It’s been almost a year since I moved back here to Nova Scotia. Aside from leaving behind a dream job, and friends I adored in Toronto, I anticipated that the return home to Halifax after living away for almost five years would be pretty straightforward. I was convinced that packing up my tools and relocating my studio would be just like any other time I had moved while living in Toronto. It would take some time to reorganize, but I would manage to pick up right where I had left off, and in no time, would be back at my workbench. Sure, trekking all my tools back to the East Coast was not actually that complicated -but everything else was.
Over the past year, I have noticed a significant shift in my work. My attitude and approach to my work has also seen a major transformation. While part of my practice is very mobile, the influence of place on my practice is something I underestimated completely. Once I had unpacked and set up my new studio in Halifax, instead of picking up where I had left off in Toronto, I felt immobilized. I’ve always been a pretty sensitive individual, but I realized this sense of emotional paralysis was not unfounded. The supportive network I had become a part of in Toronto suddenly seemed very far away, and I felt isolated. The incessant bustle and buzz of my former “big city” surroundings were now a distant echo against the slower, quieter streets of Halifax. Somehow, even though I had come “home’, to the place I grew up, I felt out of place, and empty.
In the few years I had lived away, Halifax has changed significantly. There has been a huge boom in new businesses and residential developments. Getting re-acquainted with Halifax almost felt like exploring a new city. It was exciting, but also confusing. I had returned to a place that was familiar and strange at once.
The influence of the place I live on my art practice is not something I really ever considered in much depth until recently. It took many months for me to mentally grasp and make sense of my new surroundings -long after I had physically relocated. Looking back on the last year, I see making Halifax my home again as a shift in many parts of myself, rather than a letting go of my Toronto years. Some days have felt extremely challenging, but by being open to embrace a new lifestyle here in Halifax has allowed me to move forward.
I have received so much positive energy from individuals living here, and a newfound enthusiasm for taking pride in my community. There is an impressive drive towards entrepreneurship and small business development in Nova Scotia, and it has provided constant inspiration to me. This was the first year that I really started taking my jewellery work seriously, and treating it as a business that could generate income. It has been a big undertaking, but probably one of the most rewarding decisions I have made to date. The amount of support that exists here in Halifax for small businesses, and anything handmade is totally energizing. In many ways, I also believe it is somewhat progressive. So many young people are granted the opportunity to go out and start their own business, and the community is right there behind them rooting for their success. Every new small business venture seems to be viewed a positive asset and building block to revive some communities, and to make them thrive again.
Over the past year, I have also spent more time by the ocean than ever before. I can see a tiny sliver of the Halifax Harbour from my apartment window, and almost daily I run to a nearby park that looks out onto the ocean’s horizon. On weekends, I often venture to the beach, which is a mere 20 minute drive away. The ocean has become where I find solace, and where I find the greatest inspiration for my work. It translates quite clearly in every piece of jewellery I have designed this past year. I often wonder whether I would have still been inclined to design such graceful, flowing pieces if I had spent the past year somewhere else, although I sense not.
The people you surround yourself with, and the natural world you engage with- those will always be in flux, sometimes subtly, and sometimes in bigger, more impactful ways. Wherever you are, it is so important to be open-minded, and to make space in our minds and hearts to allow our surroundings to shift us, and speak through us in all we do.