minimalism | figuring out when it's time to declutter

I'm trying to pinpoint the exact moment when I became sort of neurotic about minimalism. was it last week when I borrowed five books about decluttering from the library? or was it the week before when i read forty amazon reviews on a book about organization to find out if it was "truly" the right one to purchase? (i did, and it wasn't). Maybe it was last year when we welcomed our new son and I became aware of all the things that come with having a child.

No, I think it was the year before when we moved across the country and I discovered we hadn't really used that opportunity to cleanse ourselves. We had paid movers to bring all of our belongings to our new apartment in Ontario. After much discussion, we decided that it would be cheaper than buying new things. Eight Thousand Dollars later, with a charge per pound, there I was staring at a couch that was falling apart, clothing we never wore and an endless series of electrical cords for devices that had met their maker years before.

White Dwarf by An Te Liu - this sculpture is featured at the gallery I work at.
 It's a giant death star of outdated technology so it seems appropriate to interject here.

To make matters worse, we were back in our home province where our parents had been storing things for us. More specifically, where my husband had been keeping a storage unit. Every day, he would bring home a box of antiquated belongings, including vhs tapes, knife sets, key chains, plastic binders, floppy disks, and storage containers for floppy disks! Jackson's soon to be nursery was a frightening landscape of outdated technology, unused stationery and tchotchkes.

And for that reason, having a baby is the best thing that ever happened to us. Although we desperately need an office or studio space (especially me, working from home), Jack's imminent arrival forced us to clear the clutter and create this beautiful space.

But of course, as mentioned above, babies come with their own baggage. And so it's safe to say that I've been on a minimalism spree for awhile now. I've been taking it more seriously lately (hence the research). I'll talk more about it in future posts, but for now, I see some things that need to be tossed...


snail mail | children's pen pal exchange & children's letter writing kits

I recently worked on a special project with Alison from The Petit Cadeau (french for 'little gift'). I admire Alison and her zest for gift giving - we also share a love of snail mail (and really, isn't a personal letter in the mail just like a gift?).

For those reasons, we teamed up to create a children's letter writing experience. I designed snail mail sets for kids - including three envelopes, three sheets of writing paper, and an awesome gold engraved pencil - all with an adorable friendly fox theme! Alison will connect Canadian and international letter writings and will also include postage and some helpful tips.

Learn more about the project here and purchase the sets here. For younger coldest, Petit Mail is available!


art | rachel machenry

I think one of the biggest reasons I'm excited to be working for Craft Ontario is because I absolutely love the intersection between art and functionality - and there lay craft. Of course I love art for art's sake as well. But threading together the things we need and the things we find beautiful is really what creates the aesthetic fibre of our lives.

Below are embroidered fabric works by Rachel MacHenry. Blankets, a bench, pillows and the decorative enhancements on an ottoman style ball.  The detailing is exquisite and the colour selection subtle - but somehow the embroidery still pops!


baby | letter march 05.15

My aunt told me about this idea, where you set up an email account for your child, and write them letters through-out the years. An inbox full of letters from your mother would be an excellent gift for a teenage boy right?

Dear Jack,

All my life I have waited to feel the way I imagined the next stage of life might feel. When I turned thirteen I waited to feel like a teenager. When hit my twenties, I waited to feel like a woman. When I married your father I waited to feel like a wife. But through all of those milestones, I just kept feeling like me.

But when you were born, the most amazing thing happened. I started to feel like a mother. Don't get me wrong, I didn't know exactly what to do all the time, and mostly I still feel like myself (with a son). But I find myself experiencing an endless series of moments which cement the new addition to my identity.

When I held newborn you in my arms, I bounced bounced bounced instinctively. When I push you in the stroller I rock you back and forth, back and forth, back and forth at a red light.

When your hands are dirty I hold your wrist and pry open your hands with a cloth to clean inside your palm. When you learned to walk I held your little hand and walked at your pace.

