Copy of dark-largeDEFINE is a collaboration between a photographer (Lance Kenneth Blakney), a clothing company (Wear Your Label), and a surface designer (Dee Wilkie – The Art Project) who all have one thing in common – They want to end the stigma and start the conversation around mental health by showing a raw and personal side to the struggles of real people.

Role Models were cast from across Eastern Canada; from Toronto to Fredericton to Halifax. From over 200 submissions we narrowed it down to one brave person to represent each of the nine categories.

What was the Art Projects’ role in DEFINE?  WYL has something called the bracelet project which unites fighters, survivors, and supporters.  Each colour symbolizes a different mental health challenge, and 10% of profits help fund their giving initiatives. Dee hand dyed silk in coordinating colours, and then helped style the silk in ways that demonstrate the feelings surrounding different mental health struggles.

After months of planning, interviewing, and shooting, here is the final result.




GLUTTONY – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model: Jessica Hughes Hair: Mike Drost MUA: Billy Peterson Fashion Design: Aly Keeley Silk Surface Design: Dee Wilkie
LUST – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model: Kayley Reed Hair: Michael Drost MUA: Billy Peterson Fashion Design: Michelle Duncan Surface Design: Dee Wilkie
ENVY – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model: Sophie H-L Fashion Design: Michelle Duncan Hair: Michael Drost MUA: Billy Peterson Surface Design: Dee Wilkie
WRATH – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model: Gillian Glover Fibre Artist: Aly Keeley Hair: Michael Drost MUA: Billy Peterson Silk Surface Design: Dee Wilkie
SLOTH – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model: Athenais Testi Hair: Michael Drost Fashion Design: Adrienne Goodine Surface Design: Dee Wilkie
GREED – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model: Jake Clark Hair/MUA: Billy Peterson Surface Design: Dee Wilkie
PRIDE – Photography: Lance Kenneth Blakney Model/Fashion Designer: Bronwen Robbins Hair/MUA: Billy Peterson Surface Design: Dee Wilkie

“SEVEN” was an idea I came up with almost a year ago when, one night, I started to get really envious of other people who were making their dreams come true and really “making it” in terms of their craft.  I didn’t just want to sit in my living room feeling jealous, so I decided I would make a piece on jealousy and envy as a productive outlet. Then I started getting more and more ideas and thought, “hey, why don’t I do a series on the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed)!?” I messaged one of my favourite local Photographers, Lance Kenneth Blakney, right away and told him about my idea. He was totally onboard and as enthusiastic as I was.

Of course I couldn’t do a project this scale on my own 😉  So I recruited a group of local fashion designers, hair stylists,makeup artists and models (read more about them here).  We did a professional full grade photoshoot for each look (the process stretched out over five months) and then finished it off with a gallery showing at the George Fry Gallery and a feature on CBC!

“Turn lemons into lemonade.”





It’s funny how multiple people can get the same idea at once.  When this happens, I take it as a sign that we (the artists) are on track…whatever that means.  It feels, to me, like we are tapping in to something that is meant to be, something that is greater than us.   Wow! I have never sounded more like a hippy in all my life.

Anyway, back to the story.  Photographer, Lance Kenneth Blakney (who I have worked with before and hugely admire), and I sat at READS Coffee Shop talking about collaborations we were working on together and all things art related  (gosh I love those caffeine induced talks).  During this conversation, one of us (I am not sure who brought it up first) started talking about a photoshoot idea we had in mind that would portray mental illness and how it felt to have mental illness.  The other one was like “omg, I have had the same idea!”  We also had a similar idea of how we wanted the photos to look, not just the concept.

Since we have an AMAZING resource in Fredericton, whose main goal is to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, we immediately thought to contact Wear Your Label and bring them in on this idea.  Lance and I got in touch with Kayley Reed (co-founder of WYL) and she was immediately on board with the idea.

So here is where we are at so far with the project we are calling DEFINE:

Wear Your Label posted a casting call for “role models.”  We were looking for people who have suffered from mental illness who are willing to share their story and help end the stigma.  Last Friday night, Lance, Kayley, Addie Van Rijn (a WYL intern) and I, met to go over the near 100 APPLICANTS WHO APPLIED!! Thank you so much to everyone who was courageous enough to share their stories.

Addie read us story after story out loud in Kayley’s kitchen. It was super impactful for all of us to hear.  Something about reading all of the stories, one after another, really struck me. I still don’t know how to put into words exactly what it was that I felt…but it was meaningful.  Sometimes, after Addie read a story, Kayley would quietly thank that person (out loud) by name. Whether it was to herself or to the universe, I am not really sure. Either way it was beautiful and I felt like the applicants were there with us.

I will keep you posted on where we are at with DEFINE along the way. I encourage you to check out the WYL website and their story in the mean time. ALSO: WE ARE STILL TAKING APPLICATIONS FOR: Schizophrenia, PTSD, and Addictions.

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” – Bill Clinton





Sometimes The Answer Is “No”.

