the back forty

flow, nourish, cultivate and marinate, yoga with us and SWIM your fur babe on a little piece of heaven nestled just outside of fort langley beautiful british columbia canada

exhibitor spotlight


she’s just a radiant girl looking to tap into her inner chi of smithing, keeping it real

born in the greek heart of montreal, she’s her mothers daughter in learning the essence of her cultural cuisine by pure osmosis; while her beginnings of creativeness was found doodling in the corners of her schoolbooks, it was immediately put to a stop by traditional greek folks. luckily, taken up again thirty years later in the form of gold & silver on her own

interviewing myself wasn’t going to jive, so I asked my fellow exhibitors to shoot ME some questions and I’d go from there:

a little about your daily rituals

“my boys are my early bird alarms, they nudge me to get our bodies movin’ shakin’ and groovin’ out and about first thing. they are patient tho, because this yogismith goes no place without her morning stretches and her little espresso in hand, then I’m all theirs!”

walks in the woods.jpg

“I teach yoga daily, some times multiple times a day. while I consider it a spiritual form of art, I would say offering movement is my ‘job’ and my passion is goldsmithing, it must be the reason as to why I enjoy it and never complain about hammering precious metal to create beauty

I can only smith when my schedule is free from teaching, and I have to admit the best times are evenings. I’m talkin, 9pm and onward into the early mornings! I dedicate two days a week of not teaching at all and this affords me the opportunity to head into granville island where my lovely mentor Jurgen has a workshop of 30 years (forge & form) and teaches me a thing or two about his traditional style of goldsmithing”

what do you prefer, working at your studio in fort langley or granville island?

“granville island is a space where I am invigorated and generally take the seat of the student, when I’m in forge & form - I’m a sponge, there to learn and possibly meet potential customers too”

o at forge and form.jpg

“working in my home studio is my hub my sanctuary my zen with a killer ambiance, it’s where all my juices unravel and magic happens with no interruptions .. except the odd dog loving snuggles and espresso breaks!”


silver or gold?

“gold is to silver like butter is to margarine, there is no comparison. I cannot express enough the pleasure and comfort working with gold, the glow, the lush feeling, the way it responds, but most importantly the alchemy behind each alloy (dark yellow, red orange, green .. its all about the recipe!)”

“there is one exception to silver that helps me appreciate it in a broader and fun aspect, the act of traditional silversmithing; in this case for example taking one coin and forging it out to a bowl, no gym can replace this workout!”

if you were given a grant to go study your craft for a month anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

“I really like this question! my first instinct is goldsmithing in germany or silversmithing in sweden but its foolish to say that, as I have been gifted that rare opportunity here

Italia then! for two reasons, italians ooze passion and food is their fuel. coming from a mediterranean background it feels close to home, tossing love and passion with food into my work comes naturally, to immerse my senses into a life of a master italian goldsmith would be a dream”

what about your technique may differ you from others in your industry?

“although I admire the new tech world and what this industry has evolved in; I crave to stay in the true authentic form of goldsmithing by keeping it traditional with old world techniques just as jurgen has guided me. lets be honest I never began making jewellery this way, I learned it only years ago under his wings, and I vowed I would keep his legacy going and one day if the opportunity arises I would share my knowledge to someone that can appreciate the value in hand made. although these traditions are not lost, they are fading and I would like to keep them alive by passing them on”

is there a customer or a piece that stands out in because of how it resonated with them or felt for you?

“I am happy you asked this, I have two: personally for me learning to tension set a raw diamond was my extreme moment of accomplishment!”

diamond tension 2017.jpg

“however it comes very close to this year’s pivotal time in my craft. It was an exceptional honor to be asked by a dear friend to create a channel set pink sapphire/gold ring that marked a new chapter/journey in her life ♥ the sentiment of trust & love is not often experienced through a tangible item, it did for me and this feeling I cherish xo

unbeknownst to me, this is the piece that my mentor referred to me as his “die Gesellin” and in german it refers to an apprentice or journeyman in a trade .. although he’s not an educational establishment (school) to offer me this paper work, his genuine acceptance and claim from his heart is all that matters to me, I was blown out of this world with gratitude and happiness!”

