// Hey creatives!!! Its been a while, I know, but what better way to kick it off then with the beautiful Juli of Mjolk, a Scandinavian and Japanese design shop in Toronto. Her design aesthetic is so aligned with everything that this blog embodies: slow, simple, with a hint of wild beauty. I feel so grateful to have stumbled upon her on social media (our daughter's are both named Elodie and are the same age) and lucky she is here today sharing all of her creative mama wisdom as well as a peak inside her gorgeous home and shop. //
Where do you live? Describe your abode.
We are fortunate to live above our shop, in The Junction neighbourhood of Toronto. We bought our building during the recession with this intention. We looked in many key retail neighbourhoods but there wasn’t much available—our building was so special, with the last tin facade in the city, and Victorian appeal, that it drew us out to this unfamiliar neighbourhood. When we first moved in it was us in the second floor apartment, and we had tenants on the third floor. We knew we would be starting a family so we set about doing a full renovation with Studio Junction architects (they also did our shop) to make the upstairs a single family home.
The second floor is where we sleep - it’s set up with an internal hallway, whereby all the rooms link via sliding doors which gives it a more intimate feel. The third floor is an open concept kitchen/dining room and living room. There is a courtyard in the middle to provide us with some outdoor space, and a divider between kitchen and living room that you can see through but provides some degree of spatial separation. It’s nice because even when the kids are playing in the other room, we can see what they are up to (like when our son is about to dive bomb over the back of the sofa). One thing about our home is that it is very calming, despite us living on a major street. Large windows everywhere provide us with so much light, and the white oak details and douglas fir floor provide warmth.
What makes you a creative?
I am not sure any one specific thing makes me creative. My parents raised me to be well rounded, introducing me to a little bit of everything. I also traveled a lot from a young age. I was always engaged in the visual arts and music, but never connected in a confident way. I tested the waters academically and professionally during my twenties, via graphic design, art curation, photography and publishing but nothing really stuck in a meaningful way. When my husband and I decided to team up to create Mjolk, I think that is when all of my life experiences clicked together. Mjolk allows us to put on many hats, and we have many outlets for being creative. We maintain a blog and other social media like instagram, we curate our shop, produce a book— John does the writing and I take all the photos, we host exhibitions for the craftspeople, and more recently we product manage local production of exclusive Mjolk products designed by international designers. So if one asks me if I’m creative, I kind of shrug, but when I put it all down on paper, I think I can say that I am indeed creative!
Where does simplicity show up in your life?
I’m still working on purging my old life—it seems that a prerequisite of being in your twenties is accumulation—but I think the number one thing is to only surround yourself with the things (and people) you love.
I also currently have a say no policy. With two young children, I just can’t be running around to events and classes all the time...yet. I keep my schedule wide open, but slowly we are engaging more with the city and design community.
What is a typical day like for you as a creative + mama?
I get up around 7 to the sounds of the kids—who needs an alarm clock? The first two hours are all about having breakfast and getting dressed. I am sure we’ll miss this leisurely pace once our kids are in school. Then, my day is either spent at work (3 days a week - on these days I go out for lunch with my husband) or with the kids (park visits and denying television). Once the kids are in bed we’re usually too tired to do much.
I just picked up a few books— Playful Learning and The Creative Family—that I am hoping will help me bring about more creative opportunities with the kids. I feel badly because for the last year my daughter has missed out on spontaneous creativity because her younger brother would make a mess of whatever she was working on, so I would just not offer it. I find it challenging involving him since he mostly just eats everything. Recently we started leaving crayons and paper out again, and I told my daughter that she can access the art drawer on her own. I can’t believe what a difference accessibility is to creativity. I am now trying to add to this through other free play resources (blocks, play silks, etc).
What is your personal style? Any particular uniform you are wearing lately?
That’s a good question, because I am still trying to figure it out! My body and mind have changed quite a bit since having two children. What I strive for is classic—think mid twentieth century clean lines and shapes. The challenge is finding it out there in the shops. This summer I bought a whole new wardrobe—I figured I deserved it after bearing two children! I am due now to turn over my fall/winter wardrobe, but spending money is holding me back.
