What inspired the name for your business?
My business name is simply my first and last name. Tomtene is Norwegian and originated from the name of the farm my Grandpa grew up on. He came here in his early twenties from Oslo and there are only a handful of us with this last name so it was easy to claim a url. Also, I sell a few different products (photography, jewelry, fashion) and services (photography and writing), it made sense to put them all under the umbrella of one name.
What is the story behind why you started your business?
After quitting my corporate job in 2008, I set off on a photography expedition across South East Asia and New Zealand with lofty dreams of becoming a pro photographer. I didn't quite know what that would look like, but hoped it involved a lot of travel and working for National Geographic.
It was the grandest year of my life, full of adventure, intrigue and amazing people. Just what I had always wanted! I came back to Canada with the intent on going back to New Zealand to live and work and continuing the adventure until my health started to take a weird turn.
That was the beginning of a very different path than I had imagined. I did not go back to New Zealand. Long story short, I spent the next several years sporadically homebound due to a very mysterious illness. I had a lot of really good days but also a lot of really bad ones which kept me from travelling and photographing as much as I wanted to, and was especially hard on my finances. I had to figure out a way to make a living another way. Thus began the road to a different dream - one that I had forgotten about.
When I lived in the United Kingdom in my twenties, I would go on my days off to Camden Town or Portobello Road to check out local artists and talked to many who were making an actual living at it. I thought, what a life! To be able to share your work with the world and in such a beautiful setting.
So, I decided to use the image library I already had to make jewelry and other products to sell at local markets and online. It certainly was not always easy, but I am so thankful that I had the means to make this living despite my circumstances and I am now so grateful for the littlest of things, like being able to get out of bed and go to my work bench.
I am still not out of the water, BUT I am well a lot more than not (thanks to my Homeopath!) and through all this I have become more spiritual, grateful and self loving.
I have stamped the phrase, "No Mud No Lotus" on several of my jewelry designs because I relate to it so much. Hardships can be extremely soul sucking and awful but without them, there are many blessings I would never have known, had my life not have gone this way.
I have met many beautiful souls I may never have met and built a life here in Vancouver (one that I resisted for so long because I wanted to be trotting the globe instead). I have realized new talents, started a business, learned to ask for help and became closer to my family and friends.
Each day is a gift and everything can change in a moment. I have learned to surrender and trust the flow of life. If one lets go of the life they had planned, there is no telling what might be in store for you around the corner!
“What is meant for you is always meant to find you." - Tosha Silver
What is the dream that you wish to fund through your business?
Ever since I can remember I have felt a connection to the ocean and advocated for its health and all of its inhabitants. Despite growing up in landlocked Saskatchewan, I was writing essays on dolphins getting stuck in drift nets when I was 11 years old!
I am not sure where this connection came from, but I believe all of us have it in us considering the ocean is where we originally came from and also provides 70% of the oxygen we breathe.
In my business and personal life, I try to make the greenest choices that I possibly can such as using recyclable/biodegradable shipping supplies, purchasing local, organic and natural products, composting, recycling, walking instead of driving, eating a mostly veg diet, using minimal utilities at home and in my studio and making eco friendly products. There is so much work to be done and I sometimes feel frustrated that I am not out there doing more!
I have many an eco hero but the two that have always stood out to me are Ric O'Barry of The Dolphin Project and the documentary, The Cove, and Rob Stewart of FinFree and the Sharkwater documentary. So, I give whenever I can to these two organizations near and dear to my heart.
What are you most proud of about your business?
That the pictures I take and the things I make have the ability to add positivity and happiness to people's lives.
How have your grown as a person as a result of your business?
It has introduced me to many awesome, like-minded individuals who are just as passionate and hard working as I am. I learn from them and I am supported and encouraged by them. Owning a business offers up a lot of independence but with that comes much responsibility. I get better and better at wearing all the hats one has to wear as a maker and business owner and learned that it is OK (and sometimes necessary) to ask for help when you need it and pay someone to do the things you're not so great at!
What difference does your art make in your life? And your family’s life?
It gives me the freedom to express who I truly am. As much as I loved my corporate job, I never felt like I was in the right place or following my heart. I always had an independent streak! Now I get to be both creative AND be the boss!
If you could say one thing to the person that buys and/or enjoys your art, what would it be?
To remember how important and limitless you are in the world and always look for the blessings you already have around you.
Why do you love being a part of Giving Gifts?
I love that the store falls in line with my ideals such as supporting local businesses as well as buying eco-friendly and fair trade products. I also love how passionate Lisa is about the store and following her dreams - it is inspiring and contagious!
Why we love having Tracey Tomtene at Giving Gifts:
Tracey is all heart! Her jewelry and photography is meaningful and inspirational, it represents exactly what we stand for at Giving Gifts. When Tracey worked at Giving Gifts, she was always a friendly face at the store. She worked a couple of times a month and could often be seen hammering out jewelry while working her shifts. My discussions with Tracey on spirituality and the blessings and magic of the universe run long and deep. We could often be found chatting away while customers are browsing and we loved drawing people into our conversations too. Tracey is a true blessing to have at Giving Gifts and we love that she has been an integral part of what we do since we first opened.
Find Tracey Tomtene's Jewelry and Clothing at Giving Gifts - 4570 Main Street or Online Here