February 27, 2015 - Kendra (5th person I approached)
Sunshine, during the lunch hour means many people sitting outside want to do so quietly, just basking in the brightness and warmth. I saw Kendra sitting on a bench in the middle of a park, reading something on her phone. I introduced myself, and told Kendra what I was doing and asked if she’d chat with me. She agreed. We shook hands; she has a firm handshake that connects well. It’s one of those things I always notice. A good handshake is important.
“I was born in Toronto, in Etobicoke,” she said. Kendra is the second of three children. She smiled when I noted she is the middle child.
“I have an older brother, there are two years between us, and a sister who is four years younger. I was the mediator. I tried to keep the peace between the two of them,” she said, smiling.
“We had the typical sibling fights. I was closer with my sister, but I always looked up to my brother.”
Kendra went to school in Etobicoke.
“I went to an arts high school. I worked hard and had to audition to get into the school,” she told me.
“I was interested in drawing, using pen, or pencil. Whatever I could get my hands on, some acrylic, I never enjoyed oil paints, did a little bit of sculpture. I liked watercolours.”
I asked if the school was like the movie “Fame” which I guess shows my age, Kendra didn’t know what the movie was. After telling her what it was about ( a performance arts school), and how much she should watch it, she said that it sounded exactly like her school.
“There were always kids singing and dancing in the hallways. Drawings and art lined the walls above the lockers. All of the doors had murals painted on them. The mural on the library doors looked so much like a painting, that people would walk right past it. They couldn’t tell it was the entrance to the library,” she said.
“Of course there was lots of singing and dancing especially near the time when a school show was in rehearsal. I couldn’t take ‘Footloose’ after a while!” she said, shaking her head. I’ve never seen ‘Footloose.’ (I’m not a huge musical fan. Too many songs.)
The family moved to Vancouver when her father got a job working on the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“He worked in telecommunications, so he started long before the games. I was halfway through high-school when we moved here. I was sad to leave my friends behind in Toronto. But at the same time, I had always want to come to BC (British Columbia) and the west coast. I tried to stay in touch with my friends in Toronto. They had mostly all switched to Facebook, and I was late to the Facebook game, so it was all via email. It’s tough to write an email when you just want to tell someone what you’re doing and they’re all on Facebook,” she told me.
“My new school wasn’t an arts school. But it had a good sports program. I liked that,” said Kendra. After graduating from high-school, Kendra went to Emily Carr (University of Art & Design).
“I took the foundation program the first year. It was kind of tough. That’s where they want to get you to think in a more creative way about everything. There was a lot of things that didn’t appeal to me. Then I tried a foundation course in animation. I didn’t think I’d like it because I couldn’t see drawing the same thing over and over again. But I really enjoyed it, and that’s what I continued to study,” she said. Kendra graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration degree.
“There wasn’t much work and no one was hiring (in animation) when I graduated,” she said.
“So I went travelling with a friend to the UK (United Kingdom). We spent most of the time in Scotland. I lived in Edinburgh for a while. Then I got a job on a sheep farm, near the edge of the Scottish highlands. It was a family working farm. In exchange for helping out, we got free room and board. They also taught animation there. I met another student who was there, she was from Finland. Back home, she had a herd of reindeer. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to become involved in animation, or go back home to the reindeer. We made a film about the Sami people and reindeer. Sami people are to Finland what First Nations people are to Canada would be the easier way to describe that,” said Kendra. They spent two months making the film, and then stayed on at the farm for another month for the experience.
“I drew a lot of reindeer,” she told me, laughing.
“My mother’s family are from Lithuania. With me being in the UK, my mother took it as an excuse to go see where her family are from. It had been on her bucket list for a very long time. I met my mother and sister there, in Lithuania. We toured around for two weeks, saw where the family home had once stood, and a nearby fjord my mother had heard about,” she said. A relative of Kendra’s who lives in Lithuania is a travel agent and she had set out their itinerary.
“She knew my sister and I are both interested in the arts, so we saw a lot of art museums and galleries,” Kendra said.
After two years living in the UK, Kendra came home to Canada.
“I came back via Toronto. I wanted to see my grandparents, and they still live there. They’re both from Lithuania and met in Toronto. I had to tell them about my time in Lithuania. I got to visit with my brother who lives there as well,” she said.
Back in Vancouver, Kendra took a year “to recover from travelling,” she said.
“I worked for a while teaching snowboarding at Seymour Mountain. Good thing it wasn’t this year, that’s for sure,” she said, referring to our warmer than usual winter and the serious lack of snow on the mountains.
“And now I’m working at (a local) animation studio,” she told me.
"Well, I guess I should probably get going,” she said. Kendra had to get back to work. It turns out that she was on her lunch, enjoying the sunshine, sitting quietly, just basking in the brightness and warmth. She offered me her hand, thanking me for the chat.
“Good luck with your project," she said, as we shook hands. Another firm handshake, that connected well. #notastranger