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January marks the beginning of a great transformation. Last year was a difficult time for many of us. We were forced to make difficult decisions about the lives we were living, and the people we would like to become. Positive changes are coming later in the month, but 2017 kicks off with mercury still in retrograde. We must prepare for breakdowns of all sorts, as miscommunication will rule us until January 8th. Be wary of technology, especially when sending messages through email and texts—there are simply too many occasions in which our intentions can be misunderstood. Mercury retrograde is always a tumultuous time, but we must remember that even chaos has its value. Only through struggle can we reach our full potential, and form a sincere vision of the people we can become. Stay strong, our vulnerability will push us closer to truth. 

Zodiac illustrations by Katie Maasik

Aries by Katie Maasik

ARIES
(March 21-April 19)

I usually have a solid idea of what I want. When people around me say I should want something different, I rarely give in. I’m a natural leader and people trust me. But sometimes I do go too far. Sometimes I need to step back, and wait a moment before jumping to a decision. I’ll need to be extra patient this month or my ambition may get the better of me. I know if I want to be a great leader, I need to learn how to share my power. Over the next few weeks I’m going to feel overwhelmed. Delegating some of my responsibilities will help everything make more sense. It’s hard for me to truly trust people, but I am going to work hard to open up. The more knowledge I share with the people around me, the more relief I will feel as I begin to unload my burdens.

Taurus by Katie Maasik

TAURUS
(April 20-May 20)

There are pieces of my life that I want to reimagine this year. Now is a good time to step back and evaluate, to think about what I want. If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that I’ve been working hard to uncover something. I am finally ready to tackle the skeletons in my closet. It’s not going to be easy, but I know if I can move beyond simple black and white, I will find something wonderful in the grey. As someone who sometimes clings to easy answers, I know this is a big step forward for me. I am so open to complexity right now! I know I will always value tradition: it reminds me of what I love, and helps ground me in the past. But this month I will examine the structures that hold these traditions in place. I can build on the values that make up my foundation, and let go of the shaky beams propped up by habit alone.

Gemini by Katie Maasik

GEMINI
(May 21-June 21)

I am going to be so busy this month. I can’t believe how much my checklist is growing! But it’s a new year! So why isn’t my slate wiped clean? I’m ready to forget about my mistakes and start all over. But when I look around, the blur of the holidaze is still fogging my vision. All my little indulges have started to add up! It looks like I’ve racked up a debt that’s going to weigh heavily on me for awhile. Ugh, but what else is new? I’m used to living beyond my means. Often it’s the only way to get what I want! Starting this month, I am going to work hard. I will check items off my list and earn my keep for real. I’ve learned the hard way that my big dreams come with even bigger price tags. So this year I am going to be much more intentional with my choices. I am going to slow down and plan my movements. I won’t fill the void with things I don’t need. Instead I will seek out love. I will spend my time creating memories with the people I trust. Their guidance is a rope that can pull me out of this hole I keep digging.

Cancer by Katie Maasik

CANCER
(June 21-July 22)

When people talk about “self-care” I get stressed out. It feels like one more thing I’m expected to be good at! If I don’t meditate for an hour every day, does that mean I’m a terrible person? That I’m not enlightened enough? Does my Instagram feed need more yoga poses and less dog noses? But petting cute dogs makes me feel good, and I’ve never been the flexible type! I feel so overwhelmed by all this advice. External voices are so loud that I can’t hear my own. This month I promise to set aside time to think about what I truly value. The holidays are wonderful, but they also brought a lot more stuff into my life. I am ready to concentrate on how I feel inside, instead of accumulating more things to decorate my outside. I am looking forward to clarity. This year will pose many challenges, but I’m going to learn a lot. First things first. I will focus on how I treat myself, instead of what I decide to treat myself to.

Leo by Katie Maasik

LEO
(July 23-August 22)

I’ve always felt in touch with my body, but lately it feels like a stranger. My brain is doing all the heavy lifting, and it’s starting to take its toll. My mind can’t stop racing. I’m constantly restless, and I can’t concentrate for more than a minute at a time. I’ve tried using technology to solve these problems: now I can count my steps, and track my heart rate, but I’m still overwhelmed. What should I do with all these stats? And how come this new sleep app isn’t helping me sleep better? I feel so worn out and disconnected. It’s like my body is trying to talk to me, but I can’t hear it over all this noise. Maybe I need a break. This month I’m going to take a breather from the mayhem. All this monitoring is putting me at a remove. I can’t completely disconnect, but maybe I can shut things off for an hour or two. I’ll go for a walk and leave my phone at home. I’ll turn off my laptop and read a magazine. Whatever I do, I’m going to do it slowly and with purpose.

Virgo by Katie Maasik

VIRGO
(August 23-September 22)

Maybe I’m being myopic, but last year didn’t seem so bad! Everyone else was struggling to stay afloat, but not me. I guess I’m just lucky? I mean sure, I had some setbacks, but it’s nothing I couldn’t handle. I’m the most competent person I know! People depend on me. If I couldn’t hack it, we’d all be in some serious hot water. I can’t let my weakness show, I don’t want to alarm people. If I let myself dwell on things (just a few things, really!) I might be able to pick out a few personal problems. Let’s see...well, my work felt scattered. I was pulled in every direction but forward. And my love life surprised me more than once, and not always in the good way. And my health has been better. But overall I handled everything! There’s a few holes in my boat—but so what? It’s not like I’m sinking. Hahaha…okay yes, I’m laughing nervously. Maybe I have been slightly in denial. Alright, alright, I suppose it’s time to bail out some of this water this month, before I spend another year in over my head.

Libra by Katie Maasik

LIBRA
(September 23-October 22)

I have been laying low for awhile, but I don't feel shameful about it. I needed to heal. I dealt with some heavy things last year. My desire to hide away was only natural. To recharge I had to escape and get away from it all. But I’m finally starting to feel stronger. My wounds have hardened into tough scars. I know it’s time to venture out into the world again. I’m ready to face the familiar sights and sounds that once overwhelmed me. I have developed new ways of being that will help me thrive. But I am going to be rusty, there’s no doubt about that. I will falter more than once. I will struggle. My new ways may startle old friends, but I will be patient. If they’re meant to remain in my life, they’ll come around. Most of all I will be patient with myself. I will remember how far I’ve come. And for the first time in a long while, I will let myself hope.

Scorpio by Katie Maasik

SCORPIO
(October 23-November 21)

Strangers usually raise my suspicion. When I turn a cold shoulder to newcomers, others look down on me. They assume I’m close-minded, but they don’t know the trouble strangers can bring with them. I do. I’ve created a beautiful ecosystem of people and places that are dear to me. My life is a delicate balance. But it took me a long time to put it in order—and the last thing I need is someone new barging in and disrupting things! So why do I have a feeling that’s exactly what’s in store for me this month? I’ve been raising my fences higher, but maybe I’ve been going about it all wrong. I know, I know—now and then I should open the gate. But it’s hard for me! What if all the good things I hold dear fly out the door and away from me? What if the newcomers bring unfamiliar traditions that challenge my own? Strangers often signal change. I need to prepare. Whether I’m ready or not, change is coming.