What is your secret for balancing all the creative things you undertake?

“ha! my secret weapon is called bilic (that’s my dude, my rock) he has taught me the single most important element about living, and that is living well (aka happy)

putting all your eggs in one basket may be a detrimental avenue for me, ‘be careful what you wish for’ he reminds me. therefore multiple streams of revenue keeps my interests alive and curiosity flowing happily. hence yoga, goldsmithing, & pet hydrotherapy mingle well together

none have anything to do with each other, yet for some reason they all seem to blend into my world as if they were meant to be together, they complement each other

this all takes place at my home, my home is my heart and nothing beats a happy heart“

ok olympia .. beer, wine, scotch?

“haha! if you were talking to my 20 year old self, beer all the way and I could drink you under the table! now I’ve refined my tastes to ice water. but if I had to pick, I’d say 1/2 bottle of beer and I’m loaded!”

thank you for the love poured out from each of my goddess exhibitors, these several months have been a delight sharing your passion and your interest in me too! I appreciate the genuine love xo O

watch this space for more sharing love xo
(submit your name below if you don’t want to miss a beat!)

21999 96 avenue langley beautiful british columbia

exhibitor spotlight


where her secret ingredient is always love x

she’s an inspiring young woman that is full of positive energy and an abundance of love, her gift is her presence by simply walking into a room. it is rare to hear what someone wants, and knows exactly where they are and the direction they are heading. mandy can teach us all a thing or two about love, determination, forgiveness and pure joy

aromatherapy is a wonderful form of natural healing, and can serve many ailments. mandy creates a variety products to heal, relax, energize, or to simply indulge your senses. it is her true passion and brings her great joy to share the incredible benefits of aromatherapy in any way she can xo

“creating products in my home is both calming and chemistry.  It gives me a chance to connect with natural ingredients with love, knowing that they will be going to some lovely person to nourish their body and soul.  measuring ingredients, getting temperatures correct, combining raw and creating whole is an absolutely magical experience.  I am proud of and love what I do and what I create so my space is filled with exactly those vibes.”

what lead you down this soulful path of holistic healing?

“I have always had a natural aversion to nature, connecting with myself and personal connections with others.  I always had kind advice for anyone's woes and compassion.  I have been an intuitive empath all my life; sensitive to energies all my life.  this led me to having a natural touch and intuition for what a body needs, be it with aromatherapy or spa services.  the 'holistic method' incorporates mind, body and soul - treating the body as a whole to get to the root source of an issue. this is how I live my life in all things I do for myself and others”

the most magical experience you've encountered in helping someone?

“I've experienced a lot of magic in what I do.  it has been as little as the look of serenity and relief after a service, to as big as being the catalyst for a final end to night terrors.  it has been as amazing as replacing expensive skin or pain medications with natural products, or having the one soap that doesn't irritate and actually nourishes and moisturizes the skin of a very sensitive individual.  I think the most magic I've experienced was creating special supportive blends and doing massages for a client going through chemo, fighting a very aggressive cancer.  I got the absolute pleasure of witnessing the difference I can make in someone who can barely make it down stairs for a service, to someone who is out shining brightly, moseying about in the gardens the next day.  being the reason someone feels better is absolutely magical”

have you faced a challenge when blending a product to help a client?

“I've experienced many challenges creating products; it is always a learning process.  I try to help all aspects of a person's concerns, but sometimes creating a blend to help too many things all at once means it isn't strong enough to make a big difference in the biggest concern.  I've had entire batches of products fail because one ingredient doesn't combine properly; I've had soaps that don't cure quite right.  I've had many challenges and I appreciate them all because they are the chance for me to learn better and do better”

reiki vs massage, what’s your preference?

“reiki vs massage, well!  reiki is all about balancing energies within the body, and with balanced energy the body is able to do its best natural healing processes.  It brings the individual into a deep state of relaxation, similar to a deep meditation, whereas most people aren't able to get into that state on their own.  this gives the body the rest it needs to process and heal.  with massage, I am able to relax the physical body, working out what it is holding onto in terms of stress and tension, freeing up movement and allowing for relief, physical relaxation and the extra added benefits of customized aromatherapy massage oil.  I have absolute appreciation and admiration for them both”

who do you look up to in your industry that you either learned from or was inspired by?

