Interview :: Meet Sara Bynoe

Meet Sara Bynoe. She’s a comedic performer in Vancouver and I met her through former Vancouver Neatos :: Chris Bentzen. Sara Bynoe is the creator of Teen Angst show/website/book, Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing, the character Sparkle Bunny, and a Vancouver dance class Dance Dance Party Party.

Also, I should add, Sara Bynoe is so awesome that she squeezed me into the performance line-up of her show Comedy Gems presents Teen Angst Night. So on April 29th I read some deliciously mortifying poetry + journal entries from my 14 year old self. ( I’ll share the video footage soon! )

Read on to find out more about Sara Bynoe, like what’s she’s up to + a little something embarrassing from her early career!

Sara Bynoe

1. How did you get into acting + comedy? Did you always know this is what you’d be doing?

Someone read my palm when I was ten years old. They said, “You’re going to be an actor and a writer.” My response was something like, ‘yeah, that’s exactly what I want to be.’

Acting came first. I was always drawn to performing. When I was a teenager I took after-school classes with Calgary Young People’s Theatre. As I had a lot of energy I was considered to be a more comedic performer than my friends.

I have always enjoyed writing. I also wrote a journal obsessively from the age of 10. When I was 14 years old my best friend and I started a zine we sold at punk rock shows. We mostly used it as an excuse to act silly and make fun of people that bullied us.

When I was 19 years old I rediscovered my 12-year-old self’s poetry and was so embarrassed and amused by it I knew I had to do a performance incorporating my bad teen angst poetry. That turned into Teen Angst Night, which was probably my first foray into comedy shows. The rest, as they say, is history.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m actually planning a Vancouver sabbatical. I’ll be away from June-September.

Upcoming events before my time off are ::

PAL Cabaret – Behind the Curtain
Storytelling from performing artist about comedy and drama off-stage.
May 4
At PAL Studio Theatre

Say Wha?! Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing
May 21 – Cottage Bistro
Funny people read from terrible books.
This will be the LAST Say Wha?! show for several months.

I’m currently a member of the Rookie League at Vancouver Theatre Sports League.

I have a bi-monthly podcast. Listen here.

3. I love that you have so many different roles + passions that you follow. (As you say you “do what you do!”) I feel like we can have a lot of pressure to define ourselves + what we do into one job title. Do you have any advice for other artists + entrepreneurs with multiple passions?

My only advice is to follow your curiosities and joyful experiences. You have to do whatever makes you happy. I know that I’ve confused people by doing different art forms, but at the end of the day I’m the one I have to please.

I’ve realized that I’m less interested in being the star of the event or show and more interested in creating spaces where people can experiment and play. I want to connect with people and sometimes that’s through dancing (Dance Dance Party Party), laughter (Teen Angst Night or Say Wha?) or though social media (I love Twitter).

As for defining oneself, that can be tricky. On one hand you need to be able to pitch yourself to a potential audience in a succinct way, on the other hand I find the undefinable interesting and engaging.

There are two quotes that I often read at for inspiration about this:

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

:: Andy Warhol

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

:: Oscar Wilde

4. Do you have a pre-performance psyche-up routine?

Not really. Mostly I try to relax and get into a playful mindset. Oh, and I never drink before a show.

5. Is there a role or a project that you’ve been dreaming to do? Something that if someone came up to you with this idea you’d say “OMG how did you know? I’ve been dying to do something like this forever!”?

I would love to host a TV show or interview series. If we’re dreaming big, anything to do with the any of the SNL lady dream-team: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolf.

I’d also love to do a panel show based on Say Wha?!

6. What’s been your biggest or most recent challenge for you in your career? How do you overcome it?

I’m my own worst enemy, for sure. Dealing with my inner gremlin is a daily battle. One thing I’ve started doing is keeping a file on my computer of nice and encouraging things people have said to me. It’s helpful to put some perspective when I’m falling into a negative thought pattern.

7. Do you have a favourite actress/performer/producer/writer (or a few) that you admire? What is it about them that you love?

I have so many! Tina Fey is smart, funny, talented and charming. I admire Lydia Davis for her unique stories and for sticking to her style. My career heroes are Writer/Performers like Greta Gerwig, Miranda July, and Lena Dunham.

8. If you could play the role of any character (from a book, real life, dead or alive), who would it be + why?

Angsty, lovesick women are my wheelhouse. My dream roles used to be Helena in A Mid Summer Night’s Dream and Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest. However, I’m a bit too old for those parts now.

9. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

First up is my sabbatical from Vancouver then we’ll see. I’ve been going full-throttle for a while and I need to recharge my batteries.

10. Aside from your own events etc, are there any upcoming events, shows, conferences, festivals, etc. in Vancouver that you’re excited about?

  • I LOVE the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
  • There’s some great and inspiring improv going on at Instant Theatre, The Sunday Service and in the Rookie League at VTSL.
  • Ira Glass is coming to Vancouver in September and I’m going to be back for that.
  • The Rio Theatre has a lot of great events going on all the time, same with Hot Art Wet City. I really respect what those organizations are doing for culture in this city.

11. Can you tell me one silly, inspiring, embarrassing, or noteworthy story about when you were first starting out in your career? Any mishaps or interesting things that happened?

In grade 12 I played the Wicked Witch of the West in my high school production of The Wizard of Oz. The rainbow fell on the munchkins right before my first big entrance. Later that show the smoke machine didn’t work when I was supposed to be melting. I think I just crawled out the window I was supposed to disappear from and pretended to kill myself by jumping off the roof or something.

I remember being so angry and embarrassed after that show. I couldn’t wait until I got to theatre school where things would be more ‘professional.’ Then I got to theatre school and things were pretty much the same, only by then I’d learned how to deal with accidents better. Improv is a fantastic skill to have.

Interview :: Meet Clinton + Dane of Bestie

Meet Bestie. A friendly little Vancouver sausage parlour inspired my German street food! It’s run by Dane Brown + Clinton McDougall, two of the silliest, friendliest chaps I’ve met so far in Vancouver. (Want proof? Just check out their outtakes reel below of the crowdsourcing campaign they held to open Bestie!)

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Clinton to chat about bratwurst, art, + Vancouver. Check it out ::

1. Where did the idea for Bestie come from?

Dane + I used to work together for a design studio. And we did a lot of traveling for work, and a lot of meeting, and a lot of discussing ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’ ideas + projects. We had a shared currywurst experience, in Los Angeles of all places, where we started talking about how Vancouver could really use currywurst and how we kind of lived in a sausage deprived society over here. It was a little currywurst shop that this lovely couple had opened in LA. So that idea was just a casual conversation that just stuck with us and snowballed. We started doing research to the point where we took the entrepreneurial leap and haven’t looked back.

2. So this idea, is it something you jumped into right away or has it been a longer discussion.

Dane + I are really ideas people and we really love talking about interesting ideas. It doesn’t really matter what it is or where it’s coming from, serious or not, and we had this conversation whilst eating a really good currywurst and were like “Man, we should do currywurst!” And then we started talking about all the things we could do and how great it would be. And that was sort of the casual jest of a conversation and then when we got back from this trip two days later, Dane called me up and said “I keep thinking about this conversation that we had about sausages, do you wanna talk about it some more?” and I said “Yeah, I have been too!” So we went out for a beer and one beer turned into like 7 beers and 10 pages of an outline + a sketch of the business idea. And then we slowly just started doing research. We started looking at butchers and ketchup recipes and riding our bicycles around thinking about where this would go + where it would work. And it kept getting bigger and bigger to the point where we said “You know if we’re ever going to act on any of the ideas that we have this one’s got legs and now’s the time to do it because we’re young + fool hardy enough.” And then I left my job and did a business plan and took an entrepreneurial course and started putting it all together.

