Finding Silver Linings

Friend, times are still very uncertain as we all know. But what I now know after the initial shock of what has happened to our world has eased slightly is that we must keep going. Yes, we’re adhering to new practices and change is definitely hard but we’ve really been given a gift. As crazy as that sounds, this forced pause has given me a chance to reevaluate my goals and the path I’m taking to achieve them. I’m betting you’re finding yourself taking stock of your own life in a similar way?

Now, having said that, I’ll totally own the Netflix bingeing that took place during the stay-home orders, the eating of my feelings (so much bread!), and the sleepless nights while I panicked about the future of my business. But in honesty, that is behind me. I have chosen to use this forced pause as an opportunity to step back from the way-too-close perspective I had on my business and get a look at what’s in my future. That shift in perspective has allowed me to initiate some really exciting work.

During the gnarliest stage of the not-yet-reopened phase of Covid in the Yukon (early May), I received an email telling me that I’d earned a prestigious award – The Design and Innovation Award from the Craft Council of BC in their annual earring show. It was such good news but in honesty, I couldn’t quite process the scope of the win. I was still feeling uncertain about my future and my confidence had definitely been shaken with the shutdown. My reaction to the win was totally underwhelming.

When the Yukon News learned of the win, they sent a journalist to interview me and the editorial that they published was fantastic. I was starting to experience a shift in my attitude. Thank god because the way I’d been feeling was exhausting and so dreary! I was starting to remember how inspiration and joy felt.

With a renewed sense of optimism and hope for the future, I’ve chosen to use this time to dig deep into PR and Marketing projects and am excited to be partnering with Erik Pinkerton Photography and Alistair Maitland Photography on a truly exciting if not intimidating undertaking but I BELIEVE that it will pay off. I’m often heard saying that the Universe is always conspiring in my favour and I know it’s true, even now. Especially now.

What I can tell you about how I made the shift is that I identified what made me so damned stuck. I believed that I had no power. Maybe I had no power to change the impacts of Covid on consumer behaviour or on where I was working (home or in the store) but I COULD set my sights on a target – a new project. Even with no guarantees that the project would bear fruit, I was able to create a super healthy distraction that served my business and my mental health. At this very moment, I still have no idea if the project will yield a single dollar of income (it’s actually costing a ton) but I have to have hope that it will be worth my time. I’m open to seeing the value of what I’m doing in ways other than short term cash gains. I have loads of new skills and resources as a result of how I’ve shifted so I’m already winning.

I’d love to know what things you’re doing personally or professionally to keep going forward and to nurture your own sense of future, hope, and possibility. Let me know in the comments section how you’re cultivating optimism, even on the hardest days or in the smallest ways!

I know this is a super tough time with no real end in sight but I can promise you that there are silver linings in your life, you just need to look for them! If you’ve found any, I want to hear all about them!

Take good care of yourself. We’re in this together!

xo
Vanessa

 

 

We will be okay

Oh. My. God. 

This has been the most disruptive, unsettling, fear-infused time I can recall ever having experienced. I’ve endured a house fire and a horrendous divorce and this thing has those beat by miles. I can’t quite get a handle on whether I’m coming or going each day, what to work on (or to bother because the store is closed so what’s the point). My mental health is paying the greatest priced followed closely by my fledgling marriage. 

I’m certainly not my best self these days and the spiral of doomsday thinking gains traction with very little effort. Bless my wonderful husband for accepting my apologies each day for being a prickly, negative jerk  and for always finding a way to make me laugh. 

I honestly don’t know how to stay positive (nevermind optimistic) because so little of this experience is within my control but friends, I’m doing my best. 

I spent an entire week last week updating my rather tragic, neglected website with as many listings of products found in my physical store. It was a massive undertaking. I stock literally hundreds of individual items but I was getting it done. Photos. Instagram updates. Inventory checks. Product descriptions. Syncing my web store with the physical one. Then it all died. On my birthday. Yeah, I cried. So I spent the following day building an entirely new web store but where did all the customers go? 

