4.26.2015

It's Summer!

Just Kidding ;) It was still kind of snowing here in Toronto a couple of days ago.

But it's a different story in Iceland. Yeah, I'm actually not even kidding around with you!

You see, in Iceland they celebrate this holiday called Sumardagurinn fyrsti (sorry i can't even begin to help with the pronunciation on this one) which is, according to the old Icelandic calendar, the First Day of Summer.

In April. In fact it is the first Thursday that falls after April 18th. It's one of their 11 flag days AND it's even a public Holiday (yes the first day of summer is a day off of work/school) Kids get gifts, there's a big parade. For the First Day of Summer. That's awesome.

This "old Icelandic calendar" I referred to was brought to the island by it's first settlers back in the 9th Century and it actually split the year into only 2 seasons - summer and winter (works for me!) Because of the long seasons, the first day of a new season was most definitely a reason to celebrate.

Some good news for us all… Old Icelandic folklore states that if the temperature falls below zero (celcius) the night before the first day of summer, then it's going to be a good summer. It fell below zero in both Iceland and right here in Toronto.

You're welcome!

The reason I'm sharing this story…. for one it's hopefully a bit of a pick me up for all my Eastern North Americans who have put up with a lot this past winter (a new friend of mine recently posted a message on facebook that the first person to complain about the heat this summer is getting punched and I'm quite afraid that is going to be me, being that I get all grumpy during the long, hot, humid days of a Toronto summer) and secondly, this is actually when I was supposed to be taking my trip to Iceland. I wanted to take part in this early summer celebration. But that didn't work out, and if I had been on the ball I might have thrown my own Sumardagurinn fyrsti party. I'll still make it to Iceland later this year, and have just as much fun ringing in the New Year.

Happy Summer!

4.21.2015

and so here we are today - part 3

Since you guys enjoyed yesterday's youthful photo, I thought I'd throw a couple more in today, just for fun. I have no idea what I'm up to on the left, but on the right that was me and my Crayola Carousel - all those markers and paints and crayons... I was so excited when I got that. Then proceeded to make full use of it all over that hideous wallpaper (gotta love the early 80s!)

Midsummer is coming. And it's long overdue.

So now you know, I took some time off from the push to grow thunderpeep the stationery company. It was the best thing I could have done. I took time to find myself again, and brought that back to thunderpeep as well. The 2 of us are stronger as one unit than 2 battling sides.

All those things I said I'd love to do when I had some time, I did them. Well ok, not ALL of them as that big trip didn't come together as planned, but I'm not sad about that because so much goodness came out of the past couple of months (and now the plan is to be spending the New Year in Iceland and a bucket load of time travelling across it and Norway)

Now, first off let me make one thing clear. I do really love making funny cards. No, it's not what I started out doing, but it's the side of the business that really took off. And I'm so grateful that it did, it opened so many doors and helped me grow as a businesswoman and artist. And the cards aren't going anywhere. The world still needs them (and I already have a few new ones ready to go later this spring. They're really good too). But my creative soul needs to get back home. As I started to look inwards and rethink the business, I started to really look and judge it. What would it look like if I stayed the path with the current plan. It was already getting to be too much for me to handle on my own. I was working endless nights just on the business and production sides, where was the creative side? And while that's a part of small creative business, if I'm not 100% in love with it, am I going to be fully committed. Well, the answer is of coarse No. I was starting to feel like I was making things for others again, not for the joy of making them. What would sell, what is on trend, what shows to do to get my name out there. Did I want to go full into a wholesale world that really doesn't always value the artist. (that's a strong statement and is why I'm very selective with the stores that carry my products. There needs to be a relationship between maker and vendor for me. I hate big box stores, I don't shop at them, why would I want my products in them - I'll avoid them as long as I can. This is not a common point of view though, if you are setting out yourself into the wholesale world with your craft, do what is comfortable for you. I love all my vendors and am proud to sell in their shops!)

This is when I re-discovered my journal from Finland. Remembered where I started. What I wanted to accomplish. What I really loved doing. And then one day I sat down and tuned out the world and wrote that story I keep saying I wanted to do, but never had the time to fully devote to. It was one of the greatest creative highs I've ever experienced. And the new and improved but back to the old thunderpeep started to take shape.



