shawna lemay

Photo by Shawna Lemay

One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

I stumbled on Shawna's blog a few years ago and have been turning to it ever since as a source of inspiration and peace. Her soft photos and gentle words often soothe my agitated mind and leave me feeling refreshed.

What sort of creative work do you do?

I’m a writer who also finds inspiration in photography. I’ve published poetry, essays, and most recently, a novel, titled Rumi and the Red Handbag. I sell my photos on Getty Images, but the main reason I take them is to share them on my blog, Calm Things. (more…)

making space

"To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be." Joseph Campbell

To me having a space that inspires creativity is half the battle (okay, maybe a third of the battle, along with making time and overcoming my inner critic). In all the homes I've lived in, I've tried to have such a space, though it's not always easy. Sometimes I need to carve out space in a multi-functional room, and sometimes I need to work in less than ideal conditions. But I use what I have and always make sure that I have at least a small area dedicated to art making. Then I try to make it better, any way that I can. The more comfortable and content I feel, the easier it is to create the magic that I'm looking for.

Your home is a place of refuge, of relaxation, and comfort. It should be a place where, even if you're not always actively creative in it, you are constantly being refreshed, revitalized, and inspired; where you are reminded of what's important to you and encouraged to spend time in creative pursuits.

Does your home inspire creativity or squash it? Here are some things that have helped me make a good environment for creating, plus some suggestions that I've found in my travels around the web: (more…)


A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Matt, and I celebrated my birthday with a staycation in our own city. Earlier in the year, I did a window display for a nice hotel in one of Edmonton's popular food/shopping districts, and they gave me a gift certificate for a weekend stay as a thank you. We spent two nights in the hotel, wandered around the neighbourhood, and went out dancing. Friday night we were as excited as we would be for a real vacation, and Sunday I felt relaxed and content, if reluctant to leave our giant hotel bed and amazing view. The joy of staycationning in your own city is that you can do it any time, without any of the hassle (and a lot of the expense) of going out of town, but it still gives that feeling that something special is happening.

Here are some things that I found made our staycation extra special:


big magic elizabeth gilbertElizabeth Gilbert knows a lot about creativity. She makes a living as a writer so it's something that she grapples with daily but she's also given Ted Talks on the subject, discussed it in plenty of interviews and on her Facebook page, and now she's written a book about it. Like me, my mom is a big fan of Gilbert so when I told her that the book Big Magic was coming out on a certain day, she went out after work on that day, bought two copies, came straight to my place and gave me one of them. It made my week.

I've now read the book twice, the second time going through with pink, blue, and yellow highlighters (because they match the cover of the book) to pick out what I think are the juiciest bits of wisdom. And I would like to share just a little taste of that wisdom with you (it was so hard to narrow it down!). You'll have to read the book to get the full effect, or you can listen to Gilbert  herself talking about some important points on this episode of her podcast, or  this MarieTV episode. (more…)

Justina Smith

One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I’ll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

I first saw Justina's paintings at a pop-up art market here in Edmonton, and I've been drooling over them ever since. I love the way she combines paint and collaged papers, and her unique perspective of the world, and it's a lot of fun seeing her photos on Instagram turn into paintings.

What sort of creative work do you do?

Drawing and painting and writing are the main things I spend my time doing. I also really love knitting.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?

Not really. I kind of figured everyone had some kind of thing that they were into: music, dancing, drawing, decorating, cooking, gardening, etc. Family members were always working on little projects of some sort after work and on weekends. I assumed everyone else's family did too. (more…)

printmaking workshop edmonton

I am SO excited to announce that I'll be teaching a linocut printmaking workshop at Habitat here in Edmonton this month.

If you've never been, it's a sweet little store tucked into the 100-year-old McKenney Building on 104th Street that sells all kinds of hand crafted goods from Edmonton and beyond. I stopped in for the first time while visiting the summertime 104th Street Market and was charmed by the decor and the abundance of creative products.

This two-hour workshop will be a little taster of what's possible with linocut printmaking, and will leave you with at least 5 beautiful cards that you can be proud of. If your creativity needs a kickstart or you're looking for an excuse to get crafty before Christmas, now's your chance! I'll have ready-made designs available for you to use, or you can bring your own.

printmaking workshop edmonton

Here are the details:

Hand-printed Christmas Cards

With the rise in popularity of letterpress and other lo-fi printing technologies, your friends will be impressed when you send them a Christmas card printed with your own two hands. Learn how to carve and print a linoleum block, and create a unique batch of handmade cards to send to all your loved ones. 