Sagittarius by Katie Maasik

SAGITTARIUS
(November 22-December 21)

I love my home, but I get restless facing the same walls each day. To stir things up, I often venture out to seek new experiences. My travels have introduced me to interesting people from all walks of life, and I like to file away each new personality type I encounter. This knowledge has instilled me with confidence. I like to imagine I’m a good judge of character—I even think I’ve got a good grasp on why certain people do the things they do. That’s why last year, when someone close to me betrayed my trust, I was shocked to my very core. Their deception blinded me with so much pain and self-loathing that it was easy to miss the power I was unlocking inside. That pain awakened new abilities within me. As the first month of this new year begins, I am still mining my core for strength, but hindsight is finally offering me a window. I can begin to see my breakdown as a chance for true reformation. I'm ready to come back, stronger than ever.

Capricorn by Katie Maasik

CAPRICORN
(December 22- January 19)

I’m off to a wobbly start for 2017. I feel a little like Mariah Carey during her NYE performance: I’m ready to kill it, but nothing is lining up right. People aren’t doing their jobs, they’re not pulling their weight, and I’m left looking like the fool. But what are you supposed to do? Sometimes things are out of your hands. So far I’m just rolling with it. If last year taught me anything, it’s that laughter is my best survival tool. For these first couple weeks, things will feel completely out of control. I just might start laughing a little too hard. I’ll probably freak out the people around me, but that will just make me laugh even harder. What can I say? The madness helps keep me sane. As the month goes on, things will quiet down. I’ll grope for the control levers, and finally switch off some of this noise. Until then, I just gotta hold on.

Aquarius by Katie Maasik

AQUARIUS
(January 19-February 18)

When things go well for me, I get caught up in a wave of excitement. I can’t help it! Once I see the light of possibility on the horizon, I storm ahead into uncharted waters. My enthusiasm has led me to great things. But sometimes it’s led me to big complications—like it’s going to this month, when others begin to blindly follow my lead. I may try to convince them to stay back where it’s safe, but it’s too late. They’ve seen the opportunities my brashness can bring. If I truly want to avoid some serious complications, I’ll need to step into a teaching role. This won’t be easy. My natural charm gets me out of most jams, but I’ve never tried to pass my power of persuasion on to another. My charms usually only work for me! I suppose if I practice lending my power to others, instead of only using them for my own gains, it could feel natural after a while. Hey, I guess in the end it works out for me too: I feel at my best when I’m helping others.

Pisces by Katie Maasik

PISCES
(February19-March 20)

When I look back at 2016, I see way more lows than highs. I don’t know if that’s my fault, but I’m praying that all these negative vibes are on the way out. I just can’t take it anymore—last year was full of too much heartache! One thing I will say, is that I’m proud that I was able to meet my troubles head on. When it comes down to it, I showed a lot of courage. And all those great people I attracted last year? They’re going to stick around and keep supporting me. When times are rough, I will move closer to what matters. For me, that’s the family I’ve created for myself. I will begin this new year by reaching out to those who helped me through my struggles. Maybe I can return the favour: maybe I can be the strong one for once.

The holidays generally mean more stress, less sleep and mindLESS indulgences that we would ordinarily skip. Unfortunately, all of this (and more) can contribute to issues like unwanted weight gain, low energy levels, mood swings and an angry, inflamed complexion!

Luckily, with just a few minor adjustments, this holiday season might end up being your most mindFULL one yet!

  • Just BREATHE
    • The excitement of your favourite treats, festive cocktails, and time spent catching up with friends and family often means forgetting to be present in the moment. Take time out for a mini-meditation (just three big deep breaths will make a difference) during the course of your evening and stop to notice your surroundings. This pause in activity will allow you to recognize if you’re still hungry, if you really need that second (or fifth) glass of wine, and whether or not it’s time to wrap it up and head home!
  • Pick & Choose
    • During the holidays, you may feel short on time and stressed out when it comes to getting everything done. Remember—you don’t have to say yes to everyone! If you don’t have the time, or if you’re feeling tired and in need of a good sleep—just say no. Boundaries are incredibly important for your overall well-being, and can help keep you sane in the midst of the holiday chaos.
  • Is This Worth It?
    • When it comes to indulging in your favourite holiday treats, always ask yourself: is this going to make me feel more or less healthy? Is this culturally significant? Is this a 10-out-of-10 on the delicious scale? Is this worth it? When do you decide to treat yourself always remember—a decision that is intentional and mindful means there is no guilt. 

The Best Chocolate Truffle Recipe Ever!

Rose & Cacao Chocolate Truffles

When I choose to indulge, I often reach for these easy nutrient-dense, homemade fudge truffles. Although still technically a dessert, they’re low in sugar and absolutely packed with some of my favourite skin-saving nutrients like calcium, magnesium and potassium to keep me looking and feeling my best this season!

Makes approximately 20 truffles

Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup organic crunchy peanut butter
4 tbsp cacao powder
4 tbsp dark maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 drops food grade rose essential oil (depending on taste preference)

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to your blender or food processor and mix until smooth.

2. Pour into a freezer safe dish and let set for at least 1-2 hours until firm.

3. Remove and scoop one tsp-size amount at a time.

4. Shape into a ball and roll in more cacao powder.

5. Top with rose petals—because we eat with our eyes first! 

Truffles will keep for up to four weeks in the freezer: if they last that long!

I hope you all have a beautiful holiday season! Enjoy!

destress herbs

Written for Woodlot by Dr. Deanna Weiss, ND

It’s that time of year again when many of us feel excited yet overwhelmed with celebrations and commitments. Besides taking care of your basic needs (getting enough sleep, eating well, not overbooking your schedule) I wanted to share a few other ways to support yourself during the holidays.


Listed below is my favourite collection of plants to help calm your body and mind this holiday season:  

destress herb

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

This soothing herb is calming when prepared as a loose-leaf tea, or refreshing when added as an oil to a dark chocolate treat.

destress herbs

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

The calming scent of lavender encourages us to take a deep breath this holiday season. Sprinkle a few flowers on a baked treat (such as shortbread cookies), add the essential oil to a diffuser, or tie a sprig of lavender onto gifts for your nature-loving friends.

destress herbs
Orange (Citrus sp.)

Fresh oranges paired with cinnamon and cloves is a holiday staple for many. Use the essential oil as an uplifting aromatherapy, or simply add orange slices to holiday beverages like mulled wine or hot cider.  

destress herbs

Oat (Avena sativa)

Eating cooked oats the morning before a day of festivities grounds and supports your nervous system. Bake oats into a granola or crisp, and combine with fruit for a nutritious and delicious dessert option.

destress herbs

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Before your guests arrive, light bundles of sage to cleanse the rooms of your home. This season you may also want to try cooking with crushed sage leaves: add sage to your favourite savoury dishes, such as cranberry stuffing or roasted potatoes.


