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    News — Femme Stories

    Femme Stories | Edition 19 | Lauren

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Lauren | Finding Julian
     
    I have known Lauren as the second half of the Cheerfully Made team for years now, but this past year I also discovered she was a cycle coach, building her own brand, a website & a cyclical living course. That brand is Finding Julian and these last couple months I got to follow her journey through the power of social media, and to say I fan-girled out is an understatement. My mom is a nurse, so I was raised to have a strong knowledge of my body, my period and all that comes with being a woman, but as Lauren started talking about her course and how she had built it around being a maker and how to harness your cycle for the power of creativity, well let’s just say I signed up for her Newsletter ASAP to join in on her inaugural course.
     
    We talked for Femme Stories before the launch, but I put the finishing touches on the post after I had completed week six of her course. I give my feedback at the end of this post, but I loved talking with her about how little we are taught about our own bodies as women and love that she is taking it on to help educate anyone who has the strong desire to know more about what happens to us each month.
    Lauren from Finding Julian

      

    A lot of creators in the Ottawa area will know you as half of the Cheerfully Made team, helping put shows together for us, what has your journey been before coming to be a part of Cheerfully Made. 

    I have definitely had a journey! I always loved creative writing, so I went to university for journalism and realized that it is not creative writing. They cut out all of your adjectives and adverbs, which are my favourite words. After not loving my job options, I decided to just take my degree and go. I headed to Toronto and worked retail for a bit and really loved it, but eventually when I moved back home, I got my real estate license. My mom is an agent and I worked with her for five years.

    I am a big believer in the universe and how it guides you, and towards the end of being an agent, I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall. I was frustrated with my performance. I was always good at what I did, I just wasn’t enjoying it as much as I should have. This is how I came to start at Cheerfully Made. I had never been in the shop, but I followed Emily on Instagram and she posted that they were hiring and I thought it would be nice to give my brain a bit of space to help figure out what I wanted to do. I had always thought of running my own business and I figured this would be the easiest way to learn, work in that environment, get close to Emily and hopefully she would show me all of her secrets, which I was totally upfront with her about.

     After working in the shop for a bit, I volunteered to help with the Etsy market. Basically, from there on out I kept badgering her to give me more responsibility. I knew she had been burned in the past by new hires so she was hesitant to let go, but as I stayed consistent, she was more open to letting me post on social media and eventually taking over the online portion.

    During the pandemic I transitioned to working with her full time and because of that we became close friends! Neither of us stopped working when that hit and I think it saved us. The job I am doing now is the one I asked for after the first fall market I worked, but at the time she couldn’t do that, and now that’s the job I am doing. So, I worked my way in! 

    When and how did your journey of becoming a Cycle Coach come about?

    A few years ago, I listened to a business podcast with Claire Baker as the guest and she was talking about how you can work creatively within your cycle and how there’s different seasons beyond just menstruation. This was the first time I’d ever heard someone talk about our cycles in this way. 

    At the time, I was on hormonal birth control and I’d spoken to my doctor about how whenever I had the sugar pills at the end of my pack I would get such headaches, like migraine level headaches. She told me they were withdrawal headaches and she recommended that I skip my period and only have it every three months, i.e. continue my packs, and I won’t get these headaches. So, I did that for a while because I was of the mindset that our periods were such an inconvenience. The more I thought about it though, it started to concern me. It got me thinking, what is this medication that I am taking that is so potent and strong that I’m getting withdrawal headaches? I really didn’t love that idea. 

    Hearing Claire talk, I felt like this was information that I should have known because I am a woman and I bleed once a month. I just felt a little angry, to be honest, that I didn't know any of this and it took me on a journey of self-discovery. I began to educate myself by taking some of Claire’s courses she offered. Last year she announced that she was going to start to train others to be Cycle Coaches, so they can teach other people and help spread the word!

