New Art Project Honouring Barrie’s History

Fab Trays were designed and handcrafted in Barrie in the 1960s and 70s

Release from Downtown Barrie BIA

If you’ve taken a stroll along Dunlop Street recently, you may have noticed a new coat of lavender-hued paint brightening the alleyway next to P_ZZA. Within a few months, the space will be the backdrop to a new project honouring a fabulous part of Barrie’s history–the Fab Tray. 

Designed and handcrafted in Barrie in the 1960s and 70s, Fab Trays were made by Hardy Glenwood Products, using designer fabrics sealed in a clear polyester composition. The trays were carried in fine department stores throughout Canada and the US, including Eaton’s, Simpsons, Hudson’s Bay and Birks. Almost everyone’s mother or grandmother owned one. At the height of their popularity, a thousand trays were produced daily, all with very little mechanization. 

Banner image suppliedCommunications and Public Realm Coordinator, Sarah Jensen, holding one of the aluminum circles that will be painted. 

Gary Ransom, who helped develop the manufacturing method, recalls the process. “A layer of polyester would go down, then the fabric, then the second layer of resin,” says Gary. “That would be put into boiling water to soften it, and then we would cut them into circles with a machine designed to cut out shoes. Then we’d put them back into boiling water and then into a wooden mould.” 

“I actually developed a system that would do the flutes as the mould pressed the resins into their final shape. Before that, we did the flutes by hand, just like making pies.” 

Image supplied by Downtown Barrie BIA

Tragically, production was stopped in the 70s during the oil crisis, as resin became too expensive to produce. Bud Thompson, who ran the Hardy Glenwood Company with Ron Hardy, would go on to become one of the founders of Barrie Winterfest. Though production of the trays ceased long ago, they remain popular for their fun and funky patterns and have become a sought-after item by vintage and thrift collectors. 

To pay homage to the Fab Trays, the Downtown Barrie BIA has partnered with 16 local artists who will paint designs on aluminum discs, drawing inspiration from the vintage trays. The contributing artists are Alexandra Gronfors, Jenn Guerin, Petra Victoria, Emily Lemen, Monika Matus, Tamara Benoit, Tiffany Szymanski, Robin Luoma, Linda Laforge, Marne Grahlman, Jocelyn Chassie, Noemi Manguerra, Meaghan Oldershaw, Ryley James, Shauna Umney-Gray, and Sarah Benoit. Painting will begin next week, with installation planned for early spring. 

This project was made possible by Pratt Homes and their Art Builds Communities partnership with the Downtown Barrie BIA. It’s one of several projects created this past year, alongside the strawberry mural ‘Little by Little, a Little Becomes a Lot’ on Maple Avenue, created by artist Bareket Kezwer and painted with Monica Loney; the art installation ‘The Land Knows You’ displayed on the pink building, by artist Alanah Jewel; and a project with the Barrie Historical Archive called ‘Windows Into the Past,’ the first installation of which can be found at Maple Convenience, featuring photos from the building going back to the 1870s. 

The Downtown Barrie BIA is grateful for Pratt Homes’ support for these projects and investment in our community; they add colour and character to our city and help create community. We’re excited to see this newest project take shape and look forward to sharing it with everyone this spring.

Banner image supplied by Downtown Barrie BIA – Fab Tray