Some News...!

Soooo I have some news that's been a long time coming (no, I'm not pregnant): 

we're moving! 

We've been here in Montreal since August 2013, and while we have so loved being in this city and getting to know it and give to it, I'm also really excited to share with you that we'll be moving out west to Vancouver this spring! 

There are so many mixed emotions on my end - we've had Vancouver on our hearts for a year now and have been knocking on several doors for a while hoping that something might work out, so I'm excited that a door has finally opened for us to go, and we've chosen to go right through! 

At the same time, though, I'm also so sad to leave this beautiful city of Montreal. We've spent the first two, almost three years of our marriage in Montreal, and this city is where calligraphy started for me and where Olive Branch and Co was born. I love the culture in this city and how every other person I meet here is an artist or an entrepreneur or some combination of both - I find people love to innovate and create here, and people aren't afraid to do that here. I love that Montreal is so open about its love for arts and culture - the square near our apartment is constantly being transformed week after week into some kind of festival space or celebration or exhibit. I love that this city feels big enough that I feel like I can always explore, yet small enough that I can walk everywhere. 

Most of all, I love the people I've met here. People will always make all the difference for me, and I am incredibly blessed to have been a part of people's lives and communities here, even if for a short time. 

If you're from Montreal, hopefully I'll get to meet you before I go! I'm doing a few workshops here in the city before I leave, along with the Creative Market put on by Etsy Montreal. It's my way of saying thank you to this wonderful city and of giving it all I've got before taking off, so come say hey before it's too late! 

And if you're from Vancouver, would love to get in touch with you and any recommendations for paper lovers or coffee lovers are especially appreciated! :) 

Moving to Montreal was a big step in the unknown for us, and it's been such a good and wonderful adventure to be on. It has not always been easy, but it's been good, the kind of slow nod, a growing smile, satisfying good. It gives me confidence for the road ahead, that it'll be good not because of where it's taking us, but because of who is on the road with me - that's what makes the journey worth taking. 

À bientôt, Montreal!

3 Thoughts from OOAK

If someone told me in the fall of 2015 that I was going to do the One of a Kind Show in 2016, I probably would have laughed out loud - not out of joy, but out of disbelief. I remember first looking at the application forms in the fall and thinking, there is no way, this show is way beyond me, who am I kidding, that all sounds way too hard.

Yet here I am, April 2016, this show under my belt, done and done. Whew! 

So, I thought I'd share 3 thoughts from the show upon digestion and reflection: 

1. It takes a village, srsly  

There's a reason I call this little business Olive Branch and CO, because although it sometimes feels like a one woman show, it isn't, and it has never been. The only reason this calligraphy business even got off the ground, even if just a little bit, was because of very loving and supportive family and friends, and that came out to me a lot during OOAK. My husband designed the booth and put up the shelves, my best friend helped us put together the gallery wall for the booth, my friends rotated in shifts to be at the booths with me, my family and in laws helped me put everything up and tear everything down, and there were so many other little details - from people bringing food to taking out nails to bringing phone chargers - I am surrounded by people who love me, and I am incredibly grateful for that. There were also so many people/strangers I emailed to ask and who were so incredibly helpful, so I want to recognize that it was in no way just me! It's the only way that something like OOAK could ever happen for me, to have the help of so many, and I don't take that for granted or take it lightly. (To any of my friends and family who are reading this - Thank you! I love you! But you already know that, right?) 

2. Old and new friends are awesome 

One of the things I love about shows is getting to interact with people and show them calligraphy in action - and that totally still remains! It was so special for me to get to share that with this Toronto calligraphy, but also with friends and loved ones in Toronto who I don't always get to see. One of my friends who came to help me out said that it was exciting for her to be there because she didn't get to see this side of me, which is true - I didn't start all of this until I left Toronto and moved to Montreal, so it made me keenly aware that getting to see me in person doing all of this was something new that I was getting to share with loved ones in Toronto, many of who have known me for 10+ years! The show was such an awesome opportunity to share my work with old friends, and I loved getting to see friends I don't often get to see. I also loved getting to meet new friends - people I had interacted with online or had worked with but never got to meet in person - it was awesome to turn online interactions into in person ones. 

