Art + Soul Creative Co. | A photo shoot and interview with Laura Uy

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I have always imagined that stepping into an artist’s workspace is like getting a glimpse into their soul. The studio and home of Laura Uy is instantly bright, spacious and inviting. Green plants, musical instruments, paintings lined against the walls. A minimalist home and wardrobe that would make Marie Kondo followers proud. It’s hard to not feel inspired to create something in a space so beautiful. I could have sat there and happily watch the light change all day. Here is our conversation — shared between two artists and cups of tea.

Tell me about what you do:

L: I’m an artist and illustrator — I like to make happy illustrations! I started my own greeting card line four years ago and I sell cards and art prints. I also work on murals, paintings, and other art projects to keep my mind going. I love having different avenues for my creativity.

What does art mean to you?

L: Art is a way of life. It permeates into everything I do. Even before I was a full-time artist, I was constantly making things. And I’ll always continue to create. It’s a part of me.

Tell me about how the name Art + Soul Creative Co. came to be:

L: With my art, I always had the idea that I wanted to put my soul into everything I do. The art I create comes from a place of passion. I loved the play on words from “Heart and Soul” to “Art and Soul”, and it kinda just stuck.

What are some words that describe your art and what you want to share with the world?

L: (Short silence) I think peace. Especially in my mountain paintings. It’s like a sense of simplicity, like getting away from the world and creating a space to be calm. For me, art is a juxtaposition of so many things — chaos, calmness, sadness and joy. I want people to see the emotion in my art. Also, another word I have been thinking about lately is resilience. Continuing to paint through seasons of creative drought and remaining resilient helps me grow as an artist and as a human.

What has been a challenging aspect of your art career?

L: Admin work. I am definitely an artist first and business person second. I had to do a lot of research to figure things out at the beginning and I’m continually learning. It takes a lot of work to have a viable business and to support myself, but it’s so worth it. I’ve never actually had a business plan (laughs).

How do you navigate self-doubt or low seasons?

L: I always tell people that I am not the most talented artist out there. At the end of the day though, I believe that I have something to offer. I think it’s important to reflect on my work and know that it brings joy to someone out there. That has always been the purpose of my art.

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For someone starting out as an illustrator, what would your words of encouragement be?

L: It’s never too late to start. That’s something I’ve always believed in, being a late bloomer. I started Art + Soul when I was 28. I didn’t have any professional art experience and it was a risk I took. I had to get over the fear that I was starting a new career in my late twenties. But once I got my heart set on just creating art —  it was all about taking little steps every single day, to reach my goals and be proud of what I had accomplished!

Thank you for inviting me into your space Laura, I really enjoyed our conversation from bookkeeping, taxes, following our passions, and finding fulfillment in art as a career.

Here’s to art that comes from our soul, life, and so much more.

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Pender Grocery: Artist Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe

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With its colourful interiors and sun-lit space — it is hard to miss this charming grocery store on Pender street. The smell of fresh baked goods beckons you in to admire the shelves and tables that are wonderfully stocked with Spanish goods, everyday necessities and organic produce.

Today, I sit down with Shawn, one of the three founders of Pender Grocery. Shawn tells stories of food in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for through travel, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment in time, my mind is transported to apple fields, farmer markets, old Europe towns through the relaxed ambiance that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you went from importing cider to opening a grocery store in downtown Vancouver.

A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Spain to visit our friend Michael, who was the chef of a restaurant in San Sebastian, a city known for Michelin restaurants. Michael introduced us to Basque cuisine — we experienced the pintxo culture and ate our way through restaurants, each more interesting than the last. The experience shook me and there I discovered that I had a deep passion for food. It was a lightbulb moment. After Michael moved back to Vancouver, the three of us started importing wine and cider from the region and it led to importing goods, and the opening of this store.

Opening a store was actually a plan for us in the next three-five years. Luckily, we came across this space at the perfect time, and the landlord, who was hugely supportive of our idea, made us an offer we couldn’t resist.

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The sign on the wall and decorations in the store caught my attention the moment I walked in, how did the look and design for the store come together?

We are actually sitting in a space that used to be parking lot 100 years ago. The sign on the wall is something really special — we uncovered it when we were tearing down the walls to reconstruct the space. It is a ghost sign from 1906 that was covered up in 1908. We decided to keep it to lead the look of the space. After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Many of the vintage pieces here are collected from friends and family. Some favourites are passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.

This is a very interesting location to open a grocery store, what is it that you hope to bring to the community here?

Living in the city, we are disconnected from farmlands and we don’t get to see how food is grown and made. We felt that the area was lacking a grocery store, and the idea was to create a Bodega — a grocery store for the neighbourhood.

Our customers consist of working professionals and residents from the local community. We want to cater to everyone but also want people to come in not knowing what to expect. We want to invite shoppers to take their time to browse, and to be inspired to cook.

Using ingredients from your shop, what is a simple and delicious recipe that anyone can make?
I love a good Pan Con Tomate — a humble recipe with few ingredients. Slice a fresh tomato, place on traditional crusty bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. A good snack can be a can of conservas from the store — sardines, squid or mussels marinated in Galician sauce. Simply open a can, dip with bread, and eat with gusto with a glass of wine. A tasty high-end treat.


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Pan Con Tomate Directions

• In a small bowl combine sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper
• Whisk until combined
• Toast the bread slices individually until golden warm and crispy
• Set on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt
• Top with fresh basil

Enjoy!