A new school year

I have been homeschooling my youngest son, Seth since January 2013. It was a hard decision to reach but it has proven to be exactly what our family needed. In the months since making the decision, my darling boy has changed from an aggressive, grouchy Negative-Nancy with a hair-trigger temper into an affectionate, funny, lighthearted and articulate charmer with a penchant for asking existential questions either very early in the morning or very late at night. We have tremendous amounts of fun together reading, crafting, playing outside and baking. It has done both him and me a world of good.

We’re very fortunate to be part of the Yukon Home Education Society which is a wonderfully diverse group of families across the territory who home educate in varying ways while working hard to facilitate many social gatherings for our kids to play with peers. This year, I invited the families of the home schooling community to take advantage of unconventional back-to-school portraits. Seth wanted his own shoot so I got a few fun images like this sweet one…

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Of course, we can’t be all business all the time.  Sometimes, we just need to jump around like ridiculous fools.

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sometimes, I dream

For the past decade or so, I have done tons personal work with educators like Danielle LaPorte, Marie Forleo, Julia Cameron and Christine Kane. I have made discoveries about who I am as an individual, as a mother and as a wife and friend. I have done visualizations, written works to clarify my truest desires in life and vision boards. Each of these tools has been instrumental in helping me understand my purpose on this earth which I now know to be one of blissful, joyous creativity.

I have explored this creativity in myriad ways. I have worked in conventional employment scenarios (those totally don’t work for me – the stifle my individuality and ultimately, my creativity), I’ve been a clothing designer, a scrapbook artist, a portrait photographer – all deeply creative careers. But they all ended up drawing me away from my ideal creative environment which is my home. For as long as I can remember, I have found the greatest comfort in pursuing creative endeavors in my home. Even back to my teen years, with my first sewing machine and my watercolors, I was finding the greatest joy in creating while in my home space. Keep in mind that despite the fact that in those early years, my home environment wasn’t always a peaceful one. My parents resisted their inevitable divorce for several years too long at the expense of my brother and me feeling like home was a calm, safe place. It was in those times, as a matter of fact, when the chaos was at its peak, that my creative expression in the sanctuary of my bedroom that I felt safest. My art has always helped me heal.

Now as an adult, I’ve had to learn and re-learn some lessons about my preferences about how I create and feel the most whole. I dream that in the future, I can have a large, beautiful, well-lit creative space that is designed to accommodate all of my creative pursuits and also is an environment that nurtures that in others. I would love to have a space where I can make the things I dream of making while inviting others in to join me in that.

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I’m sure that one day, I’ll try my hand at pottery, silkscreen printing, letterpress printing and other crazy creative adventures. But these things in addition to being at home with my family; homeschooling, cooking, and generally just chillin’ are what bring me ultimate joy. Sounds not too bad, hey?

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What I did on my summer holidays

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As you may already know, I spent my summer traveling. My best friend, Brooke and I embarked on a three week road trip to Manitoba and back and only days after returning, we left the country on a trip of a lifetime  to Tanzania, Africa. We rode motorbikes on dirt roads, we ate mystery  meat with the local villagers, we swam in the Indian Ocean and constantly chased naughty monkeys out of our belongings. But we have held back on sharing the images from our trip because the primary reason for our being there was to photograph the scenery (flora and fauna) as well as the people. We interviewed them regarding their participation in programs run by the organization we were there on behalf of – The Kesho Trust.

This organization, you might not have heard of. They were founded by a local Yukon man who I came to know through another friend. They are conservation focused and work with a number of villages surrounding the Saadani National Park which is the only national park to include both fresh water and marine landscapes. The project we were contributing to is called the Kihembe Environmental Learning Center. It is located in Mkange Village, just outside of the park boundaries. Right now, the site is a 100 acre piece of land which was given to the two partners in this project – Kesho Trust and SANA. It is a remarkable piece of beautiful property with trees, hills, butterflies and a view straight out to the Indian Ocean from the top of the hills. This is where the Center will be built and we invite you to come out on November 1st at 6:30pm to Baked Cafe on Main Street, in downtown Whitehorse to learn about the project and how you can support us by making a donation or volunteering. Brooke and I will be showing a video of our experience. I hope you are able to join us and that you are as compelled as we were to do what you can to bring this dream into fruition.kihembe-241 copykihembe-499 copykihembe-539 copykihembe-570 copykihembe-577 copykihembe-640 copykihembe-648 copy

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My new love

Many years ago, as a doe-eyed teenager living in a small Vancouver Island town, I had big dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Not very many years later, I realized that dream and had a thriving clothing design business out of my home. That was WAY before Etsy, and even before eBay. I had to hustle to make sales. I had to send physical samples of my clothes to stores before they’d agree to carry the line. It was a lot of work, it was expensive and it wasn’t quite like I imagined but holy shit, was it fun. It was creative, it was challenging and it was enough for me to feel validated in what I was doing.

Years into the business, my kids took priority. I relocated to Whitehorse and became a farmer’s wife. My newfound love of scrapbooking took up my “free” time (what is that, anyway when you have toddlers?) and the natural companion of scrapbooking is photography. I had always wanted to learn how to use a camera but was too intimidated to try. I got over that and began teaching myself how to shoot on a DSLR with the wise words of my wedding photographer friend, Karen, “Whatever you do, just use it on Manual all the time. You’ll screw up lots but you’ll also learn lots.” so that’s what I did. I did screw up lots but I also created some really meaningful images that I still treasure to this day.

