Feature Friday #003 — Amanda Weedmark

Hey there, and welcome to Feature Friday #003, our series highlighting some of the incredible people on Cotton Bureau. You can find Amanda on Instagram, her website, or check out her entire Cotton Bureau portfolio.

Hey Amanda! How's it going? Looks like you're coming up on a year in your new home, are you happy with the move?

Hey Bethany! Life is good. I couldn't be happier with our new home on Vancouver Island. Not knowing much about the area before we moved (which was brave of us), we really lucked out. (Thank you Universe!) Not only is the town full of wonderful people, there's so much nature here and I really feel connected to the area. Life is slower, quieter, and more restful which is really inspiring new designs and even a new lifestyle.

I've been exploring new activities like spiritual circles & practices, volunteering with a forest society, spending even more time in nature (hiking, swimming, gardening), and just generally taking more time out to rest and turn my brain off - which I haven't done too much of in the last 5 years trying to build a business. So it's been a great change of pace and I'm really honored to have the privilege to be able to do that.

Aaah that sounds incredible, you paint such a relaxing picture of the area. That's awesome you've been able to create some time to disconnect a bit. I feel like sometimes that's exactly what's needed to inspire new ideas. Really sounds like the move was meant to be!

Is Kya enjoying the new digs? Being a floof on Vancouver Island must be the dream lol. I saw you guys had a close call with a doe recently. Any more animal encounters?

It does definitely feel meant to be 😊 And Kya LOVES it here. We go to the forest, rivers, and ocean more than we ever did back in the city. It's a little easier to do here - and less stressful to do so.

We have all kinds of nature encounters because of it too which has been such a pleasure.

Whether it's deer ripping through our campground, snacking on our lawn, or hidden in the shadows of the forest. Owls surprising you in a fly-by and nearly knocking you off your feet. Otters on the shorelines of the rivers. Fish spawning in the local river channels, Bunnies hopping by you on a trail. Bears happily snacking on fish during spawning season. And being in the company of so many eagles!

Magical stuff. It's so special to be so connected to nature and all her creatures - no matter how they decide to show up. I feel a little like Snow White sometimes 😅

Kya loves the animals too. Although she hasn't quite figured out that the deer aren't big dogs that she can play with. And her prey drive goes bonkers when it's spawning season or she see's a bunny. Definitely have to keep her in-check there or she'll have me exploring the pavement.

Definitely exciting to have such wonderful encounters - but it's also a little sad (since leaving the city) to see how much our human ways have really impacted wildlife habitats. I really hope this area can maintain its harmonious relationship with nature because it sure is amazing and an honor to be part of.

Sounds amazing, I can easily imagine why you and Kya love it so much. Also, thinking about seeing otters just makes me want to squeal so BRB while I plan a trip to Vancouver Island.

It's so neat to see how your art compliments the stories you share. Do you ever do any illustrating while you're out on your adventures? I imagine it would be so peaceful working in such a serene landscape but I definitely respect the need to just take a time out to enjoy your surroundings.

You definitely should come for a visit! It'll leave an impression for sure.

Nature is my sanctuary so I like to appreciate and spend some quality time with it when I'm out there. And I find it has so much to share & teach so I want to really be present with it to soak all that up.

The only time I might bring my sketchbook is when I'm going camping or will be away for an extended period of time. Because ideas do happen when you least expect it. And I don't like to wait days to get home to sketch those things out.

However, day-to-day nature walks, I tend to not bring much with me. A phone, for emergencies & recording cool stuff I see. On the rare occasion, I do like to record a story or two for Instagram to show people a little behind the scenes of where I live and the activities I indulge in for inspiration. But I mostly like to keep the phone in my pocket to fully unplug and immerse myself. Smell the smells. Listen to the birds. See what I can see. Even spend some moments meditating or walking barefoot on the trails. Then come home and sketch any ideas I get during that time.

Really cool. Sounds like a healthy work/life balance you have going on.

Can you tell me a little bit about the forest society you volunteer with? The respect you have for nature is really inspiring, I'd love to hear more about how you're leaving a positive impact with your volunteer work and art.

The forest society I signed to volunteer with, helps to protect and care for the Cumberland Forest. They do bat counts, toad migration protection, tree planting, fish rescue, and a number of other things I'm sure I'm missing.