3. Dream big, girl.

Doing OOAK reminded me to dream big, to let myself dream about shows and things I want to do. When I first heard about the show, my first thought was, I would LOVE to do that show, immediately proceeded by, wow that sounds really hard and way beyond me. There was one point when I found out I got into the show but the only option for me was to build my own booth as opposed to be in the Etsy section, and I remember talking with my husband about what to do. I knew at that point that it would be beyond me and require so much work, beyond anything I'd ever done logistically and volume-wise, which I knew I was nervous and scared about. But my husband had asked me, okay, what if this was our (future) kids asking whether they should do this? What would you say to them then? I remember pausing, and thinking, I would tell them to go for it, to just try anyway, because I'd want to encourage them to take risks and to do things not out of fear but out of faith… and I realized I was just speaking to myself!

I don't mean that saying yes is always the wise choice, but I think for me, saying yes in the middle of being scared to has been a good thing. It's forced me to lean on the One greater than I, and to not just stick with what I can directly see in front of me, but to step into what's beyond me, what I can't see, trusting that the God who loves me is with me and is guiding these very steps. 

closeup.jpg

So when I think about OOAK, I think I will think about how loved and supported I am, but also that I once thought this was impossible and too hard for me - but, with a lot of good people and hard work and a faithful God who gave me a lot of peace throughout it all - it was done, and done well, and is something I am proud of having done. 

Friends, I'm excited for the hard but good things ahead. Thanks for witnessing these things with me! 

happy new year & happy new news!

Oh hello, 2016! You crept up rather quick! 

2015's shaped up to be quite a crazier year than I thought it would be, full of lots of unexpected but good, good things, and I am excited for what will come in 2016! I've definitely learned to be open to surprises, knowing that not everything can be planned, BUT, I did want to plan out this blog a little more, even so that it'll be a space where I intentionally and meaningfully contribute to. Blogging and I have had an on again, off again relationship since I was probably fifteen (!), so I'm hoping to that giving myself some parameters will help our relationship be a little more predictable and steady... ! Haha. 

I thought a lot about what I wanted to blog about/what I usually end up blogging about, and thought it fit into three categories: 

1. what I'm soaking up: 

Essentially, things I'm taking in and consuming. For me, this looks like books and music, maybe with some podcasts thrown in - stuff that's accompanying me and sitting with me. Often the things I love are things I want to share, so I want to take this avenue to share with you what I'm reading or listening to, because I think it's part of the creative process, but also because it's just so good I can't help but share! 

2. what I'm pondering: 

Stuff I'm thinking about. Yes, I know, pretty broad category, but will most likely run around topics of creativity, faith, freelancing, having a small biz, culture, womanhood, and whatever else I think of and want to write about. Keeping it pretty open. 

3. what I'm creating: 

Whether it's some client work I'm excited about, new products, or other things I'm making related to calligraphy and lettering, this is where I'll show you! I'll try and do some behind the scenes stuff too to show my process (if I remember...!). 

Woo! I'm excited to blog more regularly and jump back into it - although to be honest, I'm a little nervous that keeping it regular will be a challenge. But! I'm wanting to approach this with hope, so here's to discipline and grace for whatever dreams and plans we make, whether they be big or small. Whatever your resolutions and plans are for this year, may you have the discipline to work at them, and the grace to forgive and rest as well. 

Happy Noël & Appreciating Bilingual Montreal

When we first moved to Montreal, I had no idea that the French language thing was going to be... a thing. I had lived in Toronto and Kingston, both still in Ontario, where French language seemed to be just this subject you took until you could drop it (and when you did, you dropped it right away). My friends who had lived in Montreal for their studies never talked about the language piece, so I never really thought much about it, until we moved here and I realized that all the street signs and store names and forms were in French...! 