Then we found this spot. And that was real, signing the lease! And then we did a crowdfunding campaign.

3. Were you looking in other areas, or was it always Chinatown that you wanted to open up shop?

It was always around here. It was always in this proximity of East Vancouver. I’ve lived around Chinatown for the last seven years that I’ve been in Vancouver, so I’m really familiar with the neighbourhood and we were really excited about doing our idea here because currywurst is already this strange cultural amalgamation. It’s this German thing but it kinda comes from getting ketchup from American soldiers, curry powder from the Brits, German bratwurst, and curry has Indian ties as well. So it’s really this weird cultural amalgamation and what’s better than to put it in Chinatown and add one more layer of ambiguity to it all.

And the thing about Chinatown is we’ve lived and worked around here for some time and recognize the neighbourhood. There’s something happening in Chinatown where there’s a lot of entrepreneurs and startups and young entrepreneurs are attracted to this area for a few reasons. One there’s this historic character to it but there’s also this gritty vitality to it. There’s people on the streets, it has its own rules. And perhaps the biggest thing to is it’s affordable. So you can try something new + take a risk and not lose your shirt in the first month.

4. How did you come up with the name. It’s quite clever!

I’m glad you like it! It took us a long time to come up with the name. We had been looking for inspiration + talking about it in all different corners. One area we were looking for names was in the German/English dictionary, because we’re inspired by German street food. We had all these different name ideas + even graphic design for some of them. Then Dane called me and said “I think I know what it is… Bestie!” And I said “I love it!”

We always wanted to be a “friendly little sausage + beer parlour inspired by German street food.” So, Bestie covers the friendly part – young people’s slang for best friend – but in German it’s a common noun that means “beast” – of which we serve several kinds. But, it’s also a little bit more menacing than that, like a beast you wouldn’t want to run into in the forest. Like Beauty + the Beast, but this menacing, dangerous, dark beast that could kill you. So it’s quite a dark word in German and we really liked that dichotomy between super friendly, youthful, + warm in American and quite dark in German. Plus, we serve several kinds of beast. Also, you know, sausages. It’s bratwurst so our twitter + instagram are @bestiewurst. So it just made sense on all these different levels!

Me :: Awesome! I love that there are all those different levels of meaning to the name, not just the apparent play on words. Cool.

Bestie Vancouver Bestiewurst Clinton and Dane

5. What are each of your roles in the business. Do you each wear a different hat?

Yes! I am Head Busboy and Dane is Vice President of Janitorial.

Me :: Haha!

We both do a bit of everything. So we built the place ourselves with the help of friends + family + really talented architects, Scott + Scott Architects (check out a video of S & S made by former Neatos :: Odette Visual!). And we both have strong ideas about the menu and designing the food from the get go. But neither of us are chef, so we’ve got some really talented people in the kitchen, that we feel super fortunate for. So, we’re involved in all aspects. We’ll open up shop, close shop, we’ll sometimes work lunch service + late night window. Dane does most of the operational stuff and I’ll often deal more hands on with front of house, suppliers, + equipment. We both do the training, we both steer the ship actively together. That’s the great thing about having a business partner, you don’t have to do it all alone!

6. You mentioned you renovated + built the place yourself. I’m curious about your process! What was your process of creating the space?

Cheap! We got introduced to Scott & Scott through a friend. And the reality was we needed an architect to help us get a permit approved. We didn’t have enough money to get a full creative brief, but also, Dane + I, having worked in the design industry, had strong ideas of what we wanted the place to look like, so we really wanted to work with someone who could help us get a permit but also work with us on a scale + our ideas in a nice, modest way. So we had our first meeting with them + started talking about Dieter Rams + Bauhaus + the history of hip hop. So, we were like “this is our guy.” And I can’t say enough good things about working with them.

It was an extremely small budget so we were limited by scope of materials and he drew from this place of Bauhaus meets Alpen house. Modern design in a clean organized manner, but not cold, really warm, like an Alpen house. So there’s a cuckoo clock + spruce wood that’s warm + a copper bar. But, we designed it in a clean, minimal way. A refreshing design. We wanted to add something new to Vancouver restaurant design. Light + bright + fresh.

7. It’s quite amazing what you can do on a limited budget! I read you made your own forks as well.

Yes! We made our own forks as well. A lot of what happened here came out of a necessity of not having a big budget so we had to figure out how to do it on our own. We wanted to make our own pommesgabel (transl. :: “French Fry Fork”) so we had to employ our friends + do it ourselves to make them because we couldn’t just send off + let someone else do it. Even the building of this place we had to do it using simple tools, it couldn’t be too technical.

8. What was your process in creating the menu?

Keep it simple. Focus on one thing :: sausages! And, do that one thing really well. That’s kind of the backbone. Dane + I have this simple menu outlined but we keep it rotating quite fresh + seasonal. We have some regulars who come in for lunch so we like to keep it fresh + rotating but we like to keep it simple so we don’t have to make too many dishes but keep it changing so it’s always fresh!

Sausages are the star. Then, we have all these other things that are super fun + supporting, like sauerkraut, which is super good + super good for you + a traditional German thing. And we get fresh baked pretzels in every morning and we can make a lot of different mustards. So there are lots of things we can do that make sense with our fare but also have fun with it!

We have a lot of talented folk in the kitchen. It’s a simple menu, but it’s always changing. And we have a Head Sausage Man in the kitchen. His name is Colin Johnson and he’s a Godsend and he’s really helped us turn this food into what it is.

9. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

It’s been great so far + we feel really blessed for Bestie to be a success and be going so well. People ask us about franchising, but it’s not really something that we’re interested in because we feel it’s really special and context is really important. A cute little hole-in-the-wall sausage place in Chinatown is really special and we don’t think that would translate if you just planted it anywhere.

But like I said, Dane + I are ideas guys at our core, so we’re always talking about new ideas.

10. I noticed that you collaborate with a bunch of people in the city, like Das Lexicon with Rain City Chronicles. Do you have anything like that coming up?

Yep! We’ve done some collaborations with 33 Acres beer and we’ll be doing a tap takeover with them soon where they’ll have some new beers + they’ll bring them down here and we’ll do a special menu to pair up with them. So that’s one event that’s on the horizon.

We just finished a competition with This Sandwich That Beer, it’s a blog of the same title, where a bunch of different restaurants got paired up with a randomly selected brewery and they created a beer + a sandwich to go together. We got paired up with Todd of RnB Brewing. He made an awesome beer with smoked apple cider. And it was a big competition at Portside Pub and we won first place!

One of the things that Dane + I talked about with this restaurant is that we’re able to exercise our values through design + good food + connecting with people + engaging with music + engaging with different people who are doing really great stuff. Whether it’s food or beverage or storytelling or cultural + arts stuff we just really want to reach out and connect.