    It is work that I felt really called to because it has changed my life in so many ways. That anger that I initially felt about not knowing any of this information has kind of transformed into, ‘Okay, I’m not the person to teach everyone, but I am the person to teach some people.’ I think when people first hear about it, they sometimes think it's a little woo woo, or like spiritual, and while there definitely is a spiritual element to it, it is based in biology. We are not actually taught how our bodies work, we’re taught that if you have sex, you will get pregnant and you're going to die and periods are bad and an inconvenience to everyone. 

    Women are so often told to just show up, every day, keep your mood the same, don't let anyone know and you'll be fine, and the feminist in me has always raged at this. I feel like we are taught it is our weakness, but when you actually study your cycle, we're the more consistent sex. Our hormones do the exact same thing every month and if you recognize the patterns, you know exactly how you're going to feel every week. 

    I feel like everyone is so scared to talk to young women about sex, but it leaves us all at a disadvantage, and not knowing how our own bodies function.

    Yeah, this whole industry, well it's barely an industry, right now it’s more like a popup tent, but the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn. So now I am kind of diving into the fertility awareness method, which is a method that you can use to avoid pregnancy or eventually to get pregnant. The thing is your body gives you all of the clues of when it's fertile and if we just taught young women: this is when your body's fertile, these are the signs, this is how you track it. If we taught and shared this information, we would be empowering so many to know and understand their bodies! 

    You mention on your site your obsession with women, was this instilled by maternal figures in your life? 

    My mom is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I think, growing up I've always had girlfriends, mostly because any male friends I ever had usually ended up asking me out, which ok fair enough. I've always been more attracted to the female energy and when I was a kid, I would always like hanging out with my friends’ parents, like their moms and stuff. So, I've always been really inspired by women and their journeys. 

    I think back to when I lived in Toronto and worked in retail, there was this one customer who stands out to me, who showed me, this is what I want to do with this work. She came into the shop (it was a clothing store) and she was very quiet and kept to herself. I could tell that she was closed off, energy wise, she was wanting to be alone, but I was having a great day and kept checking in on her, making sure she was finding everything she needed and eventually she started coming out of the change room and I started bringing her more stuff to try on. Little by little she started coming out of her shell and by the end, she was asking for recommendations and asking for jewelry. She ended up leaving with a bunch of clothes and jewelry and her energy had shifted completely. She was feeling good about herself, she was excited, she was happy and she left the store feeling that much better. I definitely wasn't in it for the sales, there was no commission or anything, it was just amazing to watch that instant transformation and it felt good to me to know I can make people feel better. 

    I'm definitely a forward thinker, so I always had this thought of how do I scale this for the future? How do I affect more women? That’s where this work comes in, where my motivation to inspire, motivate and encourage women comes in, it just fits perfectly.

    The story behind the name of your site is beautiful. For people that are new to you, can you explain the name Finding Julian? 

    Finding Julian has been the name of my company for seven or eight years now, even before I knew what that company would look like. It is inspired by my maternal grandmother's companion. Growing up he [Julian] was just always there. There's a picture of me in the hospital when I was born, and the two of them are holding me and getting excited because I was a girl. I have two older brothers and I was the first granddaughter, so they were excited. 

    Julian was an artist; his father was also an artist. His dad was actually the artist who designed the shields for the eternal flame on parliament. Julian was such a creative force, which was kind of unique for me. My dad was in sales and my mom eventually was in sales, so to see someone with a creative mind inspired me. He was always drawing and sketching, his cards were usually handmade and he always instilled in me this creative spirit. That it is worthwhile to pursue. 

    Having Julian in my life was such a source of comfort, community, unconditional love and creativity. So, for me, Finding Julian is finding all of those things. Finding that sense of belonging, creativity, warmth and comfort.

     I love that you link creativity and our businesses to our cycles. What moment in your life did this really click for you that we needed to be more conscious of this as women?

