A Woman’s Sexual Sovereignty

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I will not cower from people’s opinions and criticisms of my body like it has any bearing at all on how I choose to feel about myself. I will not allow some ridiculously narrow standard of beauty stop me from revelling and celebrating in this incredible vessel I am lucky enough to live in. I will do with my body what I want, when I want and that includes sensual and sexual expression, simply because, it’s my body. I will not feel shame for being a woman and all that that encompasses. I will not shrink, I will not be quiet, sit down and be told how I must act, what I can and can not wear to be respected. I will not be diminished or intimidated by whispers and finger pointing. I am not ashamed of this body, that has allowed me to be a dancer, a lover, a mother of two beautiful boys and a model, despite the worlds desire to make me think it’s not good enough. There is no such thing as beauty flaws. My lines, age spots, cellulite and stretch marks are a map of my physical growth and changing life story. How dare anyone imply they are flaws that I should be embarrassed about, hide or try to repair. I simply don’t accept it, and I am more than willing to be the tip of the arrow head that slices through that old, outdated, oppressive paradigm designed to keep women insecure, fearful and as a result, controllable. I understand that being that spearhead may mean I get battered and bruised by judgement and criticism, but I’d rather be dead than allow this body shaming standard to continue into the next generations. It’s time is up. That story is over, time for a new one and I intend to help write it.

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 It’s true what they say about women in their 40’s. There are only so many fucks to give in any woman’s life until you run out, and often, when women enter their 40’s, they discover there are zero fucks left. It completely unravels you and everything you thought you knew, which is terrifying and at the same time, completely liberating. Every woman has a finite amount of patience to put up with oppressive bullshit and bite their tongue until one day, they wake up and say, it’s not ok anymore, enough is enough. This summer, I turned 40. I was born in 1978, hence the t-shirt in this photoshoot. It is hard to believe that I have been alive for four decades already! As I enter my 40th year upon this earth, within this body, I find myself in an intense time of personal reflection and examination, as often comes with Birthdays, and the change of season. Goodbye to a transformative summer, which was somewhat of a living death for me, and welcome to a new and more empowered chapter. Happy Autumnal Equinox!

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My personal story is about a girl who tried very, very hard to be a good and to be liked. To behave in the way that pleased people. We learn at a very, very young age what behaviours will be met with approval and all the positive attention that will come with it, and what behaviours will be ignored, in hopes it will go away, or with downright disapproval. I learned very quickly that nice girls were modest and reserved and appropriate. To fit in and belong, I learned to place others’ opinions of me above my own. To care what the neighbours and strangers around me thought of me. By 15 years old I had accepted that to fully be myself was a recipe for rejection. I had to hold some of myself back at all times. I knew what people wanted me to be and I knew what behaviour was going to get me approval and belonging. I thought that being approved of was synonymous with being loved, because my behaviour seemed to dictate the amount of positive attention I would receive or not.  I think my story is shared by a lot of women.

It took me a long time before I understood that really loving someone was to accept them as they really are. It is not conditional. It does not depend on behaviour, shared interests or values and it certainly does not rely on accomplishments, conformity or obedience. I began to understand it the first time I fell in love. It became completely clear once I had my own children. I will not withhold my love and affection and support from them when I disagree with or do not understand their behaviour or choices. Once they figure out who they are, with much encouragement from me, I will back them, no matter what. Their personal unfolding and life experience and choices are their own, not mine to control. That’s love.

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When you begin to understand what love is and you start to see the transformative power of it, you begin to understand how important it is to turn that kind of love onto yourself. When I began to do this, I discovered that my love for myself up until that point had indeed been conditional. It wasn’t true love, it was dependant on how I looked, on my performance in life and my accomplishments. It was dependant on how others perceived me and if they approved. That was a very difficult and shattering realization. Interestingly, but not too surprisingly if you know me personally, I realized that the two places in my life that I had had the courage and audacity to fully self express despite obvious disapproval was with dance and attire. From as young as I can remember, I refused to conform about either of these two things. I refused to wear the frilly pink dresses my Grandma tried to get me to wear because it just wasn’t me, and I continued to have a strong opinion about how I would dress through my childhood, which only strengthened and became more adventurous, and bold into my teens, through my 20’s, 30’s and to this day. I understand now, that something like clothing and style may have seemed insignificant or even shallow and vain to others around me, but in truth, it was a deeply empowering gateway to my understanding of who I am and what my true purpose is in this lifetime. Patron of Dreams is not about clothes, it’s about empowering people to be themselves. My style was one place in my life that I didn’t compromised myself to please others. I expect there are others out there like me.

The other place I didn’t compromise was with dance. I recall challenging my Ballet teacher when I was only 7 years old about the politics in the classroom. I expressed that it was unfair and not right that some students got to have significant roles in the performance based on how many other dance classes they were paying for, and not based on skill and commitment to that class. Such defiance! Needless to say, I quit at that school and moved on to another one with more integrity. I danced unabashedly and joyously as a pre-teen at Junior High dances while others awkwardly hovered against the walls. Sometimes I danced all by myself in the middle of a room full of uncomfortable and self-concious people. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone thought of me because of it. I was born to dance. It’s no surprise that I ended up finding true love in the ancient art of Bellydance. I found pure power and presence of self in the most sensual dance style in history. Through my studies of this dance, I learned that it had absolutely nothing to do with the male gaze and it was then that I understood the personal power and sovereignty that lies within our sexuality, and that it has nothing to do with sex. We are sexual beings, when alone or with others. Our sexuality is a full expression of our being. It is our life force and vitality. It is a power source. It is as much about our mind and our spirit as it is our body. In fact, I’d argue that our sexuality has much more to do with our mind and spirit than our body ever will.

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The reality of this limited physical experience we are having here on earth, is that much of what is inside our mind and spirit can only be expressed through our body or outward appearance. It is a terrible misunderstanding and an atrocity to assume someone’s bodily expression is an invitation for sexual advances, for un-invited comment or opinion. To assume you understand someone’s intentions, or what is going on inside someone’s mind and spirit when they express with their body, whether it’s what they wear on it, or how they move it, is quite frankly, to show how little you understand about yourself. It’s a sign you are the victim of the old bullshit programming about women’s sexuality that has seeped into the world’s psyche. The age old “virgin-whore dichotomy”. Every woman’s body is a battleground. Every Man has the right and privilege to assess and openly critique any woman’s body if she’s out in the public eye, like she solely exists as a body to state your opinion on. Like a cow at an auction. She may be a singer, or an actress, or just someone walking down the street, but all anyone is talking about, is her body. Can you even imagine if it was as standard for women to do this to every Man they saw on Netflix or in the street. “Look at the gut on that guy!”, “He might be alright looking  if he wasn’t bald!”, “Hey baby, sweet ass, wanna party?”. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? It’s no less ridiculous when Men do it to women, we’ve just been programmed to expect it and not bother speaking up against it because “that’s just how it is”.  Well, this just in. It’s no longer socially acceptable to publicly critique every female body that crosses your path or your screen. Period.