“I look up to everyone in my industry.  every healer is unique in their practice, everyone has something special and unique in what they do.  I try to experience as many services from others as I can to better myself, and my own practice.  I also look up to my aromatherapy teacher, her knowledge is vast all throughout the field and she has so much experience, she is incredible.  she is always learning as new studies are done and as aromatherapy as a therapy advances.  I aim to never stop learning as well because of her and others in my industry who do the same”

ok my natural beauty .. are you a spaghetti or salad gal?

“I'm a salad gal! I was vegan for a few years so I've definitely consumed a lot of salad in my lifetime.  it grows on you (haha!) also, I don't process carbs well so pasta has never really been a very close friend of mine.  I appreciate it, but I just cannot really have it”

mandy my darling you make life a little sweeter being around you, you’re a bright ball in the sky in my eyes. I trust your love, wisdom and appreciate all you provide for our bodies! thank you for being a precious gentle soul xo o

watch this space for more sharing love xo
(submit your name below if you don’t want to miss a beat!)

21999 96 avenue langley beautiful british columbia

exhibitor spotlight


she’s a bright star in the world of art
she’s a dreamer, a believer and a an achiever. all this by expressing her gift thru the soul of a brush ..


upon meeting nikol you are intrigued with those lush green eyes, paired with a porcelain complexion, her poise is steady with a tranquil voice, she’s unique and I am delighted to have her in my life for many years, sharing memorable experiences, stories, laughter and art venues/platforms while we thrive off each other. to me she’s more than an talented artist, she’s a friend

born in the former Czechoslovakia, her family bravely left a world behind as they resettled in vancouver. although a challenging early life, nikol was immersed in art from the museums of Prague, she was continually exposed to fascinating subject matter as this provided further observation in her world of art

her studio is in her home. it’s a space of an artist that has created much love, it is raw and organized and genuinely authentic. paint accumulated in spaces, I imagine the walls of the ford mustang painting rooms where layers of ‘fordite’ is chiseled away, the stories behind each color, the subject, the creator

above all, she has the most captivating paintings on her own walls!
I swoon over her creations xo


give us a glance on how you start your day in the studio?

“it all begins with a cup of strong coffee, light incense, chant/meditate for a few then I turn on a special light that hangs below a white lace umbrella - such a habit - this means brushes at hand! usually I’ve planned the piece(s) I’ll create on the previous night.

music is on loud and I work! my music changes, starts slow with gentle indie or classical and amps up all the way to heavy rock or hip hop by the afternoon

the technical aspect can mean anything from priming panels, layering on a paint, sketching a virtual version on my iPad to prep design, researching a birds feet to varnishing a finished painting; industrial vapor mask, goggles and gloves, that’s when I feel super sexy, aka dork!”

big big bird.jpg

You have captured the essence of our mighty crow, their tendencies their happiness their grief .. what is it about this beautiful black beauty that has captivated you?

“that’s easy, they are survivors with urban sprawl. humans tend to wipe out most flora and fauna. crows are the first creatures to return often making use of discarded construction material. subconsciously it likely reminds me of my family immigrating to canada, and starting over with nothing. above all .. I find crows incredibly beautiful. their illuminated feathers playing in the hues of black silver and an array of colours are so beautiful, the patterns on their spread out wings are fascinating! they are also incredibly intelligent, which has been widely documented. I attempt to befriend them, sometimes successfully and converse with them. its incredibly satisfying. I feel I have to honour their spirit and beauty if I take liberty to paint them. someone stop me - can you tell I LOVE them deeply?”

Your most challenging magical piece you've painted?

