“Our mission is to have dirt in our flip flops, a truck full of junk, colossal bursts of laughter, friends at our side and cocktails in hand.”
I have to say I had a pretty great childhood! I grew up on a cattle ranch west of Calgary, AB. We spent our summers in the mountains in Banff National Park as outfitters, guiding tourists from all over the world on horseback. We lived in tents and I was riding a horse before I was born! My mom was a stay at home mom and my dad was a well known western artist.
Some of my favourite memories as a child were spending Saturdays garage saleing with my mom, aunties and grandma, whipping the truck around if a garage sale sign was spotted. They taught me the value of a dollar and how to dicker for everything even if it was 50 cents, because you might get it for 25 cents. I quickly learned to see the potential in these garage sale finds under the layers of chippy paint or lack thereof. We had many laughs and ‘start the car’ adventures! To this day neither our family cabin nor our house have any new furniture and that’s what makes it so neat…every piece has a story. I love the character these pieces bring with them.
I have very fond memories of painting with my dad in his art studio. We were always encouraged to be creative, so it was only natural that my love of bargain hunting and painting eventually blossomed into a career. I have always loved teaching—when I was about 11, I taught my first workshop at Cochrane Ranch Provincial Park where I showed younger kids how to paint old cow bones into funny faces.
I love the ‘thrill of the hunt’ of finding that perfect old piece with all her chips and scratches and years of wear, and turning her into a beautiful, sought after piece, kind of like the ugly duckling story…she was always beautiful, you just couldn’t see it.
My amazing hubby Ronnie and I started our family very young—18 (yikes) and we needed to get to work paying bills and raising our family, so there was no time to be ‘creative’. I had many jobs over the years but nothing that really inspired me. Then one day a friend introduced me to chalk paint and that was it! I painted everything in sight...just ask my hubby! I felt that a spark had been re-ignited and there was no looking back. A couple of years later I took the leap and quit my day job to follow my passion full time. We turned my dad’s old art gallery into my own studio and I have it set up as a store and DIY teaching studio. Its a log cabin that my dad and uncles built about 30 years ago.
Like many young girls, in my youth I never thought I was pretty or capable. I was often shy, awkward and felt dismissed and overlooked. This process of refinishing furniture has been an ‘aha’ moment for me. I realized why I do what I do and why I love it so much. I, like that overlooked piece of furniture, needed a little help to show my true potential to the world. Much like the pieces I refinish, we have scars, dents, imperfections and beautiful curves, and that’s the beauty of what makes us us! I embrace those imperfections and showcase them in my work. I love sharing my passion with others through workshops and showcasing other artists through our Alberta Dames Vintage Shindigs.
I feel blessed to be raising our three beautiful, almost grown children on the same ranch land that I grew up on just north of Cochrane, AB. I can’t imagine not living where we do, where we get to wake up every morning looking at the Rocky Mountains. I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful family that supports me following my crazy dream. I hope that I have shown them to follow their dreams and do what they love. My dad always says, If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!”
I grew Up in a rough area of Winnipeg Manitoba and from a very young age I endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse, resulting in a loss of my power. In turn I learned to think outside the box and keep on my toes. I also quickly learned to be brave, strong and resilient in these formative years. I constantly questioned authority (and mostly still do, HaHa) and FEARLESS quickly became a strong trait for me. I continued to endure loss and traumas into my adult life, as I assumed this was the normal for everyone.
These experiences challenged me to want to live and heal my wounds. You would often find me experimenting with ways to heal through aura readings, tinctures, healers, counselling, meditation centres etc. I wanted to try it all. I always thought “this cannot be my life”, “I did not survive all that I have to not experience joy.” Then another blow, I again leaned on my resilient spirit and “out of the box” thinking to carry me through an intense medical journey with my three children. This journey included, severe allergies, cancer and kidney disease. Studying and researching through pages of medical journals, coming up with new approaches for treatments, and questioning doctors, were all part of the journey and I was blessed with an amazing team. I finally donated my kidney to my daughter saving her life and others on an organ transplant waiting list. We just made our medical problems our new normal. Not being able to return to my 9-5 job in nursing, my husband and I started building and flipping homes to secure an income for myself. Through a ton of trial (and even more error HaHa) I learned to design our homes from blueprints to décor. I loved the process of building, seeing each phase become finished. I was definitely fearless in decorating because luckily, if I didn’t like the way it turned out I could try again on the next house. Eeek, I did learn a lot in those 15 years, some great fun styles and some “Good Lord, what was I thinking” styles!
I knew I was always going to be living in a brand new home but I wanted the feeling and history of a well lived in home, I craved character. Just like life often felt, beat up, broken and forgotten, I started taking the same characteristics in furniture and re-creating them into stunning pieces. Highlighting the broken, chipped and distressed parts of each piece, but giving them a unique way to shine. There was always an abundance of forgotten furniture everywhere I looked; thrift stores, garage sales etc. Furniture soon made for a great canvas and an instant conversation starter. I wanted to be different, so I started writing on my pieces. I have all the report cards from school to prove I’ve always been a doodler, not so much good in art, but I loved to doodle. I taught myself various graphics transfer methods and then fell in love with typography. The French always had the most beautiful fonts and I loved writing them on my pieces. Why not have a totally unique, out of the box piece that looks like it came from far off European castle in your home? There is something nurturing to me about surrounding yourself with beautiful things. BAM, passion hit and the more I created the more empowered I became, and no one could take that from me. With every piece I created I filled my soul cup a little more. I found my power and Ava Blake Creations was born. The junk hunting and the thrill of the hunt began. I used to carry a mini crowbar and gloves in my car in case I drove up upon an abandoned barn and I had to have the windows!
A few years and lots of advanced artist training into Ava Blake Creations I began teaching women paint classes and awakening their creative power. I emphasised the “imperfections” were indeed the perfections in furniture and in life. I enjoy evoking passion in people. I definitely do not take a moment of this life for granted; I enjoy every single thing, every single flower, and every single laugh. I seek FUN. Life is never dull with my husband, 3 kids and 2 dogs. We still build and flip just at a slower pace. We are rarely idle, there is way too much life to be lived and we have to experience it all! “I love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life.”