Inside my experience at The Atelier 2019
My goal at the beginning of 2019 was to ‘just go for it’, and as my mom would say I made a plan then made it happen. In January I started reaching out to people with new ideas in an effort to expand and experiment, to my surprise it was well received, especially with the lovely ladies at The Atelier.
So where do I begin? I’ll break this down into a few sections because that’s how my brain works:
· How I got involved with The Atelier
· What I made / helped design
· My experience as an attendee
· Meeting Jillian Harris and her team
· My dress
How I Got Involved
Many people have asked how I got involved with such a well-respected and growing event, and let me tell you, it’s still so surreal. As I mentioned earlier, my goal for 2019 was to ‘just go for it’, so I drafted up an email to Ang and Taryn (The Atelier co-founders), and clicked send without second-guessing myself.
After attending the event last summer, grand ideas were floating around in my head to help elevate the overall Atelier experience. The wedding and event industry is so heavily dependent on a strong visual experience, so my goal was to pitch ideas that would wow the attendees. I put a proposal together featuring some things I knew I could nail, like an “Instagrammable moment” aka a large-scale backdrop for people to take photos in front of, as well as the stage backdrop the panelists would be sitting in front of. I heard back from the ladies shortly after with extremely positive thoughts, they wanted me on board as an official brand partner!
So for the months leading up to the event we dialed the ideas in and brought it all to life. I’m still pinching myself.
What I Made / Helped Design
We went back and forth about the items I would have a hand in designing. There were lots of things to consider before dreaming up the artwork such as size, weather, functionality, logistics, etc. I was mindful with my suggestions because typically the projects I work on are very small such as wedding stationery, I don’t have much experience designing large-scale items, let alone install them. We came up with a plan and landed on the following:
· ‘Instagrammable moment’ – aka the 8x8ft floral backdrop you saw when you first walked in, featuring the quote “Everything you can imagine is real”. I teamed up with a print shop I work closely with; JB Print Solutions. They taught me everything I needed to know about installing something that big, and made sure my original floral painting would transfer well. And yes, you guessed it- I painted the flowers on a small piece of watercolour paper, scanned them, then vectorized them so the quality of the work wasn’t compromised when blown up.
The day before The Atelier event was set-up day, so my parents (my #1 fans) and I hauled a big trailer from their place to Toronto and got to work. For those who don’t know, my dad is the handiest guy on the planet. He has a big wood shop, taught me everything I know about wood working, and can fix anything. My mum is also very handy- she can find solutions to anything and is the perfect compliment to dad. They helped me install the Instagram backdrop, and I was so happy to share some behind the scenes stuff with them. After all, it really does come down to my parents and all their constant support. If you’re reading this Mum and Dad, I love you guys!
· Stage backdrop – 750 sets of eyes would be looking at the stage all day, listening contently to the impressive lineup of speakers, I knew I had to crush this. My original idea was to have layered panels behind the speakers so it added dimension and depth. The main focus would be The Atelier branding with some complimenting visuals, but kept fairly simple overall to let the panelists shine. After our initial conversations I learned the fabulous Rachel Clingen was coming on as an event design sponsor, so I would have the absolute pleasure of teaming up with her on creating the stage. Rachel’s vision combined with mine was a match made in heaven. Her florals, my pattern design, OMG it was beautiful. When I walked into the space the morning of the event, I instantly got goosebumps and *maybe* my eyes welled up for a hot second.
· Jillian Harris backdrop – The VIP members were given the opportunity to meet and greet with Jillian Harris after the event. Because there would be tons of photos I was brought on board to help design the backdrop. It followed suit with the rest of the visuals from the day, pink and bold and proudly displaying Rachel Clingen, The Atelier, and Jillian Harris branding.
· Swag bags – Ang and Taryn were excited to incorporate my calligraphy, and they had an overall theme of ‘limitless’ for the day. So with the help of Snugglebugz (bag provider) we created the most epic swag bag design ever. I mean, these were no ordinary bags- they’re made from jute, environmentally friendly, MASSIVE, and reusable. Not to mention they featured my calligraphy ;)
· Menu displays – If you were at the event you know how delicious the meals were throughout the day, there were tons of options and they were all displayed by way of acrylic signs hanging over each station. I worked with Ang and Taryn, along with all the food brand partners to design menus that displayed the food options, while allowing the original features of The Brickworks to shine.
My Experience As An Attendee
I’m the first one to buddy-up at an event like this. Maybe my introverted self prefers to be with people so I don’t look like a loner? Whatever the case I kicked that to the curb this year. I woke up at 4am, got ready, fought Toronto traffic, and arrived confidently alone. I had the honour of sitting at the VIP table for a sweet view of the panelists, and chatted with the wonderful women around me. We talked about what they do, what they were hoping to gain from the day, where they came from, etc. It was such a delight.