“the hardest piece was a big one that combined graffiti and realism. its on a 48 x 96 inch panel - huge it barely fit into my garage!

there’s a heron on it walking toward a giant bloom. I found it difficult because I had to learn to paint with a brush eight times the size of my norman one, use buckets of paint instead of tubes and just move my whole body, I still have the painting and one day will let it go to the right home”


articulate your preference of Oil vs acrylic vs watercolor, canvas vs wood

“acrylic is the medium I’ve learned, tried and like others, but huge preference for acrylic because of its versatility. it’s a form of plastic, if you really boil it down, this lets me experiment with gels, applied material such as fabric or paper or wire etc. acrylic supports the experimenter in me.

wood! because the detail is pronounced and doesn’t sink into the weave of canvas, I also like the patterns of wood, sometimes leaving sections of it visible as it supports the design of the piece”


how do you prepare for exhibits?  are you nervous or have you mastered this?

“loads of hard working nights & weekends, I dedicate my painting around my kiddo’s busy schedule. nervous? yes and no, I’m used to the tickles in my belly before the opening but I’m also grateful I still get them because it means I care. the day it starts to feel ‘automatic’, I’ll hang up my brushes! I paint from my heart, so its important to me that people feel that. I always hope that my work will go to someone that is emotionally moved by the thought and effort in my paintings”

when requested a commission piece, how do you immerse yourself in the heart of the client?

“I have to feel a connection or I won’t take it on. I usually base it on a long conversation, preferably I invite them to tea, and lead them through a meditation

I plan to dive into this in 2019 in offering a new service of extremely personal custom works because I enjoy digging in to others’ emotions”

OK nikol, give it up .. are you a pizza or burgers kinda gal?

“c’mon! burgers all the way! preferably lamb” :)

nikol there is something fascinating I learn about you each time we connect, and while I am continually inspired by your talent, I’m equally happy to share every bit of this love with the world!
thank you so much for giving us meaningful expression that resonate in our hearts, lives and walls xo o

watch this space for more sharing love xo
(submit your name below if you don’t want to miss a beat!)

21999 96 avenue langley beautiful british columbia

exhibitor spotlight


at the age of eight friederike (fredi) rahn first touched clay; that was the beginning of the rest of her life

born in Harlow, England. she studied ceramics at Sheridan College (ontario) and at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. since 1990, she has maintained an active studio practice in Vancouver

fredi has participated in artists’ residencies at Watershed, Maine, the Archie Bray Foundation, Montana, and was a participant in the Mexico / Canada ceramics exchange in Puebla, Mexico and the Banff Centre

while her work is exhibited across Canada and the United States, she is a devoted teacher at the Shadbolt Center for the Arts (burnaby), Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (vancouver), KPU (surrey) and Place des Arts (coquitlam)


I felt a strong sense of magic as I walked up to fredi’s sweetest pottery studio nestled in her east vancouver back yard. in fact I felt like I belonged here. my bones were at ease, my heart was full and I quickly realized why .. I entered a space that love exists. and today I witnessed plenty of that love with delightful throwing, detailing, trimming and handle making .. and in the midst of it all was hours of conversation weaved in like we’ve known each other for many years, we delved in deep .. although I came across as if I were a kid in a candy store, fredi’s admirable presence ground me

her demeanor is calm, her embrace is warm and with a hot cup of earl grey we looked upon all her earthenware ensemble drying and finished in her studio ready for her upcoming holiday shows. I was surrounded by so much love I couldn’t decide which of the eighty pieces might come home with me! how can I possibly ask all my questions and remain focused? we managed to sprinkle giggles in amongst all the educational chitchat .. (constantly losing sight of my tea in amongst the cups scattered throughout her studio) all in all we had an incredibly lovely time xo

a little about your daily rituals

“being in my space uplifts my mood, I love being in my studio! I have to confess that each studio day begins with some sort of major tidy-up; it’s quite a tiny space and the pots fill it up rather quickly! my time here is precious, as I work at a variety of outside jobs, but I can be remarkably efficient with a portion of an hour before work, and often stay up a bit past my bedtime when I get into a creative flow

ceramics is so time sensitive, having the studio just steps from my back door makes for some ease with nurturing pieces through their construction, drying and firing. when I have the gift of a few whole days in the studio, I’m often working towards a particular firing, so I think about a collection of work as it might be affected by the unpredictability of the kiln. there is a dance between control and letting go, and I love the back and forth between repetition/production of familiar objects and the push and risk of trying something completely different”

is there a signature piece you have mastered?