I know everyone is facing the same financial uncertainty but we all need to support one another in all the ways that we can. If making purchases is not within your means right now, I want to ask you to please comment on and share my posts on Instagram. Doing this puts my posts in front of folks who may not have ever seen my work or heard of what we do. That’s tremendously helpful. I need your help. 

And I KNOW you’re cruising IG aaaaallll the time. (kidding. not really)

So if you’re inclined, by all means, go and take a look at the new web store. Yes, many listings are still without images. That’s either because I didn’t photograph those items yet (because I’m working at home and they’re at the shop) or they’re sold out and I need to make more. But there’s TONS with photos. Also, this is a brand new web store. It might have kinks to be worked out. If you run into a problem, please TELL ME!!!! 

There is uncertainty. There is stress, anxiety, and fear. But I have to believe that we will be okay. Our reality is forever changed but hopefully we’re able to come out of this kinder, gentler, more compassionate. I don’t know but it sounds nice, doesn’t it?

 

Take care of yourselves and each other. From 6′ away. And wash your hands. 

We did a thing!

On February 11th at about 5:30 pm on the frozen banks of the Yukon River, I exchanged vows with the man I love, George Bahm. We were joined by my sons, one of George’s nieces, and George’s cousin. Our friend, Kate White married us and our friend Erik Pinkerton photographed us. I wore a rare blue lynx for warmth and as my “something blue”. The bouquet I made using swan feathers I’d collected during my time in Iceland, raven feathers from neighbourhood walks, cotton blossoms and teeny lights because who doesn’t love things that light up?! 

It was -15 so we definitely kept our parkas on and while we’re definitely bundled up, I still felt glamorous and beautiful. One of the things that I loved about that day was the fact that they grey wool wrap dress I wore was what I wore at work all day so technically, I wore my wedding dress to work which I think is very awesome. 

We haven’t exchanged rings yet. We’re having them made by a friend and immensely talented Tlingit artist, Mark Preston. We’ll have some kind of gathering in the summer (hopefully) as long as we can find a date that will allow as many of our family members to be there as possible. 

Nobody knew we were planning this save for the folks mentioned above. It was the hardest secret to keep but it has been tremendously fun telling our many friends about our sneaky elopement. It was small, it was quiet. It was perfect. 

Immediately following the marriage ceremony, I participated in the Yukon Trappers Course to become a certified Wild Fur Harvester in the Yukon. I will be given an assistant trapper’s license to harvest furs on a portion of the trapline that I already work on with George each winter. I learned a few things I didn’t already know in the course and was able to share knowledge as a business person working with furs so all in all, it was a very rewarding experience. However, it did require me to close the store for a few days. That’s never easy as an entrepreneur, especially one without staff! 

The day after concluding the Trapper’s Course, George and I were up at 3am and heading to the airport for our honeymoon. We were in Mexico – a week in Playa del Carmen and then nine days of wild camping, fishing, and exploring all over East Mexcio via camper van. We are now home, tired and happy. The laundry is being washed, emails are being answered, groceries definitely need to be bought and the store reopens on Tuesday, March 10th at 10am. We are glad to be home and fully recharged for another busy spring and summer! 

6am be like…

I have a great weaving friend Anastasia Hobson-George, who told me that if I wanted to get my weaving completed in time for the coastal Tlingit celebration in Juneau, Alaska in early summer of 2020 that I’d have to get up early and weave for an hour before starting my day just like the late master weaver, Jennie Thlanaut. I was told that Jennie would wake up early and make tea and weave. I decided that finishing this robe is important enough to sacrifice a little sleep so since July, I’ve been waking up at 6am and weaving for two hours almost every morning (Tues-Sat). I make coffee, I often listen to a podcast with my headphones on while George, the lucky recipient of this robe sleeps nearby. 

In these bleary-eyed early morning hours, I have felt so fortunate to welcome each day with this deeply spiritual weaving practice. I feel every weaver who came before me, guiding my hands – often before I’m awake enough to do so for myself. The only lights on in the house are those illuminating my loom, flooding my workspace with light so that I can ensure the tidiest, most compact stitches. Yes, I’ve made plenty of weaving mistakes but I’m ok with that. I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming for beautiful. 