Listening to the panelists was eye-opening. I soaked in as much as I could, even if I felt it didn’t relate to me or my business. My favourite takeaways are:
· “You have to be the most profound fruition of yourself in order to cultivate grit.”
· “Lead with love, always” – Coach Carey
· “When we have authority over our bodies we become our own self advocate.” – Sarah Nicole
· “Understand who, why, and what your greatest influences are.” – Coach Carey
· “You don’t get to self-express if you’re trying to express someone else.” – Sarah Nicole
· “Wealth is not about being rich, it’s about having a rich life” – Melissa Leong
· “If nothing else, save a minimum of 10% and forget about it” – Sandra Grahame
· “Even if your team is small, create formal policies and stick to them to ensure everyone is on the same page” – Mindy Crawford, Team Jilly
· “You have to believe in what you’re supporting, otherwise it’s a dishonest partnership.” – Team Jilly
Besides learning all the things I sampled delicious food, took photos in front of my backdrop, shopped around the marketplace, used the free stuff in the bathrooms (something else I wouldn’t normally do), and had meaningful conversations with the panelists floating around. I also had the pleasure of running into people I know from the Ottawa Valley, ladies I went to university with, and even friends I’ve made on Instagram.
Meeting Jillian Harris And Her Team
As I’m sure it is with many of you, Jillian Harris feels like a close friend. She inspires us daily with fashion, home, and sustainable living advice, all while being an honest and kind human. As much as I appreciate her lifestyle tips and tricks, a big part of me is interested in the way she runs her business, as well as the roles her team members play.
Earlier this year I had the insane honour of working with the Jillian Harris team alongside Mamas for Mamas to create some really special stationery for their annual charity lunch. After the event I sent the whole team some paintings as a thank you, and Jilly so kindly shared them on her Instagram (which basically changed my business overnight, you guys probably remember my public freakout on Instagram stories). So to say the least, I was really looking forward to seeing and learning from this powerhouse team in person. And I won’t lie, I was curious to know if they remembered me amongst the sea of people they work with daily (haha).
Being a VIP member at The Atelier, I was given the opportunity to meet Jilly and her team once the event was over. I stood in line like everyone else for my turn to chat and I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous! I felt a bit starstruck and I didn’t want to come across as unprofessional or too fan girly LOL. When it was my turn a calmness came over me and I reminded myself of my 2019 goal- just go for it. I mean, she’s only human right??!. As I walked up to her she gasped and said she loved my dress, this made me laugh and I’ll explain why later. First and foremost I wanted her to know how thankful I was (and still am!). I reminded her of the paintings and of the Mamas for Mamas stationery, she remembered instantly. She proceeded to tell me stories about her grandmother and how she loved to paint with watercolours, I could have talked to her all day! It felt like I was up there for a while and apparently the security guard thought so too. He broke up our conversation and told me to move along (laughing out loud just thinking about this). I wanted to tell him that this was my moment but I bit my tongue because I knew so many other women were waiting in line to chat with Jilly as well. I gave her a hug, smiled for a photo, and went on my way. Such an amazing experience!
Okay you guys must know something- I am NOT a fashionista. I like a good sale, and I know my strengths (not clothes). I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal and although I do enjoy dressing up I’m no Jessica Mulroney. Despite all of that, I knew I didn’t want to blend in. I knew there would be a lot of floral patterns and that the Emma Knudsen dress would be everywhere (both beautiful options but I wanted to be different!) Something else you guys should know- I live in the Ottawa Valley. There’s very very limited shopping options here. The week before The Atelier I was just finishing up a workout and suggested to my friend Danielle that we run into Winners in attempt to find something to wear. Danielle spotted a pretty cream-coloured dress and threw it in my cart, she said “just try it on!” It wasn’t something I would normally pick up, and it happened to be plus size (I wear a size 6-8). My sweaty self put the dress on and jokingly pranced around the change room, Danielle said “wait a second I actually really like this”. The rest is history.
Before the event I had mum sew the gaps between the buttons, threw on some thigh-savers, tossed my hair in a messy pony, and off I went.
At first I thought people were just being nice because literally every single conversation I had (including the one with Jilly) started with “OMG I love your dress so much!” Everyone wanted to know where it was from, and I still get questions about it, it’s from the plus size section at Winners; just go for it (haha!).
Thank you again to Ang and Taryn from The Atelier for giving me this incredible opportunity. See you next year <3
Photos: Philosophy Studios, and my iPhone ;)