“I have an ongoing love affair with pitchers. to me, they are such a graceful feminine form. pulling up tall narrow forms in porcelain is really challenging, I want these pieces to float when you pick them up, so that they feel strong and substantial when they are filled with liquid. finding the right curve of the belly, thrust of the spout, and attaching a handle that flows out of those curves and feels perfect in the hand – that’s a lot of design! and then there’s the blank canvas of surface; I love to play with pattern and texture. at first glance these pieces are quiet, but there’s a depth that you discover when you live with the work”

a trademark about your pieces?

“pattern. when the freshly thrown forms have set up a bit, I pull out my collection of clay stamps. I love to look at textiles and tile patterns, and translate those 2-d patterns onto the 3 dimensional form. pressing stamps into the soft clay also has the effect of creating a subtle dimpled surface, which the translucent porcelain highlights”

your inspiration, your drive for the beautiful pottery you build?

“food! everything I make is either for serving or storing food (or flowers). I enjoy spending time in my kitchen and getting into that flow of making stock, sauces and preserves and thinking about dinners .. part of the joy of that is serving or eating off these beautiful handmade pieces”

who is your mentor?

“my professor, Walter Ostrom from NSCAD, was so enthusiastic about pottery, he was a passionate thinker about things that you use and things that you interact with, and that it was affirming that making pots has a real content in peoples lives. something he said still sticks with me – “art is about life, but craft is life”

is there something that you would like all of us to know about your work that differs you from the rest?

“that’s a tricky question; I truly believe myself to be a part of a community that exists not just in the present moment, but through history. I work in a medium that is steeped in tradition, and I work with familiar forms, and try to find my unique voice within that tradition. so I would say there’s a playfulness, a subtle colour palette, a striving for elegance in the forms, and pieces that reveal themselves fully through touch and use”

fredi, let's get personal .. are you a pie or cake kind of gal?

“the most important question – why pie of course (or galettes or tarts)”

thank you for your warm embrace fredi, not only are you a gifted potter, but your authenticity shines while sharing your craft and knowledge with your community. such a delight to have spent time with you! xo O

watch this space for more sharing love xo
(submit your name below if you don’t want to miss a beat!)

21999 96 avenue langley beautiful british columbia

exhibitor spotlight


designs began in 2011 as a collaboration between claudia krieger and monique ouellette, together they created the style and brand affectionately known as ‘t.o.g.’

in january 2018 claudia followed an impulse to pursue other creative avenues, leaving trace of grey designs in the hands of monique

monique has happily stepped onto this new path and follows with curiosity where t.o.g is going. monique would easily say that claudia’s inspiring presence continues to be woven into every piece she creates

aside from the fact that she is bang on one of the most creative bursts of wise love and energy, her wearable art is truly exceptional with a slice of boho and a sweet dose of authenticity, of which I find I am allured to every single moment I step into her eclectic studio space

I had the pleasure to dig a little deeper with monique, mesmerized by her leather surrounding me I managed to stay focused to all she had to share:

travel us thru a day in your studio

I love coming to work ... let's begin with that!

my day in the t.o.g. studio always starts with a time of stillness, setting my intention and entrusting the flow of the day to my inner guidance. I have a most comfortable chair in a cozy corner of the studio that is perfect for this time. without a doubt this is the most important part of my day, it grounds me and sets the stage for what is to follow

then I decide what I will work on/create. typically I have a running list of custom orders ... if those are all up to date and complete then I am free to simply ask myself what it is that I want to make for my own stock

this is where I follow my intuition and heart. some days I feel like starting a large piece, like a messenger bag, a tote, or a brand new design that has several components and potential details. a project like this can easily take 2 days to complete, it requires long moments of just staring at a piece of leather, asking for inspiration to come, envisioning something in my mind and then beginning

other days I want the satisfaction of creating something small, like cuffs or key chains, so I can see the finished result several times in the day. regardless of what I choose, small or large, I pour as much thought and detail into each piece. therefore, no matter what I make, it is enjoyable!