11. Is there an event or collaboration that if someone came to you with this idea you’d be really excited to do?

Yeah, it could be wide open! I’d love to be able to get live music in here. There’s a bit of licensing around that. We had record sale here on Sunday. One of the biggest things for us is engaging with the arts. Creative projects. Whether it’s art, design, music.

12. If someone has an idea they want to work with you on, what’s the best way for them to approach you?

Come in for a bratwurst or a rootbeer + chat us up!

13. Are there any upcoming Vancouver events that you’re really excited about?

>> There’s something happening this summer, Brewery + the Beast, so we’re excited about that.

>> Dane is really involved with the record sale, he has a side project called + they’re all about bringing in interesting + rare records.

>> Dane will be going to Detroit to listen to the electronic music festival.

>> I’ve been drinking a lot of cider here at Bestie + I’ll be doing a cider tasting at Sunday School which is wine tasting, you should check it out! It’s a really fun way to do wine + cider tasting.

>> We’re also going to try to commission some public art here in Chinatown.

14. Can you share an interesting story about when you were first starting out? Any mishaps or fun things that happened?

When Dane + I first set out on this project we made an agreement, we shook on it, that we knew it was going to be stressful, crazy things would happen, there would be setbacks + we didn’t really know what we were doing, I mean we’d never opened a restaurant, let alone built one. So, we shook hands and said “no matter what happens let’s have fun and keep our heads up!” So we did! And we really try to keep to that philosophy. We’ve had so many goofy times where things went haywire + we were able to laugh about it because in a couple days we knew we’d figure it out + it wouldn’t matter anymore. There was a ton of different things that happened, but our outlook and philosophy made it better.

So that’s Bestie! If you’re in Vancouver, make sure to head to Columbia + Pender for a tasty wiener.

*** Vancouver Neatos is a weekly series where I interview neat people in Vancouver. If you know of someone doing something neat in Vancouver, email me their deets + I’ll add them to my list.

Interview :: Meet Yash of The Chinatown Experiment

Here’s the thing. I love art + I love anything that brings wonderful people together. The Chinatown Experiment does both, plus good food, pretty clothes, local + international entrepreneurs, even weddings. See, The Chinatown Experiment is a pop up shop host, and more! People with ideas get in touch with Devon MacKenzie + Yash Nijati, the team behind TCE, to bring those visions to life. Not only do these two fellas create a space for these projects, but they can help with the entire process of launching + promoting your shop. Think of them as Pop Up Architects.

They’ve recently opened a new space called The Midtown Experiment, which itself is a sort of pop up shop in that it’s only here for the Spring. I met Yash at Revolver Coffee to learn more! Here it is ::

1. Tell me a little bit about how The Chinatown Experiment started.

So Devon saw a need for people needing a space for pop ups and that’s how it all started in September 2012. Then, in May 2013, I rented the space for my own pop up, because I have another business (Yummus) and I had a pop up café there. I wasn’t just serving hummus, but that was a part of it. And then afterwards, I had some ideas that he thought were really interesting. So, from there, we started working together.

2. How did The Chinatown Experiment transition to include The Midtown Experiment?

When it started, it was just about space rental. But, after I came on, it was more that we were offering a service as pop up architects. So, helping people find space, helping people with the marketing, helping people promote. When you do a pop up there’s a lot that comes in to make it happen. We always had our shop and sometimes people would come back to us for our service but maybe they didn’t want to do it in that space again so we help them find one. Or maybe they would say they want to do another pop up, but that’s not really the right market. So we had some history of doing that a bunch. In Midtown, there’s actually a development going up there who got in touch with us and said “we have this empty store and we’d like to get some use out of it before it gets torn down, are you interested in creating what you did in Chinatown and bringing it over here?” We thought it was a great idea. It gives us, for three months, a second location, a kitchen, appliances, a different option.

3. So The Midtown Experiment itself is almost like a pop up too. It’s temporary?

Yes, it is. It started at the end of March, but it’s really going to get going this week. And until June 1st, we will have back to back pop ups.

4. Have you noticed a difference in the types of shops in Chinatown versus the types of shops in Midtown? Is it a different experience?

Yeah. Midtown offers two things that Chinatown doesn’t. One, it’s a bigger space. Two, it doesn’t have as much foot traffic, but a lot of drive by traffic. And it’s on the corner. So if somebody’s trying to get their logo and their brand recognized it’s a great place to put it there.

As far as clients go, two of the clients there have been with us in Chinatown, but this is a better fit for them. So, a similar client base.

Yash of the Chinatown Experiment

5. What’s the process for someone who wants to host a pop up shop?

Email us! Some people write like page-long paragraphs because they’re really passionate and some people just write to ask what our rates are. People inquire with us and we tell them our rates, tell them what we do. It’s only been about 18 months, so people know that we do the space, but they don’t necessarily know that we do everything else.

If somebody wants to book with us, we generally look at our schedule and spread out similar shops a bit because we don’t want to have a bunch of galleries, or a lot of clothing stores in a row, so we spread it out because we want it to be a mix of things.

6. So, you have the space rental. What are the other services you offer?

We doing everything. We have a client coming in from Calgary now who has stores across Canada, but they’re not in BC yet. They want to open a store, but they want to do a pop up first and we’re helping them with everything. So space, a PR campaign around the pop up, poster design, putting together a launch event. We’re organizing everything for that like a liquor sponsorship, licensing, anything really so they just bring the product and set up. We’re doing window vinyls for them, and that’s pretty much everything that we do.

So some people will say yes, we want it all and others just want the space.

7. Do you feel there’s a common takeaway that your clients have after hosting a pop up shop?

I would say that the general thing of it is people realize that it’s not that hard to do. If you haven’t done it before and we help you in some ways, then it’s just a matter of doing it. So they realize it is a lot of work, yes, but it’s not hard. Anyone with the right planning can do it. Also, some people really get a lot of exposure from us, the younger brands. You know, they’re not really looking for a lot of sales but more for exposure. So generally it’s something, that if you don’t have a store, it’s really just a no brainer to do.

8. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do a pop up shop?

Know why you’re doing it. Some people will do it as a launch, some people will do it for sales, some people will do it for networking + to get into the media. So know why you’re doing it because your approach is going to be very different and the steps you need to get there based on your goal. So be clear on that first.

9. Is there any type of shop that you’d be really interested in doing? Something where if someone approached you with it, you’d be super excited to get started.

Yeah, that actually happened. I always really wanted to have a pop up florist, so we’re going to have that for Mother’s Day weekend. Myself, I reached out to a local graffiti artist who does street script. It’s rap lyrics done on a poster then pasted onto the walls. So, I reached out to her and said “hey you should do this with us.” We’re having a hip hop night with her artwork for sale. What else?! I like to do theme nights. Where you come in and, say someone’s selling cabana chairs, we’ll make the store look like a beach. It’s more pricey but it stands out. You know, products on a shelf are great but the theme is better.

10. When I did a little research on you, the Internet told me that you’re a pro when it comes to sales. What’s your secret?

I don’t know. There’s not really a secret! It’s talking and listening, you know. Listening first and then not being afraid to ask questions. That’s really it. I mean I also have experience with sales in a former life, so that helps too.

11. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

With this, right now, this brand, The Chinatown Experiment, is an established brand a bit. You know, some people know it, but not everybody. But I think it doesn’t properly convey what we do. It was a great name to start, but I think that needs to change to convey everything that we do. We’re not just Chinatown anymore, we’re pop up architects.

12. Aside from your own, are there any upcoming events, shows, conferences, festivals, etc. in Vancouver that you’re excited about?

I really enjoy people who bring new things to Vancouver, so Brewery and the Beast comes to mind. It’s a big beer and meat festival. A few things I work on myself really excite me too.

Me :: What kinds of things?

I just did the first Film Feast. It’s a pop up dinner with Winner Winner, a group of three guys who work in restaurants in Vancouver. Basically we pair a foodie film with the food that’s being shown in the film. So you’re watching the film and eating the food that you’re seeing. The last movie was Tampopo which is a Japanese film about ramen. So we were serving ramen. We have a series of those coming up!

I also have an event coming up here (at Revolver Coffee) as well. It’s called Late Nite Art. For that, I do the food. We cover all the tables with paper and leave out art supplies. And first, everybody comes then they eat with a stranger then Julian Thomas, my co-organizer, starts facilitating by asking questions and everyone draws out their answers. It’s just a big dinner art party!

13. Can you tell me one silly, inspiring, embarrassing, or noteworthy story about when you were first starting out in your career? Any mishaps or interesting things that happened?

So the first dinner I did for the pop up I did at Chinatown, called ShwāyShwāy café. During the day we were open for coffee and tea and lunch plates and the lunch had hummus in it as well. And for dinner it was a seated dinner. But the problem with the Chinatown pop up is that it doesn’t have a kitchen, so I had to design the menu so that it would work there, but I wanted to serve warm food. So I did Moroccan tagine, which is made on this clay dish with a dome overtop and you put vegetables and sauce in it, then put it in the oven for three hours, and then you serve it. So, not having a kitchen there, I had to use my oven and a friend’s oven. During the dinner service I had to drive home pick up one, put it in the car, pick up another, put it in the car, and then come back and serve it. And, the timing worked out well, except that the first night I don’t know what happened with my oven, I mean it was cooked, but not fully cooked. So I’m serving all these people but I couldn’t sleep after that night. So I had to make up for it after that night. And luckily I had two more nights and hopefully made up for it and in the grand scheme of things people don’t hate me.

Also, on the third night actually, I was driving and my car ran out of gas. And so I sprinted home, grabbed my roommates car, left my car at the side of the road, and served the dish. So that was fun!

Oh my gosh! That’s quite the story. Love it!

So, that’s Yash with The Chinatown Experiment and The Midtown Experiment. If you want to learn more, head on over to one of their pop ups and say hi. They’ve got Citizen Grace clothing shop coming up in Midtown and a multi-media art installation, Terminal City Re-Wired, in Chinatown. Get on over there!

*** Vancouver Neatos is a weekly series where I interview neat people in Vancouver. If you know of someone doing something neat in Vancouver, email me their deets + I’ll add them to my list.

Interview :: Meet Chris Bentzen of Hot Art Wet City

This is Chris Bentzen. Chris Bentzen is the founder + owner of Hot Art Wet City, a Vancouver art gallery featuring art that’s weird. I was eager to meet with Chris after hearing about his gallery’s Hot Talks at Creative Mornings a couple weeks ago. So, last week, we discussed art, cycling, and a little bit of burlesque over tea at Kafka’s. Here’s a snippet of our conversation ::

Meet Chris Bentzen of Hot Art Wet City

1. Tell me about why you opened Hot Art Wet City.

I was visiting galleries + seeing great art in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco and the galleries in Vancouver were all missing something that those other galleries had. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. They weren’t having the same shows all the time, they were letting artists experiment more rather than just commissioning what would just sell. I wanted to give artists a chance to show something that no one else was seeing, plus just have a cool place to go. A big thing about those galleries was that they were smaller and more intimate, I liked that.

2. Tell me about the artwork you choose to showcase in your gallery.

I think in Vancouver, art is predominantly abstract landscape and I didn’t want to see any more of that. I also didn’t want to have a high end gallery. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. As far as the art being made, it’s just the weird stuff. People who are kind of bordering illustration, or maybe they’re just illustrators and want to shift a little into fine art. Or taking their illustration and putting it in a fine art context. And then, more figurative work, more narrative work. Or just crazy stuff. Like “Boobies + Wieners,” for example. There’d been serious nude shows in Vancouver, but I wanted to see that weird, “what is going on here?” show. That’s what I’m looking for.

3. And, how did the events Hot One Inch Action + Carded come into play?

Hot One Inch Action started in 2003. So, I was doing an art show in 2003 with large paintings and one inch buttons, and Jim, the guy I do the button show with, met me there and saw the buttons and saw how well they were doing and said to me, “oh we should do a show” but he wasn’t sure what. So we met and discussed the details and out of that discussion came the idea of selling the buttons in batches so that people would trade them, and so that we didn’t get stuck with a bunch of buttons because there’s always gonna be that one that nobody wants. We did the first Hot One Inch Action a few months after my show, and we were really excited about it and the interactive part really added something, so we just kept doing it. Around year five, we started Carded because we wanted to do more of the shows but didn’t want to be doing the same show twice a year and it also gave artists a bigger surface area to work on and also we were able to put their information on the back, like a regular trading card.

4. So, Hot Talks! What are you looking for when you pick someone to speak?

I have a volunteer who chooses most of the speakers, I’ve given her suggestions, like the one in May was Danielle Krysa, The Jealous Curator, she did a book signing + talk. But most of the time I let her choose with the guideline of interesting people, with interesting things to say. It’s currently inspired by Pecha Kucha talks. Also, there’s a gallery called Hand Eye Supply and they do a talk called Curiosity Club that I originally wanted to brand Hot Talks after. It’s where people talk about what interests them, like one guy talked about lock picking. It’s a hobby of his, I don’t know what he does with that hobby, but it was really interesting. People discussing things that they’re passionate about. There hasn’t been one yet, but I’d like to see interactivity too. It’s really 20 – 30 minute talk with a Q + A, and sometimes we go out for drinks after to keep the conversation going.

Me :: It’s nice your space is smaller, so you can have a more intimate conversation. Whereas Pecha Kucha is in a theatre basically, so you don’t really get that same chance to interact with the artist.

Yeah. And, we can seat about 50 people, maybe a bit more if they’re standing. It’s fun having the different people there too. The next one is dancers/choreographers. I don’t really interact with that side of the arts community, so I think that will be interesting. It’ll be a change for me. Meeting new people in a different part of the arts community. Also, bringing people into a gallery who don’t normally step into a gallery. Which is also why I do the comedy shows.

Me :: Okay! So you do comedy shows in the gallery? That’s yoga, comedy shows…

…talks, and workshops. Anything I can do that gets people into the gallery and interacting with the art. And just having a good time.

5. So going back to having sort of different art up, why do you think there’s a lack of interest or a lack of exposure for that type of art? Why does Vancouver stick to the more traditional pieces?