Written for Team Woodlot by Elizabeth Hammond

The season of rich foods, boozy drinks, and dietary indulgence is upon us! Not to worry—our city has a host of healthy options that provide a much needed reprieve from holiday fare. Whether you’re touring, visiting family, or just taking a break from cooking, we’ve got some suggestions for healthy (and delicious) spots to try this month.

Arbor Vancouver

Arbor

If you’re a vegetarian or a regular Main Street dweller, you’ve likely tried the award-winning restaurant The Acorn. Opened by the owners of The Acorn, Arbor delivers the same plant-based ingredients in a more low-key environment and menu. Inventive appetizers like the broccoli popcorn and cauliflower nuggets paired with a stacked wine and cocktail list make this an ideal happy hour spot. The holidays can induce a craving for comfort food. You won’t miss out on that at the Arbor with its to-die-for veggie burgers and unique take on the classic mac and cheese. Arbor’s inviting space and thoughtful dishes offer a calm reprieve from the merry mayhem of December.

Virtuous Pie Vancouver

Virtuous Pie

Virtuous Pie did the unthinkable: they made pizza healthy. Spun out of a desire to create delicious food that’s good for you and the planet, Virtuous Pie serves up a plant-based take on the dynamic duo (aka pizza and ice cream). While the idea of pizza without "real" cheese may seem sacrilegious, each pie uses nut-based cheeses that are entirely drool-worthy. Attention needs to be paid to the Stranger Wings pie for its amazing name and ability to make cauliflower taste alarmingly close to buffalo wings. While take-out is always an option, if you stay, you can enjoy your pizza with a selection of local juices, wines, and beers. Bon Appetit!

Harvest Vancouver

Harvest Community Foods

If you’re looking for a quick and healthy dinner on a cold night, Harvest is your best bet. Located in the heart of Chinatown, Harvest is an organic grocer that also sells addictive noodle soups. Each bowl is made with homemade broth and organic vegetables and meats. The small but mighty menu offers both seasonal and vegetarian options that will leave you feeling warm and satiated.

Juice Truck Vancouver

The Juice Truck

Hungover from last night’s Christmas party? Need some energy to brave the mall? Battling a winter cold? Hit up the Juice Truck to solve (almost) any holiday woe! This beloved truck now has its very own storefront that serves up a range of juices, smoothies, and bowls that will help you feel amazing during this hectic time of year. Some must-try menu items include the ever-popular Green juice, the Almost Chocolate smoothie, and the Macro Bowl.

Heirloom Vancouver

Heirloom

Heirloom offers a vegetarian menu in an elegant setting that would be ideal for visiting in-laws, a holiday dinner with friends, or Sunday morning brunch. Almost every menu item has a vegan modification and are all delicious enough to please even the most devout meat eater (seriously, the owners are converted omnivores). If you’re in a party mood, Heirloom also offers a full list of specialty cocktails along with local beers and wines. When you’re ready to take a break from the turkey, Heirloom will be ready and waiting with some vegetarian goodness.  

Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!

As the year draws to a close, we yearn for satisfying resolutions. We want to believe we can check each box off our list. That we can untie the strings around our fingers and forget. But it is not in our power to close every door that leads to darkness. Nor would we want to. Our paths will continue to wind into the new year. The forks in the road force us to pause. The twists and turns will challenge us. But we will not move mindlessly. We will move with purpose, and use each new experience as a chance to consider how far we have come. The future is filled with possibilities. Now is the time to reflect. So that when we are called to choose, we will know in our hearts which path we must pick.

Zodiac illustrations by Katie Maasik

Aries by Katie Maasik

ARIES
(March 21-April 19)

This month I may feel nostalgic for another time, when loved ones felt closer and everything seemed to come easier to me. I know it’s natural to seek comfort in my memories. I don’t mind indulging the past, as long as I keep my feet planted firmly in the present. After all, I am about to see the results of the hard work I’ve put in these past few months. My future will soon outshine my past. But first I need to be patient with myself. I must accept that even I (mighty Aries!) will falter now and then. Sometimes my life feels like a test that I can pass with flying colours. Other times it feels like there’s always another meaningless hoop to jump through. Lately I’ve felt like these hills I’m climbing are more like one giant, insurmountable mountain—but I refuse to admit defeat. I won’t let my people down. I will continue to lead. I’ve learned it’s the unexpected challenges that guide me toward the highest rewards. So I will keep moving forward. I will stay strong. My sights are not far off. I can see the summit ahead.

Taurus by Katie Maasik

TAURUS
(April 20-May 20)

I feel out of touch with the world lately. I usually pride myself on my practical, no-nonsense approach, but these days a strange sense of vertigo has been interfering with my ability to find level ground. I am taking on too much. I need to step back and breathe. I will find a quiet place to orient myself, and refocus on my own needs. I am letting too many people pull me in too many directions, but I will soon feel the end to this dizziness. This month I will let the anxious heat float off my body. A cool breeze is about to blow through my life and refresh my spirits. I see this breeze arriving in the form of a thoughtful gift, a free-spirited traveler, or a surprising financial reward. The winds are changing, and they bring with them new joys and relief from pain. I am here, ready and willing, to greet them when they arrive.

Gemini by Katie Maasik

GEMINI
(May 21-June 21)

I can’t help it, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I want to share and talk about everything, all the time. I love communicating and meeting new people, but sometimes my need for connection can backfire on me. I can be loud! I can be impulsive! I can definitely be the black sheep! And this month I truly feel like I’ve got a target on my back—like the ones closest to me are loosing all their arrows upon me. I don’t deserve this! I give and I give, yet my efforts are taken for granted, even laughed at! But just watch me. I’m not going to do what they expect this time. I’m not going to fire back. Nope. Instead I’m going to gather my wits and work on a plan. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got myself into some pretty sticky situations in the past—but I’ve also gotten myself out of them too. So don’t give up on me yet. I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Trust in my resilient nature. I just might surprise you.

Cancer by Katie Maasik

CANCER
(June 21-July 22)

This month I see myself flying high over a great chasm. My sensible side says to enjoy the marvellous heights I’ve reached, to revel in my achievements—but I’m drawn to the darkness below. The mystery of the unknown calls to me. What will I find there? Danger, yes—but also excitement and self-knowledge. Insights into the self are often hard won, but the closing of the year is offering me many opportunities to look hard into who I wish to be. The space between me and them may feel unfathomable, but the high ground is already mine—I just need to reach out and offer a hand up. Though I typically enjoy using my power to influence the ones around me, I am in a unique position to share my wealth this month. Instead of holding fast to the things and people I value, I will release them. I will choose to grow with the ones around me, and try to listen, even when their viewpoints differ so drastically from my own. I will do my best to offer them my generous side.