Last week, we went to a creek bed that was drying up due to the extended hot, dry weather we've had and rescued fish fry that were living in the pools. They were released in a local lake, which is where they were trying to swim up to but got trapped. We saved almost 300 fish that will eventually make their way back to the rivers to spawn. Along the way came across some tree frogs, water beetles, wood peckers, eagles, all by being surrounded by old growth forest. Epic stuff! I'm learning a lot.

If I'm not volunteering my time, I like to donate to projects and organizations that I feel strongly about; The Raincoast Conservation, Canadian Parks & Wilderness, Comox Valley Land Trust, Cumberland Forest Society, Indian Residential School Survivors Society. While I don't technically do official fundraising with my business, I tend to assess what I can offer every quarter and donate what I can. This year has been challenging for that but I hope that turns around soon. I really want to do more.

Still trying to figure out how to better integrate this into my work without centering myself & not being too heavy-handed about the messaging. But I am slowing bringing that awareness factor in through my illustrations and collaborating with organizations to help them raise money for their efforts in these arenas. 8 Billion Trees is an organization I recently partnered with for this. Great people doing great work.

Hopefully by sharing my own stories & raising that awareness it inspires others to take action in their communities - whatever that looks like for them 😊 While one person can't change the world, I feel with small actions made by many, we can really make positive changes.

But that's just my unshakable optimism speaking 😃

That's really neat that there are people out there thinking up and planning ways to help all the little critters that need an extra hand. I can only imagine how eye opening these experiences are for everyone involved.

I absolutely think through sharing your stories and donating both your time and resources is creating a tremendous change not only in your area but also your online community. I'd be shocked if I'm the only person that is reading this wanting to put on some boots and go rescue the fishes.

Have you noticed your love of nature influencing your work at all? Has your style changed over the years? I believe I read on your website you've been a graphic designer for 20 years, that's so impressive. I'd love to see some of your earlier pieces compared to todays designs.

Oh yea, my love of nature & connection to it has informed & influenced my work. Having grown up on the Pacific Northwest, taking in everything on all my explorations outdoors, and my own personal advocacy for nature has woven its way into a number of designs in my catalogue. And I'm always trying to do my best when it comes to packaging the items I sell to ensure it's tree-free, reused material, recyclable, or not packaged at all. But, there's always more work to do there. I have had thoughts about not offering products at all eventually - but I'm not there yet.

Don't ask me about my old stuff - haha. It's pretty rough, sometimes even boring and ugly so I hesitate to even look back. Although it's kinda fun just to see how much my style has evolved and how I'd do things a little differently now. My work now has become more sure in spirit and clean in execution so am proud of the work I'm doing now. Even still, I'm always trying to level it up.

The graphic design work that made up the bulk of my career, was done under the umbrella of firms or businesses - a few freelance jobs. But it was a lot of ads, brochures, proposals, reports, and PowerPoint presentations *shudders* Again, a little boring 😝

Having said that though, it was foundational to my success now so I do value the experiences and what I learned in that industry. I also met people and friends along my journey that helped me get to where I am today, so I would never take it back.

I do feel I've left graphic design behind me, officially, though. Now, I'm focusing more on the artistic side of the fence; Storytelling through illustration & concept, some typography with a very healthy dollop of self-expression. Of course that's also graphic design, but in my experience, that artistic side was always a little challenging to bring to the forefront as a graphic designer. There are a few more rules and players in that game.

Being able to express my ideas freely through my own illustrations and business has been really rewarding and has allowed me to connect with people that value the same things, which make it even more rich. And I've actually just started taking on external illustration projects with like-minded businesses so I'm excited to see what comes of that. Always adapting and challenging myself so I'm sure 10 years from now, things will be different yet again 😊 Who knows, maybe I'll think of THIS as boring one day? Ha! How much more exciting can things get though? It's been pretty awesome.

sHaha a healthy dollop of self-expression, I love that. Joining forces with other businesses with shared passions sounds like it could be really gratifying. Looking forward to seeing what all that entails!

Packaging is such a project even without adding the extra challenge of making sure it's tree-tree, reused, or recycled. Any progress you've made there at all should be applauded.

I think that'll do it for our interview, Amanda! It's been so nice chatting with you and I'm so excited to follow along and see if things do get even more exciting for you in the next 10 years :)

Thanks so much for your time and the opportunity to chat and connect 😊