whatever time I wrap up at the end of the day, it works best for me to put things away, organize my work area and make it entirely fresh for the next day. I love entering a beautiful space that is ordered and harmonious, it definitely affects my creative flow in a positive way

one last thing about my day that completes it, the t.o.g studio is set up like a gallery, where all my finished goods surround my work space, I am delighted when the day includes customers coming in to shop for their perfect t.o.g piece

how long have you worked with leather?
(and although I can't imagine you doing anything else, what on earth did you do prior to this?)

when it comes to my life path, I have always let my heart guide me, which in turn has given me so many rich and fabulous experiences. I officially started to work with leather in 2011 but the desire to design and create beautiful things was alive in me since as far back as I can remember, I simply had no idea what platform it would take

I have a deep love and curiosity for learning, so the years leading up to 2011 were filled with studying both locally and abroad, travelling and doing volunteer work in various parts of the world

I also have a love for the hospitality and food/service industry, so in and out of all my adventures, I gathered about 20 years of experience working as a server in both casual and fine dining restaurants

what is important to you about where you source your leather?

99% of what I use is cowhide and I seem to prefer the leathers that come from south america, italy, canada and the states. I love oil tanned leathers because they wear so well and just feel good to touch. I love natural vegetable tanned leather because of the way it naturally darkens over time and I can hand dye it as well as distress it very easily

I can tell almost instantly just by looking at a hide of leather, if it appeals to me

I choose each hide I purchase, one at a time. I look at the edges, I look for interesting brand marks, essentially I am looking for the characteristics of the animal to shine through because I am offered the opportunity to turn what remains into something beautiful

because I do not line my pieces, I use a slightly thicker leather that has to be full grain (meaning the leather has not been split) and the underside needs to look as nice as the outside. I prefer the earthy coloured leathers that have the least amount of 'finish' added to them and want to be able to feel the natural qualities of the hide

would you share with us the most magical heart warming or challenging piece you've made?

this is a great question! I am currently in the midst of such a 'project' now, a custom order that I received a couple of months ago. a lovely woman brought to me the leather from 8 chairs she and her siblings and parents grew up sitting on around their kitchen table. the leather is gorgeous and filled with the markings of many, many stories to tell. I have the honour of turning these 'leather stories' into 6 bags that will be given as gifts to the other siblings. it is amazing to me that my own designs and hands get to be a apart of such a rich family legacy

is there someone in your trade that either you learned from or was inspired by?

without question this person is claudia krieger. she introduced me to the world of designing and hand stitching leather goods. she was the creative doorway I had been looking for. her amazing eye for style, beauty, detail and the ability to teach what came naturally to her was just what i needed to find the craft within myself

and another remarkable woman who's legacy continues to inspire me is barbara shaum, she passed away in 2015

for 54 years in a tiny work space in new york city, she was committed to designing and producing, custom leather sandals, one at a time, all by hand

she became a great success but never strayed from her humble methods or her philosophy of quality over quantity. she would freely teach others what she knew how to do, realizing her talent was meant to be shared and in her mind she was not in competition with anyone

is there something that you would like all of us to know about your work that differs you from the rest?

every piece is truly one of a kind, down to the smallest detail. each piece of leather is chosen with love, intention and a vision for what it will become. I know that whatever I am creating is for a specific and beautiful 'someone'. I already have them in mind, even though I have not yet met them

the ideas and inspiration come to me as I am going along. the slowness of hand stitching allows for this mindful space and I often realize I am being 'guided' as I go

this is why I choose to sell the t.o.g pieces myself, because each one tells a story. the pleasure in watching that certain 'someone' connect with a creation that was made for them, is honestly the most satisfying part of what i get to do

ok monique, let's get personal .. chocolate, strawberry or vanilla?

chocolate, dark chocolate! mmmm!

thank you monique for being a gracious host, it's been a delight having a first hand in depth exposure of the creative genius behind your traditional hand sewn creations! xo O

watch this space for more sharing love xo
(submit your name below if you don’t want to miss a beat!)

21999 96 avenue langley beautiful british columbia

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