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Excerpt: “The Natural Eclectic” – Introduction

Introduction: The Natural Eclectic Philosophy

by Heather Ross

The first day I put pen to paper and started writing this book, I made a discovery. I had set out into a very damp afternoon feeling slightly bogged down by the unusually cold spring, when a little bright bit of something caught my attention from the grass at the sidewalk’s edge. To my delight, it was a robin’s eggshell! In that moment, all the glee of childhood rushed back. I cupped that tiny treasure in my hand and took in its magic.

I spotted a tiny hole where a little beak had chipped away, breaking free into a new world. All my favorite colors: bluey green mottled with tones of beige and grey, offset by the creamy-white frayed and brittle edges in the smooth exterior. Fragile yet strong, pure and simple in form, the speckles so random and organic, the colors serene and gentle. Elegant and perfect in its imperfections—a find! And what an auspicious way to begin a new project.

This is what The Natural Eclectic is all about—a philosophy as opposed to a style. With this book, I invite you to delve beneath the surface and explore a lifestyle that not only is nuanced with grace and beauty, but also is deeply personal, multilayered and connected to the natural world. The naturally eclectic home is filled with belongings imbued with meaning and memories, honest materials of a certain integrity and timelessness—a home that evolves and transitions with the seasons.

I believe that nurturing an appreciation for nature—an awareness of the cycles of life, the seasons and all creatures great and small—improves not just our sense of well-being but also our global environment. Actually experiencing the elements is so powerful and moving. Observing how the moon rises and falls, listening to the soft rustle as we walk amongst grasses, feeling the pull of the tide . . . these moments remind us that we are connected to the natural world. There is something very magical and grounding in this.

Throughout The Natural Eclectic, I encourage you to get out and experience nature, to forage and to use your imagination when creating a home. It’s amazing what natural treasures can be found even within an urban environment. Just go down a lane and you’ll come across decorative weeds, grasses, falling leaves—and maybe even a robin’s egg! Look to nature in all its grand and humble beauty; look within to find your own creative voice.

As a “natural eclectic,” I am drawn to so many materials and themes in design and the natural world. I don’t want to limit my expression to just one medium—I want to convey all that inspires me in everything I do. My approach lies in the multilayered meanings of these words “natural” and “eclectic.”

I draw inspiration from the duality of the word natural. Most often, it conveys that which is derived from or inspired by nature and organic materials. Yet I find particular resonance in an alternate meaning of natural: that which is genuine, innate, sincere, spontaneous and uncontrived. I think of natural as something that unfolds with ease. Just as nature seems to effortlessly present raw beauty and harmony, when we approach something naturally, we impart so much more grace than when we contrive something.

In the world of design, the word eclectic is commonly used to mean mixing one period style with another. I use the word in a more all-encompassing sense. I choose individual items for their unique charm regardless of their lineage or source. Derived from “pick out,” eclectic as I use the word means to seek out and gather the best elements of all global philosophies, styles, ideas.

I grew up on the West Coast of Canada and I have also lived in Paris. I’ve beachcombed along many shores and searched for alluring treasures in antique markets across Europe. My aesthetic has been informed by both natural and cultural adventures.

I’ve always loved treasure hunting and putting things together, but I never called it decorating. I love gathering and foraging, but I never considered it flower arranging. Labels and trends go out of style, but authentic philosophies, values and interests reside on a deeper, more lasting level. I’ve explored ceramics, textile design, printmaking, painting, photography, styling and writing. At times I’ve been called an artist, other times a designer or a craftsperson. I just like to think of myself as a person who enjoys creating in many forms. This is actually one of the reasons I opened up a shop—so I could bring together my many loves and showcase them where like-minded people might enjoy them. Since I opened my Vancouver boutique in 2001, countless individuals have responded to my evocative look and the way I mix things up.

People often remark on my signature color palette that is inspired by the coast. They’re also drawn to the way I incorporate natural materials and found objects into my curated displays and vignettes. More importantly, they share how tranquil my space makes them feel. Yet they often seem at a loss as to how to create this themselves. Within these pages I share insights into my own process.

Some of us have an innate talent, eye or sense of things, just as a musical person has an ear for tone. I also believe you can cultivate an ability to be more attuned to your environment, and enrich your life by your efforts. Listen to yourself and your senses, pay attention to what moves you, collect and cherish the things that inspire you. Do you prefer to be in a soft meadow or looking out upon a great expanse of sea? Do you prefer the sheen of silk or the rough, hand-hewn texture of linen? Begin by connecting in a sensory way to all you do—seeing, feeling, touching.

While I’m a highly visual person, I also love to express myself through the written word. It just seemed a natural fit to one day have a book filled with all my thoughts and images. Whereas most “creatives” focus on one role, I love to have my hand in many things, to see a whole concept evolve. I immersed myself deeply in the creation of this book, not just with words and images but also all the juxtapositions and nuances, to create a singularity of vision that I feel is an extension of myself. The creation of this book is a lifelong dream come true. From the time I was very young, I wanted not just to make things, but to share the things I made. As an adult, I came to learn that this was my way of feeling connected. This sharing evokes a feeling in others and in turn elevates my own purpose and joy, and gives me a sense of belonging in the world.

Reading this book, you may realize, “I’m a natural eclectic too.” How it manifests in your life may be different, yet we can still be kindred spirits sharing the same values and inspirations. Nature has been the greatest teacher in my life, and creativity the greatest gift. In nature, I feel at peace. When I am finding beauty and capturing it, I feel I am doing exactly what I’m meant to do. Immersed in the moment, I feel true joy in knowing that this is my place in life. My authentic self. We all have our own authentic voice . . . and this is mine.

The Natural Eclectic: A Design Aesthetic Inspired by Nature is available in stores now.

June 2, 2016
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