Traditional sells. People like it. Tourists like it too. And, what I’m finding is tourists who are looking for the type of stuff that I’m doing, are finding me on Tourism Vancouver and then coming just to see me and leaving Main Street immediately. I think it’s challenging for a lot of people to open a gallery, like what I’m doing. It’s hard to find a spot that’s cheap. I’ve seen a lot of galleries that have opened and closed in Chinatown and Gastown. You don’t see that on Main Street unless it’s part of an organization or a coffee shop. And it’s too bad. I wish more people would take that risk. They may even have a better idea than me, but I think they’re just a little afraid.

6. Do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out?

Put all your time into it. Put all your time into making art. Put all your time into going to shows to meet other artists, to meet curators, to meet people who are interested in art. Put your art in as many group shows as possible. If you feel like you’re ready, do your own show. Get your art in coffee shops and stuff. There are lots of great places to hang art in Vancouver if you’re just starting out even if galleries aren’t willing to take a chance on you. Take all your time to practice, practice, practice.

Oh, and never compare yourself to other artists. So many artists get discouraged comparing themselves to other artists. There’s always somebody better than you. You’re never going to be the best. No matter how big you are there’s always going to be somebody better. So, don’t compare yourself. Just do your thing and try to experiment and put your time into it. And, maybe you never really make anything of it or you never get any recognition for it, and it becomes something you just do, but you should still do it.

Me :: Totally. And, you can’t compare yourself to others because everything is different. I mean there’s always something similar, everything’s been done before, but the way you do it is your own way and you can’t compare that to anything. If you’re doing something good, there’s not going to be anything really like it out there.

Yes. And there’s always going to be people who compare you to others. There’s always something similar out there and you build off those people. There’s a guy who has a series on Vimeo who says everything is a remix. I find that very interesting. We think we’re creative and unique individuals but really we’re just remixing what everyone else has done before.

7. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

More comedy shows. I’d also like to find a theatre group. There’s a back room at the gallery and I’d like to see that used as a really tiny theatre, even a movie theatre. There was a place in Gastown, I can’t remember what it was called, but it was a theatre, and they could sit about 50 or 60 people, and they’d show not even indie movies, but things that people made on video. So it’d be cool to do that in a gallery. Have 20 people in the audience and have the performance like as far away as you are (a coffee table away). It changes the dynamic.

Me :: You could do a burlesque show. With that proximity it would be really intense.
Yes. There’s something similar to that right now, Dr. Sketchy. She’s a burlesque model for life drawing. There’s a range of dressed to undressed depending on the night you’re in. It’s three hours with a burlesque performance, just one song, and you’re life drawing for three hours. And, yeah, the burlesque performance would be really intense.

Me :: It’s an experience for the audience, but also an experience for the performer too who’s not used to being so close.
If it’s somebody like Lola ( Lola Frost ), she’s very expressive, so it’d be a very sexual experience too. Whereas a regular burlesque show is sexy, but not necessarily an experience of sex.

8. Are there any upcoming events or shows, not necessarily that you’re organizing, but something you’re excited about in Vancouver?

I kind of go night to night, but I’m excited that The Sunday Service, a local comedy group, is at Fox Cabaret. They started there this past week. Actually, anything that they do! And also, Ryan Beil, who is part of the Sunday Service + owns Little Mountain Studio, that used to be a gallery, then Ryan Beil took it over and is now more of a comedy school. They do shows there regularly. Anything he does. Especially their show Rapp Battlez. I’m also excited about the comedy that’s coming into Hot Art Wet City.

9. When you were first starting out, do you have any interesting stories or mishaps that you can share?

I was always worried that there’d be more street people coming into the gallery. Or, maybe not worried, but more wondering how would I deal with it. I’ve worked in retail and was always just able to call security to solve the problem. This one guy, the first week the gallery opened, came in and he just reeked. Just reeked! He smelled so bad. And I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He was carrying this table and he was talking to me about this table. He was obviously from the street, he was dirty and smelled so bad and just kept going on about this table. But then he saw the art on the walls and he just immediately relaxed and he started looking at everything. Then it shifted from this moment of what’s he going to do, thinking that this could go really bad because he was just gripping this table, then he just relaxed. For me it was the relief that I wouldn’t have to deal with it and for him it was the realization that this is a safe place and interesting.

So, that’s Chris Bentzen! If you want to learn more, head on over to Hot Art Wet City at Main + 6th any Wednesday to Saturday. The next Hot Talks is on April 24th at 6:30pm and the next Carded is April 26th at 7pm. Go!

*** Vancouver Neatos is a weekly series where I interview neat people in Vancouver. If you know of someone doing something neat in Vancouver, email me their deets + I’ll add them to my list.

Interview :: Meet Odette

Meet Odette

Remember when I wrote about making friends in Vancouver? Well, I met a new one, through RSVP 33. Meet Nate Slaco, above left, and his pal & biz partner, Jevan Crittenden who together form the video production company, odette. They create brand videos for companies like Cariboo Brewing, Limelight Signworks, and most recently, Odd Society Distillery. Read further to hear about what makes the perfect brand video and the single best thing they did when starting their business.

1. Tell me about odette. How did it come to be? What do you do?

We’re childhood friends who decided to join forces last year. We both have backgrounds in film and video, and we decided to try our hand at collaborating. Our goal has been to work with companies and brands that we’re passionate about, and we feel that passion comes through in the pieces we produce.

2. What makes for a good brand video? And, If someone wants to hire a videographer, what do they need to do/have to get the most of the experience?

The best videos are the ones where there is cohesion in the vision of the brand between our client and ourselves. Working with someone who really knows their business and their goals and trusts us to understand and shape it into a compelling piece is a best case scenario.

3. What do you love most about your job?

There’s a lot to love… Working with your best friend is an obvious one. An aspect that we didn’t really think about before launching the company is the fact that we end up basically getting to job-shadow with all these really interesting and inspiring people. A great example is the video we just did for Odd Society Distillery — we spent a ton of time with the distillers there and got to see the entire process from start to finish on their first batch of Vodka.

4. What’s been your biggest challenge since starting odette? How do you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge has been getting our name out there. Our approach to this has been just meeting as many new people as possible. We have a policy of contacting people no matter how unlikely meeting with them seems, and it’s paid off.

5. If you had to choose, what’s the single best thing you did when starting your business?

It’s definitely been to keep our focus on working with people and brands we’re passionate about — making sure to keep a balance between jobs that you do for money and the jobs you do for love.

6. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring creative entrepreneurs?

Plan. Set goals. Persevere. Can’t remember where this quote came from, but it’s a good one: “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success. Unfortunately, it takes exactly the same amount of time to become a bitter failure, and you don’t know which one you are until the night before.”

7. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

Our main goal right now is to pursue work that will allow us to bring more creativity to the project. We’re eyeing some fashion video lookbooks as a possible outlet.

8. How do you keep your life playful & brilliant?

Have hobbies. Don’t be consumed by your work. And don’t take anything too seriously.

Thanks for sharing! I’m definitely going to adopt that philosophy, call ’em whether it’s likely they’ll meet you or not!

Be friends with odette too:                    

Interview :: Meet kaitcreative

This is Kait Jones of kaitcreative. She’s a freelance graphic designer in New Westminster and also creates beautiful watercolours that you can buy on her Etsy shop. We sat down last week over hot bevies to discuss art, learning new skills, and following passion. PLUS! She’s giving away a lovely set of holiday cards. Scroll down to enter.

