Day 307 - Maria

Day 307 - Maria (2nd person I approached)
November 03, 2014 - Maria was sitting in a local deli, writing on an iPad when I asked her if she would chat with me. She pondered it for a moment, long enough to make me think she might say no.

“What kind of things will you ask about?” she said. I showed her the Facebook page, and told her the premise of my project. She agreed to chat, telling me

“It’s okay, I’m not on Facebook anyway.” We soon found out we had potential connections between us.


Maria was born in Campbell River, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC).

“I’m the youngest of five children. I have two sisters and two brothers. The two oldest ones were born in Europe, and the three younger ones, myself included were born in Campbell River. We’re called the Campbell River kids. My parents are from Austria. They came to Canada after the war. It was either New Zealand, Chile or Canada. They lived for a while in Gold Bridge,” she said. A once thriving supply centre to the gold-rush mining towns in the area, Gold Bridge is very close to Bralorne, where I was born. Maria couldn’t believe that I even knew of Gold Bridge, never mind that I was born in Bralorne.

"When I was about one year old, my father moved the family to Prince George," she told me. 


Having lived through World War II in Europe, her father was uncomfortable with the cold war going on between the USA and Russia. Maria’s father decided to move the family inland, heading to Prince George.

“I grew up there. I loved school, and did well in my classes overall. I went to a catholic elementary school. Then I changed to a general public high-school. I think it was my choice, I really don’t remember. Things were difficult. I didn’t know anyone and it was hard for me to make that transition. My grades started to slide. I started to hang around with kids that weren’t a very good influence. I was skipping classes. High-school wasn’t a good place for me. I never did settle into it. My grades continued to go down. I completed it though,” said Maria.


“I moved out as soon as I was finished school. Being the youngest of five, my parents were fine with that. My Dad was like, ‘Ok, bye.’ I still lived in Prince George, and was working in a liquor store. Then I got a job driving a fuel truck for the loggers in the bush, up in Mackenzie. I drove around and refuelled the equipment,” she said, hanging her head.

“Yes, I was involved in that. I only did it for one season. I’ve read books about it since then and thought oh my, I was a part of that.”


Maria wanted to leave Prince George, and made her way down to Vancouver, BC.

“I had always enjoyed drawing and painting in school. I took a fashion illustration class at Emily Carr (College of Art & Design). After that, I applied to go as a full-time student. I had to get my high-school transcript, and discovered that they had changed the grading system. I hadn't actually graduated from high-school because I was short one class. They had changed it and I was able to become a graduate," said Maria, excitedly.

"I went to art school and did painting, drawing sculpture and ceramics. It was just before they started to offer degree programs. In fourth year they had English teachers give classes in the evenings. I really liked English,” she said. 


Maria’s diploma program took four years.

“I liked the English class so much I went to Langara College and applied my diploma towards getting my Bachelor’s degree. It only took one year. I did English and Biology and everything that I needed to do. Again I enjoyed the English course, and the rest. Except for the statistics class. When I graduated, I had my degree in Fine Arts,” she said.


“I got some work teaching, but that only lasted for one semester. I can’t recall if I didn’t go back, or wasn’t invited to return, but I didn’t either way. I had been working for the City (of Vancouver) each summer for the four years I was in school. I worked in the Engineering department, in order to pay for my education. After finishing my degree, it was proving hard to find a job and I really needed to be working. I was offered a full-time position with the same department that I had worked in each summer.  As a matter of fact, the same department that I’m in now,” she said, with a little laugh. 


“I don’t do much in the way of art in my work at all. Perhaps a little bit of auto-cad (computer-aided design software), but that’s not art. I spent a lot of time telling my friends that I wasn’t going to be working for the city for a long time. I said this wasn't going to be what I did forever. Now I tell people I’m never leaving. It’s hard, you get comfortable in a job, and there’s a security in it. It’s a good job, with decent benefits and vacation. Maybe a little bit of a trap, too,” she said.


Maria was just on a break from work and had planned to spend it reading. Instead she chatted with me.

“Thank you for talking with me though. I enjoyed this. I think your project sounds very interesting,” she said. We spoke a little bit about a television show Maria had watched, involving people from diverse backgrounds and talking to strangers. I happened to mention to Maria that I would love to be able to sculpt with clay. I also told her I couldn’t draw worth shit.

“Yes you can. Everyone can draw. Maybe you don’t draw in the way you think drawing is in your mind, but you can draw. Everyone can.” #notastranger