Leo by Katie Maasik

LEO
(July 23-August 22)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve stood out from the crowd. People are drawn to me. I’ve never had to put much work into making friends. I’m not ashamed to say that being popular is important to me. I like being surrounded by fun people who like to have a good time. Self-expression comes so naturally to me that I often find it difficult to be around quiet or reserved people. Their distance infuriates me—I just want to shake a reaction out them! This month there is one person in particular who is posing a challenge to me. This person is a closed book. My usual charms are not working on them. I find their reticence very alluring, they’re like a puzzle I’ve become obsessed with solving—except you can’t solve a person! So instead I’ll be spending this month mooning around thinking about them, until the next beguiling soul comes around and catches my eye.

Virgo by Katie Maasik

VIRGO
(August 23-September 22)

This is embarrassing to say, but I know I can be great. I’ve seen how successful I can be when I apply myself. I can create wonderful things. I can bring people together. I can lead. But the same keen perception that enables me to achieve so much also hinders me. I can envision every future, and imagine every possibility. This vision can overwhelm the people around me. I need to work on my patience. I see pointing out mistakes as an efficient way to correct and move forward. But my blunt direction can sound like harsh judgement to some. This month I will not soften my approach as I have in the past. That approach has only hindered me. Instead I will invite my colleagues to see as I see. I will offer words to fill the gaps. I will translate my language for all to hear and understand. And I will shift slightly to allow myself to hear things from their angle. At first our dissident voices will sound like noise. But over time, we will hear a new dimension and depth to our shared expression. 

Libra by Katie Maasik

LIBRA
(September 23-October 22)

I’m fighting against the way things are right now. I have an image in my mind—a perfect illusion of how the world should work, and people could be. But my reality is not matching this image. In fact it’s not even close! I’ve been here before. I know what to do. I will examine my perfect model. I will try see it for what it is: a beautiful fiction of my own imagination. But who’s to say I can’t create parts of my perfect world? I am creative and bold. I can make my ideas happen. This month I will create harmony by making a place of my own. Starting small is the way. I will retreat for a short time, in order to heal. When I have access to my full power, I am a conduit of peace for others. My vision of the world inspires them. I help my loved ones see themselves as I do. I help them live their best lives. I can live my best life too. I may think that striving for balance will lead to my happiness. But I enjoy switching the weight on the scale too much. Happiness will only come for me when I accept myself as an imperfect being, one still worthy of love. 

Scorpio by Katie Maasik

SCORPIO
(October 23-November 21)

I’m not sure what started it, but something strange has been brewing inside me for some time. Quiet mornings alone, brisk walks through the rain, time spent curled up with my animal friends—these experiences have only heightened the feeling. Could it be...contentment? I can feel my hard shell in danger of softening. But I am pleased for the chance to let my guard down for once. All too often I find myself carrying the load alone, yet lately my burden seems lessened. I will look around this month. I will notice the kind souls around me. These are the people close by who are easing my pain. They do this with no expectation of reward. It is up to me to recognize them, and bring them closer to me. My intensity is useful because it drives away those who fear action and change. But these helpers are quietly communicating a desire to follow me. They share my vision for a more sincere and just world. Together we can build something truly great.  

Sagittarius by Katie Maasik

SAGITTARIUS
(November 22-December 21)

On the surface I appear cool and unruffled, but there’s a fire raging inside me that never seems to let up. I know it’s up to me how I choose to use the energy, but I still find it difficult to harness the power. I can feel it swirling fiercely around me, but I’m often afraid to put it to use. Maybe it’s because the people I love have been burnt by it before. This time it’s different. I can wield my power. I’ve seen how my fire can warm my friends and family—and raze my enemies to the ground. I’ve grown a lot this year. New friendships have rekindled past passions. I’ve brought light back to parts of myself that I thought were snuffed out for good. I am ready to reinvent myself by drawing on the best parts of my past selves. I seek out the unfamiliar, but I am drawn back to the comfort of the rare people who have retained my attention over the years. I see most relationships as transactional, but some, like the connection I share with those in my inner circle, have the power to transform my life for the better.

Capricorn by Katie Maasik

CAPRICORN
(December 22- January 19)

I find immense joy in my work, especially when it allows me to create. I am a builder. I like to bring the images of my mind into reality, and share my art with others. I can work with others, and often enjoy the feeling of collaboration. But to build my best work, I prefer time alone. Yet solitude often invites loneliness into my heart. When I’m in the flow of my work, I am invulnerable to its gloomy pangs. Yet when the thrill of creation has passed, I am vulnerable and loneliness descends like a fog. I won’t lie: sometimes I enjoy wallowing in the sadness. Other times those idle days can wind me up. Suddenly I move from slothful to speedy. But in this manic state I cannot access the usual joy I find in my work. I toil without purpose. It is the movement that keeps the darkness at bay, and so I move. This month I will strive to be mindful of my movements. I will leave my safe place. I will allow others a glimpse of my process. I may even invite a trusted few into my creative space. Then when I am lost, they will know where to find me and pull me back out again. 

Aquarius by Katie Maasik

AQUARIUS
(January 19-February 18)

Some days I feel like an old soul. Other days I feel like I was born yesterday. In one moment I can see the world as a broken, chaotic place, and in the next, a bountiful source of hope and renewal. My mood is ever changing. I am overwhelmed by all the paths I could take, and all people I could be. I’m told “still waters run deep,” but lately I’ve been feeling a strong urge to express myself in words. I want to write again, to record the minutiae of my day. I imagine it may reveal something profound to me, or at least reveal the mysterious patterns that organize my mind and habits. If nothing else, it’s nice to clear some space up there in that cluttered head of mine. There really is something to bringing the inside out. What’s the point of all this knowledge if it stays traps in my head? As this year comes to a close, I will focus on sharing my passions with another, and passing my skills along to those who could benefit from them. If I grant myself the authority, I can be a great teacher. 

Pisces by Katie Maasik

PISCES
(February19-March 20)

As the year closes, an overwhelming sense of “coming home” will wash over me. Something has been driving me toward the familiar. I miss the faces I once knew well, the sights and sounds of the places I’ve left behind, but I also fear them. I am very good at creating a bubble wherever I go, but the energy it takes to sustain it exhausts me. I feel depleted by the effort. I’m ready to return to the place I know best. I will rest there. I will recharge. I will heal among the people who knew me when. But to see the good people, I must confront the ones who look down upon me. Suspense and anticipation swirls around me. These forces push me toward my future—one that will only come to fruition if I can soothe the ghosts of my past. My intuition tells me this month will be one of great strength and regeneration, but only if I am brave enough to return and reconsider the places that made me who I am.

seasonal affective disorder treatments

Written for Woodlot by Dr. Deanna Weiss, ND

As I write this, it’s pouring rain, there’s a foggy blanket in the sky, and everyone’s bundled up outside. It’s that time of year where some of us start feeling more sleepy, less motivated, and may be dealing with unexplained sadness. Some struggle with it to the point of getting the diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), while others notice a slight change after the days become noticeably shorter and colder. 