Meet kaitcreative

1. Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do?

Oh man, this question! Haha. I always say “graphic design” because it’s something people pretty much don’t question, and it always gets me through a US border check. I have a full time “in-house” design gig, but I get to work from home, yay! My free time is filled with freelance projects, watercolor painting, playing and hiking with my other half and our Vizsla, Jovi. I’m an ex-ski racer so I still make lots of time for the mountains, but I also do a lot of movie watching, and drinking Champagne on tuesday nights in sweats with my bffs. I also just retired from playing and managing my box lacrosse team, and have filled that time with wedding planning… I’m not sure what I’ll do when that’s all over but I don’t think it will be hard to fill the time.

2. I love your watercolours on Etsy. Can you tell me about how you self-taught yourself and what you really love creating?

Getting to where I am not was a slow evolution, I never dreamed of being a painter. I’ve always been a “crafter” and dabbled with paint when making birthday cards for friends and family from time to time. When we bought our home I started crafting up some art with the little Winsor Newton Sketchers Pocket Box my Grandma Jones had given me as a kid. I essentially tried to copy a few ideas I saw online and did a pretty good job! I decided copying didn’t really make me feel that good (shocker) and wanted to create my own work. I took two classes from a local painter who basically helped me figure out I didn’t want to take lessons to learn “proper technique,” and I kept up practicing by imitating the work of people I really admired. This helped me start to understand how to use watercolor to achieve a certain look, and I used what I learned to start creating my own pieces. Friends and family loved them so I put them on Etsy in early 2013 and things have been building from there.

I feel inspired by nature. I am not a painter in the sense of “realism”, I like to see things in my own way, but they aren’t abstract either. Items you’d find at the beach or on a hike lend me a sense of nostalgia that I try to capture. Those are my favourite pieces. I also love the cards I make, I like thinking about where they are going and what might be written in them. I love being a part of that exchange. Shipping orders to customers in Australia, Paris, New York etc. has really been exciting.

kaitcreative on etsy

3. Do you have a process for getting into the creative mood? Or a time of day that sparks inspiration?

Mornings are usually when I focus creatively, but also late a night sometimes. What I’ve learned over time is creativity is not 100% magic. It’s 99% practice, brainstorming, exploration and 1% magic. There’s something that happens to me in the middle of the night, after I’ve filled my head with ideas, that lends itself to a moment of loose connection, and that’s what I call the magic. I usually wake up and run to write those ideas down and sometimes struggle to fall back asleep while I work the ideas out further for the rest of the night. But if I don’t fill my head with ideas on purpose, those “aha” moments wouldn’t happen as often.

4. What’s the best part about working from home?

No drama and snuggle breaks with my dog Jovi. I’ve worked in a few offices that ended up with a lot of drama, and really don’t see myself going back to that. It sucked the energy out me that I need to do what I love. My current position is awesome because I can work regular hours without commuting, which saves a lot more time for me to work on my personal projects. I also have the freedom to decorate however I want.

5. What’s been your biggest challenge when it comes to working from home?

Making sure my regular job comes first can sometimes be frustrating when I have a great idea for a personal or client project I’d like to get to work on. But really I haven’t found working at home to be much of a challenge. I have a routine. I always get up, get dressed, make the bed and eat breakfast. This leaves me with some time to myself before regular work hours and what I do then changes all the time. It’s the first few things I do in the day that really set the pace to stay productive.

6. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring designers?

Practice and have confidence. Your clients should have some say in what your work looks like, but it should still look like you did it. This is pretty hard to achieve when you start out because you want to take every client that comes along. You will soon learn that the more you say no to the clients who are all wrong for you, the better you will get at finding clients who are a pleasure to work with. Then hold on to those ones for dear life!

7. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

2013 was a year of trying out new things. I had no idea if anyone besides my mom would buy my art, but now that I do I’m committed to really focusing on building the kaitcreative line and getting it out in the world. Getting into more shops and releasing more designs are goals for 2014. This may mean I do less web and client work but that is still something I’m debating. I’m also getting married in May (ekk) so I know for the next 6 months or so I’ll have to be careful I don’t overcommit to clients. Being reliable and consistent is really important to me.

8. How do you keep your life playful & brilliant?

I’m a planner by nature, but I also plan for free time. I believe in taking in special moments and consciously choosing to remember them. Usually that’s when a camera comes out and eyes roll at me… but they also thank me later.

I love a good adventure day whether it be a new hike, new mountain, new city or new food. Time with friends and family is important to me and I’ve learned to make sure I make time for them. They give me confidence, they are my test subjects, and often unknowingly help me with new ideas. I think we get so few connections in our lifetime that it’s important we take full advantage of the ones we have. And when someone brings a slip-in-slide over to your house, forget how old you are, put on a bathing suit and enjoy the ride!

Congratulations on your wedding, Kait. Thanks for taking part in this series and I can’t wait to see what kaitcreative comes up with in the New Year.

Interview :: Meet Abra King

This is Abra King. She’s an artist, musician, quirkster and one-half of the creative duo, Megra. I met Abra when I was working at the Students’ Association of MacEwan a few years ago, and she always came into the office in a bundle of giggling energy. It was always a pleasure to see her and hear about her creative antics. You can read about the latest results of her inspiration below and be sure to check out her art, music, and everything Megra.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you do? What are your dreams?

Abra King. I am 23 years of age. I create. I draw. I paint. I build. I write. I play. I am constantly bouncing between projects whether visual or musical. It has been this way as long as I can remember, though writing music has been a more recent endeavor. The ultimate goal is to be able to support myself solely through my work. To be involved in a myriad of projects, my own and otherwise. To develop ideas and manifest them. I want to explore and discover (internally and externally) and live in so many places across the globe. Especially those with long winter months. I will live on a boat. I have a strong desire to be isolated completely in addition to my love of being immersed by new people and (often self imposed) artistic demands. Oh! To live in van, a travelling studio…not to mention frequent festival stops. Dreams of mine are large in numbers and ever-growing, those are just a few.

2. What makes good art? How do you make art? What do you try to say/convey with your art? Let’s talk about art.

Good art is true. It provokes a reaction, whether overtly demanded or not. It has the ability to, even for a moment, absorb one into another reality or just to distract from daily existence/your own brain. In terms of execution, I use traditional methods (dry medium or paint on paper/board/canvas) as well as experimenting with other materials (such as wax or ash) on found surfaces. It is rare for me to start a piece with a specific message in mind, as I typically find meaning once I’m well into the process. Though I have done a couple pieces clearly commenting on social, governmental and environmental issues; this is not typical of my work. I often create scenes or characters that I wish were around me.

3. What are you working & focusing on right now?

At the moment more of my energies are focused towards music. Writing new tunes, working and re-working old ones and playing for people whenever I can. I recently had my first recording session and am working on having an album out this winter. As of late, I seem to be making more progress musically though I am primarily a visual artist. I am working on a few commissions and recently have sold some originals and prints.