The Midsummer collection has been a sad non-event the past couple of years. It was always prep for spring shows and then christmas had to be ready in May and then it's summer shows. It made me so sad to not be exploring those characters, and stories. So the first order of business was to bring that collection back, Bitter and More Badass than ever. And it is. It more than makes up for the past 2 years. And it's not even half finished. Above is your first sneak peek of the story, it's not much but you can let your own imaginations run wild with it. I'll write a post all about the process of writing the book too, as the launch gets closer. There's a whole collection of goodies that are spawning out of the book, and for the first time we are kind of sneaking in on Family Friendly territory. Well maybe only kinda sorta… I'll let you be the judge, I don't want to be scaring kids out of the forest!

Then, I HAD to bring my Troll friends back. And it kind of fits in with the fairy tale. I mean, you had to know there were trolls in that story, right? So there's a little companion book for all my North American friends who seem confused by Trolls (NO they are not the same as yeti's, not even related)


And this is just the start. I LOVED writing and illustrating these books. It was an excuse to get lost in my own imagination. There is already a plan for books for the Polar Nights collection this winter. 

It's all about the stories. All about the stories (sorry if I got that song stuck in your head right there)

As for the blog, I want to create a more personal space here. That can mean so many things, but I want it be full of things and stories to inspire, to create to laugh at and to share. My goal is to remind us all to really look at the world around us, to see all the small details, to be an active participant in your life and the world around you. I might even have some of the Trolls come and guest post. No seriously, that's going to happen!

For now, I'm still here in Toronto. I still have things to do here, for a little while longer. On a side note: one thing that I'm really excited about, something I really enjoy, is my role with The Toronto Etsy Street team, helping other makers in Toronto to grow and learn and share and inspire. Giving back is such an important part of living. You may remember from last Fall that we organized the flagship Toronto edition of the Made in Canada show. I love all the work I get to do with the team but am SO excited for all the amazing things we're working on right now in regards to this years show. It's really fulfilling to be able to be involved in this creative community, and to work with the group of women that make up the leadership team with TEST, but being able to give something this awesome back to all the other small creative businesses who work so damn hard, is also extremely personal for me. As much as I love so many designers and companies from around the world, I'm a huge cheerleader for the Shop Local movement, and Canada has so many, so many fantastic makers, it's important to make sure they get the attention they deserve. You'll hear lot's about the show from me as it approaches, and wherever you are (if you're in Canada that is) hopefully you're close to one of the other 30 shows that'll be happening across the country!}

But let's end this epic blog post now. It's time to move forward. And so I can stop talking about myself for at least a couple more months...

One day I'll live in the mountains again. It may not be in Vancouver, or even Canada. But I'll be there again, and have some awesome new Troll friends to hang out with.

They may not be Trolls but Monsters are still fun too. As I'm writing this I'm overly excited that OMAM are coming to Toronto this September and I can't wait to see them again. I love them almost as much as Troll stories. Maybe Toronto's not so bad after all…


4.20.2015

and then you kind of end up here - part 2 of the story


just take my photo already, so I can go play!
Growing up I was rarely inside. I loved adventuring around the neighbourhood. I grew up in an era where parents let their kids run wild and loose on the streets of suburbia. I was a bit of a lone wolf too, out for my own adventures and whoever was around could tag along. But I also had no problems amusing myself.  Neither of my parents were outdoorsy folks, or really very adventurist. But my Grandma was. She was a traveller and a homebody all in one. She was truly a remarkable woman! I most definitely have her spirit in me. But the point is, I didn't grow up with summers at the cottage or camping or any of that. I camped in high school but that was more of a party away from parental supervision kind of adventure ;) But I was comfortable with being in the outdoors.

Then I moved to Vancouver right after college, after I'd gone out there for my reading week break. I started life over, in the middle of the mountains and old growth forests and ocean wildlife. I explored around those first years, before settling in Vancouver proper and I loved those times. Discovering all the little hidden spots, meeting new people, creating my own story as I went. Most of my friends went out of county to explore after college, I chose to explore my own country. And I connected and fell in love with the natural world that makes up a huge part of Canada. There is no greater peace than being lost in your own thoughts on the top of a mountain, looking over miles and miles of forest and sky and ocean. This was home to me. That sounds cheesy but it was true for me. Not everyone can disconnect like that to be able to get lost in such a large space. But it's where I'm most comfortable. Not that I'm anti-social, I just find social times harder to focus in.