This robe came into being in the summer of 2018. I spun the warp yarns by hand on my Ashford Kiwi II wheel using merino wool until that ran out and I substituted the remainder with corriedale. I included cedar bark in the warp for the strength and bug repellency (as is the tradition with Chilkat weaving) and am so grateful for the time I put into creating every one of those one thousand yards of yarn! When I dressed this loom on Canada Day, 2017, I had NO IDEA how tedious but precious each stitch would become. I estimated that when this robe is completed, I will have created somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250,000 stitches. I love the time I spend at the loom, weaving threads in and out, over and under. 

I take great care to ensure that my state of mind is a peaceful, pleasant one. If I am angry, I redirect my thoughts to a more positive state. If I’m hungry, I stop and eat. If I’m sad, I step away from the work. Whenever I’m in a state of unhappiness or any kind of negativity, I stop working and regroup. I know I must take great care to monitor my thoughts because they are being woven into the fabric of this robe which will be worn and danced by hopefully many generations of Tlingit dancers. 

I’m not an expert. To the contrary – I’m quite a beginner but an enthusiastic, committed one. I’ve documented much of this process on my Instagram feed but I think I ought to keep some of those images here as well. 

The image immediately above shows bundles of warp yarns hanging in preparation for dressing the loom in the summer of 2018. I was excited, apprehensive, and totally full of inspiration and hope. Once the loom was dressed at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Canada Day, I was on my way. I had no idea how my enthusiasm would ebb and flow but as of today, September 9, 2019, I am committed to an almost daily (save for Sundays) weaving practice that starts at 6am. I only complete 3-4 rows at best with each row taking 30 minutes to complete but I am making progress. Daily. 

It is absolutely a challenge to wake up earlier than I’d like and immediately work but I do it. This means that every day, I get to see a little bit of progress which brings me closer to my goal of completion. 

I was so lucky to spend several months at home working on the weaving. I saw diamonds emerging in the Haida Spider Web pattern which was exciting! There were still many moments when I felt as though I’d never be done. I still have those moments all the time. But they pale in comparison to the moments when my heart is racing as I watch a new pattern emerge. This robe is steeped in life experience, love, and joy. It is telling its own story through the design and stitches used but also, it tells my story as the weaver. We, the robe and I are intertwined. We are one. 

The photo of me at the loom above is from early July , 2019. I was beginning my morning weaving practice and was excited to see the fruits of my labour. I also was beginning to see how starting my day with this work was setting the rest of my day and my life to be so rich and fulfilling. 

I foresee needing to record my progress in this storytelling fashion more regularly as this piece comes to life. I have so many thoughts and ideas that emerge during this time at the loom. I gain clarity on my life’s path, my biggest dreams. I have so much to be grateful for and it all starts with my time in this chair, in this place, in front of this work. 

Thank you for being with me as I share my experience. 

V

I think I need a clone

Copyright © 2014 Sven Müller

I’m not entirely sure how the heck so many weeks go by between posts but they DO go by and instead of feeling like a total dolt, I’m going to remind myself and you that I’m doing my best. Also, fall time seems to be a season of getting shit done and this fall is no different. 

I’ve just posted a series of upcoming classes on Facebook and Instagram which I’m really looking forward to teaching. Also, there will be a few classes held at our LYS, Itsy Bitsy which will be my regular drop spindle spinning and frame loom weaving classes. There’s always a huge demand for these classes so I suspect my fall teaching schedule will keep me on my toes. 

In addition to classes, I’m reworking how a bunch of my online store listings are being launched. I’m trying something new where I knock out a pile of new designs and restock a bunch of the core line and launch them all together at once with announcements on social media. Maybe in the future, I’ll include a newsletter for those announcements but I’m just one person and between making stock (jewelry and woven goods), running the store, weaving on the Ravenstail robe in the early morning hours, and finishing writing my first book, I think we can all agree that I probably have a few plates spinning all at once. No need to mess with what’s (mostly) working. 

