My name is Vanessa Raven-Vipond and I like to refer to myself as an illustrative designer. I am a Graphic Designer with a more whimsical, illustrative approach to my design. I like to help small businesses truly stand out with original, timeless identities that reflect their unique vision and tell their unique stories. I also create whimsical illustrations for advertising, books, packaging, apparel and gifts.
My studio is currently based in the beautiful Comox Valley, B.C., Canada, though I have also lived and worked in Toronto, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia for clients all across Canada and around the world. Having truly lived from Coast to Coast and everywhere in between I have an enormous appreciation for our great country and all of its history, charm and beauty, that is loved, respected and admired the world over.
Prior to Sea Salt design, I worked in-house for a variety of companies across Canada, in Signage, Editorial Illustration and Layout Design, Digital and Offset Printing and Commercial Screen Printing. I have worked under my own name as a freelance and launched my own line of T-shirts and greeting cards under the brand Diva Doodles. Much of my work can still be found in resorts, gifts shops and attractions across Canada.
Past clients and employers include:
- Hillside Graphics
- Arts Council of Canada
- Strategis Canada
- City Wide Alert Magazine and the Menus of Greater Halifax
- Pacific Digital Printing
- Cook Design Studios
- Attraction Inc.
- Mega Screen Productions
- Scuba Togs UK
- Moon Beam Baby
- Georgia Music Hall of Fame
- Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and
- Tracy Cha Cha McKinnon to name a few.
... more about my life and career, the long story ...
Born and raised mostly in Toronto, Ontario, I spent my childhood surrounded by Fine Artists and Crafts people, Commercial Artists, Performing Artists, a city rich in multiculturalism, history, museums, galleries and theatres. It was a great place for any young artist to grow up. I always had a plan to go to one of the big Art Schools in Toronto, Ontario College of Art and Design, Sheridan, Ryerson or George Brown and become a Children's Book Illustrator. My great grandfather was an illustrator and lithographic printer and my grandmother who wanted to be an illustrator used to teach me to draw for fun, it was only natural that I would do something creative.
In 1991, just weeks before my sixteenth birthday, my parents decided to leave their big city careers and our big city lives and pursue their dream of owning an old house and running a bed and breakfast. So, we packed up and moved to a very small town in Prince Edward Island, where my parents bought and restored an old house surrounded by 50 acres of land and opened "The Raven Inn", Bed and Breakfast.
I have to admit that initially I thought they had lost their minds and I was very upset and hesitant to pick up and move. I almost considered staying in Toronto with aunts and uncles or friends, just so that I could carry on with my future plans. It wasn't an easy decision for me to leave behind life-long friends and the city that I loved. Still, curiosity I suppose got the better of me and I decided that i wanted to see how this insane plan would pan out. All I knew of Prince Edward Island at the time was that Anne of Green Gables lived there and that they liked to eat a lot of Lobster and Potatoes and dance a jig to fiddle music.
Needless to say, my experience in Prince Edward Island turned out to be an amazing one full of amazing inspiration and opportunities as I began my career in Commercial Art. In small town PEI, I made friends with some of the most intelligent and creative people that I have ever known, most of whom went on to great successes as Art Directors, Actors, Filmmakers, Musicians, University Professors and Artists and have spread out world wide.
It was on Prince Edward Island that I gained my first job, while in high school, as an assistant to a Sign Artist. There, I learned about Colour, Composition, Illustration, Typography, Sandblasting, Vinyl Cutting and Hand Lettering.
Later, I was hired on a grant by the Arts Council of Canada to teach painting classes to residents at a Convalescence Home and upon graduating from high school, I became an entrepreneur for the first time, drawing portraits for tourists at various tourist attractions and shopping centers. After that, I went on to study Visual Communications at Holland College in Charlottetown. There, I learned from some amazing artists such as Sandy Carruthers, co-creator of The Men In Black comicbook series among other hugely successful titles, Nigel Roe, well known Textile Artist from Montreal, Erica Rutherford, Illustrator and Henry Purdy, award winning Fine Artist.
