To Venezia, with Love


There are no words to describe Venice…and photos do not do ‘la serenissma’ justice…she’s a secret that needs to be felt in person. She must be approached with consideration and thoughtfulness - for she’s a tad elderly (but her age does not diminish her great vigour!) and she will reward you with so many beautiful things and leave you completely exhausted but fulfilled in a matter of a few days.


My recent trip to Italy took me to Venice (after 10 days in Tuscany… not too shabby either!) as I needed to feel the light and hear the sounds of this magical city that is unlike any other place on earth. Like with every vacation, my time away is to serve as a rest from the everyday and to recharge but, mostly, my trips to Europe are to collect and absorb as much as possible in order to use these memories, distilled and adapted, in my work as a designer.


If there is one colour to attribute to Venice, it is pink. The exterior walls of many buildings are bathed in pink hues - crumbling, patched, painted over, sun-bleached and light filled; the effect is breathtaking.


The way light plays with marble is something I draw on time and time again. This staircase at the Doge’s Palace made me stop in my steps. I try to recreate this light with tile, the use of skylights and reflective surfaces but it’s never quite the same. Marble has a fleshiness to it that is unparalleled by other materials.


There are so many masterpieces of art in this city that it is mind-boggling, but many of them are not in museums or galleries – they are in churches. We learned so much about Tintoretto, Canova, Tiepolo, Veronese, Titian and so many others, that our heads were spinning by the end of five days but we were still wanting more and left the city knowing we would come back to pick up where we left off. These artists worked in ridiculous conditions – cold, high up scaffolding and on their backs and one even fell off the scaffolding to his death, and the work they created is humbling as well as inspirational.


The architecture, of course, is stunning. Everywhere you look there are impossibly beautiful buildings – engineering head-scratchers really. "How did they think they could build that 400 years ago?!". But there are jewels tucked away, all over the city, you just need to get lost in the ‘calli’ (streets) a little. The repetition of these courtyard arches, for me, is poetry in form.


Though this isn’t a travel guide, my one suggestion (though I have many), for a visit to Venice is this: get lost. Don’t follow your google maps on your phone (am I the last person on earth who uses a paper map?!), look up, look down and end up in a dead end – because, I promise, that dead end will be lovely. I followed so many dead ends (and nearly ended up in the canal once or twice) that took me to a spot uninterrupted by mass tourist groups and found silence, peace and the joy of capturing something few others did.


Venice, for an artist, a designer, a lover of architecture, of food, of culture and history, of fashion and so much more. Venice, to me, is a an absolute treasure chest and it must be discovered – over and over again.

- Francesca

For(a)ging her own path

Ria and I met over seven years ago working at an exhibit design company. I think we struck a couple of common chords right away - in the way we work as well as in our love for the simple things in life: food, foraging, cooking and traveling. I admire Ria for stepping out of the 9-5 while many of us stayed behind (for a little while longer...) and forging her own path and putting herself out there - scary to do but completely fulfilling once you've done it!  Ria and I spend most of our time together out in the woods or fields collecting mushrooms and greens but I know her also as an incredibly talented graphic designer and couldn't think of anyone better to help us develop our logo and brand for our company.


Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A: I’ve always done artistic things, copying comics by drawing out grids and laying them out… but I probably wanted to be a princess at some point too.

Q: How did you end up doing what you are doing now?

A: When I was selecting my courses for university, my mom urged me to take classes that interested me – which was great, very supportive – but when I graduated I realized I had a miss-mash of courses and a ‘bachelor of F-all’… so I traveled to Europe, settled in London for some time and worked odd jobs, a florist and receptionist, and then came back to Vancouver, attended Emily Carr and took some courses with the direction in the graphic arts. When I graduated I started working right away – a bit round about but I got there.


Q: If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice when you first started your career, what would it be?

A: I would tell myself to not take things so personally. Graphic design is very subjective and some people that give you feedback [clients] have very strong opinions but don’t know much about design. On the one hand they know a lot about how the graphics are going to be used but not much about design – you have a lot to learn from them so it’s important to always consider their feedback, but don’t take it personally and stick to doing what you do best.