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Women are expected to be sexy, but not too sexy, modest, but not a prude. Women have been condemned from the beginning of time immemorial for our sexuality. We are supposed to be ashamed and hide everything that makes us women. We hide when we bleed because of the stigma around our period. We stifle our emotions so we are not thought of as hysterical or irrational. We cannot be flirtatious, playful or expressive with our sexuality in public without being called a slut, a tramp, or being accused of “asking for it” when we call out someone for groping at us un-invited. Our sexual expression is not an invitation. If it was, then why would we put on clothes that make us feel sexy and dance in a sexually expressive way when we are alone? New flash, lots and lots of women do this! It’s not an invitation. It’s a celebration of being a woman in all her glory, vitality and power. End of story.

This photoshoot was a playful and personal expression of my sexual sovereignty. It was in celebration of entering my 40’s as a fully realized woman. It was about taking back my own sexuality from the ones who think they get to dictate to me what I can do with my own body, and to show that I don’t adhere to some ludicrous standard of beauty. I don’t fit the mould and I’m not going to feel shame for that or change myself to meet their standard, no matter how hard they try. I have danced on many stages in theatres and under the stars and empowered many woman with this body. I have grown two babies in my womb, birthed them both naturally, and fed them the milk that I produced with this body. I am well aware of my power as a woman, and I am here to tell you that the reason there are so many backwards, corrupted and blatantly untrue ideas out there being spread and perpetuated about women is that the powers that be are well aware of a woman’s power.  They understand that to shame women about their bodies, and throw derogatory slurs at us for being sexual beings,  has worked to control us in the past. They are banking on us being too afraid of public criticism and persecution to continue that behaviour which may have the disastrous effect of empowering other women to do the same. Never forget, it’s the ones who are trying to tear you down, who believe in your power the most.

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I called on two other sovereign and empowered women to help me bring this shoot to life. Joey Senft, the photographer who drew the youthful and playful vixen out of me, and Lori Fast, aka Lady Lorelie who adorned me with the ancient art of henna. Since this photoshoot was in celebration of my Birthday and entering an important decade, I asked Lori to create her version of the Astrological star constellation for Leo down both of my legs. I wanted to embody the playful, fun, bold and courageous attributes of my Astrological star sign. I asked for crescent moons on my shoulders to symbolize femininity and the essence of being a woman. Lori is a gem of a woman and it was an absolute honour to spend the afternoon with her having my henna done. She was a treasure trove of wisdom and amazing life experiences. She put me at ease, did an amazingly professional job and I found myself pouring my soul out to her like I had known her forever. The entire experience was completely cathartic and an exercise in release. I went to her to adorn me and give me that little bit of extra confidence to put myself out there and push my own comfort zones. It worked, to say the least. I highly recommend Lady Lorelie’s magic if you are wanting to embrace and celebrate your body. Henna is a fantastic bridge that allows you to expose your skin without feeling naked. The added bonus for me was that I felt I had placed strong intentions for myself in the henna during the process and as it slowly faded over the next few weeks, it was like my intentions were slowly being released to the universe. It was a wonderfully powerful experience, and I fully recommend it to every woman.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft,

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

HENNA BY: Lori Fast, Lady Lorelie

FASHION: Absolutely killer velvet bralette and velvet ruffle shorts custom made for me by Solstice Intimates. Socks from American Apparel. Shoes and 78 tee were thrifted. Glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Vintage chairs from Atomic Age Vintage

 

Creators Without Compromise

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is one of my deepest desires to live within a world where I can surround myself with beauty, luxury and comfort without compromising this beautiful earth we live on, or the health and wellbeing of the people on it. I believe with all my heart that this is the world that is coming. The world that many of us are currently consciously creating. I believe that we can not only have abundance in our lives, but that it’s our birthright. When I say abundance, I don’t mean excess, because that would be out of balance with everything. I mean the bounty that comes from feeling full, satisfied, content with what we have and the peace and serenity that comes when you feel well cared for and a part of something bigger than yourself. When we reach this level of contentment, the only desires that arise are the ones that drive us to create and expand our human experience through making and doing and the positive impacts that it has on the world.

When we choose to experience life from a place of gratitude and we live from the perspective of possibility, we begin to see the potential of human beings and their capacity to be in sync with the rythms of the earth and live harmoniously with it and each other. We begin to also see the potential in ourselves. It is this faith in human potential that drives everything I do. Not only do I want to create things for the joy of it, I want to create things that help others to achieve their fullest potential as well, while at the same time promoting a connection to the earth and a unity between people and planet. I know that compassion and collaboration are key in the creation of this kind of life experience. This might seem like a very large undertaking and a bit overwhelming from one perspective, but it is my view that even the simplest creative acts are part of a greater good. You don’t need to commit to some grand elaborate scale of creative achievement in order to have a massive impact. We may only play a song on our guitar that few will ever hear, or up-cycle and refurbish old furniture or clothing for our own personal use, but the ripple effect of these small acts of creation and expansion can have an impact that is substantial. You may think nothing of your little hobby that you do when you think no one is watching, but your simple act of making it a priority and doing creates an allowing within those around you that can quite literally change people’s lives. Think of the child who carries a bounty of creative potential who sees others around him taking the time to be creative. That child could be the next Nikola Tesla, or Ludwig Van Beethoven, and your simple acts of creativity help to cultivate an environment that allows that child to feel safe enough to take a chance, to explore, to investigate their own creative instincts. Every single person can have an impact that they may never even know they have, and every single person who is inspired to create because of someone else’s creativity is a win for all of us in the human family.

Ren (Chinese: 仁) is the Confucian (Chinese Philosophy) virtue denoting the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when being altruistic.

Confucius (Chinese Philosopher) also defined ren in the following way: “wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others.” Confucius also said, “Ren is not far off; he who seeks it has already found it.” -Wikipedia

It is when the deep creative force within us as well as a desire to live in harmony and do no harm in the process of that creation meet in the middle, that true magic occurs. It’s like the entire universe is at your back cheering you on and at your front clearing a path for you. You are driven by your own need to expand, but also, the need to feel your connection with all things. You know that you are impacted by others and that you too have impact and it leaves you feeling empowered and significant, yet completely humbled and in service of others at the same time.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

-Chinese Proverb

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It is my greatest pleasure to introduce you to Little Tree Hugger Soap! Luxury, hand made, natural bath and body products made right here in Manitoba. It was the beauty and inspiration from nature that drew me in, but their commitment to sustainability and compassion, never compromising on people’s health and the health of the planet was what truly won me over! Not only do they make exceptional quality products, they are committed to something greater than themselves and a belief that we should all experience the benefits of feeling luxurious and pampered, guilt free. This is a philosophy I can truly get behind!

“At Little Tree Hugger Soap we strive to provide Luxury without Compromise. What does that mean? You get the finest quality, luxurious bath and body products that never comprise our health or the health of our planet and it’s many creatures.