Abra King

4. Tell me about Megra.

Megra is Meagan Henderson and myself as a unit. We have known each other since infancy and have spent an arguably unhealthy amount of time together. She is my best friend and business partner. We have been going by Megra for a few years now, largely because it was tiring for friends to constantly refer to us independantly…and we always like an excuse to make a spectacle – Megra seemed limitless. Growing up we were constantly working on something, whether it be costumes for an invented holiday or a rap video for a friend’s birthday. I’ve always it found hard to identify with any group (not to say it was a goal, I have always had a lot of joy) but Meagan has always been a constant. While both attending Grant MacEwan (Meagan for Design and myself for Fine Arts) we realized that together we could establish a real business, a unique business, doing what we love. Essentially we are freelance artists; Meagan specializing in video and photography and myself in fine arts and music. Some projects we have been hired to do are portraits, live music shoots, paintings and personalized drawings. Working with new people and new ideas is a huge part of Megra.

5. What’s it like making a music video?

Strange. Unlike a recording or a drawing, it’s more immediate and unforgiving. Fewer chances for modification (at least in the way I approached it). The couple I’ve done were live, so maintaining my composure whilst playing mistake-free was certainly a challenge…and certainly not accomplished entirely! And then there’s giving your full trust in whoever you are working with to cut together a piece that is true to you and your sensibilities. It’s also super fun. Having another multi-sensory outlet for expression. Also working with someone, having a fresh take on how to present a song that I really only know how to sing and play. The whole learning process that occurs is super interesting to me.

Also! Check out this silly video.

6. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

More of the same, but on a grander scale. I am working to get my work up in more spaces, play more shows, enter more visual competitions and the like. My work will be more accessible and in turn I hope to establish myself, make a mark in this city.

7. What advice can you give aspiring artists and creatives?

Pursue what you want. What you’re passionate about. If you’re unsure of exactly what it is (and it often changes and evolves), don’t cater to someone else’s idea of what you should do/who you should be. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Do things that scare you. Explore- in terms of experience as well as modes of expression. Exercise discipline in whatever it is you’re practicing (hold yourself accountable). Recognize the value of your work. Get involved in your community- invest time in local music and art. Actively seek new places and experience new people.

8. Where can we find & purchase your art?

Locally (Edmonton, AB, Canada), it is in and out of a few establishments. The best way is to visit and contact me via email about interest in specific pieces. I will be listing prices for originals and prints in the near future. Or you can message me through our Megra Facebook page, where you can see my art as well as up to date work and happennings of Megra.

9. How do you keep your life playful & brilliant?

Woowee…I suppose by doing what’s important to me (which others sometimes see as trivial). For instance, sometimes the only thing I want to do is draw hybrid creatures, or destroy old computers and collect bits from the insides for a future project or make elaborate cards with nonsensical rhymes. Whilst I am lucky enough to have a strong sense of where I want to be and what I am compelled to do, I often find myself in situations purely out of curiousity. And I don’t take myself too seriously. Being a person is ridiculous and it seems a waste not to reveal in its mystery and hilarity. l never forget what my Dad always told me, “Never grow up…fully.” What I am finding hugely important as a “young adult” (that phrase always weirds me out) is surrounding myself with people who inspire me, have a sense of self, and are positive. At this age we have so much more control of where we inhabit and who we chose to have in our lives. Which is awesome. I try to accept the reality I have and create the one I want. Even in my short lived, semi-independant, adult life I have met such beautiful and diverse people. Just being aware of untapped opprotunity, places yet to see, things to create, it’s quite overwhelming and marvelous. Sometimes this world makes it pretty hard to be unmotivated.

Thanks for sharing, Abra. I love your inspiration for aspiring creatives. It’s all about doing what you love and persisting. I hope to see you again soon!

Interview :: Meet Your Super Awesome Life

Ashley Wilhite :: Your Super Awesome Life

Have you ever wanted to indulge but were too afraid? Afraid you’d look silly, afraid you’d make mistakes, afraid you’d fail entirely? Well, here’s someone who’s overcome her fears and lives a life she loves. Meet Ashley of Your Super Awesome Life. She’s a life coach who felt inspired to create a program for women in their 20’s to work through the process of learning to live on their own terms. She wants you to challenge what’s been expected of you and Cake for Breakfast can do just that!

Cake for Breakfast is an all-encompassing program that will help you discover who you are, what you want, and how to get it. It’s all based on Ashley’s real life experiences.

I was thinking about when I would have needed this the most. It’s when I was overcoming perfectionism and the path people laid out for me.

Ashley is all about the feeling, that groove that gets you motivated to work. She came up with the idea for Cake for Breakfast while on a summer run and from there the idea grew to this workbook with audio and writing prompts that’s available to everyone, even if you can’t afford a coach.

If you want to build yourself a life you love, like Ashley, whose daily tasks are always evolving with her inspiration, then you should start with Cake for Breakfast.

Here are a few things I learned about Ashley in our interview.

  1. She works when she’s inspired. And music usually helps her get in the creative mood. She listens to Joshua Radin while she writes and Taylor Swift for something upbeat.
  2. Ashley doesn’t really work a “typical” day. She’s got her morning routine of coffee, green smoothie, and running (on run days), then mid-morning appointments (usually), and an afternoon free to create whether it’s our eCourse collaboration, Jump!, her new eBook, or brainstorming super awesome ideas.
  3. She’s totally had cake for breakfast. On the launch of the program, she ate a tasty strawberry cupcake!
  4. She’s super focused and diligent. It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when we’re living an inspired life

And, how does she keep her life playful and brilliant?

“I don’t have a set schedule. I love the flexibility that I can do what I want. I coach and work with people who get me excited. Also, quitting my job to work for myself and going to Canada to be with my boyfriend, who is also a blogger at Peter De Wolf, were huge, and brilliant, decisions I made for myself.”

If you’re in need of a Life Coach, you are sooo in luck. This week, Ashley is offering Pay What You Want on all her coaching sessions. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.

Interview :: Meet Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves

Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves

Pickled Chickpeas! Who knew?! Image sourced from GGBG Preserves.

This is Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves. It’s Vancouver-based preserves, workshops, and catering powered by “just a couple of girls, Zoe and Karen, who love good food, are inspired by one another, the community they live and work in, and the people they get to meet and the people they know.” They make all these creative and tasty preserves like Meyer Lemon Goat Butter Curd, Spicy Bourbon Pickled Green Beans, and Pickled Chickpeas. Yum! And, the best part? They offer workshops to teach you how to make these preserves yourself! Read on as Karen tells us more.

1. How did Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves come to be?

GGBG was born out of the working and friendship relationship that Zoe and I formed while working at W2 together. We’re both really interested in the relationships between food, culture and practical knowledge and found that after doing so many catering and culturally specific food related events that we wanted to explore the role food plays in building community and the sharing of knowledge.

Food preserving is as old as human existence, and all cultures have practices of preserving food, and these practices were (less so now) passed on through families and communities and most often through orally shared knowledge. We were having fun experimenting with things, and I’ve been preserving food since I was a child, so we wanted to bring others together and encourage their curiosity and passion.

2. How did you come up with the name?

The name Good Girl Bad Girl Preserves literally popped into my head one night while I was on my couch at home, drafting a recipe I wanted to test with Zoe. I sent her a text that basically asked her what she thought, and if she wanted to do it, and she text back saying “Yes!” and within an hour had sent me a draft of our logo.