     I think that aha moment was over this past year doing this cycle coach training, and just recognizing that your cycle is a bigger picture. I think it is hard because the season you start tracking your cycle is your winter phase, and you're supposed to start with rest, but here in North America, that's a really hard concept. Here you earn your rest, you burn out and then you rest and that is seen as success. This course flips that notion on its head, where you start by resting and that's how you get your energy.

     For me, how it all clicked into place is realizing you have to be really patient with yourself, because when you menstruate, your winter phase, you have to rest. Then you move to your spring phase, pre-ovulation, you are still that little rose just starting to bud. When you really think of how long Spring is and how long it takes from bud to bloom, you can’t rush that.

     Even right now, I am day five of my cycle, so I’m coming out of my bleed, I'm feeling that estrogen and I'm feeling that energy surge. Before this course, I would just dive back into work. I would start to hustle hard and be like, yes, my energy is coming back and then by ovulation, I'd be burnt out. So, it's just recognizing the rhythm of your cycle and being like, no, I need to go slow so that by the time ovulation comes around, I will have this unlimited energy, and it'll be unreal and I will get a million things done.

     Then your Autumn, pre-menstruum, that's the time to go inwards, you’re wrapping up your work, you're preparing again for your rest. But if you try to rush any of these steps, you're going to be burnt out, you're going to be exhausted and you're going to be frustrated. Right now, I'm planning my course that I'm going to be launching next week. I would love to hustle and just be done, but I would have no energy by the end of my cycle. So, the big switch for me was fully recognizing that you need to rest, you need to build that energy before you can use it rather than using up your energy and then being burnt out and crashing.

     Your bi-annual course sounds incredible, what can people expect from this course?

     It will be six weeks long, and there is a lot of great content. It will be structured around audio and a workbook for each week, mostly so people can disconnect from their computers. I love the idea of listening to this audio while going for a walk-in nature. It’s a little bit of listening, reading and writing. In the sixth week, we will do a zoom call, like a closing ceremony, where we can all connect and end on that community note.

     What are you currently reading?

     I listen to a lot of audio business books when I walk, but in my everyday life I love fantasy romance novels. So, the book I am reading right now is A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

    I was eager to do Lauren’s course the more she promoted it, but it exceeded all my expectations. Again, I am saying this as a person who, being raised by a nurse, was taught to know a lot about my body, how it functioned, how my mood and emotional state was impacted week to week by my hormones. What Lauren does though, is take this information and apply it to how we should be living our lives as creatives and business owners. Pushing us to recognize when it is time to rest, when is the time to push, when is the time to create. All in all, we might say yes, I know all this, but how she words these beautiful audio clips, it pushed me to actually do it! So many of us run our own companies but feel guilty taking days off, I know I do. Taking Lauren’s Cyclical Living Course has pushed me to take Friday’s off again, and I have it mapped out for my next period to take off Day 1of my cycle. As Lauren says, this isn’t always possible, sometimes life happens, but when it is why not give yourself that time and comfort you need!

    I can’t recommend this course enough, past the incredible information, Lauren’s amazing way of making it informative, fun and easy to get through, I loved every week of it.

    The next chance to take the course will be at the end of September, until then I recommend checking out the Finding Julian website. It has lots of great resources and signing up for her Newsletter so you can be a part of the next Cyclical Living course.

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 18 | Sylvie

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Sylvie | The Loft
     
    I met Sylvie Prudhomme, hairdresser extraordinaire and owner of The Loft Toronto, when I was showcasing my Fall 2014 Collection at Ottawa Fashion Week. I instantly had a creative crush on her and was very inspired by her drive to push her own creativity. We have worked together on fashion shows, photoshoots and she is my hairdresser, and I love her! She is pillar in my creative community and an entrepreneur that lives by the motto community over competition.
    Sylvie hairstylist and owner of The Loft

     

     I knew from meeting you right away you were a born creative, but what has your career path look like?