We want you to feel secure in your bath and body products; we carefully research every ingredient and promise you Truth in Labelling at all times. Sustainability and compassion are central to everything we do. We are proud to be certified cruelty free by Leaping Bunny and EWG Certified. We believe firmly in supporting local business; we source all of our ingredients from Canadian Companies even when that means paying more. Our products are fair-trade and organic whenever possible. We use only the highest quality ingredients, natural botanicals, essential oils, and phthalate and paraben free fragrances. Fragranced products are always clearly marked for those wishing to avoid fragrances. Finally, we pay close attention to our artistic vision and spare no detail in creating a visually pleasing, effective, and luxurious product you will thoroughly enjoy!”  -Little Tree Hugger Soap Website

To purchase Little Tree Hugger Soap products, visit their website www.littletreehuggersoap.com to shop on-line, or any of their Partner Stores located in Manitoba. Also…

*****STAY TUNED for the GRAND OPENING of their NEW SHOP at 296 McDermot Ave. in Winnipeg! Their SOFT OPENING is AUGUST 1st!!!*****

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: Dress from Shakti, Earrings by Divine Light Therapies.

SOAPS, BATH & BODY PRODUCTS BY: Little Tree Hugger Soap

 

The Bitches Are Back

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” Because sometimes f*ck you is synonymous with I am worthy.”

-Tany Markul, Thug Unicorn

I have been processing the rising of an anger and defiance within me that I haven’t felt in full force since I was a rebellious teenager. It has never healed because the patterns remain, but the time has come to channel that anger into a productive change of epic proportions. It’s a deep seeded feeling of absolute rejection of the popular response, “that’s just the way it is!’ Nothing sends my blood pressure to the moon like that apathetic and mindlessly compliant response to injustices and asinine outdated ideas about the world.  This rage that has been building inside of me begins with little girls being taught that they must be “sugar and spice and everything nice” as the nursery rhyme teaches us, and ends somewhere with a guttural animalistic scream unleashing from the depths of female oppression. It is a pendulum and it is swinging hard and fast like a wrecking ball into the patterns of old that have been keeping all the good women down.

Be sweet, be pretty, be gentle and polite. Don’t be loud, don’t attract attention. Don’t take up too much space, and remember to sit with your legs together. Don’t guffaw or snort when you laugh. Don’t do a cartwheel in a dress. Don’t swear, and don’t admit to any bodily functions, lest you reveal that you are indeed an animal. Don’t admit how old you are, and don’t revel in your sexuality if you want to be respected. BE A LADY! Sound familiar?

If you are assertive, they’ll call you aggressive. If your personality and style is big and colourful, they’ll say you are just trying to get attention. If you are ambitious and no nonsense, pursue things with grit and focus, and don’t let anyone stand in your way, they’ll say you’re cold, and bossy and not a team player. If you push back against the things you disagree with, speak out, stand up for yourself and say no to being treated in ways you find unacceptable, they will say you are difficult, selfish and unrealistic. You will be accused of being silly, naive and idealistic about the world because this is just the way it is! If that doesn’t work to shut you up and shut you down, then they’ll tell the world you are an unreasonable bitch. Well, so be it, if they are intent on labeling our defiance. The bitches are back, they’re pissed, and they’re louder than ever! They are taking up all the space they did in the 1980’s except they are armed with more education, more compassion, more resilience and a unity the likes of which the world has not ever seen before. The word of the current times is action! We are tired of asking nicely, being reasonable, defending ourselves and expressing our disagreement politely. We’ve been talked over and belittled one too many times, and it doesn’t matter how small the beast, if they are backed into a corner and feel threatened enough, at some point, peaceful negotiations are no longer called for and survival is all that matters. Even the sweetest creature will bite to save itself.

“Wild Woman teaches women when not to act “nice” about protecting their soulful lives. The wildish nature knows that being “sweet” in these instances only makes the predator smile. When the soulful life is being threatened, it is not only acceptable to draw the line and mean it, it is required. When a woman does this, her life cannot be interferred with for long, for she knows immediately what is wrong amd can push the predator back where it belongs. She is no longer naive. She is no longer a mark or a target. “

-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

We are up against a deeply engrained patriarchal paradigm that has seeped into the cracks and crevices of the collective psyche. I have experienced just as many women as men trying to curb the wild woman within all women. Why are they all trying so hard to make us behave within such a very narrow ideal? Well, it’s simple really, and an age old tactic. They are trying to control us, and people are deeply afraid of change. Just like any set of rules, they are there to maintain order and control, under the impetus of it being for our own collective good. You want to be liked don’t you? Well, in truth, if I have to stop wearing sequins or leopard print on a Tuesday because it’s too much for you; hide my nipples because you can’t stop sexualizing them; drink my beer in a glass because it’s more lady-like; or put up with sexist jokes and being cat-called in the streets, then no, I don’t give a hot damn about being liked! I like myself, and this funny thing happens when you begin to love yourself and stop requiring external validation. You stop caring what others might think of you for speaking your truth that challenges their accepted paradigm. You realize that their acceptance of you can’t even come close to comparing to the power and significance of your own self acceptance.

We women have been taught that we are too much from the very beginning and that we need to tone it the fuck down so we can be likeable (read; manageable). From the girlie little dresses my Grandmother told me that I refused to wear despite her efforts, to the attitude problem I had as a teen who angrily asked endless questions about why this messed up world is the way it is because I wasn’t buying it. To the modern day Wife and Mother I am today who deeply relates to women in movies set in the 1950’s and 60’s, because sometimes it feels as though nothing really has changed. Well, we can only be told to be quiet, demure, take a back seat, be grateful and settle for less than our potential for so long before the inadequacy of that life creates a deep collective female sorrow that burns and boils and grows into a visceral rage that will eventually blast the patriarchy to smitherines! And you can be damn sure, there will be casualties that are not paying attention and refuse to acknowledge that it’s already in motion. It’s not a matter of if, but when. 

“I’ve been baking pies at home, pies of rage!”

– Debbie Eagan (Liberty Belle), GLOW Season 2, Episode 10

We women, make up 50% of the population on the planet. Wake up beautiful warriors, pay attention to what’s happening! #WomensMarch #TimesUp #WomenSupportingWomen #GirlGang #GirlBoss #BodyPositivity #TheFutureIsFemale. These are global collective movements that are gaining ground every day, not just trendy hashtags. I’m an avid reader and a quick trip to a book store or search on-line will tell the story of what’s growing in the bellies of women, and I don’t mean little bundles of joy.

The She Book, by Tanya Markul

This is For the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck, by Janne Robinson

Strong is The New Pretty, Kate T. Parker

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

In The Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The list goes on and on and on! These messages aren’t pretty, they aren’t designed to make you feel comfortable and content with the way it is. These messages are often angry, poingnant, raging, crying, pleading, cajolingly beautiful masterpieces that are imploring you, to turn some of that deep empathic compassion you reserve for the oppressed, the animals, the children and mother earth onto yourself! Women of the world, we must save ourselves and each other. The time is most definitely up, and the time of gentle, quiet nudges towards equality is over. You have a voice, you have power and you have a responsibility to yourself. There’s no need to riot, to retaliate, to be violent or hateful. In fact, these responses are not in line at all with what it is that makes us women. Our strength is in our willingness to love deeply, be compassionate, empathetic, embrace our emotions and live by our intuition. Embracing our womanliness, does not mean rolling over and exposing our bellies in submission, or putting up with bullshit. On the contrary. We must turn toward one another and see that our freedom from these old patterns depend on our unity. That burning in your belly is not yours alone. I feel your fear and your dissappointment and your rage you have been told you are not allowed to express if you want to be loved. I feel you because I am you. And as I get to know you more, I know myself more, and I remember what a beast lies below the surface and what she is capable of. I am called to defend and protect myself and all the women of the world like I would my own sons, because that compassion and fierceness can not just be reserved for them, for who will defend them if I don’t defend myself and the women of the world who will raise them and love them into their manhood? What are they being taught about their Mother, about the women they may partner with some day, about you?