I guess in general my uniform is dresses. I have never been a jeans and t-shirt girl. I envy a woman who looks fab in that simple look! One thing I want to try to do is get away from having so much black in my wardrobe. I also look forward to when I can wear necklaces more regularly, once the toddler loses interest. Because I dress so simply, and don’t even have my ears pierced, simple midcentury modern jewellery is how I accessorize.
What is your beauty regime?
For skin care and makeup (I use natural brand Jane Iredale), I go to Satisfaction Spa in the Junction for deep moisturizing facials a few times a year, and then I use face creams and wash from Pure + Simple. I prefer the natural makeup look, so I just use a BB cream, blush and mascara. I am trying to use lipstick more regularly too. The one I have from Jane Iredale actually stays on my lips for a long time which makes the effort easier.
Have any daily habits or routines?
I’m still just surviving right now. My dream would be to get up before everyone, do some stretches and have a cup of tea or coffee. My problem is I like to sleep so I refuse to get up before 7am. I also like to get out for a walk when I can. We work and live in the same building and our neighbourhood has what we need within a block of us, so I have to make an extra effort to take some time to move about.
How do you approach living well?
One thing our business allows is for us to make our hours. So we can take time when we need to, even if it’s just a lunch out with my husband (recently we finally tried Bar Raval, which felt a bit decadent for a Monday work day). Spending time in nature and with family are important, as is taking some time to travel. Making exercise a priority is something I am working on, and although we eat organic, meals are a source of contention with young children so one day it’d be nice to enjoy cooking, which is such a vital part of life.
When/how do you feel most beautiful and most aligned with yourself?
When I feel like I have some order in the chaos. Recently I’ve started working out twice a week, which is actually for the first time in my life helping me both physically and mentally.
I think spending years with little energy starts to feel like a new normal, which can be depressing. Now that I’m coming out of the fog, I feel like I have more days where I feel aligned. I’m in the pursuit of more energy, and I assume everything else will fall into place!
We are constantly growing and working on ourselves. What are you working on right now?
I get very overwhelmed and then have trouble doing anything. I also sometimes talk too much, especially to my kids, when I need to learn to be quiet in the moment. I am still learning to embrace these things.
I can be a bit of a complainer so my new thing is adopting a more optimistic outlook. Also related is to stop trying to control everything. I remind myself that we are all a work in progress, that I don’t have to be perfect, and neither do my loved ones. It actually helps me relate to my kids, to see how hard it must be being 18 months or a preschooler - the world is big, there is so much to learn, and the learning doesn’t end when you become a grown up. It allows me to let them just be, to explore. I was much more rigid when my first born was a toddler.
What are 5 things you are loving right now?
+ My son isn’t talking quite yet, I am really enjoying his exploration of language and nuance and dialog. It’s still babble so it’s cute and endearing and it makes me laugh. Actually because he’s my (last) baby, I am filled with awe as I watch him navigate this world. I feel so happy to get to enjoy the baby/toddler phase this time around.
+ My daughter is 3.5 and I love all the subtle things she does, like a graceful movement while dancing, a drawing with surprising details, her outfit and accessorizing, her ability to communicate emotion...just to see this little person grow!
+ Reading! After three years not really being able to engage with anything due to sleep deprivation, I am super into my pre-bed reading time. I am currently devouring We Are All Beside Ourselves, but some recent absolute favourites have been: I’ll Give You the Sun, The Orenda, All the Light We Cannot See and Where’d You Go Bernadette.
+ I have a feeling that a lot of parents of young children spend the bulk of their evening watching tv, because there’s not much energy left after bedtime (even when it goes smoothly!). Although we are pretty engrossed with zombies, I think Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix show Master of None is a real pleasure to watch. It’s smart, funny, and real. It’s a gem among the usual 20-30 something self deprecating woe is me shows.
+ The long Autumn we just enjoyed gives me hope for a more pleasant winter!
What advice do you have for mothers looking to find balance in both being healthy and staying creative?
I’m not sure I have any answers to this one. All I know is for the first few years I had to let go of absolutely everything. The first year was the hardest in this process but it gets progressively easier. Now that my kids are a bit older, I am able to start looking inward again. Reconnecting with grown ups is a big one. I joined a book club recently, I’m taking a jazz workshop (and am trying to find other creative ways to get moving). I’m hoping the creativity will just follow the more engaged I become!
// Thanks so much Juli for being a guest here on C + W. Please check out all of her links below. Her design blog is fantastic. Much love... //