Fast forward to my post-sabbatical state. In my “time off”, I was making an effort to reconnect to my affection for handmade housewares and decided to take a stab at quilting. Hand quilting to be exact. At first, I made a pillow cover for the sofa. Something small. Something I could finish even if I decided I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. Turns out, I really DID like it. I even HAND QUILTED that sucker. And I liked that too! So I made a baby quilt for a friend. Then I started a bigger one for myself – big enough for napping on the sofa! This is my newfound love. My current source of creative replenishment. It is for me, it is not for generating income. It is fun, it is new, it is challenging and it is slow. I like slow. It gives me opportunity to think and reflect, to plan and imagine. It is like meditation. And food for my soul.

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Also, I got this idea that maybe I could enjoy making my own clothing again. So I visited the local fabric shop – Bolt & Button and am hoping to make this simple button down shirt sometime soon-ish for myself. I can’t find buttons yet but maybe I’ll go to Vancouver and spend some time (and likely money) at Dressew. Lots of treasures there.

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Back to basics

I’ve been away from my studio for many months. Making the decision to cancel everything and accept the fact that everything I was doing was giving me anxiety and making me very, very sick was so hard. It was hard because I’d done it to myself. I’d backed myself into a corner and I was absolutely fucking miserable.

In the months since I started my sabbatical, I’ve driven across the country and back and I’ve flown to the other side of the planet to visit a country in Africa. My perspective on love, work, home, value and happiness has shifted permanently.

When my kids were small, I felt like my job as a stay at home mom wasn’t enough. I knew that it was enough for them, in their small world of home & school but for me, it felt like I somehow missed out on something. I felt like I *should* be/do/accomplish more. I think I told myself that in order for my life to have real value, I needed to achieve great things in a traditional work context. So when my youngest son started kindergarten, I also started a business that ended up taking more than 50 hours per week to meet deadlines, get clients’ orders processed and booking enough shoots to meet the demands of my very expensive studio.

When our house burned down in the spring of 2012, I pushed my work demands into overdrive. I was trying to run from the pain. I became a work-a-holic. My marriage was paying the price, my children were paying the price and my health was definitely paying the price. I was working day and night and I couldn’t find anything to be joyous about. I hated who I was becoming – driven by cashflow projections, overhead, marketing goals and profit margins.

This year, two years (almost to the day) after the fire, I reached a breaking point. My health had deteriorated to the point where I was dealing with chronic hives, nausea, anxiety, sleep problems, and a general dislike of where my life had gone.

I made a very painful decision to cancel my commitments to many clients – old and new- to apologize to clients whose orders were in the queue, telling them that I needed to get healthy and that I would do my best work on their orders as I was able, and I later moved my studio space to a brighter, more positive environment. There was a lot of crying and saying terrible things to myself about my failure. In the thick of the emotion and the fear of what I was going to do next, I was very cruel in the things I said to myself. I didn’t think I was going to be able to discover creative joy ever again. I thought I’d made a horrible mistake and that somehow if I’d pushed through the universe and my body telling me I needed to stop (impossible, I now know), that it would all be ok.  But deep down, I knew I needed to make big changes.

So now, after a summer of rest, personal creative projects, long walks/hikes/runs, drinks with friends, boat trips on the river with my husband, afternoon naps, dinners with friends, and some very big trips to warm and sunny places, I have a new found clarity for what I want out of my life.

I want to experience joy. I want to feel light. I want to be nourished. I want to relish in the abundance of my life. I want to honor that within me that is divinely feminine.

I have learned that I do have a gift in my portrait studio that I can and will share with a smaller number of people each year. I don’t have to work countless hours for my photographic work to have tremendous value. I have beautiful clients and I’m deeply honored to work with them.

I have learned that when I am in my home, with my family, I am my absolute happiest. I make unbelievably delicious food and I love doing it. I feel closest to my departed Gran when I’m in the kitchen. I channel her every time I make food to share with friends & family.

I have learned that making things with my hands reminds me of my exceptional value in this life and the things that I create – the things that didn’t exist before I called them into existence – those things are evidence of my abilities and that I am here. I am truly part of this life and these things are my legacy.

I have learned that I don’t need to make millions with my work. The things I make – portraits, quilts, socks, cookies- I don’t need to monetize them. When I experience the joys of creation, therein lies the value. Value and money are not synonymous.

So while I’m continuing to operate my portrait studio on a very limited basis, working by choice with only women in a context of celebrating their individual value and worth, I am also writing, knitting, baking, quilting, home schooling, reading, napping and living a free and joyous life.

My greatest wish is that every person affords themselves the opportunity to declare this and to make it a sacred commitment. It is my wish for you.

xo

 

Brooke - They are many things I admire about you, your authenticity is definitely near the top of the list. You have, and continue to teach me so much about openness and vulnerability. Thank you < 3

Donna - I want to share my Malta trip experience with you. I believe it might be calling you. Congrats on listening to your whispering wisdom voice. xo xo

Lyndsay - So, so, so proud of you Vanessa!

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