You are not too much, you don’t take up too much space. You don’t have an attitude problem or a difficult personality. You are not a bitch for rolling your eyes at outdated patriarchal bullshit. No one has been tip-toeing around your feelings, when they under pay you, grope you and devalue your contributions to the world, so why are we expected to tiptoe around their feelings when we’ve clearly had enough. We are hurt and angry, and tired of the old patterns and we are allowed to feel that way. In fact, it is to be expected, and typically it’s the the biggest transformational changes that come out of those perceived negative emotions. Sometimes being nice and gentle and sweet doesn’t cut it. Sometimes the dysfunctional societal patterns are too deeply engrained in the human subconcious that you have to stamp and swear and scream that guteral scream, even if it’s only out into the abyss, like I am doing right now. People will hear you, like the unidentifiable wail from a creature in the woods and they will ask “what the heck was that?” and a shiver will climb up their spine and it will wake up their senses. And maybe it will make them afraid, or maybe there will be others who feel that scream to the core of their being and recognize it in themselves. They will not run away, but instead, seek you out in the darkness of the woods and say “I feel you sister”, when they find you. And before you know it, you are walking out of those cold, dark woods, hand in hand with an entourage of women who’ve got each other’s backs. A sisterhood in formation who are not afraid to back down because they are stronger together and determined to make change for the greater good of humanity. Women and Men alike.  These are the new idols, the warriors, the rock stars. These are the ones the next generation of women will look up to and they will know our story of struggle and fear and oppression and how we overcame. We won’t leave the ugly parts out because this is no fairytail of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour, this is the story of women saving themselves and reclaiming their power and potential. This is real life, and sometimes real life is messy and unpredictable. Sometimes before a new order of things can occur, a much bigger mess must be created, like when we undertake to organize a closet. Just like a sling-shot, there is a tension and a tightening and a strain that has to occur before the release that catapaults us into a new paradigm. There is no way to go around the discomfort of this shift, we must go through it, and I for one am ready and willing.

“Good is following the rules, fitting in, ticking things off the list, being liked, keeping it light, and great is making mistakes, going too far, getting messy, standing in your truths, fighting for what you believe in, and it’s finding out what you’re doing here and actioning it with all of your heart.”

-Tanya Markul, Thug Unicorn

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Faux fur coats, animal print jackets, sequin skirt, shoes, gold belts, black leggings.

NEW FASHION: Gold bodysuit and animal print bathing suit top from American Apparel. Sunglasses from Urban Waves

Free Bird

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“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise”   – The Beatles

From the moment you open your eyes for the first time into the light of this world, you are taught how to fit in. As parents and communities, we teach children the rules, the social norms and culture in which they’ve been born into. We are taught how to be appropriate and what behaviour is acceptable in our community. These rules and norms and social structures are different all over the world, and even from household to household. How you are taught to be, largely depends on where you come forth onto this planet. This is one of the reasons I think that travel is so very important. When you see how other people live, in very different cultures than the one you were born into, you see that there are other ways to live this life. You realize that there really is no right way or wrong way, it all just depends on what you were taught based on the rules of your community.

I feel very fortunate to have been born in a country that prides itself on diversity. In Canada I have so many options, and freedoms to decide for myself how I want to live. I never take that for granted. When you are young, you tend to conform to the ideals of the people around you. Your family, teachers, neighbourhood and city. As you get older and you become exposed to more diversity, your influences begin to grow and expand. I was lucky enough to travel across the ocean to England and France for 3 weeks with a group of 20 other students when I was only 17 years old. That was a game changer for me! I saw how much bigger the world actually is. It opened my eyes and my mind to the idea that I have way more options than I ever thought I had. It was the first time that I started to dream about what my life could be, which was a welcome discovery with graduation from High School looming in the near future and the mounting pressure for me to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I have since experienced many twists and turns in this crazy life, but one thing has remained consistent. I have made sure that travel is a part of it, even if only a sprinkle here and there. In addition to visiting England and France, I have been to Turkey, Greece, Mexico, several U.S. States, Costa Rica and all over Canada. While this is really just a small smattering of places on our big beautiful blue planet, it has gained me a knowledge I could not have received had I never left the city I was born in. My experiences with the people of other cultures has given me perspective into what the meaning of freedom is to me, and that’s no small thing. I think that if you really look at all the things that people want, no matter where they are from, it all boils down to one thing, freedom. People want love and acceptance, they want to feel safe and cared for, to have nice things in a comfortable home, they want to find meaning and purpose in their work or whatever they spend their time doing. People want to laugh and feel joyful and give back to others. All of these things added up together really equate to a life where you feel free. Some view freedom as the romanticized concept where you have no ties to anyone or responsibilities, so you can come and go as you please with no accountability. You can travel the world and do what you want without answering to a soul. I have known people who have chosen this life when they were young, mostly to regret it later, when they begin to crave belonging and roots and people around them who love them consistently. That’s not to say that living that romanticized ideal for a while for your own personal growth and self development isn’t a noble pursuit. I just believe that it doesn’t fully capture the full essence of what it is to be free. At some point, you are likely to feel something is missing and then you are no longer free.

“Young man, full of big plans and thinking about tomorrow
Young man, going to make a stand
You beg, steal, you borrow
You beg, you steal, you borrow
Dreaming of the day
You’re gonna pack your bags
Put the miles away
Oh, just grab your girl and go
Where no one knows you
What will all the old folks say?
So the home town’s bringing you down
Are you drowning in the small talk and the chatter? Or you gonna step into line like your daddy done
Punching the time and climbing life’s long ladder”

 – Ray LaMontague, Beg Steal or Borrow lyrics

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So what is freedom really then? Well, in my estimation, it’s living a lifestyle where you are allowed to fully be yourself. If you have to change who you are to accommodate those around you, you are not free. If your responsibilities to others outweigh your ability to nurture yourself and your passions, you are not free. If you are spending your days at a job or in a role that doesn’t feed your soul, you are not free. If you are financially strapped because you are living beyond your means to maintain a certain lifestyle, you are not free. All of these things keep you from being true to yourself and fully embracing the person you are meant to be, and I believe they are all symptoms of the same thing, trying to fit in, instead of being yourself. It comes right back to our beginnings when fitting in and following the social rules of engagement was being hammered into us from all directions as children. We spend much of our adult lives realizing that there are many ways to live and we actually have a choice, but choosing differently from those around us may present all kinds of challenges. I think many people are too afraid to face those challenges and choose a life of appealing to others to the detriment of themselves, and possibly to the entire world, because who knows what you are capable of if given the chance to let your talents shine.