    I went to school for Animation at Algonquin, that was a 2-year program and then I did it for a year or two after I graduated. I really went into it because I loved drawing, and I wanted to get out of North Bay, my sister lived in the city so it felt like the next thing to do. Just as I was getting into it though, things were starting to move digital and for me, I need tangible things, working at a desk became less  and less interesting.

    Then I did what every child of the 90’s did or wanted to do, which was to galivant around the country, I went out to B.C., smoked pot for a bit and when I came back to Ottawa I started working as receptionist at a hair salon. I started to see this was a real job and very lucrative and that is when I went to school to be a hairstylist. I say this is my 19th year of doing hair, which makes me sound so old, but I feel like I floundered a lot in my teenage years and early twenties and this career and this city I have stuck to the longest, I am still super inspired by my industry, even with this lockdown, I am even more inspired because it is being really overlooked right now.

    How has that felt, being locked out of your career, your inspiration and creativity?

    This gets overlooked a lot, but for obvious reasons, we are an essential service. Imagine going on a zoom meeting for an interview and you are not presenting yourself as your most confident self and what if someone is judging you and you miss out on an opportunity, you know people can’t help but have first impressions. People in these creative fields, photographers, tattoo artists, hair stylists, our skills are not transferrable, these are our fields of expertise, they are essential to us!

    I feel like the government is asking us to shut up and sit tight, which I get, I believe in science, I believe in medicine, don’t get me wrong, but what we do, are people making decisions out of desperation and giving up all their creativity, and getting jobs to work from home, that is suppressing an entire type of person.

    We met through Ottawa Fashion Week, which The Loft was a sponsor of, when did you start working there, and did you know you wanted to own your own salon? 

    I want to say 2004/2005, I started working at The Loft Le Spa in Ottawa, and no I definitely wasn’t thinking about owning my own salon. I was really happy there and the owners, Paul Valletta and Bruno Racine were great mentors. I think they saw how strong my work ethic was and because of that they were very supportive of me. I knew by working hard I would get back what I was putting into my career. When I did make the move to Toronto eventually I partnered with them to open my space here, since then I have transitioned and The Loft is co-owned by myself and Paul.

    When did you move Toronto and did you open The Loft here right away?

    I moved here in 2010, at that point I was coming to the city for Fashion Week twice a year, for Luminato once a year and coming for shoots and guest spots and I really liked the buzz the city had. At that point, Toronto was just offering me more creative options and that became really appealing. When I moved here, I started working at a salon for 2-3 years, but I stayed close with Paul and Bruno. What I did see was that having a work environment where creativity could thrive and support was offered was a rarity. Where I was in Toronto, everyone kind of came in and out, there wasn’t any comradery, support or inclusiveness. It was very much the mentality of these are my successes, and I worked hard for what I have so I am not going to share my knowledge, and that isn’t how I grew up in the industry, to me knowledge is power and sharing that knowledge gives you a lot of respect and support from people.

     Past being a hair stylist, and entrepreneur, you also have taught and are a leader in setting trends in your industry. Have you always enjoyed teaching the next generation and passing on your experience?

    In different ways I have been teaching from the get go. Leading Ottawa Fashion Week was a big teaching moment because I was teaching stylists how do a look. I could sit there and actually show them, look we didn’t think this was possible but we got there and now I am going to show you, that to me is a really powerful thing, because I know how to do this and the next powerful thing is I am going to teach you. The other thing is you are never beyond your craft and the ones who want to learn from you, they have ideas that you want to know how to do and I am not too proud to ask to learn from them!

    That is amazing, I mean that is why Kaja and I fell in love with working with you, we just loved how open to collaboration you were and so down to just experiment and push the idea and ourselves creatively. Ok quickly going back, when did you officially open The Loft in Toronto?

    Oh, thank you, I mean that is why I love doing events like Fashion Week, you really do get to meet fellow creatives that you will work with for years to come. So, I officially opened April 2, 2013 so we just celebrated our 8th anniversary. 

