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.





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





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.”



Organizing, Planning and Hating My Life


Does anybody else hate new years resolutions as much as I do?  Actually, it’s not even that I hate them, I just don’t even take them seriously anymore.  When it comes to organization and planning, I am NOT the person to turn to.  I HATE plans, commitments (how did I end up married!?) and worst of all…ORGANIZING!!!!!!  The word itself sends shivers down my spine.  So when the New Year roles around, I always try to make my resolutions something suuuuper easy like, “I will google things more often when I have a question” (What kind of new years resolution is that!?!  Mine.  2015.  And I did it).


My friend, Paige, however LOVES planning and organizing. She invited me over for an afternoon of goal setting, dream making, and cutting and pasting.  It wasn’t as horrible as I thought.  Number one, she provided me with gold fish crackers as a snack (I’m sorry, but who doesn’t love gold fish crackers!?). Number two, her four year old came in and out of the room and was super cute and cuddly. Number three, it was actually just plain fun to cut and paste like a kid again with my long time friend.


For 2016, I have decided not to make one HUGE goal for the year, but a few small ones spread throughout the year.  Since I hate committing to things, I won’t be TOO specific about my personal goals. I want to leave room for change, in case I change my mind. Although I guess that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Oh well.  Here are some of my “goals” for the New Year.


  • DECLUTTER!!!  I practically have an entire craft store in my apartment. As I have mentioned before, I rarely spend any time in there.  Not to mention the rest of my apartment is also filled with trinkets and things that we don’t need or use.  So, Ryan and I have decided that this year, our “new years resolution” is to clean UP and clean OUT!  We want to get rid of old clothes and furniture that we don’t need anymore and give it to people who do.
  • Continue to publish two blog posts a week  (I have actually been really good at this, so, yay me!).
  • Do one thing a month that is art related.  That can be a photoshoot, a painting, dying some yardage, whatever. I want to finish something each month.  MINIMUM!

I hope that any of you who hate goal setting and planning (as much as I do) don’t feel obligated to make a new years resolution. However, if you are interested or just really like goal setting and planning like my friend Paige, I highly suggest making a vision board.  It was fun, stress free and actually kind of motivating.


“Strive for progress, not for perfection.”







Sometimes Art is The Best Therapy

My BF Sara and I doing our best Jackson Pollock
My BF Sara and I doing our best Jackson Pollock

One of my best friends, Sara, is a nurse here in F’ton.  This summer she worked a heart breaking shift. The kind of shift where one might turn to alcohol, or around here, a trip to Walmart wearing crocks and a onesie to stock up on junk food (I’m not judging). Instead, Sara wanted us to buy a couple of canvases and throw paint on them to help her get out some of her feelings in a healthy way.

After a tough night of Teri D bootcamp (love her), we got out our art supplies and started throwing paint.  The only bad part of the night were the bugs. They were horrible.  There are legit, tinny dead flies in my painting to this day.  Oh well, we’ll just say it was part of the medium. Lol.

“If you’re feeling blue – try painting yourself a different colour” – Hannah Cheatem