My suggested solution to this dilemma is simple. It’s stated in one way or another in every major religion of the world. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you! We all want to feel free. Every. Single. One. Of. Us! So, allow. Allow people to be themselves. Allow people to have their opinions. Allow people to choose their own adventure. Allow people to have the lifestyle that suites them. Allow others, because you want to be allowed, and through our allowing, we remove the need to conform to fit in and belong. This creates an incredible ripple effect of personal freedom. It removes the tendency to compare yourself with others and the need to keep up with the Jones’s. This would save a lot of people from financial debt and living beyond their means. It also removes the insecurity that makes us easily manipulated by advertising and promises of happiness if you just be, live and look a certain way. There is no right way to live. If you don’t believe me, then travel the world. See for yourself. There are millions of people doing it differently who are happy. There are more options than you can possibly imagine and by choosing something different that speaks to your soul, you open up the option for others’ who may not have known they could choose something else. You don’t have to follow the herd, and you may be very surprised to discover that if you have the courage to be true to yourself, you will inspire others to do the same. People you couldn’t have imagined will be encouraged your bravery. Just allow. Stop trying to conform everyone to your one way of living. Sing it’s praises if you love it, but don’t assume it’s right for everyone. Teach the children in your life how incredibly important it is for them to nurture themselves and their interests. Expose them to as much variety as possible so they see how many options there are out there for them. Stop trying to turn children into replicas of each other so they can fit in, or celebrities so they’re cool, and Parent’s, please, oh please, stop trying to mould your kids into mini versions of yourself. Let them unfold. Let them be them. Let their little personalities and quirks and talents reveal themselves and encourage their realness, not their conformity. I’m not saying we need to abandon all the rules and the social contracts. They are a part of the world we live in too and they are important to understand and navigate. But, balance is key and let’s face it, some rules are made to be broken. Our children need to understand all the rules in order to know which ones are arbitrary, or down right damaging, and which ones actually help society. Social rules should never stop us from living our truth and being ourselves.

So be yourself and help others do the same. We can only open the bars of all the cages and set one another free if we support each another. Live and let live. Be brave enough to follow your own path while allowing others to follow theirs. Just spread your wings and fly. Be free to be you.

“I’ve always been fascinated by everything with wings.” – Dolly Parton

Introducing, THE SALVAGE HEART!!!

These crazy-fun, winged earrings are created by The Salvage Heart, using up-cycled leather, faux leather and other found materials, right here in Manitoba, Canada. I love designer, Nadia Kuhl’s work because she has so many options! There is literally a pair of earrings for every type of person in every colour and texture, and I am ecstatic when I discover fashion or jewellery that is ethically and sustainably made. There is nothing better than supporting businesses that are making our planet a priority. Nadia is an incredible artist, who also up-cycles and re-works denim and other fashion too. You can find her beautiful creations for sale on-line at thesalvageheart.com, as well as in person at Poor Michaels Emporium in Onanole, Manitoba.

Coming up next! Where you can find The Salvage Heart:

  • June 9-10, 2018 just west of Winnipeg Beach as part of Proutopia, a weekend art village featuring 25 artists.
  • July 5-8, 2018 at The Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Provincial Park in the Hand Made Village.

“Owned by Manitoba prairie based artist Nadia Kuhl
The Salvage Heart ~ is born from the desire to create something new
from found, salvaged & re-purposed treasures.
All of our creations are 100% hand-made in Manitoba
from items that were destined to end up in landfills.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, recreate.” –The Salvage Heart Website

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Wonder Woman t-shirt, hot-pink satin slip, cowboy boots and black suede fringe jacket.

VINTAGE FASHION: Velvet pants from Shop Take Care.

CURRENT FASHION: Up-cycled earrings from The Salvage Heart. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Special note: Huge thank you to Carey Coffin and her Parents for providing this incredible teal 1966 Beaumont Convertible for this shoot! Many. many thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Who Decides the Culture of Our Time? Us or Future Generations?

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What is culture? Well, it’s complicated. We seem to have cultures within cultures, within cultures, and it only seems to be getting more complex and difficult to define. To my understanding, it’s the art, music, food, aesthetic, values and beliefs of a particular group of people, at a particular time in history. Culture is not static, it is ever changing along with the people who are immersed in it. It is people that decide culture. They decide what changes and what doesn’t. What parts to keep and what parts to discard, and what new ideas to include. Culture tends to shift from one generation to the next as each group of youth challenges the ideas and values of their Parent’s generation. Let’s also not ignore how our history has shown us our potential for self proclaimed superiority over another culture. An people of one culture may all but eradicate the culture of another in order to grow their own, in the name of righteousness, or progress. People have done horrific things in the name of expanding their beliefs and way of life. Culture continues to adapt over time, whether we cling to the past or not. To be cultured is to be enlightened, educated and knowledgable about the time in which we live. When we describe someone as cultured we often mean they are refined, well educated and have good taste, whatever that is, from one moment to the next?

It is interesting to me that something that is clearly so deeply valued by people, is made up of components such as art, books and music that never seem to get the recognition, validation or support they require to sustain themselves. People fight to preserve and maintain art, books and music with fierce protectiveness. We put it in museums and libraries, display it in our homes and public buildings. We spend immense amounts of money keeping it safe. We talk about it, write about it and make documentary films about it. Yet, most of the people I know who are making art, music and writing books are are struggling for recognition and to make a living wage. Centuries and centuries of people creating the art, music and books that are the essence of the culture of the time in which they were created with little to no real appreciation or support while they were actually alive and creating. Why is this? And why does it still continue to happen today?

Well, the simple answer to my mind, is that people can’t seem to see past the end of their own noses, and hind-sight is 20/20. The more complicated answer is that art captures the essence of culture in a moment in time and nobody is fully aware of what precisely the culture is while they are living it. They are quite literally caught up in the moment and continual upheaval and evolution of culture and not aware of what will be significant to their cultural time until they look back and see it clearly portrayed through the great artistic minds of the time. Nobody knew Woodstock, just a three day music festival in a farmer’s field would become the climax of what would be later known as a defining moment in our history and significant cultural marker of the 1960’s. Many of the performers that played Woodstock, like Joe Cocker (Have a Little Help From My Friends) and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) (It was only their second time ever playing live), were barely known at the time and they were catapulted to stardom and cultural significance. What about all the creative minds who defined our cultural history? I would love to go back in time and ask Socrates, Mozart and Frida Kahlo about their life experience and whether or not they felt valued and supported by their community in their artistic endeavours? Books, documentaries and essays about their lives seem to suggest that no, they did not in fact get that support when they needed it. They struggled significantly and did not get the recognition they truly deserved until well after they were dead. They were not appreciated fully until they were gone. But yet, they still created because they were compelled to do so. Their work allowed them to process and understand the world around them and helped them make sense of living, even if they felt isolated and found it difficult to relate to the masses.