    Obviously 2020 was a crazy year for all, on top of closures and dealing with your business, you became a mother. Béatrice was born in April; how has it been becoming a mother during such a unique time in history?

     Over the last year we have been able to create rituals, which has been so nice. I really wasn’t planning on taking that long off after her birth, but with everything being shut down for so long we have been given time with her and has been cherished. It has taught me to calm down, but I also feel like I don’t have a tether to my life prior to 2020. I think it will be great to get back to work and have that piece of myself back and I do feel like I will be a better mother and partner. My career gives me so much confidence, it is something that I don’t question what I am doing and to have that taken away this year has been hard, I am ready to have it back.

    What did March 2020 look like and what have you done to keep the business going?

     I was still working in March (Béa was due in April, I had a scheduled C-section) so I was on the floor with a client when we got word that we would have to shut down. At the beginning everyone thought this will just be 2 weeks, so for months we had a sign on the Queen St location that said see you in April! I was mega pregnant when we shut down, then had a newborn, so my partner would go by to make sure it was all good, but that sign just stayed up there!

    Throughout the first lockdown I was doing orders through email and curb-side picks ups and by the end of the first lockdown I realized I needed to upgrade my website to allow for e-commerce, which is when we opened our Shopify account. This is definitely a downfall of mine, I am reluctant of doing anything digital because I don’t know it and also, I am reluctant to delegate, so I needed to bend on both of those. Once I accepted that, I paid someone else to do it for me!

    ** When Sylvie and I talked, her reopen was planned for April 12th, (her shop and stylists hadn’t worked since Nov. 13th) but unfortunately that was pushed as another lockdown was put into place. Before posting this, I reached out and asked how this month has been staying busy.

    We are still selling online and I am constantly working on updating the space to make sure when we do reopen everything is safe and ready to accept clients. I am also taking classes every Friday to keep my creative edge and I am doing some cheeky custom embroidery to stay busy.

    What are you currently reading?

    Expectation by Anna Hope

    Sylvie is the definition of an entrepreneur. She is always pushing to make herself and her business at the top of their game, she passes her knowledge onto the next generation and is eager to learn from them as well. I always felt lucky to work with someone like this so early in my career, she set the tone and example of how I wanted to conduct myself in my own company. I adore working with her, seeing her company grow and getting my own hair done by her. Her industry has been greatly overlooked this past year and half and I highly recommend finding ways to support your own hairstylist in whatever way you can, whether it is through products they sell, gift card and booking an appointment as soon as they have a reopen date. If you are in the Toronto area, Sylvie and her team of stylists at The Loft are exceptional, you can check out the products they offer here.

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 17 | Olivia

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Olivia | Inspiring Olivia
     
    Do you ever start following someone but can’t remember how you discovered them? Well that is me with Inspiring Olivia and I could not go back to a time when I didn’t have this brand popping up in my feed. Her baked goods, which are front and centre in her videos and photos, literally make your mouth water. They are delicate, whimsical and picture perfect. Olivia is someone I have come to know through her platform on social media and very much hope that as shows start to happen in 2021, that I will get to meet her in person very soon!
    Ottawa Baker, Inspiring Olivia

     

     How did you get started, are you professionally trained or self-taught?

     I am a self-taught baker. What spurred on my baking was that I have a nut allergy, and I wasn’t finding baked goods in grocery stores or bakeries that I could have, so I started doing my own baking. Last year I realized it was a good market to get into, because there are lots of people with allergies. I have been baking for 4 years now, it is a lot of trial and error, but it is also so rewarding to have a recipe work out.

    Your baking style seems routed in classic style, but you always add your own personal flare, for example jasmine tea, to honey and thyme cookies or grapefruit scones, where does your recipe inspiration come from? 

    For me, it is finding ingredients I like, and incorporating them into baked goods I have tried before, and then you can tweak the recipe here and there. I love working with different ingredients that you wouldn’t  normally see in a treat.

    Last year you have challenged yourself to only buy second hand clothing, what prompted this and how is it going? 

