We all start from somewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read part 2 here


  1. I think you were meant to come back to Toronto, but I don't think you were meant to stay. I don't think this is the city for you to live in. Toronto is a soul sucking pit of despair. But it serves its purpose. The purpose being that it shows people what it is they truly need and value, both in life, in themselves, in their partners, in their dreams.
    I'm so very thankful that you came back to Toronto and that I got to meet you. I think you're an incredibly talented, witty, and fabulous person. But I also think you need to leave. I know the Dream Trip should be coming up but I also kind of hope that you don't come back. I think you were meant to live there.
    I'm just rambling and talking but I'm speaking some truth. I think home isn't here, it isn't P-Town, it's not even Van. I think it's back in 2010 and I so hope that this is your plan. You deserve to live in the country where your heart actually resides.

    1. Thanks KnittyLittleSecret! I'm glad we got to meet and hopefully hang out some more. Everything has it's purpose and there's something to learn in everything that happens, good and bad. I definitely wouldn't be sitting where I am if I hadn't moved back here. Who knows where life will take me next ;)


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