Q: How do you deal with professional mistakes?

A: I go through a little phase of realizing what the mistake was and feeling bad about it then realizing that it’s not going to kill anyone and then work to finding a solution – I’m very solution focused, very Virgo that way.


Q:What does success mean to you?

A: I didn’t know this at the time [of quitting my full-time job and going into freelance] but what I was looking for was a work-life balance. I love being busy when I’m busy but if I’m not busy I’m happy to dabble, make things – bread, concrete planters for my herbs and going out foraging with my friends. I get to do all the things that I want to do.

Q: Do you have a personal or professional motto?

A: You just have to do one more thing and then you can go make bread! I can’t say I have a motto, but I am task-oriented and getting through the tasks at hand so that I can go relax doing something else is often what gets me through my workload.


Q: Where do you love to travel, where is your favourite place to be?

A: I love to be in the woods, picking Chanterelles…I enjoy traveling very much, I don’t have a place in the world that draws me back over and over as I love to go to new places all the time, to have new experiences and see new things.


We enjoy working with you, Ria, (and foraging!) and we are proud to know such a strong, independent and talented woman as your self.

- Francesca

A Gill(ian) of all trades

As this is our very first blog post, I think a quick introduction is in order!

Though we are a design and project management firm, we didn't want our blog to only be about our work. We love what we do, but there are also so many other things in the world that we are passionate about, that excite and inspire us. We decided to focus on two of the things we love most - people and places (with a few reno projects thrown in for good measure!).

When we first imagined our blog and knew that we wanted to feature other bad-ass business women, we both instantly knew who we wanted our very first blog post to be about. Gillian Hurtig. She is our mentor and dear friend. She inspires us. She has been one of our strongest supporters and champions. If you are lucky enough to call Gillian your friend, you know exactly what we are talking about.

 Gillian - exuding joy as usual.

Listening back to our interview with Gillian many months after it took place (getting to writing this blog took a wee bit longer than anticipated - not because I didn't want to do it, but more so because somehow it is easier for me to procrastinate on the most important things) puts a smile on my face. There are so many qualities we love and admire in Gillian but it's that laugh that really pulls you in. It's pure joy!

Gillian has done it all. She's worked as an event producer all over the world, in TV and film production, and most recently as an actor, both voice over and on screen. When we worked with Gillian on a the production of a TV show, whenever there was a problem that needed solving, everyone's answer was always "ask Gillian". She makes things happen.


Q: If you could go back to when you started working, and give yourself one piece business advice, what would you say?

A: Don't be afraid. Go for it...What I tell anybody young these days is, don't be afraid of it. If you think it's a good idea, and you believe you can do it, go for it. Just go as far as you can in it, see if it's going to work. Cause if you don't you'll always wonder...I'd say fear is definitely the biggest thing for me that kept me as a young woman from pursuing my goals to be in theatre, and losing my fear has enabled me to start making the changes that I'm dreaming about and working on right now.

Q: How do you deal with mistakes?

A: My heart typically pounds out of my chest when I realize I've made a mistake, and I get super anxious for about a minute. And then I calm down. The world's not going to end, no one is going to die, who should I talk to about it and how do I fix it.


Q: What are you most proud of?

A: I would say that I really really like human beings. I really like people. so for me to work around people, for me to engage with people and help people feel comfortable in the work environment, and have an open door, and have compassion, and have time for people, I think that is my greatest asset.


Q: A women that you admire?

A. My  mother. My mum taught be about art, and culture and about dressing well and looking nice when you go out. She was so warm and empathetic, she had time for people. She was a wonderful friend. She loved people too and she loved to laugh.

Q: Where do you love to travel or where is your favourite place to be?

A: Hawaii is my favourite place to be, it is everything that I need and want... (and in Vancouver) it's Kits pool.


Thank you Gillian - for your friendship, your guidance, your support and love. You are one amazing woman and we are both proud and honoured to call you our friend.

With gratitude,