To encourage getting out of bed on those dark mornings, I have put together a list of ways that may help. Here are 7 lifestyle tips to cope with the winter blues:  

7. Try light therapy

Switch a SAD lamp on for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up. This helps trick your brain into feeling more refreshed, as the light inhibits melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for balancing our sleep-wake cycle and causes that listless feeling of sleepiness. A regular sleep schedule is important for balancing our mood and energy, so try to stick to a consistent bedtime if you can.

6. Start your day off right

Create a positive morning ritual to help get motivated for the day. This may include putting on your favourite upbeat music, lighting a palo santo stick to set a positive mindset, or drinking a delicious and nourishing tea.

5. Take care of your basic needs

Make sure you are eating well this time of year. That means cooking meals high in protein to help build the body's chemical messengers. These vital messengers are in charge of motivation (dopamine), energy (adrenaline), and self-worth (serotonin).

SAD remedies

4. Book a relaxing treatment

This is a great way to do something good for yourself, especially since you don’t have to do much at all! Beneficial treatments that may help beat the winter blues include: massage therapy, acupuncture, and infrared sauna. Twenty minutes in an infrared sauna can stimulate endorphins, and create an overall feeling of well-being.

3. Make plans

Even when you don’t feel like it, stay connected. Making plans with a friend is a great motivator to get out of the house. Even a simple meet-up for coffee can help boost your mood.

2. Move your body

Sign up for a new exercise class, or bundle up in your winter or rain gear, and get outside. If you are still not motivated to venture into the world, roll out your yoga mat and do some simple stretches on your floor at home.

1. Check in with yourself

Lastly, and most importantly, when feeling down or unmotivated, ask yourself: “What do I need to feel well today?” Your answers may include one of the tips listed above, or they may be something unique to you. Either way, listen to your body pay attention to your needs, and if you need external support, seek help from a friend or local health care professional.

Elim Chu
All photos, credit: Brit Gill

For as long as she could remember, Vancouver-based stylist Elim Chu knew she wanted to pursue a career in fashion. After enrolling in fashion design school and finding out she was failing half-way through the program, Elim had to consider other ways to enter the fashion field. With the help of her instructor (and some research via Vogue and the Rachel Zoe Project) Elim began to see styling as a legitimate career worth pursuing.

Elim's journey as a stylist began at the lululemon lab where she dressed mannequins and advised on visual merchandising. From there, Elim became the first dedicated stylist at the lululemon head office, and she now works for herself full-time. Elim helps her clients create something fresh with the clothes in their closets, and encourages them to focus on how their clothes make them feel. Team Woodlot sat down with Elim to learn more about her approach to styling, and how her friends at the Vancouver consignment store My Modern Closet are inspiring her work.

What styling services do you offer your clients?

I do traditional styling at editorial and ecommerce photo shoots, and I help brands create content for their social media channels. I also offer wardrobe edits and styling inspiration to help people feel confident in their clothes. I find that when people go shopping, they often bring items home and don’t how to incorporate them into their existing wardrobe. My approach is to look at the clothes my clients have already, as opposed to telling them to go out and buy more.

Elim Chu

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Definitely the wardrobe edits! My clients range in age from 25 to 50 and I've learned so much by working with them all. Despite differences in age and demographic, most people experience the same challenges when it comes to clothes. Some people feel a boredom with their options, or an uncertainty about how to put outfits together. Others refuse to support fast fashion, and desire to buy quality pieces over quantity. I'm so impressed with these women’s efforts to make a stand for more intentional dressing and shopping, and I'm seeing a growing number of people starting to adopt this philosophy.

The idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe is super hot right now. Have you ever created one for yourself? What would be in your capsule wardrobe?

Funnily enough, I just finished participating in a 10 items for 10 days challenge! I was inspired by Lee Vosburgh of the Style Bee. I'd created a mini capsule wardrobe before when travelling, but I'd never done an intentional challenge like this. What I learned is that I can wear the heck out of a slip dress! Some other key pieces included a skinny turtleneck for layering, two pairs of jeans, and a classic coat. (Note: Elim documented her challenge via Instagram, check it out: @elim_chu)

Do you have a style icon?

Yes! From a young age I have been drawn to Kate Moss. It may be because she is a supermodel, but I love how her personal style is always evolving, and that she wears her clothes with complete confidence. I also admire Tom Ford’s commitment to beautiful basics, and the Olsen twin’s lean towards androgynous style with hints of feminine elegance.

When did you get involved with My Modern Closet?

I was interviewed for their blog and during that I met Chloe (the founder of My Modern Closet). Chloe reached out afterwards to let me know that she loved the services I was providing, and wanted to know how we could work together. During this time, we were both fresh to our businesses and we've been supporting each other ever since!

What have you learned since working with Chloe?

Chloe was the first person who made me realize that what I was doing was eco-friendly. I'd never considered my approach to styling to be sustainable until I started working with her. This honestly blew my mind and opened me up to a new world. I now approach shopping in a more considered way, and I am asking questions of brands before I purchase from them. Before I used to just go to a store and buy something, but now I read through a company’s sustainability policies, and really do my research before making a purchase. Chloe has helped arm me with these questions and as a result, I've had to abandon some brands who don't have the answers I need to feel good about buying from them.

Elim Chu

How often do you shop now?

I typically shop once a month, at most. Previously my shopping was much more frequent and not as intentional. I've made a move towards more thoughtful shopping and now I look to consignment stores more and more to find the pieces I love.

How do you relax and treat yourself?

A daily indulgence for me is starting the morning by reading and enjoying a cup of coffee. I treat myself to a workout class at Tight Club or Ride Cycle Club monthly, and splurge on a facial on special occasions! My husband and I also just went on a yoga retreat with The Social Yoga which was amazing. Generally, I love treating myself to experiences rather than things.

Do you have any natural beauty or self-care rituals? If so, what are they?

It wasn’t until my thirties that I started thinking about what was in the beauty and self-care products that I was using all the time. Isn’t that crazy?! I met the founders of Woodlot and Harlow at an event a few years ago and loved hearing their stories and learning about what is in their products. The charcoal soap was and still is one of my favourite products. I also swear by washing my face once a day, and choosing beauty products that are green.

Thanks for sharing your styling wisdom with us, Elim!

In life, we have to find the motivation to fight, to say forget it, I don't deserve this, and strive for better. We need to know when to let go, and when to move on. Continue to make it happen, but do it for you, in your own time. Be genuine, and remain motivated by your own desires—not by what you think others expect from you. You never know when the slot machine of life is going to pay out big. The house often wins, but if you keep playing, and you keep trying, your luck will surely improve. Embrace the small things that can change your day, like having a good conversation with a friend, or greeting a stranger on the street.

