Meet the Artist of Life, Aileen Xu

Aileen founded her blog, Lavendaire, a few years back with the hopes of inspiring others to build their dream lives from scratch. She used her own life as a model and logged her journey on YouTube. Several months later, she garnered over 100,000 followers on YouTube, filmed a short movie in Taiwan, and was invited to speak at TEDX. Her podcast, The Lavendaire Lifestyle, shares candid tips and tricks on how to build a dream life that's unique to you. I've had the pleasure of observing Aileen pursue her dreams from the moment she started Lavendaire, and now I have the honor of interviewing her. I hope you'll be encouraged by this wonderful artist and go-getter!

Me: What does Lavendaire mean to you?

Aileen: Lavendaire is all about crafting a life that is beautiful & meaningful to you. It is the journey of becoming an artist of life, one who fully owns her power to create and shape all the details of her dream life. The motto is: “Life is an art. Make it your masterpiece.” Once we become aware of this, we can really take our lives in any direction we choose: healing past wounds and crafting a brighter future for ourselves.

Me: Your committed followers will know that you're the queen of life hacks-- that is, finding the most beautiful parts about life and using it to benefit yourself and the world. For a woman who's still in her tender years, how did you gain so much wisdom?

Aileen: I love to learn, so I’m constantly reading books, watching videos or listening to podcasts. There was a period of time where I was lost and doing a lot of soul searching right after college. I did a lot of research on people I admire, watching all of their interviews and reading all the articles about them. After consuming so much information, you’ll notice the same lessons, stories, or exercises pop up from different sources, and so the good stuff will get ingrained in your brain. 

I’d also say I’m a pretty observant person, so whenever I experience something in life or have a conversation with a friend, I’ll take note (either mentally or literally on my phone) of whatever insight I gained from that. I also journal really often, which brings out that inner voice of intuition. I feel like we all have that voice of intuition within, and if we listen to it more often, we’ll realize how much wisdom we already have. 

Me: You began your journey on YouTube from scratch, and you now have close to 150,000 subscribers! What was the most difficult part of your YouTube journey? 

Aileen: The most difficult part in the beginning was definitely convincing myself to keep creating videos weekly and stay committed when it wasn’t showing any growth for the first year and half. You have to develop the discipline to put in the work with the uncertainty that this might never go anywhere. And then you have to deal with the awkward situation of explaining what you do with friends and acquaintances in social settings. I was unconfident and afraid of being judged, because I was a USC grad with no “real” job, making videos on YouTube that no one was watching. It was a humbling experience and now I’m so grateful for it. It was the first time I’ve ever learned to truly take that leap of faith and commit to something for the long haul. 

Me: What inspired you to keep pushing forward?

Aileen: When I started Lavendaire, I finally felt like this was a niche that I was truly passionate about and could see myself pursuing for the rest of my life. I LOVE personal growth and lifestyle design; I’m pretty obsessed with finding ways to improve myself and my life. It wasn’t long before I started to get positive feedback through comments & emails—even if my videos weren’t that popular yet, I would get handfuls of comments or emails from people thanking me for inspiring them or helping them in some way. Just the feeling of being able to help ONE soul is so fulfilling. I knew that this is what I wanted to keep doing. 

Plus, I knew deep down that this was my dream job and dream lifestyle, so I was committed to making it work! My mentality was: “no matter how hard it is or how bad it gets, I’m going to make it!” I literally have had that quote written down in my phone since 2014; it’s really helped me stay committed. 

Me: If you can craft a one-sentence advice for fresh graduates who feel lost in life, what would it be?

Aileen: Allow yourself the freedom to explore. Explore within yourself, and explore all the things that intrigue you in the world. In time, you’ll find just what you’re looking for. 

Me: You're quite the avid reader (which is great news!), so can you recommend three life-changing books for us?

Aileen: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Literally those three books will CHANGE YOUR LIFE! Have fun :)


Check out Aileen's new book, the 2017 Artist of Life Workbook for self-edification! 

Get to Know Kate Fenning, the Designer and Owner of Yorkelee Prints

I came across Kate's Instagram page a few months ago and was absolutely enamored by her sleek and artistic prints. More so than just her artworks, I was also intrigued by her awesome personality - Kate is a rockstar mom! In between taking care of the boys and working on her creative projects, Kate always finds the time to jam out and have some good old fun with her killer dance moves. I decided to interview Kate so you can get to know her awesome personality as well as learn how she got started as an independent business owner. Kate now has a following of over 100,000 people! One look at her products and you'll see why. Here are a few of my favorite prints from her shop:

Me: First of all, you are absolutely hilarious and you're so real. I think that's why many people are attracted to your platform-- other than the fact that your prints and styling are incredible, of course. How did you find your own 'voice' in this crowded industry?

Thank you so much, I’m so glad you enjoy reading our posts and following our story. Ahhh tough question! I've never believed in blending in or just following the crowd, it bores me. The evolution of the Yorkelee brand was a very organic process. I wanted to create a brand that people would just ‘need’ to have in their homes, something exciting, edgy, on-trend, I wanted our brand brand to be about more than just the products, I wanted people to connect with it emotionally and feel good when they see something from us.

The brand has evolved with me as I have learnt, grown and constantly changed with the industry rather than fighting against it. It wasn’t a conscious decision to connect the brand with me personally, it just happened. I enjoy sharing insight into our life and business, making people laugh and I feel that it is important for followers to see and remember that we are real people! 

Me: Your company, Yorkelee Prints, offer some of the most gorgeous prints I've seen to date! Did you make these illustrations yourself or do you work with various artisans?

