Creatively Sustained is a shift in perspective and a personal manifesto.
It’s evolved from my own personal experiences as a creative, entrepreneurial seeker. I've been working hard creatively for most of my adult life, having grown up feeling very connected to my own creativity, to nature and the environment. I was the sensitive hippy in an ordinary, northern family.
I’ve pursued multiple creative passions as careers - fashion design, interior decorating, fine artist, art gallery manager - despite the well intentioned and cautionary advice to avoid the starving arts. I proceeded with enthusiasm anyway and met many challenges head on with grit and determination.
But it never felt like enough. It always felt like something was missing. And I was always reminded of this in the form of exhaustion, burn out, depression, and/or creeping debt. Whenever I turned my interests and hobbies into full time jobs - I inevitably came to resent the expectations, deadlines and production times - of what were once expressions of pure creative joy.
I've been on a pendulum swing between creative careers and salaried security for the last decade, and with growing life experience and hard earned wisdom I'm learning to smooth out the extreme swings.
Creativity is not a job to apply for or a hobby that waits until the work day is over.
Creativity is in me and around me and it influences my choices, my actions and my perspective each day.
To live creatively sustained is to recognize and honor this influence in my life through some form of daily self expression, however small or simple or fleeting. A photograph, a pencil sketch, a blockprint. Maybe an undocumented thought or observation. To be aware of what the present moment is offering as creative inspiration.
Where is my attention drawn, what am I curious about, what would I like to be involved in?
This curiosity drew us to our first Passive House.
It was built by the City of Fort St John as a demonstration home and education project for our community. Passive House is a European standard for energy efficiency that originated as a concept in the Canadian Prairies. My partner Paul and I became aware of the project, expressed our willingness to become involved, and eventually moved into the home as caretakers, ambassadors and tour facilitators for almost two years.
Our City built this demonstration Passive House as an opportunity for our community to learn about energy conservation and low energy home construction as part of a 'living lab.' By having us live in the home and consuming energy - turning on the lights, cooking, showering, doing laundry - like any normal family, the City was able to gather data regarding energy consumption as well as occupant comfort.
In the end, the project confirmed that Passive House is well suited to a northern climate, uses up to 90% less energy than a conventional home, and provides ultimate comfort for occupants.
In summary - what we loved most were the large, bright south facing windows, perfect to beat the long dark winters and enjoy free warmth from the sun.
Passive House is so well sealed and insulated that there are NO drafts (and if you live in an older home in a cold climate you can only imagine what a luxury that is.) And the indoor air quality of a Passive House is unmatched in conventional buildings - there is dedicated fresh, filtered, circulating air 24/7 by design. And as a bonus - this building standard can help the average home owner reduce monthly operating costs and personally address issues of sustainability:
Climate change and the state of the environment are critical issues to many buyers, who will appreciate the far lower carbon footprint inherent in a Passive House building. Conventional buildings consume up to 40 percent of global energy use and contribute up to 30 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Those who care about this issue recognize that the Passive House model is one of the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions.
We are so proud to have contributed to the success of this project, and although we no longer live there, my partner and I continue to be involved in learning about and promoting sustainable building practices including the Passive House standard.
Becoming involved with the Passive House project was a way to support a solution and move forward - it was something positive to embrace - and it also helped me find my own voice.
I found the courage to speak up for what I care about, what I value, and what we all stand to lose. The Passive House was built as an energy conservation & education project but also - in part - as a response to the Site C Hydro-Electric Dam that threatens the Peace River Valley.
This is a big issue not only for the North East region where I was born and raised, but for the entire Province of BC. This dam will be the largest and most expensive infrastructure project in the history of our province, and it threatens prime agricultural farmland, as well as Treaty 8 First Nations traditional territory and treaty rights.
A creative way for me to become involved in this issue emerged through the My Peace River project, created by photographer Jodie Ponto and musician Jody Peck (aka: Miss Quincy.)
My Peace River is a snapshot of the people, stories, and life in the Peace Valley. It was created in response to the threat of the Site C dam on the Peace River Valley. It curates many different views of an endangered area through art - photos, video, music and performance. It is a collaboration between everyone who has a connection to the Peace Region and forms a cohesive picture of what stands to be lost forever if the Site C dam is constructed.
By tagging experiences on social media using #mypeaceriver anyone is able to participate and show their appreciation for the valley. I shared how I most enjoyed the Peace River - walking and sketching along the banks and in the hills, and later created a fundraising coloring book inspired by images in the social media feed. These coloring books have been sold at fundraisers, and also distributed as creative activity books for residents of Peace Villa Care Home.
I also created the cover artwork for the My Peace River album - an EP of songs performed live on the banks of the Peace River by Miss Quincy and Twin Peaks.
As a way to honor my time spent in the Passive House, and as a way to process to the events unfolding around me, I later dedicated a full month, August of 2016, as a self-organized Artist Residency in the Passive House. It was a way for me to creatively explore my local Metis heritage, my own connection to the regional flora and fauna of the valley that I call home, all while living in the Passive House.
I spent the entire month researching, sketching, carving and eventually hand block printing over 60 sq feet of fabric.
I have since assembled the fabric into a full sized quilt, the quilt blocks representing pages of stories already written and yet to unfold. The cover is quilted in waves, like the ebb and flow of the river along its banks. This quilt is a piece of my own history that am I able to carry with me, that connects me to my home. It's represents the origins of Creatively Sustained - and it's a reminder to honor and value my creative spirit - no matter where life leads me in the future.