Horoscopes by Tara Chloe. Zodiac illustrations by Katie Maasik

Aries by Katie Maasik

ARIES
(March 21-April 19)

This is the month where I really get to focus on the “self” stuff, the things I’ve been meaning to do for myself, but never get around to doing. This type of stuff is really important to me. It grounds me. It helps me find my truth. I like to win, but it sometimes feel like life is setting me up for a fall. This is natural. I have to take the tumble with pride. I have to look at the big picture of everyone’s lives and realize that sometimes it is okay, and that it even makes sense to make an error. You have to accept that you’re only human, and born to make mistakes. Falling down gives you strength, and lets you rise up, despite whatever. Noticing this with your loved ones is good as well: accepting and loving people for who they are is key. Stop trying to always change everything or add something or go somewhere. Not everything has to be an action. Sometimes it’s better just to let things be. Reach out to people when you need to let out off steam. Don’t suppress your feelings, let them out, and don’t even be shy: be obnoxious about it!

Taurus by Katie Maasik

TAURUS
(April 20-May 20)

For the people that matter to me, I have a lot of love in my heart. Sometimes I hold back and let something be—yet with the people I love, that loving urge is often there, but tends to go away when I am frustrated. I want what I want, and I won’t settle, but I do think that I will have to wait—because in the past, most of the best things have come to me in time. Then, there are some matters that haven’t shown their true colours yet. These issues haven’t been sorted out properly, and there’s still a lot in the works. Much can happen. It’s fine though, I don’t have to have it all figured out, even if I won’t stop calculating it all in my head. I know I am at my best when I am able to sit back, relax, and have a good laugh. The little things are pretty important to me. I just have to learn to let the trivial stuff go, and focus on what really matters.

Gemini by Katie Maasik

GEMINI
(May 21-June 21)

I say things. It’s not that I mean to say things in a bad way, but sometimes, especially if I’m intoxicated, I can say something highly inappropriate. I don’t even remember what I am saying. I have no control over my tongue. It’s fine, I always send my apologies out the next day, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling terrible. That’s not really who I am. Everyone knows a Gemini can say one, two, or a hundred things they don’t mean. I can’t help it if I focus on what is important to me, and who is important to me. I know who I don’t want to associate with, and I make that pretty clear. Sure, there are a lot of people I would party with, and I’m down with my work colleagues, but the list of people that I open my heart up to is pretty short. I can be ruled by anxiety: I literally bounce from one place to the next. I can’t stop. I have a complex mind, and I need to be stimulated most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love to relax (when I can). I’m all for that quality Netflix and chill time (but not binge-watching Stranger Things, solo if you know what I mean). It’s just that, on the whole, I like to keep things exciting in my life.

Cancer by Katie Maasik

CANCER
(June 21-July 22)

I have learned that I am happiest when I am doing my own thing. For me, by me. I do want to be in charge, despite my Cancer ways, but I want to be in charge of something I like. Something that I am good at, something that will sell. Though, it’s really not all about the money in this case. I’ve been making moves in my life that will advance me towards my goal. I want to be a part of projects that I am passionate about—without authority figures. I don’t always talk about it (at least not in too much detail), but I do think a lot about the future, and what I could plan for ahead. I want to start and be part of something I am proud of, even if that is a trip across the world. I want to say I am a lot more goal-orientated than people think. I’m a water sign: I was born to dream. Finding the hustle to my flow will be essential, as I need a little muscle to help me stay a float.

Leo by Katie Maasik

LEO
(July 23-August 22)

I see things that bother me and I try to ignore them, but I can’t help it. I do have an ego, and I am sensitive to what people say, especially if it’s negative. Most importantly, I need to feel like my partner sees me as strong, and truly values my input. I want to have my say. I feel I could excel in these next coming years, and that I have the potential to really make it, but sometimes the personal stuff gets in the way of the dream. I don’t want to run away from things or problems, but sometimes it’s easier to pack up, leave, and do something fun, rather than have some big, long annoying conversation about it. I do want to say how I feel more, I just don’t want to go over things like a broken record. I want seamless communication that goes perfectly—if only everything could always go perfectly. I know it can’t, so I’m going to take it day by day, and just hope for the best. It could get better, or it could worse, but I’d like to believe that time will take me where I need to be.

Virgo by Katie Maasik

VIRGO
(August 23-September 22)

Work is very important to me, which is why I try to do a really above and beyond job. I invest my time into work, and put everything else last. This has affected my relationships in the past, but my mate knows that I like to be producing and showing my sign of service at all times. At work and at home, I give a lot—but I play the field nice and cool. I don’t rush into forever with just anybody. This usually requires a lot of thinking. I can’t help but size people up, I have a strong analytical side to me. I see people for what they are, and for what they stand for. I know if someone is giving money out of obligation, or if someone is trying to slide their way out of the cheque. I have very strong instincts, and once I have an instinct about you, it will be really hard for me to forget it. I am prone to that “forgive them, don’t forget them” ideology. I like to focus on the facts, and if the facts show that you’ve led me into trouble in the past, that could very well indicate future trouble. I try to coast as much as I can with people who don’t matter to me, but with the ones I love, my head is always above water.

Libra by Katie Maasik

LIBRA
(September 23-October 22)

I can rely on friends to help me through, but I know I need to find my own way too. Sometimes I need too much, not necessarily materially, but emotionally I can demand a lot from other people. I am a demanding friend because I expect to be involved. This usually isn’t a problem because I’m often chosen and included. I am happiest in the mix of things. I also admire the all-loving neutral who has no problems with anyone, and gets along with everyone. Libra is often known as having multiple marriages, in that they might be married, but they are also married to their friend. I am a sign who looks both ways, and admires the beauty of both streets. Libra is usually open sexually, and will explore different sexes, and various relationship dynamics. I also enjoy one-on-one intimacy and love, though it is common for me to be the one less interested in the relationship. Libra is like a butterfly: I don’t like to stay one place too long, but if I do, it means we’ve found a true match.

Scorpio by Katie Maasik

SCORPIO
(October 23-November 21)

I’m really going to try to remember all the wise stuff that I said to myself when I was drunk. I am often too busy working hard, running around and doing stuff for others, that I often forget to address my own wounds. When I’m insecure, I’m likely throw myself at potential partners, while me at my securest tends to avoid love like the plague. I may dance to love’s tune a little, but I usually have other priorities when I am single. When I’m partnered up, I am a hopeless and devoted lover. Sure, sometimes Scorpio is hard to find. I am mysterious and introverted about a lot of things, and I have plenty of secrets of my own. Whatever I’m doing, I need to make sure it’s something I really love. For Scorpios, happiness really does matter, and excuses are exactly that: excuses. It’s never too late. It’s my happiness, I am going to go after it at all costs.

Sagittarius by Katie Maasik

SAGITTARIUS
(November 22-December 21)

I only get angry when I am upset, and I don’t like to be upset. I like to be friendly and fun, like that person who works the room and the waitstaff, and somehow gets everyone a discount. I want things to go my way. There, I said it. I try really hard to make the most out of life, but sometimes it feels like a lot of work, and for what exactly? I’ll get there, I just want to be doing it all, all too soon. I’m content with a steady pay cheque though, and some people to love me, and spend time with me. Truthfully, there is a part of me that likes to be alone, and I will take my space for that. It might seem like I am 24-energy, but I certainly have my moments where I need my privacy. I have been known to pick adventure over romance; well, really I just want them both: I want to find a partner who loves to travel and do things. I want to see the world on my own dime, but if someone takes me there fully-expensed, I won’t complain either.