The truth is, that all art, music and writing is capturing the essence of culture as it is happening. It would be impossible not to. We are all living it and all trying to make sense of what is going on around us and within us, and the artistic community is often slightly removed from mainstream culture and being on the fringe tends to give one a better vantage point to see what is actually going on around them. We are a product of our time and the culture that exists at that time, and no matter when in history we are, culture is constantly in flux, so it can be very confusing and difficult to make sense of. Joan Didion, an American journalist and writer, famous for her writing in the 1960’s-70’s about cultural chaos and social fragmentation said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the music, art and writing of the 1960’s resonates so deeply with me as an artist and writer myself given all the cultural parallels to our current time. The cultural chaos that Joan Didion wrote about reflected a time of deep generational divide in values, major political upheaval, the threat of war, and ramped up racial discrimination and civil rights activism. Today we are facing all of the same issues in different packaging. In the 60’s women were burning their bras, today we attend the Women’s March and hashtag #timesup on social media in support of equal pay for women. The Black Panther Party was created in 1966 to protect African American citizens from police brutality, today we have the Black Lives Matter activist movement. In the 60’s, an entire generation challenged the status quo, railing against the rigid family structure and cultural values of the 1950s’, conservative, religious, hard-working middle class. They rejected old cultural structures, preferring freedom, less lifestyle restrictions, less materialism, and embraced eastern philosophy, spirituality and the recreational use of marijuana. Today, we have the millennial generation rejecting old political and social structures and values, fighting for a better quality of life with less emphasis on material gain, the ability to love who they want and define themselves as they wish. Again, eastern philosophy and spiritual practices are being embraced in an even bigger way and marijuana is back in popular culture with the use of CBD Oil (Cannabis Based Drug) on the rise in the medical industry and the legalization of Cannabis for medical use in the U.S. in 29 States already and Canada slated to legalize this year. The parallel’s between the 1960’s and today are uncanny. There are song lyrics and magazine articles written from that time in history that could easily have been written today.

Culture is continually changing and reflecting the social issues and values of the time, but I would argue that people have changed very little. While our world looks very different now in terms of infrastructure and population growth, and technology changing the world dramatically, the human condition is ticking along slowly like it somehow has not learned from itself at all. We are still walking around blind and reactionary to the shifting cultural values as they happen before our eyes and not valuing and supporting the artistic community that is capturing it as it happens until we look back years later and it’s often too late to support them. Joan Didion also wrote “In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.” If you have ever read any of my previous writing, you’ll know that I am a big believer in self examination, personal evolution and intentional living. A big part of this is evaluating how much we have learned from our past and what we choose to do differently as a result. What if we didn’t wait for hind-sight to show us what is culturally relevant and what artists, musicians and writers we should have supported while they were giving all of themselves to their generation? What if we decided for ourselves what is relevant right now? What if we took the reins and intentionally voted with our dollars and our attention what we want to go down in history? What if we didn’t wait for our children and grandchildren to decide what was culturally relevant from our generation, but instead, we stood back, saw the bigger picture and realized the pattern that has shown us again and again that it’s the people challenging the status quo who define the culture of the time? Those fringe artists are right on the pulse of the cultural shift and the cusp of change is right there captured within their art for all to see. If they bother to look. What if we got on board early and supported that change instead of sitting back and watching where the pieces fall?

So, how do we do that? Well, we can start by acknowledging how important art, music and writing is to society! Show me a home that you would like to live in that has no books, music or art displayed? A home void of those things is a sad place indeed. You have an opinion and taste of your own. Don’t wait for the masses to decide for you what is good and culturally significant. Go watch local bands play and buy their music. Find them on Spotify, listen to them in your home and tell your friends about them. Check out a local market or festival and purchase art from artists and makers in your own city. Ask them about their work when you are face to face with them. Buy books directly from Author’s websites or their booth at conventions where they receive all of the money, not just a tiny percentage that they get when they sell at big book stores like Chapters. The people who are quite literally capturing and defining our current culture should be able to make a living wage and support themselves at the very least. They are doing good, important work for their community and I think it’s time we recognized it. Why do we need to continue to wait for future generations to decide for us what was culturally relevant during our generation? We have a role in history and we have the opportunity to spend our money on the things we want more of in our world and support the things we think are important. The painting you bought that’s a sanitized knock off of a knock off from Winners will have no cultural relevance or significance in history, but that little book you buy off of an Author’s table at a market could turn out to be the next great philosophical work of our time. That writer could be the Socrates of the the Twenty-first century, and you would have been part of that greatness for supporting it and making it possible for her to continue her work. That kid you watched play his guitar and sing at a little folk festival in a small town, could be the next Bob Dylan and his songs might go down in history as some of the most influetial words of the 2010’s. You never know, but at any given moment, you could be supporting an incredible mind and creative genius, and have a part to play in changing the world as we know it. At the very least, you will be woven into the cultural fabric of an important moment in human history, and I think that is more than worth your attention.

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Hustle & Bustle/Downriver House, 2016 by Bruno Canadien

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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SHIELD, 2017 by Caroline Monnet

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

NEW FASHION: Black wool tam from The Haberdashery. Nude bodysuit by American Apparel. Fringe earrings made with salvaged materials by The Salvage Heart.

THRIFTED FASHION: Gold snake belt and wide leg checkered pants.

VINTAGE FASHION: Pink satin coat from Shop Take Care. Red embroidered shoes from Wildwoodrose and PJ Vintage.

LOCATION: Winnipeg Art Gallery, *INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE

*INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE brings together 29 emerging-to-established Indigenous artists who are pushing boundaries with their work. The collection considers political insurgency and cultural resurgence to radically shift our understanding of Canada, now and in the future. Working in a variety of media, the artists focus on Indigenous intergenerational cultural knowledge within land based practices, gender, traditional aesthetics, language revitalization, interconnected kinships, identity, and material culture. INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE is the WAG’s largest-ever exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art and includes 12 new commissions from artists across Canadian territories and nations. –Winnipeg Art Gallery Website

 

The Wild Within Us

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“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

“Like the wolf, intuition has claws that pry things open and pin things down, it has eyes that can see through the shields of persona, it has ears that hear beyond the range of mundane human hearing. With these formidable psychic tools a woman takes on a shrewd and even precognitive animal consciousness, one that deepens her femininity and sharpens her ability to move confidently in the outer world.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

One of the greatest and most unfortunate misconceptions that has ever been instilled within human kind is the belief that we are somehow separate and disconnected from the natural world. You can take the beast out of the wilderness, but you cannot take the wilderness out of the beast. We are mammals at a core cellular and instinctual level and the denial of this has not made us more civilized, on the contrary, I believe it has made us forget our innate humanity.

I would argue that our understanding of our deep connection and responsibility to one another as human beings is intrinsically linked to our understanding of our connection and responsibility to mother nature. As with all things, I believe that to truly understand something and learn its value, exposure is essential. In our civilized western world, we live in concrete jungles, surrounded by synthetic materials with walls and doors keeping us separated from the wilderness from which we came. Entire generations of children are born and grow up without ever having set foot in the woods. If they are lucky, big city kids may spend the odd day in a green space or man-made park that neatly fits into a tidy area of well-planned order. While that’s better than nothing, there’s nothing natural about it. Nature is wild, chaotic, powerful, uncontrollable and breathtakingly beautiful. Much like some of my favourite women! Nature feeds you, clothes you, rips you apart and heals you again. She will warm you, clean you and sing you to sleep. She will remind you of the blood in your veins and the bone that keeps you upright. She will breath soft breath on your cheek and kiss your skin golden today, then make you bleed tomorrow. She reminds you again and again and again that you are alive.

