San Luis Obispo - This is where it all began for me, where I was born. In this most beautiful seaside town in Central California. It is here where I had the happiest of childhoods enjoying all that nature has to offer and really learning the true quality of life when surrounded by an intimate community. There is very little I love more than being in San Luis Obispo and spending time with the people I love at the spots I love. Fortunately, we just moved back here and I am thrilled to be able to call my heaven on earth home again.
My Family - I have always been especially close to my parents, my siblings, nephews, and my grandmother (who recently passed away). My family has always been very active in the outdoors, enjoying the beach, mountains, camping, etc. Also, my grandmother and aunt are very talented seamstresses and both my father and mother know how to sew. My dad is a handyman and can build or do basically anything. He built the house they live in right now. So while my Mom would sew dolls and dresses for me, and later do sewing projects with me for Halloween costumes as complex as Cousin It as well as making teddy bears and pillows for birthday gifts, my Dad would embroider my name with the sewing machine onto my soccer sweatshirt. Rather than pay the money to have it done, he would do it himself. Then all my friend's mothers would ask if my Mom had done it and get quite a shock when I told them, no, in fact my father had been the talent behind it.
The sewing and creative gene goes way back, and my Great Grandma Sarah and Great Grandpa Harry who immigrated from Russia (or what I understand is now Belarus) eventually made their way to Los Angeles to start Pasadena Sewing and Vacuum. Sarah was a seamstress for famous people and gave every little girl in the Pasadena area sewing lessons. I only feel that it is fitting that I have come full circle to make a living the way my grandmother had.
Travel & Culture - I guess it was really my grandmother who fully instilled in me the love of travel from a very young age. Being the only grandchild, she would take me on adventures every few years. The bug bit me early and I decided in high school I wanted to study abroad in Australia, which I did at the age of 16. And then I decided again that I wanted to study abroad in Spain during university, which I also did at the age of 21. I traveled to more places by the time I was 22 than most people do by the age of 50. I always loved showing up to new, exotic places, interacting and living like a local, and imagining what life would be like to really be a local in these places.
My love for all things Spain and having to do with Spanish culture influenced my decision to declare my major as Spanish. All the classes in Spanish and Latin American literature, history, linguistics, etc. fascinated me more than any other classes. But when I graduated I was not too keen on becoming a teacher so I dabbled around in this and that, finding a real calling in organizing events, usually fundraising events. However, I eventually did get my teaching credential and taught high school Spanish for a few years. As much as I loved the creative aspect, the awesome relationship you develop with amazing young people, and the opportunity to use my extensive Spanish knowledge, the teaching profession was not for me. I appreciate a work/life balance too much to be patient with an all-consuming career like teaching. So much love out there to my teacher friends because it is very selfless job that I do not feel saintly enough to take on.
However, all this love for Spain and Spanish and traveling and culture did not end up entirely useless. It is what brought me to find the love of my life...
Alexis, Le Husband - You will hear me refer to my husband as "le husband" often. It is my endearing way of emphasizing that he isn't just my husband but my French husband. I can't take credit for the cutesy idea, actually. A friend of mine has another friend married to a French man and she calls him "le husband" in her blog. But anyway, you may wonder why a love of Spain and Spanish would lead me to falling in love and marrying a French man. Good question! I ask it to myself all the time!
Alexis and I were both involved with Couch Surfing as travelers. For those of you who do not know Couch Surfing, it is the original but free Airbnb where people offered up their couches or second bedrooms for free just to be hospitable to travelers and enjoy a little cultural exchange to enrich their every day life. Only about a month after moving to the Bay Area I was looking forward to hosting couch surfers and Alexis, having just moved back to the Bay Area after a year back in France, wanted a reason to visit Oakland. Couch Surfing was hosting a social event, a dim sum brunch in Oakland's Chinatown, and we both went. We barely talked at the event but later, doing a bit of Couch Surfing stalking (kinda like Facebook stalking) I saw on his profile that he spoke Spanish. Really, with only the desire to make new friends in my new area and seeing a common interest, I contacted to see if he would want to do language exchange. He understood that I wanted something a little more romantic than just a language exchange, but I guess I wasn't totally against that either because here we are, 3.5 years later and married.
I do so love being married to someone of a different culture. I don't think someone of my same culture could hold my interest for long. My love of trying my hand out to live like a local and to learn new cultures is now a constant part of my life. Trying to learn French, being exposed to new traditions, holidays, music, movies, food, and developing relationships with new friends and family who live all the way over in France, it makes for quite an exciting life. Not to mention that all of this means we get to travel often to keep up with our international family and friends. Last year we spent 6 weeks in France over the holidays. .
Alexis, himself, is not bad either. He is, in fact, amazing. So patient and kind, with a very laid back, quiet, sweet demeanor. Everyone enjoys being around him. He is dedicated to making our lives together as amazing and full of love as possible and overly dedicated to making sure I am happy. So, as you can see, although he is not Spanish as would make sense per my lifelong Spanish obsession, he is more than I could have ever hoped for. And it is a total added bonus that we both share the experience of having lived in Spain and that we both speak Spanish.
Creativity - As you may have noticed, I was brought up in a very creative family, everyone having a little different talent, but most of them with the eccentricities that come with a more creative mind. I mean, to be honest, the fact that my parents lived and raised their family in San Luis Obispo is testament enough. This place, with all it's natural beauty, is a sanctuary and mecca for creative types. I was open to experiment and dabble in all things creative while growing up: art, drama, dance, music, sewing, etc. None of it seemed to have stuck much until as a young adult, sewing and crafting became an incredibly enjoyable hobby. Having little money to buy craft and sewing supplies, I fell into the upcycle movement and developed a little organization called Upcycle SLO with some local crafty friends. I then spearheaded the San Luis Obispo production of Swap-O-Rama-Rama, a huge clothing exchange along with DIY sewing and craft workshops. By developing a following and networking with the community at large, I made so many connections and had the time of my life bringing this event to SLO and it was very successful for the two years that I did it. When I moved away, it was produced one more year by a friend and since it has unfortunately been waiting idly for me to move back to SLO so I can produce it again. Maybe soon...
Anyway, I think this was the beginning of it all, the telltale moment when despite the fact that at the moment I was working towards a teaching credential, it made sense that I would eventually make a career in art. After leaving teaching, I worked in the solar industry for almost 2 years and although the industry treated me well, my creative mind was melting into mush and was screaming to be revived. To me, creativity is not just a hobby anymore, it is a need for survival. It is a muscle that needs to be stretched every day with opportunities to let my mind run free with ideas, to ponder the engineering behind crafting these ideas into reality, to sit down with materials and actually create. There is nothing more pleasing for me than to work with my hands, using various materials, and finally developing an end product to be proud of, but even more than that, an end product that is just incredibly beautiful.
I feel I have this deep seeded need to be much more intimate with what it is I provide to the world as a service, and that to be able to design it, touch it, create it, and release it, connects me to the living that I am truly MAKING. I also believe there is so much creativity involved in building a business and the learning that goes behind that is a challenge that will really help me to flex that creativity muscle and will bring so much satisfaction. And to bring this full circle, those incredibly important things in my life that have all not only led to my endeavor with Soul & Oak but have also truly inspired it (San Luis Obispo, family, travel and culture, le husband, creativity), are also those things that I hope will continuously be nurtured by my creation and dedication to Soul & Oak.