Date: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Time: 7-9 pm

Place: Habitat Etc., 10187 104th Street

Cost: $45.00, including materials (not including tax)

If you're not familiar with linocut, it involves turning an image or design into a stamp that you can print with over and over again. You will be guided through the process of carving an image on the block and printing it on blank cards. Learn how you can practice this beautiful art form in your own home, with no art experience or press required.

Register here!

printmaking workshop edmonton

If you're interested in learning linocut but can't make it to this workshop, sign up for my mailing list (on the right side of the page) to find out when I'm running another one.

art or decorationWhen we create something, do we automatically get to call it art? Who gets to decide? If not art, then what?

I went to a fantastic talk at Creative Mornings last week where the speaker, doctor and art curator David Candler, talked about the value of shock in art. He showed slides of powerful imagery and talked about what each piece had to offer to viewers and society as a whole. A lot of what he showed might have been considered offensive or controversial to many people, and at the very least was very moving. He argued that most of the art produced today is what he calls "neck up" art, meaning that it appeals to our sense of aesthetics, that it looks nice, but that it doesn't impact us on a visceral level. In his opinion, anything that doesn't evoke an emotional reaction—whether it's shock, anger, passion, disgust, or sadness—is not art. It's decoration. (more…)

awakening the senses

When it comes to creativity, it's important to have a constant stream of inspiration to draw from. If we choose to pay attention to them, our senses can offer bucket loads of material as we move through each day hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Paying attention to our senses helps us live in the moment, excites our curiosity, and can make us more in tune with our natural impulses. However, so many of us—myself included—go through our days without really feeling much of anything. To deepen my own awareness, my plan is to write a post on each of our senses, explaining some ways that we can focus more intently on that sense and wake ourselves up to the variety of experiences around us. Hopefully they'll help you too.


What are some of your favourite tastes? When you eat them, do you power through like it's your first meal in months, or do you sit and quietly savour the flavours and textures? Do you chew carefully or do you swallow big bites nearly whole? Thich Nhat Hanh recommends chewing your food until it gently slides down your throat in an effort to be more mindful. It sounds gross to chew that much, but when I tried it even a simple hamburger became a thrill to eat. Tasting can be an art of its own and it's easy to lose yourself in all the amazing flavours of wine, cheese, coffee, or chocolate. Are you willing to let yourself get lost? (more…)

comfortable with discomfort

"Master your fear of discomfort, and you can master the universe." Leo Babauta

I spend a lot of my time working on feeling good. I work on my anxiety, make room for what I love, make sure I eat right and get enough sleep and exercise. And, as a result, my life is pretty good right now. I have time to do what I enjoy, I have an amazing relationship, close friendships, and I consider myself pretty darn lucky.

But I know I can do better than good. I have dreams and plans and ideas and someday I would like to make enough money to be able to replace a pair of shoes before they come apart at the seams. I know that I can make these things happen and that I can take my life from feeling pretty good to feeling pretty great. The only thing getting in my way is my fear of being uncomfortable. I don't see myself as ambitious in the traditional sense—wanting more money and power and possessions than the next person—but I do constantly yearn for more growth, more connection, and more experience. I'm learning that the only way for me to make those things happen is to do things that don't feel so good, to do things that I'm afraid of, and to keep stepping beyond what feels safe and comfortable.

I remember the first time I heard the term "the edge", during a yoga class at a hotel in Jamaica. I was trying out my first (and only) beach resort vacation and found that the yoga class was the only thing that made me feel truly engaged amidst all the eating, drinking, and lazing around (though the crocodile safari was pretty exciting). The instructor explained that in any yoga pose, you want to find the line between what's too easy and what's too hard. You want to find your edge and hang out in that space of challenge and discomfort. If you spend enough time there, the edge will shift and you'll find that you can go a little bit further, sink a little bit deeper. (more…)


It's time for another book post! Looking at this list I'm a little impressed with everything I've gotten through. I hope you find some gems here!


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I heard about this book on a similar book list on this blog and thought it sounded super interesting. Like Elise, apocalyptic stories aren't really my thing but the roving band of Shakespearian actors caught my attention. Though it might not be the most realistic and the plot is simplistic at times, the images Mandel creates will stick with me: a man pushing cart after cart after cart of supplies through a snow storm to get to his brother's high rise; a young woman playing Shakespeare's Tatiana in a tattered wedding gown and lit up by candles; a museum of discarded artifacts like smartphones and high heeled shoes housed in an airport; the sight of electric lights off in the distance where once there was only blackness. It's a more gentle, whimsical imagining of what might happen after the world ends, with characters that grab on and don't let go. (more…)