    When COVID hit, I really started thinking about how much we buy, and I started researching and found that we have a lot of great resellers and vintage options here in Ottawa. They are selling pre-loved, vintage and consignment items and my goal was to reduce the consumption of fast fashion items. Style is one of those things that always comes back, no matter how long ago, it always cycles back, so these styles are so much more long lasting than the fast fashion items that just end up in a landfill.

    Recently you started offering treat boxes, do you have a new one coming up? And what will be in them?

    I do have one coming up, the next one is The Mother’s Day box. I have always loved going to afternoon tea with my mom, so it will be centred around that experience. It will feature a local tea company, Tealee and it will have scones and finger sandwiches. I don’t know exact flavours yet, testing will happen in the next couple of weeks.

     You are a baker, but past that you are an influencer, you promote local businesses, create content and even share how you create that content, did you have a marketing background or did you come by this naturally.

    Actually, my background is environmental science with a specialization in biodiversity and conservation and then I took two years of business, but no marketing. I have been learning the ins and outs online and for me it is a fun project to work on. I have even started to showcase how I take my still photos, I like sharing that to inspire others as well.

    What is your favourite thing to bake?

    My favourite is the buttery puff pastry, when it bakes’, the layers really expand and you can see those flaky layers when you pull them out and it is so rewarding to watch. 

    What do you see for the future of your company?

    In the near future I will be participating in some markets throughout the summer. I am excited to learn how to approach setting up my booth and reducing the plastic with selling my products, at this “market” one of the requirements is no plastic packaging.

    Down the line, I want to expand the menu options to offer more gluten free and vegan options, that is something that I want to work on throughout the summer.

    For sure a long-term goal is to open up my own bakery, the joy of walking into a bakery and smelling those baked goods, nothing compares to seeing and smelling them in person.

    What are you currently reading?

    Right now, I am reading The Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, I am only two chapters in, but everyone has told me it is a great book. 

    It was so lovely to chat with Olivia, having only interacted via social media, it was nice to dive deeper into her company. For me, past her baked goods, I love her approach to Instagram. She shares how her content is made, her thrifted finds and local businesses, she is the definition of community over competition and you know I love that. I recommend following Inspiring Olivia, it will add some treats to your daily feed and make sure to get your orders in for her new Mother’s Day Treat Box.

     

    Femme Stories | Edition 16 | Rachel

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Rachel | The Critter Co.
     
    Like so many makers I know, I met Rachel, the owner and illustrator behind The Critter Co. at The One of a Kind Show. Her booth draws you in, with her gorgeous illustrations scattered on cards, stickers, prints and pillow covers you just want to look through all the whimsy that is her work. After meeting her you realize that her warmth and wholesome nature is fused into her paintings, she is such a kind person. Whichever show you catch Rachel at, there is a good chance you will find her doing her watercolour sketches right there, and she even asks her followers to suggest animals to help inspire her.

    Rachel, illustrator and designer of Critter and Co.
    To start, I am a huge Critter Co. fan girl, your pieces are so whimsical and ethereal, was this always your style or did you develop this over time?

    I had such a different style in university, I did a lot of hard-hitting political pieces, which I really enjoyed, I also did realistic graphite work, and still like to delve in this from time to time, but eventually I became interested in watercolour. I felt there were people who were more informed with political issues and I wanted to hit my strength which was adding a bit of joy into people’s lives.

    While in university did you know you wanted to start your own company?

    I had plans to go the fine art gallery route, I attempted to get my work into some galleries right out of university, which was maybe a little presumptuous of me. Then I stumbled across a craft show and thought maybe I could do this. Once I got into that scene, I realized how nice everyone was and just felt like these were my people.

    What drew you to the medium of watercolour?

