The Natural Eclectic
Written and photographed
by Sarah Valdizon
Heather Ross paints with a brush, indeed or perhaps a fingertip, if the need calls, but she also uses the four walls of her eponymous shop as a grand, and ever-shifting canvas, built with bricks rather of seaside treasures and rambling, age-worn antique cabinetry, the prettiest, pristine vintage china and opulently fragranced skincare from France. The result is natural; natural, due to Heather’s keen eye and sensibilities, but also natural due to her appreciation, respect and kindness towards the earth. Follow along on her Instagram trail and you are most likely to see not only her beautiful artwork, bit of her book, shop and other additional projects she has on the go, but also a little peek into her daily, personal life. Some stories are pure magic, highlighting dainty, fluttering hummingbirds that often pay her a visit at home, or walks along the shore, appreciating the mesmerizing levels of water, earth and sky, and there are other times where it’s an encouraging word, left on your mind as you carry on with your own day…
Inside her small but very beautiful shop, Heather creatively conjures up every corner of the space, re-imagining as she goes. And one of my personal favorite aspects to the shop is that one might think to visit to pick up a favorite soap, and instead discover that perfect set of linen napkins for an upcoming wedding, or perhaps that ideal vase for favorite flowers that completely changes a space, or maybe even a new friend. The hushed, tranquil, calming tones of nature reign here, and demonstrate a sense of found beauty, respect and fondness for the ever-present gifts that surround us—so often not appreciated enough. Indeed, Heather’s approach to warmth and beauty as seen in her space and work is also found within her. Visit, and great conversation is to be sure, and you might just find yourself leaving with a larger smile on your face than you entered with…
We are so happy to have had the opportunity to interview Heather Ross, of The Natural Eclectic, and we hope that you enjoy her responses as greatly as we have…
01 When did you open your shop, and what compelled you to open it?
I opened my brick & mortar shop in 2001, with my first location on 6th Ave close to Granville, just around the corner from my current location on Fir street. I love people and connections, so having a space open to the public was a wonderful way to connect with community after having worked solo from home for so many years!
I was already creating textile design collections for other retail stores across Canada, while working as a photographer. I was traveling often to Europe on buying trips picking up textiles and treasures in cities like Paris—where I had lived years earlier. I wanted to create my own space to work within, juxtaposing my collections with my art and photos. At the time “curated spaces” were rare (this was before Pinterst and Instagram) but I’d always loved creating unusual vignettes and displays with vintage and natural finds, and my own shop allowed me to present my aesthetic and ethos in one place.
02 You are also an artist and photographer—how did you develop your style of art?
That’s a good question. For me, my art has always come from an inherent desire to express myself and form a connection to others with what I create. I’ve worked in many modalities, including printmaking, ceramics, textiles, photography and painting. My work is strongly inspired by my connection to nature. Though not always in a literal of sense. Years ago, I realized it is the emotive qualities of immersive natural environments that move me most. So, if I paint an abstracted elemental foggy seascape, the work may be speaking more about solace, comfort, or serenity as evoked through the soft sea. It is my own mood that will determine what sort of atmosphere I feel like portraying or capturing in a photo or painting. I strive to create works that are subtly nuanced, with depth and layers, so one can look upon them and always discover some new feeling within the piece.
03 It is so beautiful how you combine nature within spaces—what prompted this?
Thank you! I grew up close to the sea and the forests. I didn’t realize just how much that had shaped my life till writing my book. I’ve always been a very tactile person, and was a curious child—poking my fingers into clay at the beach, picking up fallen leaves, beach-combing and collecting. I have a deep love for the nature and all living creatures great and small. So I love to surround myself with these elements, and bring them into my boutique to inspire others with their humble beauty.
04 What did you find most challenging and also most enjoyable when working on your book?
The workload was immense, because I wrote and photographed the entire book and styled most of the images as well. I had a lifetime of images to cull, going back to the days of film, transparencies as well as thousands of digital files. Editing it down was arduous. Some of my most beloved images had to be cut, for the sake of the overall book and message. The manuscript was 22k words and I was in copy edit at the same time as photo edit, cover proofing etc. All while running my boutique. It was intense, yet the most rewarding collaborative experience of my life, with such a great team provided by my publisher to help me achieve my dream. The book has connected me to a new audience. Truly the most rewarding creative experience of my life.
05 If you had to move on the spot, and could take just 5 items with you, what would you bring?
Oh, I almost did just that when I moved to Paris in my late 20s! Hmmm. Assuming I could find new treasures wherever I am headed ; ) and have clothes on my back and a smart phone in my pocket… I’d have to say a bundle of irreplaceable old photos of beloved ones would be the first thing I grabbed. An antique linen bed sheet I found in a French market with my initials monogrammed on it. My book The Natural Eclectic. My grey linen 7 ft long old settee sofa (if it would fit) Finally, perhaps a box of cherished old mercury glass Christmas ornaments to remind me of my childhood and fill me with delight every time I opened it.
Also of note, Heather Ross sells her wonderful, inspiring book within her shop, as seen above, but also, you can purchase it online.