To walk in the wilderness, is to feel that you are connected to everything and everyone. It reminds you that you have a place inside the glorious web of life. You are a part of something much bigger than yourself and you are integral.  You are a creator and destroyer. You are a lover or a havoc wreaker with every decision and move that you make. Do not be fooled by the concrete world you have built around you, you have impact. Just because you cannot see the majesty of the wilderness in front of you, does not mean that she is not there. You are a part of her and she sees you and feels your impact always.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have never lost my connection with nature. I was raised to marvel at the beauty of the stars and the moon. I was taught to be still and let my senses guide me. I learned to notice the signs of other life and the stories they tell. The footprints in the snow and fur on a branch. The spider webs that tell you winter is coming and robin’s song that sings of spring. The hairs on the back of your neck that stand on end warning you of danger, and circling crows that tell a tale of recent death. I in turn, pass this knowledge on to my children. They collect mushrooms in the spring and berries in the summer. They swim in cool waters and climb jagged rocks. They know that the dirt in the forest is clean and the dirt in the city is not. They collect bones, antlers and stones on the forest floor and call them treasures. They will tell their friends in the city that they saw a fox, deer, snake and bald eagle this weekend. They will grow up with freckles on their cheeks, leaves in their hair and scratches on their knees, and they will know that this means they are healthy and strong. They will know they are connected to all life and that they belong. They will know that if they are to reap the rewards of the natural world, they must respect her and protect her. They will learn who they are, while lying in soft moss under the shade of forest canopy, and there is nothing more beautiful or meaningful than that.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

CURRENT FASHION: Boots by Sorel Footwear

VINTAGE FASHION: Green coat from Found on Corydon (Metalphysical Moon). Thrifted pants, skirt, top and belt.

JEWELLERY BY: Sheppards Hook Jewellery (Antler and stone rings; Antler/porcupine quill earrings; Antler/moss stud earrings; Antler, stone, and beaded necklaces)

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I am an advocate for anything that connects us to and reminds us of nature, which is why I fell in love with Sheppards Hook Jewellery! Locally made right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba by Katie, an extremely talented creator! Each piece is made with organic and found materials and is one of a kind. A wonderful way to carry an artistically crafted piece of mother nature with you, even in the hustle of city life. I highly recommend getting yourself one of these pieces of wearable art. Katie’s creations are absolute statement pieces and conversation starters. They are both beautiful and ethically made with sustainable organic materials, and you get to support a small Canadian business in the process! Win, win, win! Sheppards Hook Jewellery will be launching their website on SATURDAY, MAY 19, 10 a.m. CST! Stay tuned to shop on-line (Canada only for now) and don’t miss out, her pieces move fast!

WHO IS SHEPPARDS HOOK?

Sheppards Hook jewellery has a wild, rustic expression for environmentally conscious individuals who strive to attain a bold, unique look that sets them apart from the crowd. Each piece is hand-crafted for a natural, artistic feel using naturally-shed white-tailed deer antler from the forests of Manitoba. This local maker is passionate about creating bold statement pieces for strong women with a refined use of colour and texture. Collections are accented using brass, high quality gemstones and other elements of nature such as porcupine quill. Get in touch with your inner wild woman when you adorn these one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

With strong roots in art and nature, Katie began taking Fine Arts and Biology at the University of Manitoba in 2005. She has always combined the two passions to create pieces of art inspired by the natural world around her. This shows in her wild, prairie-inspired jewellery.

Katie has been selling at various markets, festivals and pop-up shows since 2010.”

– Sheppards Hook Jewellery Website

WHERE CAN I BUY SHEPPARDS HOOK JEWELLERY?

Currently Sheppards Hook is sold at the following locations:

  • Winnipeg – Voila par Andreanne (303-421 Mulvey Ave)
  • Winnipeg – WAG @ The Forks (Johnston Terminal)
  • Winnipeg – Tara Davis Boutique (246 McDermot Ave)
  • Kenora – Fragile Glass Studio (529 3rd Ave)

Sheppards Hook will be at the following festivals and pop-ups in 2018 (more to be announced soon!)

  • Winnipeg Folk Festival – July 5-8 2018
  • Edmonton Folk Festival – August 9-12 2018
  • Third + Bird Spring Pop-Up – May 4-5 2018
  • St. Norbert Farmer’s Market – Every Saturday, starting May 19th 2018

Opalescence

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Opalescent: Something that is opalescent reflects light and changes colour like an opal.  – Cambridge Dictionary

Opal: A precious stone whose colour changes when the position of the person looking at it changes.  -Cambridge Dictionary

The opal, also known as the “Eye Stone” is known for it’s ability to bring a person’s personal characteristics and traits to the forefront as well as bringing unresolved patterns or tendencies that require self examination to the surface. This self evaluation can lead to profound personal transformation. Opal boosts creativity and originality. It is considered to be a karmic stone, showing us that what we put out into the world will come back to us. Also, how we perceive the world, will be shown to us like a mirror reflection.

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Each of us are like the opal, a complete spectrum of colours that changes from different perspectives. When people look at us, they see a reflection of themselves. You show them their hopes, their fears, their insecurities, their desires. They look at you and they see what they like and what they don’t like about the world in which they live, which is really just a reflection of who they are, or rather, who they believe themselves to be based on their life experience. People look at you only in relation to themselves, which is why no two people see you in exactly the same light. Every person who lays eyes on you sees a different colour depending on the perspective they are coming from. People see you in relation to the stories they tell themselves about the world. In truth, no other person can really see you, even though you are there in all of your glory. You are the only one who can actually see yourself, but you will never see your true self in a mirror. When we see with the human eye, we see only a reflection of our beliefs, our world views and our current state of mind. Who you really are is deep within you and can only be felt with the heart and the spirit, not seen with the human eye.

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Although we cannot see people as they truly are, what we can do is feel people, but we are so trained in our society to see with our limited sense of eye-sight, that we have neglected to develop and maintain our ability to experience and know one another through feeling. This ability, which all of us have, requires a deep sense of compassion for others and the ability to feel beyond the sensory information coming in all directions from our basic five senses. The five senses while important and useful for moving around and experiencing our physical world, can be very distracting and overstimulating which keeps us trapped in a constant state of reacting to our surroundings. It is difficult to live an intentional life with focus, direction and action when we have become a slave to our senses and are continually responding to stimulus. And let’s face it, we live in a society that is designed to bombard our senses with stimulation. We take the sensory information in and believe it to be truth, instead of just information reflecting our current attitudes and perspectives. What I mean to say is that your state of mind effects your mood and your mood can make your sensory perspective very different from one moment to the next, and very different from one person to the next. For example, loud music when you are in a bad mood can be irritating, but the same loud music when you are in a good mood may make you want to get up and dance. Both situations are the same, the truth if you will, but your perspective means that you experience the same stimulus in a very different way. What this means is that your reaction or perception of the situation has nothing to do with the situation, but has everything to do with your personal perspective and current state of mind when you experience the music.