During our entire first year in Visual Communications, we were not allowed to use a computer, instead, we were taught design using old school techniques, by creating logos and mock-ups by hand, using only black and white drawings, hand-lettering and Letraset letters on Illustration Board, a PMT Camera to create and scale and reproduce our work and Ruby Lith to create colour separations all by hand. We were also challenged with some interesting illustration assignments, like creating futuristic cities, drawing a spiral staircase in perspective and we would often get a list of words in Latin or Spanish that we would have to research to find out what it was, then illustrate it. Keep in mind, these were the very early days of the internet and none of us had our own computers let alone smartphones, tablets or Google, so, we spent a great deal of time researching in the library. All of this madness however, taught us, to be creative thinkers, skilled problem solvers and better designers, no matter how much we grumbled about not being allowed to play on the computers.
Just before graduating from Visual Communications, I was hired by Strategis, a Division of Industry Canada, to work with Computer Science graduates and design websites for non profits and business start-ups. Again, this was during the very early days of web and we used very basic HTML and CSS to create these sites.
When that contract was up, I was offered an opportunity to work for a magazine in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So, I packed up an moved to Halifax, where I worked freelance at first for City Wide Alert magazine and full time in prepress at Kinkos. My magazine work soon grew and led to a variety of freelance projects, mostly in designing Menus for local pubs. Still hoping to work in Children's picture book Illustration, I studied Illustration at The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax while working part time. By 1998, I had another opportunity, to move out West to Victoria, BC with my then boyfriend who was posted with the Navy. I took a risk and headed west. When i arrived in Victoria, I needed a job, so I took my portfolio door to door to businesses and quickly landed a job with a printing company. They started me in bindery, then later customer services and eventually Corporate Account Services where I prepared estimates, and acted as production manager for a variety of larger print projects.
By 2004, the print shop owners decided to close their business to pursue other things and I was out of work again. I once again went door to door with my portfolio and I was quickly hired by a larger Commercial Screen printing company called Cook Design Studios, who specialized in T-shirts and gifts for the Tourist Souvenir Markets across Canada. I was honest and explained that I didn't know anything about screen printing at all, but, they hired me as a junior designer, because they liked my illustrations and design styles for their women and children brands. My job there was scary at first. Although the art director taught me some things about preparing colour separations for Screen Printing, I made a lot of mistakes and the printing staff hated me. Eventually though, with a lot of learning and a lot of hard-work, I became a wizard at screen printing and had an enormous amount of fun with the work and creative freedom there. I helped them to create more than 50 brands and hundreds of designs and prepared them for printing. I also designed catalogues, Signage and Trade Show displays and sales materials for their large sales team across Canada. Sadly in 2008, the company faced some financial strain and sold all of their in-house brands and license contracts to a larger company in Montreal called Attraction Inc. Many of my designs are still being reproduced by Attraction and sold at resorts, gift shops and attractions across Canada.
Soon after leaving Cook Design Studios, I was hired by Mega Screen Productions another successful commercial screen printing company who specializes in T-shirts for Teams, Events, Retail, Business and Breweries. I had a great time working for Mega, but, a week after I started working there, I realized that I was pregnant with my first child. I was able to work right up until my son was born in 2009, then I took maternity leave with the intention of returning to work in-house afterwards.
In 2010, we ended up moving to the Comox Valley when my now husband had switch to the Air Force and was posted. I spent the first year spending time at home with my then i year old son, while freelancing for clients in Halifax, Toronto, Victoria, the US and the UK. Then, I studied Website Design at North Island College. Between 2011 and 2014 I was fairly busy with freelance work, under Sea Salt design, while I stayed at home with my son.
In 2014 our daughter was born and I planned to stay at home with her while my son was at school and freelancing on the side. A series of tragic events followed however, when she diagnosed with a life threatening Heart Defect and her only chance of survival was a Heart Transplant. We spent the next year in and out of hospital and at home caring for her with the help of home nurses around the clock. By June 2015, she had her Heart Transplant surgery and was on the road to a full recovery. Unfortunately, by July 2015, a number of issues came about and our beautiful little girl passed away at the age of 18 months old.
Following my daughter's passing, I took some time to reflect and grieve and to be available for my husband and son who had soon returned to school and work. I found myself at a cross roads again, from stay at home mom with a medically fragile child to nothing but time. During that time i began to think about what it was that I wanted to be doing and by 2016, Sea Salt design was reborn and I've been working steadily ever since. My daughter, a funny, spunky little character would of course be quite bored with us if we sat around moping and she is the inspiration for a lot of my work today.