You know when people say, “the worst they can say is no” and they mean it to be encouraging and motivating?  Like, “go get it!  The worst they can say is no!”  I think sometimes as artists we don’t ask for things for that very reason.  Hearing “no” can often mean that an idea or project is over.  That idea that you have spent so much time thinking about, so much energy invested in, could potentially never see the light of day. The thought of hearing “no” is terrifying.  It’s like someone saying, “they worst they can say is their going to punch you in the face.” Ok that might be a bit extreme, but seriously, that is what it feels like.  Failure, feels like someone punched you in the face.

HOWEVER, as annoying as it is sometimes to be motivated by someone when you are feeling down, I will say this.  As hard as it is to let go of an idea, or hear that the answer is, and always will be “no”, remember this.  If you are a creative person, another fabulous idea is always waiting for you just around the corner.  Your first, second, or third idea might not face reality, but another one will.  Keep trying.  Keep pushing.  Keep asking.  If you hear “no”, think of your next great idea and see if that one will work.  Eventually one will.

“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky


A Day Of Rest And Relaxation

If you are like me, winter in Canada brings three things:  snow, cold and as I like to call them, “the dark and twisties”.  The dark and twisties is a term I collected from Gray’s Anatomy.  Basically when best friends Meredith and Christina found each other in a “dark” place or were experiencing depression, they had a mutual understanding that the other one was experiencing the “dark and twisties”.  They normally cured this with drinking lots of tequila and dancing in Meredith’s living room.  Since I do not want to develop a drinking problem, I have decided to do something a little healthier in an attempt to help get me through the winter.

My friend and fellow NBCCD graduate, Hannah Williams and I have organized a mini art/yoga retreat for the end of February.  The seven hour retreat will be held at Fredericton’s Health Source and will consist of yoga sessions from a certified instructor Annie Michaud, meditation sessions, a fascial stretch therapy treatment from my husband Ryan, art journaling sessions and more!

We want this day to be filled with relaxation, self care and rejuvenation.  No experience in art or yoga is necessary!!!  Spaces are limited.  Please contact me or email to reserve a spot or to get more information.

“Don’t forget to love yourself.”


Feature Friday: Wear Your Label

Photo Credit: Darina Todorova

For those of you who have never heard of them, Wear Your Label is a local clothing company who’s main goal is to “end the stigma” surrounding mental illness.  As Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed will tell you, “1 in 5 people live with mental illness, but 5 in 5 have mental health. So why aren’t we talking about it?”  Kayley and Kyle have made it their mission to spread the word and END THE STIGMA!  I wish I could tell you more about their amazing efforts in trying to end the stigma, but this is an art/small business blog so I am going to focus more on the “art” side of WYL for this post.  To learn more about their message (which I believe is important), please visit their website here: Wear Your Label

Designers Kayley Reed & Kyle MacNevin - Tammy Novak Photography
Photo Credit: Tammy Novak

Now for the “art” side of WYL…after meeting with Kayley and Kyle a few times and watching them grow for the past year and a half, the answer to why I am featuring them is simple, they are KILLING IT.  From attending New York Fashion Week to being a part of the Joe Fresh accelerator program, they are more than just an asset to the mental health world or to Fredericton’s small business world.  Wear Your Label is an asset to the art scene here in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Photo Credit: Kelsey Schroeder

Aside from sending notes of encouragement to those who order from them, WYL has something called, “The Bracelet Project“.  Each bracelet comes in a different colour and represents a different mental illness, such as: eating disorders, depression, self harm and anxiety.  These bracelets are meant to serve as a reminder, to whoever is wearing them, that they are not alone.  WYL sources these out to a small business called Swoon Creations located in PEI.  (Yay local!)

Photo Credit: Tammy Novak

WYL also has gender neutral T-shirts featuring graphics that Kayley and Kyle, have come up with themselves.  (They also have ideas sent to them from their loyal customers.)  When they first started out, they completed all of the screen printing in house, on their own.  As the company grew however they had to stop asking their family and friends to help out, and find a company to outsource to.  They now outsource the screen printing to a larger company in North America.

Photo Credit: Ashley Lemmon

Aside from bracelets and T-shirts, WYL has expanded its brand to coffee mugs and toques.  As the company grows, Kayley hopes that their products will grow as well.  Right now it is about finding the perfect balance between wearing something that reminds you, “you are not alone” and wearing something that is still discreet and might not scream to the world, “hey stranger!  I struggle with mental illness!”

If you haven’t heard of WYL yet, I highly suggest visiting their website and checking out their social media pages.  Even if you do not personally stuggle with mental illness, I garentee you know someone who does.  So lets help end the stigma!

“Self care isn’t selfish.”



Bathing Beauty


Almost one year ago to the day, this talented group of people teamed up to do a photoshoot.  Some of us had never met, but we all had one common goal, to create something beautiful.  Model Alyssa Yvette and photographer Nathanael Patriquin got together to capture these gorgeous photos.  We used my hand dyed silk, and props from Lindsay Earle.

Today, I am off to meet with Alyssa and Nate one year later to do another shoot inspired by Pantone’s colour of the year.  I can’t wait to show you all the results!

“The same water that softens the potato hardens the egg.” – Anon