Do you see what this means?  It means that how you experience the world around you and the people in it, is really just a reflection of your inner state and relationship with yourself. It is a reflection of your beliefs, your views, your expectations, your understanding of the world from your life experience and your current attitudes. You tell yourself that it is truth, but there are billions of people on the planet and each of us is experiencing our own personal story as truth. This is why you can have two people being exposed to virtually the same circumstances, yet each of them experience it very differently. It is not your circumstances that determine what kind of life you have, but the way in which you experience and react to those circumstances. There are so many examples of people born into poverty, abuse, and horrendous circumstances who manage to rise above it by sheer force of will and attitude about life. There are many other examples of people who have been born into wealth and affluence with every need being met, and opportunity given,  yet they waste their life away doing nothing of consequence and often loosing themselves in a life of drugs and disfunction. If the victim narrative is deeply engrained in you, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, because ultimately, it means that you have far more control over your life experience than you think you do, and you have to take responsibility for your own happiness or misery. You may not be able to control the circumstances or events that occur in your life, but you do have a choice about how and what you react to.

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Here is the true freedom gleaned from this understanding. The way that you see other people and experience your life is constantly acting as a mirror to tell you what your state of mind is and the current state of your relationship with yourself. Every reaction to other people or situations is an opportunity to learn about you and become more self aware. How strong your reactions are can tell you a lot about your pain, issues you haven’t dealt with, and it sticks a pin in exactly what your fears and insecurities are. Ugh, I know, it’s rough, but it’s also a gift, if you self-examine and use the new found understanding of who you are to transform into a better version of yourself. Here is the other gold nugget. If your reactions to and understanding of others is a reflection of you, then their reactions to you and understanding of what you are all about is a reflection of them. Their perception of you, good or bad, has absolutely nothing to do with you. Their opinion of you and reaction towards you is not your responsibility. Whether they are criticizing you or praising you should not determine how you feel about yourself. All you are responsible for is working on yourself, taking responsibility for your feelings and emotions and how you react or don’t react to people and circumstances. When what you say, what you do, what you wear, or how you live your life causes people to respond angrily, or with judgement, it shines a light on the things they themselves need to heal. Often the differences we see in others invokes deep seeded feelings of fear of the unknown and triggers all the ways in which we ourselves have adapted who we are in order to fit in and belong and not make others feel uncomfortable. Deep down many of us are hurting because of this because all we want is to be loved and accepted for who we actually are. We are tired of suppressing ourselves to be more acceptable to the status quo.

So what is the lesson in all of this? Well, what I have come to learn is that many people are holding other people and circumstances responsible for their own happiness. They believe that they would be happier and their life would be easier if other people and situations changed. This is a terrible and disempowering trap, that can only lead to depression. I have learned to become more aware of my own reactions towards people and situations and do my best to explore and investigate why I feel the way I feel and determine if what I am perceiving is indeed truth, or if my reactions are just a symptom of my own personal fears and insecurities. Because of this, I have felt more empowered, more in control of my own life experience and far less emotional and volatile. I have been taking responsibility for my perspective and spending a lot more time understanding myself and nurturing my relationship with myself, and a lot less time holding other people accountable for my happiness. We tend to focus our attention on understanding others and how they appear to be towards us. This is the ego perspective. Try looking at yourself instead when something that someone says, does, or doesn’t say or do hurts you or upsets you in some way. You cannot change them, but you can heal your own perspective. Also, you don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, world views or appearance, but you also don’t need to allow that difference of opinion to make you volatile, or feel you must impose your opinion or educate another about the way it actually is. That’s your self-important ego talking. You can have strong opinions and views without losing your sense of inner peace. Social media is a perfect example of people running rampant with volatile reactions to every post they don’t see eye to eye with. Either blatant personal attacks of character, or my personal fave, the self-righteous armchair activist who seem to say “There, I’ve given you a piece of my well-educated mind and taught you a lesson with my well-sourced arguments! It’s all in a days’ work!”, like they’ve actually accomplished something by arguing with people on Facebook or Instagram. You are giving all of your power away when you do that because you are robbing yourself of peace and happiness in that precious moment, while you type angry, hateful, or self-rightous truths from your perspective towards another human being. All the while blaming them for robbing you of peace and happiness, and convincing yourself that it’s your job to change them. You quite literally poison yourself with the poison you are trying to shove down someone else’s throat. Hurt people, hurt people. You react so strongly because of old pain or fear, that has nothing to do with the person you are directing your anger at, they have just touched a trigger point within you. A hot button that needs your attention. A place within yourself that needs healing. When you become aware of this, you become aware that the entire human race is experiencing the same thing. This knowledge plants a seed of compassion towards others in your heart. Even if their anger or negativity is directed towards you, you can maintain a state of peaceful awareness because you recognize that they have their own pain, fear and insecurity that they are living with, and they are possibly completely unaware of it. When it spills over to you and you react strongly, it just feeds the monster that you are disapproving of.

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“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown

“Non-reaction to the ego in others is one of the most effective ways not only of going beyond ego in yourself but also of dissolving the collective human ego.”

– Eckhart Tolle

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Here are some of the philosophies that I try to live by. When you heal yourself, you heal the world. Stop giving your power away to those who have no capacity to understand who you actually are and are not responsible for your happiness or life experience. Take responsibility for your own life and your self-worth and stop letting the praisers and criticizers decide how you are going to feel about yourself. Make your own personal growth and healing your top priority because it is your relationship with yourself that will determine your relationships with everyone and everything around you. Every time you are about to criticize someone else, stop and self-assess. What is going on inside of me that makes me feel this way? There is always a gem of self-discovery in there that will make your life easier if you face it. You can only respond to the world from your current state of awareness and consciousness. When I look at people and situations, I want to see all the colours of the spectrum like an opalescent symphony from a place of self-awareness and compassion. I know that this requires me to work on myself. To get honest about my issues, to stop holding others accountable and take responsibility for me. I want to live in a world where people would rather spend their time bettering themselves than trying to force others to change because they understand that you can’t control other people, but you can control how you react to people. And one by one, each of us begins to react to one another from a place of self-awareness and compassion, and before you know it, we have transcended a pain and fear-filled society and we can finally begin to feel one another for who we actually are. It is then, I believe that we will begin to discover what we are truly capable of, and just how colourful and opalescent we really are.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE FASHION: Dress from Wildwoodrose Vintage Market (note: the next market is on June 9th in Winnipeg at Old Market Square! I will be selling vintage there this year!!!). 70’s leather skirt from Shop Take Care . Shop Take Care is sells vintage, consigned fashion and goods from local makers and artisans. Vintage coyote-fur hat. Vintage scarf.

CURRENT FASHION: Thrifted Mukluks from Manitobah Mukluks. Sunglasses from Urban Waves Winnipeg. Rose Quartz necklace from BCP Jewelry

LOCATION: Red River Mutual Trail in Winnipeg. PONTAGON, the Faculty of Architecture’s warming hut installation at the Forks, in collaboration with the City of Winnipeg’s Walk/Bike/Bridge project.