One of my favourite spots on the planet - Summerland, BC

And I think you can see that in a lot of my stories and illustrations. It was such a huge part of my being, it was going to be evident in my work. That's a big part of what I related to in the Finnish shops, the use of natural elements in their work. In the years I lived out West I also saw those natural resources be sold off and cut down and disrespected. Now, while this is not a political post, it's important to know this, because I discovered something about myself after moving back to Toronto. I am 100% Tree Hugger. Yeah, I used to make fun of them. Now I realize I've always been one. Funny how that happens. And I'd forgotten that part of me after a few years back in a bigger city, where strolling through a park does not measure up to a hike in the forest. Sorry. It just doesn't. Walking through city parks reminds me how badly we maim and litter our nature. When you're deep in the forest you are completely detached from civilization. It's untouched by us. I got kind of angry. Why does no one care? Don't you want to have fresh air, and trees and clean oceans? (this would be the point I realized I really was a Tree Hugger type!) These are not issues that are of particular interest in areas of the country where you don't live side by side with nature. It's not Toronto's fault, this is a common thread within a lot of cities in Canada, and North America I'm sure.  And I want to make a point that I am not a Toronto-hater. It is what it is. It may not be for me, but it's great for a lot of people. But it could use a bit of a green make-over. We all could be reminded how to live a cleaner existence and lessen our footprint on the planet. If you've followed me for the last few months on twitter and instagram you may have seen signs of this shift. This was my personal growth. Finding that side of me again. I'm not usually one to bow to peer pressure or to follow the pack, but I found that coming back to Toronto, being around old friends, old habits started to emerge. That's all on me. That's also not Toronto's fault.  I've always been quite comfortable with who I am, sometimes a bit lost, but never unsure of myself. That's what I was feeling. Confused and unsure of what the hell I was doing anymore. That was new territory for me. But as those old friends started to fade away, and I started to gravitate more to like minded folks and find my place in a creative community I started to be me again. But that's when the thunderpeep story started to change...

packaging parties!
Small business is hard. A creative small business is hard. Not only do I run thunderpeep by myself, I also work a full time day job (affectionately referred to as Le Day Job) and make an attempt to have a social life in that spare time. This tests friendships (trust me breakups with bad friends are as important as breakups with bad boyfriends), makes trying to start new relationships a challenge (it's almost kind of a blessing being single with no kids to look after, but the boyfriend situation needs to change, at least so I can have someone to help with all those OOAK load ins ;) and planning for a future with questionable income very challenging. But any small business owner knows this, I'm preaching to the choir here. We all do it because we love it. But somewhere towards the end of 2014 I realized that I wasn't really loving it. I wasn't happy. This wasn't what I'd set out to do, and the love just wasn't there. Having come back on side with that little Tree Hugger me, I had a long look at the greenness of my own business. Was I doing the planet a favour, or was I contributing to the problem. Sure there's a place for stationery in everyday life. There are eco-friendly ways of producing and encouraging people to not just recycle but to reuse the products was also possible. At least I hoped it was possible. Cards are pretty disposable, maybe I should be making more long term pieces. Maybe I just didn't want to do it at all anymore (don't worry, this story has a happy ending)

That's when things started to go sideways. In a way, I was personally being rebranded, so shouldn't that mean that my company will move in the new direction too? Plus I turned 40, always a good time for a big life shakeup. Right??!!!

read the next chapter here!

4.19.2015

We all start from somewhere


I've been thinking a lot lately about the direction of both this blog (which actually needs a direction!) and the business. And of coarse myself. So much has changed since I moved back to Toronto, and to be perfectly honest with you, it's not all good. So I took some time to find my direction again, to find myself again, to fall back in love with my life.  This is that story. Not a story about Trolls (I'm sorry but that is coming later), but a story about hitting the pause button and rebranding a life and a business, not in a new direction but in it's proper direction.  (and as I now actually finish I realize how freaking long it is so I've broken it into 3 parts - seriously who knew I had so much to say on the topic)

But before I share the new thunderpeep, you should probably know a bit about how it all started. Let's start with this awesome photo at the top. Because it's a glimpse into the core of this story, the moments in time that brought us to today. This is also a glimpse into one of my truly nerdy habits. I'm a planner. But not a daily schedule kind of planner. I'm a large scale, take over the world kind of planner. Epic plans. Like the journal in the photos.