So without further ado, here are some of the upcoming classes for September. I’ve created an actual event for all of the upcoming classes mostly for ease of sharing. The registration process is simple and somewhat manual for me. PM/email to sign up. It’s pretty straightforward. Class info is included in each listing and if you click the photo, it’ll take you straight to the FB event. Try it! 

September 3 from 6:00-8:00pm.

Must be prepaid. $75 +gst per person, all materials provided.
Cancellation policy – full refund up to the day before. Class day cancellation will not be refunded but you will receive a kit of materials and instructions or templates when applicable.
Max six participants. Can be paid in store or online. DM for details re: online registration

Location : Wild Yukon Furs || V. Ægirsdóttir – Artist – (the former wine shop) beside Baked and across from The Collective Good.

You will learn back stitch, satin stitch, and French knots. Also, you’ll learn how to transfer patterns.

Hoop, fabric, needles, and thread are yours to keep.

September 4 from 6:00-8:00pm.

Must be prepaid. $75 +gst per person, all materials provided.
Cancellation policy – full refund up to the day before. Class day cancellation will not be refunded but you will receive a kit of materials and instructions or templates when applicable.
Max six participants. Can be paid in store or online. DM for details re: online registration

Location : Wild Yukon Furs || V. Ægirsdóttir – Artist – (the former wine shop) beside Baked and across from The Collective Good.

You will learn how to warp your loom, which materials to warp with, how to select weft yarns, plain weave and finishing techniques to create one of a kind woven bracelets.
Loom, warp thread, weft yarns, and needle are yours to keep.

September 10, 6-8pm.

Must be prepaid. $75 +gst per person, all materials provided.

Cancellation policy – full refund up to the day before. Class day cancellation will not be refunded but you will receive a kit of materials and instructions or templates when applicable.
Max six participants. Can be paid in store or online. DM for details re: online registration

Location : Wild Yukon Furs || V. Ægirsdóttir – Artist – (the former wine shop) beside Baked and across from The Collective Good.

You will learn back stitch, French Knots, how to transfer patterns, and most importantly; how to use watercolour paint on fabric!
Hoop, fabric, needles, and thread are yours to keep.

I do have more classes in the queue and will be sharing them on social media and hopefully on here as well. If you want to see the samples for these projects, most are shown in the posts on Instagram. I seldom put much time into Facebook anymore so if you want to see what’s what, hit me up on IG. 

 

And lastly, if you’ve gotten this far in my post, please leave a comment so that I know someone other than my partner is reading this…and let’s be honest, he’s probably not even reading this. See why I could use a little comment love? 
Thanks for hanging out, homeslice. 

V

Overwhelmed and inspired

Friends, this has been such a challenging year. I have so many irons in the fire and I’m honestly going in a million directions at once. My textile degree is slowly moving forward (summer was a huge source for delay) but I’ve had an incredibly fulfilling season of travel, making, and inspiration. I attended the Great Northern Arts Festival in July in Inuvik, NWT. I was in attendance as a tapestry weaver but something told me to bring along my fish leather from Iceland. I had also brought along my jewelry making tools and findings which turned into some seriously sleepless nights and making of new jewelry that is now listed here on my website available for purchase. While at the festival, I also earned the honour of People’s Choice for Jewelry Design. This was a solid indicator that I was onto something with this jewelry.

I’ve also raided my partner’s personal stash of furs – he’s a trapper – and this has led me to make some really beautiful, simple jewelry items. I have experimented with wolf and lynx fur and have plans to explore making with fox, beaver, marten (sable), and rabbit – maybe even wolverine! Birch bark and porcupine quills have made their way into the collection as well.

I can’t quite put my finger on where all of my energy comes from but I suspect it’s how I am managing many of my life’s stresses – channelling them into creativity and productivity. If only there was a way to weave in my sleep! Oh, and speaking of weaving, can I tell you a little bit about the Ravenstail robe I’m weaving for my partner?! I spun the Chilkat warp (two ply with cedar bark spun into it) for the robe – all 1000 yards of it! And on July 1, at the Adäka Festival, I put all of that warp onto my brand new loom that the aforementioned partner literally whipped up that morning. Aside from a month of art/music festivals and travel, I have been working diligently on the robe. It is certainly slow going as the weft (horizontal weavers) are sock/fingering weight yarn ( read: skinny AF).

Keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook feeds for progress photos. I’m loving every minute that I spend making and am delighted that I am able to do so.

Just about to insert the black 3-stranded twining yarns!

 

Getting the hang of it

So it’s been over two decades since I was a student. Yeah, I attempted to do distance education in my early twenties (with no success) and again in my thirties (again with no success) but those pursuits were not as inspiring as what I’m committed to now. I’m currently enrolled in the Foundations in Textiles course which precedes the full-on Bachelor of Arts degre in Textiles that I’m absolutely going for. I can’t wait to make time for the course work and am honestly over the moon with the process of exploring and learning.

In our course materials, we’re tasked with keeping a learning log to record our thoughts and insights, ideas and apprehensions about the process of learning. As a lifelong journaller, this absolutely lit me up. I scoured town to find a spiral bound sketchbook that I could use for my log and have spent the last few weeks getting accustomed to making habitual entries. Suffice to say I’m still working on making it habitual but it is definitely fun and as I go through my day, I’m making mental notes of which elements I want to document in my Learning Log.

(note: I will be uploading the entries to the log in my posts so that my tutor who is in the UK can view them. By all means, read them and enjoy but if they seem lame, dull, or just too damned many pages, sorry. I need to keep a digital record somewhere.)

      

So my first exercise was to make a series of marks prompted by some very exciting adjectives using a bunch of my new (yay!) art supplies. That was a fun experience. I noticed how the materials felt on the paper and in my hands. I also noted how the various media sounded and even smelled. That was an unexpected multi-sensory experience!!

      

Of course, once I’d started working, I wanted to just make marks all day but alas, adulting called and I had to pack up the fun and make dinner. So some time has passed since that exercise and I’ve attended evening talks and daytime meetings, I made a short film with friends and attended the screening. In other words, I’m DYING to get back to my assignments!

I’ve gotten more regular with my Learning Log entries and am enjoying having art supplies on hand all the time to record my ideas. In colour!

     
The best part about the sketch at the bottom of the page above is that while on a video chat with another textile artist in Hamburg, Germany, I showed him my sketch and he showed me that he’d doodled the same exact shape during our call. We immediately got excited and all fired up as artists are wont to do.

In preparation for the next assignment, I’ve created a few “paintbrushes” from materials in my stash. I will also have a look in the recycling bin to see which materials in there can be used as “quills” or “nibs” with India ink. Update to follow.

So today, I get to experiment with handmade tools and making marks with new methods. So exciting! Then an afternoon of weaving and creativity in my residency space downtown. I am seriously living the very best life. I couldn’t be happier.

Tell me what cool, challenging creative things you’re up to. I want to know ALL about it!!

Eudaimonia – Human Flourishing

At the beginning of every year, I choose a word to guide me rather than making resolutions. Last year, my word was Meraki (google it. It’s a winner) and while I was pondering a word I have a strong connection to – light – as being my word for the year, this delicious word popped up. I think there’s something extra special about the richness of a word like this. I like that it’s not part of everyday vernacular but that it also says so much. I think that the definition of this word speaks to my personal goals every year but I’m pretty sure I had no idea there was one word that said it all. I can’t imagine a better state of being that would beat being happy, healthy, and prosperous. Don’t you think?

This is the image that I have for my Facebook cover on my personal page and I selected the background image because it’s Vík in South Iceland (a stock image, not one of mine) and if you’ve ever met me, you know I have a serious love affair with Iceland. Seeing the Icelandic landscape stirs something in me and I like that.

 

I think that this tradition of choosing a word at the beginning of the year says a lot about intention. I’m a big believer in setting intention and in the power of putting thought into words and the remarkable things that can happen when a little focus is put in one direction. I’ve seen it work too many times to ever doubt it. For me, this act of choosing a word is a new year tradition that only serves to benefit me and I’m pretty excited to see how this word benefits my life. Stay tuned!

 

Do you choose a word for yourself? What word did you choose for yourself? I’d love to know. Tell me your word and why you chose it in the comments!

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