pieces.
Carreira’s daughter Paula answered my knock on her parents’ door and explained that after the mailbox, her father graduated to picture frames, below, which he made to showcase some of the jigsaw puzzles he assembled during his slow recovery from a broken neck. When I asked Mrs. Carreira how she felt about the utter transformation of her home, she threw up her hands in resignation signaling an old world acquiescence to the patriarch’s whims. It’s a harmless enough hobby, after all, for an individual who, no longer able to work, needs something to fill his days. When the house was all but covered, Carreira turned his attention to the family car, which I wrote about last week. Then, Papa Carreira volunteered to dress up his daughter’s house, but like Amy Winehouse, Paula said, “No, no, no.”
Needless to say, Casa Carreira is a local landmark. I asked a neighbour what he thought of the house and he expressed no chagrin at all; “The man’s got a lot of time on his hands,” he said, referring to Mr. Carreira. Certainly Clinton Street is a little more colourful as a result.