 Back in 2010 I took, what was then, the trip of my dreams. And I'd planned that trip for a full year, I cut and pasted all these awesome things into my trip journal, that was my intended itinerary all drawn out in red on the map to the left (mother nature and a shut down at Heathrow eventually altered the final trip) The most important part of that journal was the birth of thunderpeep the business. It was one of those brilliant moments while lost in my thoughts, watching the wintery Finnish landscape zoom past me while I traveled by train from Turku and Tampere. I'd only been in the country for about 5 days, but had already been completely inspired by the landscape and the creative culture.

I remember sitting on that train between Turku and Tampere, thinking about all I'd taken in the past 2 days. I found Turku to be one of the most creatively inspiring places I've been. Yes they have a great art gallery there, but it's the creative culture that inspired me. This trip was before Etsy really exploded, so the idea that creative makers could do their own thing and make a living of it was still a pretty foreign concept to me. But in Turku this concept seemed to be thriving. They encourage it, they teach it, it's a part of their long history. A creative business isn't a foreign concept there. We all know and love Marimekko, but in Turku there was a handful of adorable smaller shops along one of the main shopping streets in the downtown that were also 100% Finnish designers. Aarikka and Klo Design were 2 of my absolute favourites. They both embodied that clean, organic and functional Finnish design sense that I loved. And while they are also on the international scene, they are still deeply rooted in their culture, they are still very much Finnish companies, designing and producing in their own country. I was in love with this concept. Of designing, and constructing and creating and bringing it all together under one Canadian roof. They weren't just jewellery shops or bag shops or clothing shops. They were houses of design. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to design around all the weird little stories in my head and make them into something that made your life happier, without a massive imprint on the planet. Just because an item has a function, doesn't mean it has to look boring (you all know IKEA, this is the same concept just way better - sorry IKEA, I do still really like you)

I always loved the scandinavian celebration of Midsummer and the mythology of those long dark polar nights with the aura roaring high overhead. So I built my first thunderpeep collections around those 2 events. Those first 2 illustrations - Midsummer Dreams and The Ice Castle are still pretty popular sellers too. I imagined these 2 collections a year, with illustrations and stories playing out over all sorts of materials. Paper goods were the easiest medium to start with, so there were prints and cards and a wee selection of fabric goodies.

Now, I'm no seamstress. This we know. So that was a struggle. And I didn't have the wonderful QuilterSteff in my life yet. Luckily I eventually discovered silkscreening and great local companies who supplied already sewn bags etc that I could just print on. But the prints and cards really took off. And suddenly the Lordy Lordy Look who's 40 card showed up (that was the very first greeting card I designed solely for the company) and that was a huge seller. So other greeting cards followed, because they were in demand. People thought I was funny and wanted more cards for more occasions. This is awesome, look at me go. I loved typographic arts and I'd worked so long in publication design, making words look pretty so it was a natural progression into greeting cards really. And businesses grow and develop into new things. Right?

At this point I was only selling online, I was missing the shop local component of my first vision. Then a year in my daytime life halted and changed direction as I made the decision to move back to Toronto. Not because I didn't love Vancouver, but I had just lost the job I loved thanks to the crumbling newspaper industry and was motivated to make a go of my business. Toronto seemed like a natural fit. I had grown up here, so already had a built in support system of friends and family. Toronto is a big business city. Toronto is an Arts Loving city. Toronto is where you go to make it. All the things I had run from when I moved out West. But I loved coming back to visit Toronto, it was always so full of life. So vibrant. Instead I found myself in a new city, where my quirky nature loving stories weren't really as relevant. Stories of mountain trolls were received with blank stares and changes in conversations. (I'm not actually kidding, that has actually happened a couple of times)

But those cards with silly and ridiculous sayings. Everyone, everywhere can love them.

You can already see where this story is heading, right?

This move back to Toronto was where I got derailed. And this is where the story may get controversial. If you know me in real life you know I do sit slightly to one side of the whole Vancouver vs. Toronto hate-on. (and if you're reading this from outside of Canada all you need to know is most of Canada has a strong dislike for the country's largest city - Toronto, something you don't realize until you spend time outside of it. Being so far to the West, Vancouver seems to have a particularly strong dislike for Toronto, and the feeling is kind of mutual) Having grown up right outside of Toronto, but living through my most impressionable years out on the West Coast now gives me a slightly different perspective on the world I live in, the people I share it with and the way I chose to live my life. But even that took some time for me to realize as I acclimatized to my new Toronto life. So I will tread delicately in the next chapter of this story….

You can read part 2 here


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