    I grew up reading Victorian storybooks, the original Winnie the Pooh and Beatrice Potter, so I was very drawn to that medium. I had tried watercolours a few times before, but just couldn’t figure out how to do it, so one day, I sat down and forced myself to get into that medium. It didn’t come all at once, but I started to appreciate the style and I loved how compact it was. I had a really small apartment in Toronto so it was a style made for small studios. Watercolour is versatile enough in that it doesn’t matter what my subject matter is, it all fits my brand, because it has that similar look to it.

    What was your first product you started selling?

    Prints was where I started, I was also trying to sell my original artwork. I didn’t have any graphic design background at the time, so I was getting someone else to do the digital portion, plus they also had a really nice printer so I got my printing done at the same spot. The printers were the ones who mentioned that there was excess paper after the 8 by 10 and 11 by 14 prints were done, so they said we should print some little sizes so you can sell them as cards. I started selling those at shows and now they are 50% of my sales. It purely came about as a way to not be wasteful.

    You are obviously inspired by animals and nature, but I feel like your brand really clicked for me when I read that you were inspired by Peter Rabbit, have you ever thought of doing children’s books?

    Yeah, I have, it is always in the back of my head. I have a few storylines that I have come up with over the years, I just don’t know how to finish some of them, which I hear is a common problem. Definitely having the time to sit down and sketch it out and lay it out in full. It is an ongoing thought and I feel like in the future it will be something I tackle.

    A couple years ago you went back to school for graphic design, do you feel like that has influenced your company at all?

    The thing that prompted it was I wanted more control. Before when I had to hire someone, they would take my original images and convert those into digital files. I was finding this process was so lengthy and really pricey, so I wanted to know how to do it and thought it would give me more control over my images. This has allowed me to create more images then I would have otherwise so that’s impacted my growth for sure. Also, at that time I wasn’t doing my company full time, so it also allowed me to start to do some freelance to help support myself.
    Do you have any new products in the works that are launching soon?

    I have a product launch coming up at the beginning of June. It’s going to be a little all over the place in terms of product theme, but I have some miniature critter portraits, landscapes, and of course animals. These will all be available in a mixture of prints, stickers, and greeting cards. I have some plans for new products too, but those will be a bit further in the future.

    What are you currently reading?

    I am rereading Harry Potter, I am such a fan, it is 100% a comfort read for me. I am on Goblet of Fire.

    Chatting with Rachel was such a delight, just like her work, I truly love the burst of joy her prints infuse into my life. I also have really admired her unique take on social media, we are all the same platform, but there are always some people that just stand out and you keep going back to the content they are putting out. The Critter Co. is that page for me, from her stories engaging with clients during shows, to her reels, it shows how truly creative she is! Check out her page and her website to see her gorgeous work.

    Femme Stories | Edition 15 | Keri

    The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.
     
    Keri | fire and flux Studios
     
    I first came across Fire and Flux last Fall at the Handmade Niagara Market. I was looking to update some home décor items and found her gorgeous pottery. I settled on a white and cream poppy seed utensil holder and when it arrived I was blown away with how gorgeous it was. Like all handmade items I could see the love and attention put into this item and it brings me joy every time I am in my kitchen. I was excited to talk with Keri and learn more about her brand and how it came to be. 
    keri, maker and owner of fire and flux Studios

    You started in the corporate world, what did that look like?

     I worked with the Hyatt Corporation in accounting and finance at a couple different hotels down in the US, I then travelled to Japan to teach English. When I came back I started working as a Recruiter for a headhunting company in Canada and then I moved into working at KPMG, which provides Audit, Tax and Advisory services.

    Were there skills from that life that you brought to Fire and Flux?

    For sure, the financial aspect helps with running my own company. I have always dabbled in some form of art though, whether it was décor or painting, I have always loved art. When I starting my career, I was encouraged to go the corporate route to have more stability, so I did that. Once I had my kids that is when I dove into my company, as they started daycare, just 2 days a week I would work on my art, and as they went into school I got more time to develop Fire and Flux.

    Why the name Fire and Flux?