And I'm not going to lie: I really wrestled with this at first. Whenever people asked us about our move to Quebec, we'd say it felt like living in a different country, because as soon as we crossed the border, the signs became things we couldn't confidently pronounce. I think this language part made the move a little bit harder and more of a transition than I thought it would be; I really did feel some days quite discouraged because job searching was difficult, or I didn't know how to ask where popcorn was in the grocery store, or I couldn't understand what someone was saying to me without a really long pause. I think I felt like I didn't and couldn't belong because I couldn't communicate fluently in French, and it felt like this barrier between me and this city. 

And some days I still feel that way and a little discouraged about my grasp of the language, but other days I feel really amazed and thankful that we get to live in a city that has this curious and very cool mix of languages and cultures, and how that unfolds all these really neat creative possibilities and creates a special niche. I love that there's an appreciation here of a mixing between things because that's what this city feels to me: people bring their own backgrounds and cultures and experiences and they become blended, not in a way that makes what they bring to the table disappear, but in a way that celebrates the past and the present, the old and the new. 

So I think that's where this year's Christmas cards grew out of: this desire to celebrate and embrace the bilingual nature of this city, and really, how that reflects Canada as a multilingual, multicultural place. I've only lived in Toronto, Kingston, and Montreal in Canada, but it feels like there's this wider movement across Canada to learn to celebrate different backgrounds and languages and cultures and people. As someone who feels like a mix of cultures (more on that another day!), I wanted some of my Christmas cards this year to be a mix of English and French, even as my own way of expressing that yes, Montreal, I'm actually really glad to get to say Merry Christmas in French too, as well as English. 

Now, I find that the the bilingual-ness of Montreal is part of what makes this city so charming and unique. People often say that Montreal feels really different from the rest of Canada because it has this lovely European flair, but I think the roots of that come from the really interesting history of this city, including the mix of the French and English language. Montreal really has its own blended culture, and I think I'm learning to appreciate it and embrace it more. I love the people I've met here and the blend that it is, and I look forward to learning more and more about this city. 

I also really wanted to create Christmas cards, specifically, that helped me reflect on what it means to appreciate and celebrate this city and its bilingual-ness because I wanted it to speak to our present of living here in Montreal, but also the past in engaging in the history of Christmas. Christmas, to me, is about celebrating what's happened in the past, the present, but also what's to come. It's about celebrating the baby Jesus who came to save and to give us a way to God that we might fully live now, but also so that we might live in His city to come, an even better and even greater city that will be filled with people of all different stories, whose stories will have a new beginning in this city of God. So I want to appreciate this present city, knowing too that I await a better city, where we will be made new, where joy and gratitude and celebration are ever bountiful, ever present. 

So with that said, 

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, and Happy Noël! 

___

Just a quick note that this will be my last post of 2015! I'm planning some new things for this blog for 2016, so stay tuned to it! The plan is to post more regularly (ie. not just once a month...) and share a bit more of what accompanies me in my day to day, more of what I'm working on, and more of what I'm thinking, all on a regular basis. Looking forward to sharing this with you all and getting to work on this! Wooo! 

Let's Get Lost.

This past week, I took a walk up Mont Royal, thinking to take advantage of the sunny blue clear skies and warm weather we're having, and as I walked up the familiar path, I thought, aww, how nice, I'm walking up the same path I did last year, but how much has changed, etc - and as I walked further, admiring the leaves and the very blue sky, I thought, hmm, I've been walking for quite a while now and I'm still not up at the top. Where am I?! I started to walk a little faster, thinking every turn might bring me to the familiar city view, but I just kept walking into more trees and more trees, until at one point, I reached a clearing where there was literally nobody in sight. Nobody. And I thought, gosh, I think I'm lost. 