The name is part play on how our personalities interact and are sometimes perceived by others, and part attempt to ignore the sometimes firm projected boundary between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ . We also wanted to think about and make good healthy food in a way that doesn’t come off as making people feel guilty for indulging once in a while and we wanted to make it fun for people.

3. What’s your favourite preserve that you’ve made?

Great question! Favourite preserves that we’ve made so far.. hmmm… I would have to say that mine are probably the Spicy Bourbon Pickled Green Beans (especially if you wait a month or more.. the spicy, smoky flavor is so good), and the Woodland Conserve, made with cranberries, juniper and rosehips. Zoe’s are probably, the goat milk butter Meyer Lemon Curd we made this spring, and the chile and toasted cumin carrots we set up last fall.

4. Tell me about your workshops? Do attendees get to take home their own preserves?

Our workshops are geared to be highly interactive and get people past their nerves, or fears, or any other misgivings they may be having about attempting preserving. And, we really wanted to capture that sense of what preserving used to mean in farm and rural communities; bringing people together to share stories and food, and make a lot of work, less onerous.

Tasting, smelling, touching, everybody is engaged in the prep, and the clean-up, and for us the best part has absolutely been getting to meet so many great people, from so many different backgrounds and interests. And yes! At the end of a the classes people get to take home a jar or two of the things we’ve set up that day.

This year we have been working with The Sharing Farm in Richmond, with a percentage of our course fees going to the farm, and hoping to highlight the amazing work they do in the community, raising food for distribution to people who need access to high quality, fresh produce.

We want people to be really creative and challenge their taste preferences and their ideas about how food can be made, but we also want people to think about where their food is coming from and how it is produced, and why this matters.

5. If I’ve never tried preserving before, where should I start? What’s the easiest recipe?

Another really great question, and one that seems to be at the forefront of a lot of folks who attend our classes. Start simple. Get the basics down first, get comfortable with the steps (i.e. sanitizing jars, keeping them warm, cleaning the produce, picking your flavors, processing the jars).

A great place to start is with some really simple pickled carrots, or green beans, and working with a classic pickling spice.

6. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

This year we’ve been focusing primarily on our classes. Things kind of exploded a bit quickly last year, and we had preserves in several shops and were catering, but the reality of that is you can get over extended pretty quickly and we both ended up with some pretty exciting opportunities this year. Zoe is working with great people at East Van Roasters, and I’m the Chef at Graze food and drink. So, we wanted to tighten our focus back to what was the primary reason we began our project, the classes. We’ll be doing a limited fall release of some of our preserve staples and gearing our focus for next season’s classes which will start earlier and be geared toward different parts of the harvest season; spring, summer, late summer, fall.

We will be launching a new, limited, line of our own preserves with recommended recipes for their use, and are developing a couple of other community based projects for delivering preserving workshops in different communities in Vancouver.

We have a couple of really exciting projects in development right now, but kind of want to stay hush hush right now.. no jinxing it!

7. What advice can you give to ladies & gents looking to turn their passion into a business?

Passion is absolutely essential, we think, if you want to create any business. But, you need to have something like a plan. Spend some time assessing your costs (both in terms of money and time); be honest with yourself about your willingness and ability to commit to make the move from earnest hobby to business. There are several great places to access information and training for developing a business plan (the Small Business office has some great resources), be willing to accept that there will be some times that will be more difficult and challenging than others, and think long, not just short term.

8. How do you keep your life playful & brilliant?

Fantastic question! Sometimes this can be the biggest challenge! Trying not to lose yourself in the midst of all the work and planning and the rest of our lives details! Zoe has her wonderful son, who is super creative and imaginative and she is always creating some new project at home, most recently building herself a drying rack for herbs and flowers, and I have just tried signed up for some Open Source courses that focus on food chemistry and physics for fun and try to get time kayaking or catching up with close friends who always have something interesting going on. We’re both really lucky to be working in our other projects with really warm, creative and inspiring people, so it’s not too hard to find some playfulness in our lives!

Wow, I’m suddenly hungry! That Meyer Lemon Goat Butter Curd sounds delectable. I can’t wait to take one of those workshops and finally learn the craft of preserving. I love how your workshops are so connected to people and passing on traditions. Thanks for sharing.

Neatos :: Braid Creative

Check out Braid Creative! That’s Tara (left) and this is Kathleen (right), and together, they create branding and visioning for creative entrepreneurs. They’re a powerhouse of inspiration and productivity and I’ve learned so much from reading their blog and taking their ECourses. Today, Kathleen shares her thoughts on creating her dream job and how you can do the same!

Braid Creative

1. Tell me about the Shape Up Your Content eCourse.

Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You is the first Braid ECourse my sister Tara (who is also my business partner) and I developed for creative entrepreneurs. We’ve developed this online course for creative entrepreneurs – from freelance creative professionals to small independent creative businesses – who struggle with an overabundance of ideas, messages, and content (visual or verbal) on their site, their blog, their materials and even in their conversations – not to mention, analysis paralysis of what to do with them. We help you chunk down your ideas, recognize the ones with the most potential, and the ones that are just distractions in disguise. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can go from content chaos to a concise (yet still creative) message.

2. Who should take this course?

This course is great for photographers, graphic designers, bloggers, web designers, interior designers, coaches & consultants – basically anyone who is creative and wants to focus in on an idea that they can share AND sell.

3. What’s the best part about working at Braid Creative?

My favorite part about working at Braid is having a team of amazing people to create something bigger than myself – for us and for our clients. When I was working solo there were only so many hours in a day and scaling my own content (ie. ECourses, EBooks, etc.) was something I just didn’t have time or vision for.

4. What was one of your biggest fears when you were just starting out with Braid? How did you combat it?

The uncertainty that is typical of most creative entrepreneurs. I was plagued with The What Ifs. “What if I never get a client!?” “What if I never have another good idea?!” and “What if I’m making the wrong choice!?”

My sister and I are super communicative and constantly revising our vision to accommodate what we’ve learned and what we want. So talking it out helped. Also getting to work does wonders. When you’re busy creating content you can’t get too deep into a pity-party.

5. What’s been your biggest challenge recently?

Patience! Once I have an idea I want it executed and launched yesterday. I’ve recently learned that some things just take time.

6. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring creative entrepreneurs?

Have a purpose. Your craft and skills alone are not going to make working for yourself a dream job. And that purpose should be specific – vague vision will get you nowhere.

7. What’s in the works for you in the near future?

Business-wise Tara and I have been shaping up our own content platform. We’re redeveloping our website to better, more specifically, share who we are and what we do. We’re also working on a 4th Braid ECourse, a published book with an accompanying EBook, and I’m also about to wrap up my life coach training with Martha Beck.

On the personal front a HUGE milestone is that I’m expecting my first baby in January! I have no idea what my work / life balance will look like with baby but I’m up for the challenge. Other than that, I’m really looking forward to the Fall. It’s pumpkin spice season! My favorite…

8. How do you keep your life playful & brilliant?

By practicing being playful and brilliant every day! I try to be myself in every situation – work and life. A specific example is that I dress how I want and I use words that I actually use – regardless of what’s considered “professional”. And I don’t know about brilliant – but I’ve found that by being disciplined about writing and blogging every day I’m able to keep up the habit of creating and sharing content.

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Kathleen! I can totally relate to wanting my ideas done yesterday!