What a week it has been! Who am I kidding, I’ve been building up to the events of this last week since January, and I’m really glad I had a holiday long weekend to recover.
May 16 & 17 was the Spark Women’s Leadership Conference in my home town of Fort St John. Since I live in Prince George this year, it felt like an extra special home coming to drive the five hours north through the mountains in perfect spring weather to attend. I even stopped on the way at Tudyah Lake to practice and record my speech, watching the loons dip and dive, and as I pulled back on the road I got a perfect photo of a black bear in the ditch. It was almost too idyllic.
Spark is a professional development conference thought of, created for and by - women who live in the north. Travel for female professionals can be tough, especially from remote regions, and it’s even harder to travel for events like this if you have a family and associated duties to leave behind. The women of Spark organize an incredibly high caliber event - I have traveled all the way to New York to attend a personal development conference - and I can honestly say this event in Fort St John is every bit as good!
Spark is also special for me, as I have had the honor to share my creative journey with the audience through small presentations over the last three years. My first year at Spark, I spoke through shaking knees about Re-Defining Creativity - how I started to view creative actions in my life through a broader lens, and that a homegrown and home cooked dinner from my garden could be just as colorful and creatively fulfilling as paint on canvas. Or how connecting one on one with staff and customers at the cafe I managed was an integral missing piece I just couldn't place when I worked from home as an artist years before.
In 2016 I pitched the concept for a creative workbook to the Spark Committee as a new sponsorship item that Whole Wheat & Honey Cafe would invest in. I also viewed this as an opportunity to share my own illustration and design talents as a marketing effort for the cafe - as the business was listed for sale at the time, with little engagement through traditional real estate channels. The first iteration of this item - the Step Boldly Creative Vision Workbook - was a huge success.
This year, I was commissioned by Spark to create the illustrations and content for another workbook, this time as a creative entrepreneur with her own, new business. It’s incredible to think that the path I set out for myself in 2016 was realized, without a hitch. The cafe sold to the perfect person, my partner and I re-located for school right on time, and one of my favorite events became one of my first paid illustration clients of 2017. (Karen Theirson from Indigo Designs then incorporated my drawings into a wonderfully laid out booklet.)
Again I introduced the workbook, Hidden Gems, to the crowd at Spark, and I also made a personal goal to raise my hand and speak up in front of the crowd at every opportunity I could. I know it’s not easy for many people to speak to a crowded room, I have experienced very real symptoms of anxiety in these kinds of situations myself: cold sweats, pounding chest, shaky voice.
But I have also resolved to face these uncomfortable moments so that I can improve, and that is exactly what I did. I’ve also sat in these very same rooms feeling too afraid to ask my own questions, and been so grateful when someone else had the courage to seek the answer I was looking for. So for that reason I also volunteer my voice.
This was re-affirmed perfectly by a women sitting next to me in one of the sessions on the first morning. After I stood up to share my answer to the activities we were working through with the speaker, she whispered to me with a giggle “Now that I’ve heard your answer I actually understand the question!” Happy to help my new friend!
Another highlight for me was sharing my Five Year Plan with the room. Ten years ago I told my friends father, after he asked what I really wanted to be doing - that I wanted to start a cafe. He was nearing retirement from a government position and advised that a cafe wouldn’t be the most secure career plan.
Fast-forward to having spent the best years of my life thus far involved in that cafe, and now facing the opportunity and freedom to again choose my own adventure. I don't believe in holding desires secret, I do believe in hard work towards your dreams.
In five years, my partner and I will have found our dream recreational property in beautiful BC. Built on that property will be a new creative retreat center, sustainably built to the passive house standard. As an event venue and bnb facility, we will host creative, holistic, and special occasion celebrations in the summer. During the off season I will develop print and pattern collections that are licensed to my preferred fabric manufacturers in the home decor and quilting categories.
After some quick math, I realized I can make this happen before I turn 40 - I’ll even have one year to spare!
It was important for me to share my vision for the future with the women at Spark. I am at a new point in my creative evolution where it can be hard to verbalize what I am doing, and where I want it to take me. My business card states that I am a “Creativity Coach & Blockprint Surface Designer” and I am realizing that many people have a hard time understanding exactly what that means.
I want to teach people the creative techniques that I have learned from others and that bring me so much joy. I will be hosting two creative workshops in June at my home studio in Fort St John. We will be carving rubber blocks and printing on kitchen aprons, inspired by the spring theme creative gardens. Registration is now open here.
I also want to build a portfolio of surface design work that can be applied to fabric items such as scarves, pillows, table linens, even clothing. To help illustrate what surface design IS - I will be compiling my pattern collections into limited edition coloring books that will show the pattern on it’s own, and how it can be applied to home furnishings or personal accessories - that people can color themselves!
Also coming up, I will also be participating in a fantastic printmaking event on June 10th at the North Peace Cultural Centre, and I will have a market table with products for sale and demonstrations of my fabric printing techniques.
I’m really excited for the opportunity to share my motivations, inspirations and techniques with my community at these events. I believe it’s the little things that make the big things possible, and growing my creative business through workshops, digital and physical products, will move me towards my goal of buying a property and building my retreat center
Have you thought about a big, scary, exciting five year goal? What are some of the steps you could take this week, month or year to help move you towards it? I encourage you to sit with these questions for a few minutes, no idea or action forward is too small!