May 27, 2016

The Subdued eclectic

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Heather Ross with her new book, The Natural Eclectic.

Heather Ross takes her artistic inspiration from nature and her own imagination

Designer profile

BY ALEEZA KHAN

The word “eclectic” usually conjures up an image of bright colours, a mix of patterns and textures and a hodgepodge of influences from across cultures. But when I meet Heather Ross, it’s clear that isn’t the way she defines it.

Her new book, The Natural Eclectic, has two influences: nature and her personal creativity. The book is rooted in nature and the influence of her West Coast upbringing — her childhood was spent foraging and beachcombing on Savary Island — is apparent.

It’s also clear that this book is sincere and came naturally to her. After 10 years of thinking about it, it took her less than a year to write, photograph and publish it.

Ross takes her inspiration from a wide range of sources. She’s a painter, curator, author and photographer. Her artwork is simple and enchanting, her photography clean and calming, and her vignettes charming and elegant. She’s an eclectic with a natural, muted palette.

Ross has been painting, taking photos and making crafts throughout her life. “I was spinning wool before it was trendy,” she says.

She opened the Heather Ross store on South Granville and started her textile business 30 years ago, with photography becoming a career soon after that. Her shop was Pinterest in physical form over a decade before Pinterest was even invented.

Ross has turned her multiple passions into a viable career and has somehow managed to keep them all in balance — nothing battles for first place. Her talents complement each other, something that can confuse people who want to pin one label on her.

But when she started painting 10 years ago, that art form took a special place in her heart. “Painting is direct,” she says. “With photography, there’s edits, lots of post-production with numerous people, but painting is pure. It’s free. It’s just me, the paint and the canvas.”

Beauty holds power. There’s powerful beauty in art, in objects, in nature.

Her shop was intended to be an atelier at first, but it naturally gravitated towards what it is now. It’s a flexible space that doubles as a showroom for her artwork and a boutique for her foraging and antiquing.

This mix works well for Ross. “I love the alchemy of objects and bringing them together. The shop is my visual language. The arrangement of objects is like visual, emotive poetry.”

With her foraging, she finds elegance in natural and found beauty. To Ross, beauty is more than something that simply looks nice. “Beauty resonates more deeply,” she says. “It’s not about being pretty or cute. Beauty holds power. There’s powerful beauty in art, in objects, in nature.”

And that’s what Ross wanted to share through her book, to show people that beauty can be powerful and evocative, something you feel on a spiritual level. The Natural Eclectic isn’t about decorating or styling, or what to do in your next renovation. It’s a way of life. •

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