Getting lost is a funny thing; I find for me that it's often a slow realization that I'm lost, that I've done a few turns and I thiiiink I'm going the right way, and then as things look less and less familiar, I think, maybe, just maybe I'm lost, but I'll just keep going, and then I do some more turns and the suspicion grows, and then a few more, and then - yeah, I'm lost. And I don't know anyone who loves being lost, who seeks to be lost - getting lost is usually an accident, something we don't plan for, something that actually throws a wrench in our plans and makes us stop and slow down and recalculate, reorient, redo. 

I read an article on Brain Pickings (one of my favs!) on a field guide to getting lost, where Rebecca Solnit essentially calls for us to embrace getting lost. Similarly to what Rainer Maria Rilke writes about embracing the questions, allowing ourselves to get lost, in the same way, opens us up to the possibility to explore, to discover, to enter into the unknown and the mystery - and isn't it there that we grow and we learn? Sure, getting lost throws off our efficiency and our planned route, but it's that reorienting and recalculating that brings us to where we need to be, right? What if getting lost and that uncertainty and the clammy hands and racing mind that it brings on actually helps us enter into something new and previously unknown and, dare I say, wonderful? 

This week, I have felt lost. Not just when I couldn't find my way up Mont Royal, but as I thought about this calligraphy business and where to go with it and what direction to go in. I felt lost, not knowing what to focus on or what to be doing next, or even the big picture steps of where to go with this. As i sit in that, though, I realize that as much as it's a hard feeling and tough thing to wrestle with, it's not a bad place to be. After all, to allow yourself to be lost is to allow yourself to found. It means the great, great joy of seeking and finding is open to me. It means that there's room to grow, paths to explore. It means that I get the joy of discovery, that aha, eureka moment, that wash of relief and excitement. 

I want to give myself room, the opportunity to get lost, to walk into the unknown, to look into mystery. Even if it means that I enter into this space that is uncomfortable, I think it forces me to be fully present in that moment, and to not let it just wash away. 

I wrote the following as I thought about what it meant to me to get lost, that: 

May we give ourselves room and opportunities to discover, explore, and allow ourselves to find and to be found. 

And Mont Royal? I ended up making it up to the top, and it happened all of a sudden - I made one turn and suddenly, it was there, the city view, and while it was lovely, I thought at the same time, hmm, I kinda miss that stillness now...

 

Elegant Toronto Wedding: From Desk to Tabletop!

Back in May, I was connected with a bride via mutual friends to do some work for her wedding. The bride is an interior designer herself, with such great style, which flowed into everything else about the day! Her wedding was taking place at Toronto's Graydon Hall Manor, which is this unreal wedding venue that looks like it belongs in a real life Disney princess movie, in my humble opinion... haha. She asked me to do her menus, table numbers, and place cards, which I was more than happy to do! 

One of the things that I find the most interesting about doing wedding work is getting to see my work styled and put into the context they were meant to be in. I only get to see my work in the context of my desk and little office space, but then I get these pictures with the paper all surrounded by the most gorgeous florals and I think ah, they found their way home. 

So, I present to you, the transformation of these pieces, from my desk, to their true home/heaven: amongst beautiful blooms. 

I know, the lighting on my desk isn't great... real life, okay. 

But look, here, in unadulterated glory, in these stunning photos by Katie Stoops with styling by her wedding planner Cynthia Martyn

Yeah, Katie's a great photographer!!! This bride was also super resourceful - we couldn't get the slate sent over to me via mail because we were located in different cities, BUT we worked it out so that I sent her digital files which she then put on the slate herself! Way to go, crafty brides! 

She also had me design a little piece for her cocktail napkins - picture below! 

It really is so special, getting to see my pieces go from my desk to where they belong. And that's part of the process of things, that at the beginning you're like uhhh hope this turns out, but when things progress and move forward and we get to see things in where they're supposed to be and in the bigger context, it feels right and good and you're glad you didn't listen to that voice of doubt! 

