What would you have done, if you were me?
When life gives you lemons, you:
A. Throw them right back at the jerk
B. Groan at the cliché
C. Make yourself a gin & tonic, just subbing the lime
D. Think to yourself, "Dang, someone just gave me all these free lemons! I know what I'll do that's a tonne of extra work!" You grab a few boards, a hammer & nails, buy some jugs, a juicer, get a city permit, haul your butt out to the sidewalk, build yourself a lemonade stand, make a facebook page, invite everyone you know and finally you make some actual lemonade and sell it for $5 a glass.....
I'm sure most people would choose A, B, or C. I mean, why go through all the hassle of hitting your thumb with the hammer, and trying to squeeze that citrus.
That stuff stings when it hits you in the eye.
I chose D.
You see, on this day five years ago, I opened the doors of Mezari Atelier & Boutique for the first time.
It's been a beautiful adventure so far, yet I'd be remiss to skip over the rough bits.
During the months leading up to the opening I felt a bit like Rumpelstiltskin. I was staring at a barn full of hay and hoping to spin it into gold by morning. Call it hay, call it a pile of lemons...some transformation was in order.
The storefront before it got its coat of white paint:
aaaaand the interior. Oof.
You see, just a few months before, my dad passed away after a long hard battle with cancer. The day of his funeral, I found out my previous studio space was closing. Silkscreen studios are quite uncommon, and access to the equipment was the key to the work that I was making. I'd just launched my website, and sold my first few batches of tea towels and wallpaper rolls.
Rather than fall into a depression, I knew I had to stay busy, to gather some momentum and keep moving forward.
I was afraid of what would happen if I stopped. I was afraid that I might never get out of bed, you know? Everyone handles grief differently, but this was my way.
You see, I could either:
A. Allow the equipment to be thrown out on the street and just walk away
B. Whine and complain
C. Sell the equipment
D. Think to myself, " Dang, someone just gave me all this free screenprinting equipment! I know what I can do that's a tonne of extra work!" I got some plywood, gathered up my tools plus rented and borrowed some, got a city permit, found a commercial space, painted it, plumbed it, set up all the screenprinting equipment, made a facebook page, and then invited everyone I knew to my studio boutique opening!
Yup, I chose D again.
It pushed me to dig deep within to find untapped strength and resources, to believe in the work that I was making, and to learn how to ask for help! The equipment and furniture and everything was in a dusty heap in the centre of the new space.
But week by week, I chipped away and started to see my vision take shape.
The storefront after a little TLC:
My first Toile de Ville display
and the front window, with beadwork by Brooke Deer
I didn't have much money. I didn't feel like I was necessarily in a position to open a store. I wasn't sure I even saw myself that way. But when I started to really evaluate my resources, I had more than I realized right under my fingertips.
I had a 10k line of credit, and a lot of hustle. I had a really great wallpaper design ( the Toile de Ville!) that was already getting recognized by interior designers and a certain amount of press. I had a lot of creative friends who were happy to show up with their artwork for the opening, and we all promoted each other.
Here I am at SIDIM (Salon International de Design d'Interieur de Montréal) with the Toile de Ville, May 2017. Just two months before the store opened.
One of my sweetest memories looking back is how many people were so kind and generous, helping me get started. I'm so deeply grateful for that. Like for real. It makes me cry.
Here are some people who I'll always remember for their help:
Donna and Frank McComber, for giving me their stainless steel sink and lending me their truck.
Claudia Burneo, for helping me scrape the glue off the sink and also paint the exterior of the store
Nick McMahon and Finn McConnell, for helping me paint inside and out.
Ian McConnell for teaching me how to plumb a sink!
Brian and Zach Goodleaf, for lending me your truck a million times, enlisting Peter Philips to help me move, and giving me your power tools. Omg I used that sawhorse & circle saw in the alley so many times!
Sharon Iplunshu for the Home Depot runs and generally stepping in for moral support.
Maya Cardin, for going with me on a whim in a UHaul one day to go pick up those insanely heavy flat files and screenprinting squeegees from that random ass place in Ville St. Laurent, and lugging them into the space with me.
Gil from Ebeniste wood rings who helped me build the washout booth for the screens.
Lucas Huang who gave me so many screens for free.
Au Deuxieme studio who gave the rest of the screenprinting equipment.
Daniel Rowe for holding down the fort and giving much moral support.
I'm so happy and grateful to be here today, through the pandemic, and loss, and all. I'm forever fine-tuning my ability to turn straw into gold, and I continue to be blown away by the PEOPLE this place has brought into my life.
Thank you for being one of them! I hope that my work helps your home to feel more like you, to bring you a bit of light & comfort in those dark moments, and to know that no matter how hard things get, we can always find a way to see the lemonade- to work with what we have right in front of us. This is a lesson I come back to over and over again. What beauty, what materials, what resources do I have right in front of me that I can work with today?
As Johnathan Larson said.... there's only us. There's only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way. No day but today.
Sandra Rowe said:
Sadly Steph, I would have chosen the gin & tonic option (using only the greatest gin of all, Ampersand, and hoping the lemon was an Amalfi one of course) but I’m very happy you chose D at each and every roadblock. You have an amazing talent and I congratulate you on your 5th anniversary. We’ll done!
October 06, 2022
I can hardly believe it’s been over six years since we sat in that café in Chicago & you told me about the possibility of starting your own shop, and now here you are!!! I still read every one of your newsletters, love to see Mezari thriving— here’s to another five years!
October 06, 2022