With every bounce, rock and wipe, I get the the strangest sense of deja vu. Perhaps because all of these actions are something I've seen endless times before - in real life, on television...but it wasn't until I did them myself that I felt like a mother.



career | predictions of failure

When I have an idea for a blog post, I make a note of it on my phone. Today, out of curiosity, I scrolled all the way to the bottom. There it said:

Fine Arts Speech for new entrants last week: Gave examples of how I am still in the arts field - though I graduated three years prior. So scared that being pregnant means that no one in this field will hire me now. My insistence on working in the arts will fail - but not for lack of trying. 

Here's the thing - that's exactly how it went down. I would love to say that my worries amounted to nothing and that I found my dream job as a curator while seven months pregnant. Instead, from September 2013 to January 2015 I applied for almost 50 jobs. I received two interviews and one part-time position at a gallery I had worked at before, in a role I had done before (lesser actually, than the level I left at). I didn't know if I would ever see the light at the end of this search.

That's awkward for me to write. It makes me feel useless, and unworthy. So let's look at the variables - what was different from before when I was able to find jobs I loved?

I was in a new location.
I was pregnant.
I had a newborn.

That being said, it's not like I was advertising these facts in my cover letter. I wonder sometimes if maybe I wasn't trying that hard because of the latter two. But I was! I was nervous about how I would make it work, but I wanted each of those positions equally, and with gusto.

I've just begun work with an amazing organization called Craft Ontario. They enhance the visibility of contemporary craft for their members and create engaging events that invite the public to explore craft. It's a contract position in which I plan their annual craft show and fundraiser. I could hug them for seeing how capable I am and how perfect this position is for me.

I don't think I'll ever figure out what happened in the last year and a half (career wise, though I'm still trying to figure out babies). Luckily I had my work for Ted Harrison, my paper shop, and a lengthy stint of support from the government. Hopefully this new position leads to new and wonderful things for me - because if I've learned anything during this time at home; it's that having creative projects is an absolute must for me - something else I predicted correctly.


craft | finding space

The style of my current bedroom closet is standard. There is a lot of empty space, then a rod, and a shelf at the top. I fill the empty space with storage containers that have drawers. This allows me to pull out and place in objects with ease (mostly...pretty much...that's the idea anyways). But up on the shelf, where I have to stand on my tippy toes to reach, I pile things.

I stack packs of paper, uncut greeting cards, boxes of stationery seconds, paper bags...and a cashbox, which is forever falling onto my head. This pile of things (all useful and vital), is the bane of my cramped existence. I've never wanted to live in a large home (especially since more room usually equals more stuff - not something I want). However, I do desperately want a studio/workshop/craft space where I can stretch out a bit and put things away in a proper home.

In my dream world this space is above ground, with a large window and lots of natural light. The walls would be white, cupboards would abound, and I would have a large flat-top in the middle of the room for packing, wrapping and creating.

Here's a secret: I love our son, and the nursery we created for him is absolute perfection. But his room would make such a great studio! I'm sometimes very jealous of him and imagine what it would be like if the space belonged to me. The light is always perfect in there. Check-out it:

There may be a three bedroom home for us on the horizon. But in the meantime I am dreaming about this... (all images can be found on my craft room pin board)



photography | iphone baby photos

yesterday my son walked right across the room. it was more steps than i had ever seen him take. i sensed that he was going to do it so i pulled out my phone, put it on video mode and hit record. of the ten steps he took, i recorded a total of one. why? because my phone is so full of photographs (mostly of him!), i didn't have enough memory to take a video.

 i'm actually pretty ruthless as it is about narrowing down an impromptu photoshoot to the best one (i wrote a post about baby photograpy here). but clearly i'm not being quite as cutthroat as i need to be. i know what you're thinking - "why doesn't she just upload the photos to her computer?" well first of all: my computer is ancient and can't take that kind of baby cuteness overload. but also, most of these photos just aren't "the best"...so why am i saving them?

these are some examples of my baby photo streams. i followed my rules:

blurry? delete it
cluttered? delete it
emphatically not cute? delete it (this is a toughie! he's so cute!)

and after that it's just about finding the one. sometimes it's a picture of jack's face, or sometimes it's an image from behind. it's the photo that makes me say "awwwwwwww. perfection."


isavirtue | ordering product internationally

Living as close as I have to the United States is kind of like someone putting a cake in front of you but telling you you're not allowed to eat it. I grew up (and live now) in the Greater Toronto Area - just an hour long car drive to the Niagara border (and not that much farther to New York). For five years, I also lived in Victoria, part of an island in British Columbia that actually dips into the States and is just a short ferry ride to Seattle.