Yes, I do all the designs in house myself using our own materials. We do collaborate with stylists, such as @the_stables where Catherine takes beautiful photos of flowers and I digitally enhance them and convert them into prints. We love collaborating with stylists in this way, but we don’t currently sell any other artists work.

Me: How has your style and design evolved over the years?

So so much! I feel like I’ve expanded and mastered more design, styling and photography skills over the years, which has helped our style grow, change and stay relevant. I believe in constant change and improvement, not only to challenge myself, but also stay ahead with the industry trends and the ever changing online platform.

Me: What are your pet peeves?

I try and stay positive. I don’t have time for drama, bitchiness or whinging people. I think that it is so easy to get caught up in the online drama with other stores and accounts, when this happens you loose focus on what you’re trying to achieve and fall behind. I also don’t think it’s healthy to get too engaged in the online world 24/7, it can consume you, it’s all about balance. 

Me: What inspires you the most? 

Anyone that is super talented at what they do, no matter what it is. I get inspired and intrigued by people that are passionate and ridiculously good at what they do. I honestly believe that if you’re doing what you love and what you’re good at, it’s not hard work and you’ll do well. It’s identifying that passion and having the drive to constantly challenge yourself to be better that most people find difficult. 

Me: What piece of advice would you give your babies if any of them ever wanted to get into the design industry?

Don’t think, just do. We are the only ones that stop ourselves from achieving what we want, it’s a mindset and all about a positive attitude.


Kate Fenning is a mother, designer, and owner of the Scandinavian home decor shop, Yorkelee. Follow Kate's gorgeous Instagram feed and check out her shop here!

Meet the Entrepreneurial Couple Behind Rug & Weave

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I knew about Rug & Weave long before I became serious about interior decorating, so I keenly remember that Sarah and Svein have been killing it at establishing their brand since day one. This inspiring business couple has some serious eyes for design. Interweaving their passion for interior decor with their longstanding business skills, they created Rug & Weave, an online haven for bohemian lovers to get their hands on handmade, one-of-a-kind items from all around the world. And get this-- Sarah and Svein have traveled to most of the places where their items originated. Talk about a dream! 

If you want to start a business with a significant other or dream about traveling the world while working online, go on and check out their amazing journey below!

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From Turkish and Moroccan rugs to mudcloth throws from Ghana, this couple has it all on their beautiful online shop

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I remember gazing at these photos feeling so inspired. I couldn't wait to redecorate my room so I can wake up in a place like this. It's absolutely stunning!

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Did you know? Sarah and Svein have done all of their product stylings themselves since day one! 

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Me: Your collections are absolutely amazing! What inspired you to start curating and selling handmade vintage textiles?

R&W: This is a great question and one we are often asked! Honestly, it all started with a rug for our bathroom. We are always finding something to renovate within our home and next up was our bathroom. The vision we had involved clean, crisp whites, slate tiles, walnut accents and a bold and geometric kilim rug. Finding that rug at an affordable price within Canada was so difficult and just when we thought we would have to change our design, we decided to start shopping from the source. Luckily, we found our rug but also found a new opportunity to provide Canadians, and others around the globe with beautiful handmade rugs at affordable prices. We are avid travellers and so it's been a lot of fun curating products from the various parts of the world that we've travelled to. We've also been lucky to have successfully expanded beyond rugs into other home decor items such as pillows, throws and wall decor. 

Me: Have you ever traveled to Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia, or any of the other places where some of your gorgeous textiles were made? If so, how was that experience?

R&W: Yes, we've been very fortunate to have travelled to many of the places we source products from. In terms of regions we curate products, we've travelled to Morocco, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Turkey is on our bucket list and hopefully we'll make it over there within the next year or two! Our experiences during each trip have been wonderful and the people in each country are so warm and friendly. We are very lucky to have such wonderful artisan partners overseas.

Me: This is a hard question, but if you had to choose your favorite collection, which one would it be?

R&W: Hmm, I would have to say Pillows, however Svein would definitely choose the rugs. He really has a great knack for choosing styles and colours that our customers will love and I can never have too many pillows!

Me: It must be a dream to get to work with your spouse on something that you're both passionate about. What are your favorite parts about working together?

R&W: It has honestly been the best experience. He is my best friend, my husband and my business partner. I think the most important thing we have learned through this experience is to each have distinct roles and responsibilities with the business. Svein handles all of the sales, wholesale opportunities, product photography and rug purchasing, while I get to do all the fun stuff! haha The marketing/ brand direction, collection design and curation and shipping is handled by myself. Having this divide allows each of us to own our respective roles and not get into each other's hair too much. ;) Work:life balance is also important to us and knowing when to turn off technology and enjoy our weekends at home really ensures we are effective and efficient when back in the studio. 

Me: Where do you see Rug & Weave within the next 5 years?

R&W: This is the million dollar question! We honestly mull over this thought every day. We'd like to own a flagship store in Guelph and perhaps expand into other metropolitan markets. We'd also like to expand into other lines of home decor such a furniture. Ultimately, we want to continue to build our brand as a trusted, go-to resource for anyone that's looking to add unique, handmade products to their home. 

Me: Any spoilers for the next collection?

R&W: We haven't mentioned this to anyone yet so you'll be the first! We will be launching a Kitchen & Bath collection this spring, along with a Nursery collection. As an expecting mom, I have a newfound perspective on what it's like to style a nursery and hunt out all of the beautiful items needed to make the little ones space unique and welcoming. Our nursery collection will focus on textiles, handmade wooden toys & wall decor, as well as beautiful knit baby accessories. I'm pretty excited for this collection, in particular. 


Follow Sarah and Svein's beautiful Instagram gallery and go nuts on their online shop!

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