So here's to moving things from our desks to where they belong and have function in life, where they are useful and beautiful, where they belong. Sip sip hooray indeed! 

So... What Do You Do?

When we first moved to Montreal, I struggled a lot with what I was doing here/what to even do here. I hated it when people asked me what I did; I often just gave a super vague answer and would just talk about my husband, because that was easier than talking about myself. It was a tough season for me - I felt like I was in this funny in between space, in between what I was doing before, but not sure what was coming ahead. 

Discovering calligraphy, then, became like waking up one morning and breathing fresh and crisp fall air. To me, the fall season feels like new beginnings. People typically say that about spring, but the fall is like that for me. Maybe it's the constant association with a new school year, which was always exciting for me growing up, rather than the feeling of dread some kids get (!), or it's that crisp cold air that almost makes you wake up a little more, or it's getting to see the landscape change before your eyes and the different colours come out to play - whatever it is, fall to me feels like the exciting start of new beginnings. 

Calligraphy felt like a new beginning for me, and in so many ways, it was; I ventured into the world of visual art, when I had never considered myself a visual artist before, and starting Olive Branch and Co also meant my first foray into learning how to do business-y things like deal with money and make invoices and what not. And it was fun! I never would have associated the word "fun" with running a business, but I was having a lot of fun experimenting and trying new things and learning what worked for me. 

Even after I started Olive Branch and Co, though, I still really wrestled with whether this was what I was "supposed" to be doing. When people asked me what I did, I still couldn't really give a straight answer: "I'm kind of in school? And I kind of do calligraphy for people? I kind of run an etsy shop/small business?" Really tentative, lots of uptalk and question marks, and yes, I really said "kind of" that much. I think it was tough for me to really own it because it felt like such an unusual thing to be doing - I hadn't studied this stuff, I had a degree in something totally different, and was this even a real job?! 

I'll be honest; I still struggle with answering those questions sometimes, and sometimes when people say, but you have another day job too, right?, I'm not really sure what to say. But I do know that somewhere along the way in this first year, lots of things have happened with this calligraphy stuff that came kind of as a whim and as a way to discover another angle of art. I've done styled shoots and been featured on some amazing wedding blogs I read when I was getting married (!); I've done lots of custom and wedding work for people, including wedding vows, invitations, envelope addressing, day of signs; I've gotten to be a part of people's gift-giving and the way that they show love to their people, whether it's part of an engagement or an anniversary or a congratulatory event; I've done four craft shows; I've been hired for live calligraphy events; I taught my first modern calligraphy class yesterday with my own alphabet. I say these things not to brag, but even for me to recognize that yes, this is what has happened, none if it is by mistake, I like all of this stuff I've done, and I want to keep going with this, to keep exploring. 

So a year later, I like to think I'm a little more comfortable with this being where I'm at. I think I'm still learning a lot about stepping fully into something even if it is really different and unusual, but even if sometimes I still step in tentatively, I'm still stepping, still going. I'm learning that it's important to choose which voices to listen to; there are lots of voices floating around, some saying, really?! or uhhhh, even if it's said in a certain look or a tone; and there are other voices that are saying, you go girl, and hustle; and then there are other voices that are saying, you are free to fail or succeed because I love you and that's what matters, so why not go for it? That last voice, the voice of love, that's the one I want to listen to. 

Last night, someone asked me what I did, and I said, well, I'm a calligrapher. And i stopped myself from adding on anything, like "but I also do x" or "but I used to do x" or "that's kind of what I do". This is where I'm at now, and I'm thankful for that gift, and don't want to make light of it or undermine the Giver. 

It's been a good year of discovery, and I'm looking forward to another year of more learning, more discovery, and more ownership of where I'm at and who I'm becoming. (peace sign emoji here)