    When I was trying to think of a name, I reached out to a neighbour friend who runs a marketing company, and I threw him a bunch of words that were associated with pottery. Fire being the kiln and Flux being the material you use to help the glaze adhere to the pottery and that is how it came fire & flux Studios. 

    On your site I read you started taking night classes to learn pottery, was it a creative outlet to start or did you know you wanted to make it your new career? 

    When my second child was 6 months, I needed something that was my own and that got me out of the house, which is when I started taking a night class at the Mississauga Centre for the Arts. I started there one night a week, then two nights a week and then eventually I joined the Mississauga Potters Guild which allowed me to go in and out of the studio at any time, and it was all about practicing. I was really drawn to the clay and I knew I needed more practice, honestly, I am still mastering it, I still have flops. In the end it came about organically, I got hooked and then I thought maybe I could do this!

     What is the process of creating one of your pieces?

    I buy boxed clay locally, stoneware and porcelain clay bodies. I start by wedging the clay, weighing amount and forming into balls to start the throwing process.  Some pieces are wheel thrown and others are handmade; they need to dry out for a day or so before trimming happens and then left to dry to a “bone dry” state. Next would be a bisque firing in the kiln, this process almost petrifies the clay, it is still water absorbent which allows you to glaze to adhere to it.  They are then washed, sanded and glazed and fired a second time.  This process can take 2-4 weeks as I fill the kiln before firing so many small batches of work make up a kiln load.

     Do you have your own studio or work out of a shared space? 

    In 2012 I had been doing pottery for 3 ½ years, and I wanted to start to sell my designs so, we converted one of our storage rooms in our house into my studio. The kiln is located a converted cold storage room and vented outside.

     Do you design a pattern or have a general idea or do you just create as you go?

     I don’t use molds, you can and some potters do, but I form each one by hand, so each one is unique. There is a lot to take in to account when working with clay. It shrinks because of the firings, so a 7” tumbler will actually end up 5.5”, it shrinks about 10%. Through testing you figure out how much you need to start with to help create you end product.

    The Fire and Flux aesthetic is natural and contemporary is that reflected of your aesthetic? 

    I started the Agate Collection, which is the black and white line, back in 2012, I loved the simplicity and uniqueness of each one. Then I moved into the Grijs line, to use up all my trimmings and waste from my Agate line - so I was reclaiming clay instead of tossing it.  I do like simple forms, when you have a big bowl for example, yes you want it to look beautiful, but it is really what is in the bowl that should shine and be beautiful, so I try and keep fire & flux aesthetic natural looking.

    My own home is very bohemian, totally opposite of what I produce, but that is what I want to strive for is the contemporary, modern feel.

    When I received my order from you I was SO happy to see that the packing peanuts were eco-friendly, what other measures do you take to make Fire and Flux good for the environment.

     Being eco-friendly is a huge part of my company and in daily life as well. I have moved away from plastic wrap and bags and when I ship it is often in recycled box. It is hard when you make pieces for selling, we are contributing to consumerism, but I want to be as conscious about this as possible. I am not a brand where I want you to buy 50 of my pieces, so I want to be as conscious about my “waste” as possible.

    Do you have any new products you are working on?

    I have been working with imprinting lace doilies on my pieces. I am still perfecting the process and figuring out what glaze will look best. I am also working towards more neutrals so that will be in the shop more and more.

     What are you currently reading?

    I am reading Ken Follett, Fall of the Giants it is a trilogy starting in the 1920’s, I also have recently read The Wine Makers Wife which is a great read.

      

    Talking with Keri was so lovely, her pieces are incredible and you can tell so much thought goes into each piece. Fire and Flux offers tumblers, bowls, plates and platters, utensil holders and all come in a gorgeous array of neutrals. I was thrilled with my purchase back in the Fall and it was made more special when you could see that the environment was taken into consideration with her packaging as well. Make sure to check out Fire and Flux to see all the gorgeous pieces Keri makes.