Capricorn by Katie Maasik

CAPRICORN
(December 22- January 19)

If I tell you I’m totally cool, and laid back, and not judging you, I’m lying. I can’t help but be a bit black and white sometimes, and I don’t always have the right words. I have practical knowledge, but I don’t have the ability to soothe you. I can reason with you. I can take care of you. I will do anything to get your validation, but I won’t toot my own horn. I want stuff. There, I said it: I want stuff. Most Capricorns are workhorses who want to make it big, so it’s no secret that I have big dreams for myself. I am attracted to that life of luxury and prestige. I want a partner who compliments. Someone I wouldn’t consider leaving. I would even have a partner who is established in their own light, so that we could be a team, some kind of a power couple. Capricorn wants the finer things in life. They’re lying to you if they say they don’t. The truth is, if I’m hard-working, I usually get everything they desire. You get what you work for, or in Capricorn’s case, what you won’t give up on.

Aquarius by Katie Maasik

AQUARIUS
(January 19-February 18)

If you’re a friend, I’m not going to be able to see you on the regular. It doesn’t change how close we are, I honestly just have so much going on all the time. I have a lot of different friends that I’ve bonded with across the world on various occasions. My schedule gets full fast. Not to say that I don’t have a partner or best friends that I see often. It is actually more likely that Aquarius will be single then taken, but when I am in a partnership, it’s usually with someone who can hold their own. Aquarius isn’t really the babysitter type: I have a wandering eye for adventure. Sometimes Aquarius needs to not let other people’s choices affect them. My concept of love, and accepting people for who they are is also important here. Aquarius has high expectations of love, and sometimes I don’t see that my life is going a whole lot better than I think it is. Aquarius always needs to be counting their blessings. I’m learning not ask for less, and say thank you for what I’ve already got.

Pisces by Katie Maasik

PISCES
(February19-March 20)

I’m still waiting for it to be time, and the wait has got me on edge. It’s the wait for something good. Sure, there are good things in my life, but I am waiting for that big moment. I need to start my empire. Pisces are so gifted and talented, but they lack the pushy quality of getting there first. The potential for networking is in me, but I’ve got to figure out how to make effective connections. Pisces is all about doing the next big thing, and creating wow-material. This could be a time to start planning for new tactics, which will benefit my life. I’m going to stay positive, and know that it’s really just a matter of time. As last in the Zodiac, Pisces is destined to wait. In work, friendship and love, I am bound to hit the jackpot. But first, before I can find success, I must believe that I can have the things that I want.

             Photo credit: Lena Bell
Aromatherapy as Self-Care

The more I learn about the process of aromatherapy, the more I realize crafting oil blends is one of my favourite forms of self-care. The entire ritual is deeply nourishing. You first check in with yourself and become aware of what it is you need at that moment. You then choose a selection of oils, and begin crafting a custom blended potion, just for you.

History of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy can be traced back over 3,500 years to the Egyptians who believed that smoke rising to the heavens would carry their wishes and prayers to the gods. The Egyptians would burn woods, incense, and herbs and spices to communicate with their deities. During Egypt's third dynasty, today's popular oils like frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, cedarwood, and juniper berry, were also used to preserve bodies for the afterlife.

The term aromatherapy was first used in 1937 by French chemist and perfumer, René Maurice Gattefossé, who used lavender oil to soothe a burn on his hand. He discovered that minute amounts of essential oils are absorbed by the skin and interact with the body chemistry.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are volatile oils extracted from plant matter—think of zesting a lime, or rubbing a mint leaf between your fingers. Essential oils are made up of hundreds of chemical components, and each oil offers many physical and emotional benefits. For example, lavender is antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic, and helps to encourage wound healing—but at the same time helps reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall feelings of calm and well-being.

How Do I Use Essential Oils?

Essential oils can be used a number of different ways – in massage, steam inhalation, hot or cold compress, in the bath or in DIY skincare and perfuming.

Kelsey's Favourite Warming Winter Blends

To help you get started with aromatherapy, I’m happy to share a few of my favourite winter oil blends. These blends will keep you feeling warm, cozy and healthy when the temperatures begin to drop.

DIY Rose & Black Pepper Bath Blend

In cold winter months, this is my go-to. Sensual, grounding, and warming—this blend is wonderful when added to bath salts or when used for massage. Black pepper helps stimulate circulation, rose encourages feelings of love and sexuality, cardamom is warming, and patchouli grounds and acts as an aphrodisiac!

Ingredients:

  • 3 drops black pepper
  • 4 drops patchouli
  • 2 drop rose absolute
  • 3 drops cardamom

Directions:

  • Add to 30ml of almond oil, mix well, and add to epsom salts. Relax.
    DIY Seasonal Stress Relief Blend

    Around the holidays, this is a wonderful blend to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Frankincense is my go-to oil for stress and meditation, orange is uplifting without the stimulation of other citrus oils, cedarwood is amazingly grounding, and ginger warms while it helps encourage circulation and digestion.

    Ingredients:

    • 3 drops frankincense
    • 2 drops ginger
    • 4 drops orange
    • 3 drops cedarwood
    Directions:
    • Add to 30ml grapeseed oil, and use as a massage oil on the abdomen after a large meal; or add 3 drops of the essential oil mixture to your favourite diffuser.
      DIY Rosemary & Lavender Immunity Blend

      This blend is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that helps promote circulation, reduce inflammation, and increase feelings of well-being. Rosemary and juniper together help reduce swelling, water retention, and joint inflammation. Ravensara helps to support respiratory health, and lavender does whatever you need it to—it’s an adaptogen, how cool is that?

      Ingredients:

      • 2 drops rosemary
      • 2 drops juniper
      • 4 drops ravensara
      • 4 drops lavender
      Directions:
      • Add to 30ml of arnica or st. johns wort macerated oil, and use for body massage, focusing on any areas of pain or congestion.

      It’s empowering to create blends that target the specific ailments in your life right now. Aromatherapy is another powerful tool to help you take your health into your own hands. Enjoy :)

      Kelsey

      Should you ever get the chance to sit down with Margherita Porra for a chat about packaging, you may find yourself free-diving into a spirited discussion on the history of design, fashion, and cultural trends.

      In our hour-long conversation, the erudite founder of Arithmetic Creative shone a light on her process for redesigning the look and feel of Woodlot’s packaging, waded into the history behind the loaded term unbranded, and delved into the Maker movement and its effect on corporate branding.

      Here are a few highlights from our animated discussion with one of Vancouver’s brightest design visionaries.