Despite this, when I order something from New York or California, I pay outrageous shipping costs. We are neighbours in theory, but neighbours who charge each other exorbitantly for a cup of sugar. I've only been ordering product in bulk and in wholesale for about a year (though purchasing online for much longer) and I've noticed most american companies offer free shipping to their fellow compatriots.

When I decided I wanted to start selling supplies in the isavirtue shop, I was torn. I have searched far and low in canada for the same type of amazing products I know are available in the states (and for the same great prices!). In some cases I've had luck. But mostly, I want that cake...and I want to eat it too!

Enter the freight forwarder - A company I debated working with for a while. Freight forwarders allow international businesses to order product to their country in a seamless way. They also take 8% of your product value on top of the cost of the product. That's a big hit! I crunched the numbers pretty hard to decide if it was worth it but in the end the upsides won out. A freight forwarder can help you get product or an account with new companies. They'll put in orders for you. Plus they repack everything and try to find one reasonable shipping price for just one delivery!

It was all a bit scary at times and the process has been expensive (with no promise of return!) My freight forwarders were pretty great (overseas operations in california) If it makes sense financially - I hope to use their services again! And in the meantime, I'll keep my eyes peeled for amazing Canadian suppliers :)


isavirtue | rebranding my business


In all honesty, I've never truly thought of my stationery shop as a business. I think of it as a hobby; a creative outlet. A place where I can hawk my goods so that I'm not forcing them on friends and family, or piling them in my closet (well, ok, I'm still piling them in my closet but at least they have the potential of a future home).


For about a year now I've been playing with the possibility of selling gift, stationery and snail mail supplies. I talked to a friend about opening a separate shop like that together - but unlike me she has a full time job and cherishes the lack of pressure in her spare time (i thrive on pressure!). So I put the idea on the back burner until last fall. I decided that, although I love creating things, I don't feel as though I am giving enough time to my baby throughout the day. Let's put it this way, he already knows the meaning of "independent play."

With a supply shop, most of the work is in the beginning. Once the goods are ordered, the accounts and shipping navigated, the products wrapped and listed...all I have to do is work with customers, ship out, and order more in. I'll add products of course, and try new things - but hopefully this type of set up will allow me to have more time for my son and a "real" job, in addition to feeding my creative, entrepreneurial side.

I am still going to stamp and emboss envelopes, writing paper and greeting cards. For the envelopes though, I'll be decorating pre-mades (did you know it takes me an hour to make only 5-10 envelopes by hand?). I love designing text and making an otherwise blank product unique so I'll punch up my supply shop with those items. I'm completely phasing out images that aren't my own design however.


Oh right! The best part! As of now I plan to sell goody bags, doilies, engraved pencils, tissue paper, gift wrap, labels, envelopes, shipping tags, rubber stamps, washi tape and baker's twine. oh my! all in the most beautiful hues and metallic.


This is the first creative project I haven't planned and executed within a frighteningly short amount of time. Everything has been in the works for months and months (a lot of that has to do with a new branding design! More on that later). I usually dive head first into projects - often creating personal crafts or commercial products in just days or weeks. You know, like that time I read a blog post about how to make a wall weaving and two days later I had constructed a loom, purchased extra yarn and completed my first one.

I'm excited to talk more about the process of this venture. I always struggle to be more forthcoming because I'm afraid it will ruin that big "ta da" moment. But some of my favourite creators and entrepreneurs discuss what happens behind the scenes. So stay tuned!