      On Designing the Woodlot match strike

      The image of the match strike is so simple and easy to understand, but it has multiple meanings—there’s a deeper, underlying dialogue there. You may not notice it the first time, but the more times you see it, the more it reveals.

      When I was spending time away from the city, I kept thinking about how nature can be so lush and beautiful and abundant; how it can be destroyed, yet it can rebuild itself, and how that can be a metaphor for our own lives and problems.

      WOODLOT candle

      A huge fire wiped out a massive forest on the way to the cabin I share with my husband, and the first time we went there, we felt devastated as we drove through the barren land that was once home to endless trees. But over the years we’ve witnessed the flowers and moss growing back, and now the trees that were just charcoal are growing leaves again. It got me thinking about the power of fire, and the idea of igniting something: whether it’s igniting creativity or giving life to change. This particular fire was started by a careless act—one simple strike can mean so much—but nature has rebuilt itself, just as we can rebuild ourselves.

      I’m so fascinated with the cycle of life: the more time I spend in nature, the more I’m inspired by it. Even just watching tall birch trees in a storm: when you see the storm, it’s this intense wildness, but the trees just bend with it. They’re still standing afterwards because of their deep roots. I think we all aspire toward that kind of flexibility and resilience.

      On Friction

      The other side of the match strike was the idea of tension. You can’t light a match without friction. You need a rough surface to create that flame. It’s that friction and tension that takes the work that we already thought was good, to be so much better. To me the match strike is a perfect metaphor for Woodlot because Sonia and Fouad are always innovating. They never want to be stagnant or rest on their laurels. Rebuilding is a huge part of innovation and their process with Woodlot.

      WOODLOT packaging

      On Telling Woodlot’s Story

      Sonia and Fouad have such a great story, so the new packaging is influenced by their personal histories. That to me was the missing part from their branding and packaging—Sonia being Indian, and Fouad being from Lebanon—they both have such rich personal stories that so are ingrained in how they make their products. To not talk about it visually seemed like a disservice.

      Since I didn’t want to overshadow or disrespect the space the brand had already been living in, I didn’t include any patterning on the outside. Instead, I focused on creating a hybrid design to mix the Indian and Lebanese influences, on the inside of the box—which is also a reflection of how Sonia and Fouad built their business. The inspiration for how they were raised is there on the inside, just as that inspiration appears visually within the box.

      On the Power of Personal Artifacts

      Everyone has objects that mean something to them. Objects hold meaning, they tell stories. There a reason we find bizarre objects left hidden in tombs and pyramids from centuries ago: it’s because they meant something to people. They’re relics. When you’re getting to know people in a short period of time, you need to get them to open up. If you just straight-up ask people to answer questions, you’ll get the answers they’re used to telling—you won’t necessarily get something that will unlock the layers. I find it’s great to ask people about a sentimental object, because even if the object doesn’t outright inspire a later design, the conversation that comes from them talking about the object can be very influential.

      On Library Books

      I remember spending hours in the library. I’d beg the librarian to let me photocopy the private selection of books because I couldn’t take them out—the knowledge in those books was my golden inspiration. But now all you need to do is go to Pinterest and take a few screengrabs. We’re in this volume-creation mode. We’re creating so exponentially right now and exhausting ourselves. It’s kind of nuts to me. (laughs)

      On Tactility

      Years ago, when I made my first distress print, I literally opened up a photocopy machine and let the light flood in. Then I took the sheet of black, crumpled it, pulled it out, and did it again and again—I had toner all over my face, and on my shirt—then I flattened it, scanned it, traced it in Photoshop, and turned it into a vector so I could have the most authentic distress possible. Now you can buy ready-made vector distress online—but the difference is in the authenticity. People can tell when something has been touched by hand, and that resonates.

      WOODLOT candle

      On Package Design as Gift-Giving

      Materiality was so important to us: the tactility of how these boxes feel. I’ve always looked at packaging as gifts. I love picking out gifts for people, but I don’t think we give enough gifts to ourselves. Since we are consumers, we naturally buy things—so what better way to utilize the skill set of packaging, than to help people gift something to themselves?

      I look at a box as not just a vessel to protect—that is one function of it for sure, to keep the object safe—but how can we make the box look like a gift in a store, and then behave like a gift later on? Say you bought a candle for yourself because it looked interesting or pretty in the store. When you take it home and open it, you’re forced to have a moment with yourself: with the string tied around the washer, it’s a forced slowness. You can’t just rip it open and throw it away. Instead you start to feel the preciousness of the product, and your personal experience with it. As you open the white box there’s a build-up, and that surprise splash of colour inside offers a pleasant surge of delight.

      WOODLOT candles

      On “Unbranding”

      Sometimes unbranded refers to the logo, sometimes the packaging, sometimes the experience of the brand. So it depends on how we’re looking at it. It’s a catch-all term that can mean different things to different people. Typically unbranded is defined as stripped-down, with a simple minimalistic logo, and not a lot of text or colour. I’ve been designing for close to 15 years now, so it’s great to see the cycles and trends repeating. Once you’ve been around awhile, you realize that these “of the moment” trends have deeper roots.

      ...for Big Brands

      When you dig into the world of unbranded fashion, we see big brands stripping down their image, which serves a different purpose than it would for smaller brands and Makers. Selfridges has a sub-shop in their boutique called Quiet where they’ve taken big iconic brands and unbranded them. So you’ve got big brands like Nike without the swoosh and Levi’s without the arch—which amplifies the unbranded trend.

      Simpler designs that are less focused on the name of the brand and logo can be quite beautiful and enticing, but it’s working most effectively for capsule collections of big brands because they have the cachet of a known brand. A customer can look at the indigo denim so synonymous with 501 jean and know that it’s Levi’s. You can see a certain running shoe, and know it’s Nike. Big brands can afford to dip into the unbranded trend; whereas with makers who just started their own business it’s a different situation, because no one knows who they are yet. If you look like everyone else [by following the unbranded trend], how can you create awareness and stand out in a crowded marketplace? It’s important to distinguish between a carefully minimalist product range with a clear brand focus, and that of something so completely stripped down that it lacks memorability.

      ...for Makers

      There’s a lot of beauty, body care, and home brands that are stripped down and minimalist. Everyone is starting to look the same. [The unbranded design] is lacking memorability, and it’s very easy to replicate. So when there’s a lack of visual storytelling, who’s to say the next person can’t emulate it? It’s much harder to copy things that are deeper and personalized and an expression of the maker’s unique story.

      WOODLOT soap bars

      On Innovation

      [The market] is changing so quickly, and it’s only getting quicker and quicker. At first my heart pangs for all these makers, but then I think, no it’s okay. It forces the maker who’s doing their thing to move on to something new and different. One of my favourite things about makers is how ingenuity is ingrained in the way they think and behave. They’re constantly evolving, often because they don’t have an abundance of income or resources at their fingertips. One of my favourite sayings is: scarcity forces innovation. The lack of is what forces creativity: whether it’s a lack of money or materiality—that’s what forces the creativity.