Dear Heather, nice to meet you – we are going to your favorite place for having cake and tea, tell me where we are!
We are in Robert’s Creek, B.C at the Gumboot Cafe. This is the closest “vegan friendly” cafe and it’s 45 min away from my house.
What do you order most of the time?
I usually order soup and then some kind of vegan treat and coffee. Usually about half of their treat selection is vegan.
Why do you like it here?
Well, it’s a small hippie town and so it’s fun to visit because it’s very different from where we live up the highway. My kids really like it and they eat the food so that’s always a bonus. People are friendly here and there are usually some interesting characters to check out. On any given day you may see people in hooded cloaks playing flutes or casually walking around on stilts. My kids think it’s awesome !! It’s a draft dodger town.
Have you always lived in this place?
No, I grew up in East Vancouver and moved to Toronto in my 20’s. I then moved to a little town outside of Toronto and got married and had my son. After my son was born, I was obsessed with the idea of raising him in B.C so we moved back out here and ended up on the Sunshine Coast.
What do you love most about the place you are living now?
I love the lack of distraction. I love that I am surrounded by nature and that my children are growing up that way. I love that I kind of know every person I see. We are able to save a bit of money here as well and are eyeing spots neat the Rocky Mountains. We would love to buy some land and have a little sanctuary in the next few years. Buying anything here is very expensive because of it’s vicinity to Vancouver.
How did you encounter veganism?
I was exposed to veganism through the hardcore scene in the 90’s. I went to a lot of punk shows and when I was about 15, I started going to hardcore shows and meeting friends in that scene. Some of my older friends were vegan and I remember being so shocked that they didn’t drink milk. When I was 18, I picked up a pamphlet on veal crates at a show and finally decided to go vegan.
Are you also straight edge?
I never really fully identified with being straight edge even when I was very involved in the scene and didn’t drink or do drugs. I think I have always been more into the politics of hardcore and standing up against the status quo. I identify with being a vegan activist, a mother and an artist now. Although, I do listen to bands like Chain of Strength and get super stoked when ‘True till Death’ comes on. Maybe I’m a closet straight edger.
Well, to live drug free you don’t have to be straight edge 😉 what put you off in straight edge culture instead of pulling you in?
I have a lot of love and respect for straight edge and hardcore and it was a huge part of my life. The first hardcore kids I hung with were straight edge but we went to every type of show and listened to a lot of different kinds of music. We just had tonnes of fun doing ridiculous stuff all the time. There wasn’t any judgement and there wasn’t a huge hardcore scene. It was just a small group of us. They were older than me so they slowly stopped going to shows and kind of leaving the scene and then a new wave came in. The newer crowd was a lot more sporty and “polished” and it felt more like a boys club. They were super into being straight edge but that’s kind of all they had going for them. So, I think it was just my own personal experience that made me feel slightly disconnected from straight edge. I enjoy being sober but it feels like my contribution to society comes in other forms and it’s just not front and center in my life.
How did you have the idea to start Vegan Police Shop?
I was just learning how to screen print and testing out some different designs. I had been a “quite” vegan for a very long time before that. I was volunteering at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary and that really motivated me to try to do more for the animals. I made a few shirts and put them on Etsy thinking no one would buy them and it just kind of took off. There was was no business plan involved. I have had to figure that stuff out along the way.
Did you get the name from Scott Pilgrim? 😀
No! I just recently watched that because people keep on asking me though. The movie is kind of cute and funny but it seemed to go on forever and I didn’t finish it. It’s kind of an inside joke because of all the people that harassed me and called me the “Vegan Police” just for simply existing as a vegan. So I finally stepped up to speak out for animals and decided to call my shop the VeganPolice shop. It made sense at the time, but I have actually had people email me saying that they wouldn’t support me because my name. It’s kind of funny.
Ahahahaha, that made me laugh a lot, because I went to the movies to see this film and it felt like it was 3 hrs long! 🙂 I like it anyway though. What do you say to people calling you the vegan police?
I used to get so annoyed and I didn’t really stick up for myself. I would just kind of laught it off. It’s funny because now that I have that shop nobody calls me that any more. Mostly they try to avoid the subject all together. ha ha. I am much better at standing up for veganism now but in a calm, collected kind of way 😉
What is the working process on your designs like, what is your inspiration?
An idea usually just pops into my head and then I think about it for a little while before I draw it out. My main thing is that I try to come up with something that hasn’t been done. I try to keep it positive. My kids inspire me a lot. Animals and food of course and good music.
Which music would that be?
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of ; Beyonce, Gouge Away, Lifetime, Man Afraid, Needles // Pins, G.L.O.S.S., Leatherface, Catharsis ( Crimethinc. ), Kendrick Lamar, Gillian Welch, 108 and Trial.
Which are your personal favorites of designs you made?
The ferocious vegan shirt is very close to my heart because it was just a weird idea I came up with and thought no one would be into. It kind of took off and now has been stolen by a bunch of people. It’s kind of crazy.
Theft of ideas has become very common with social media – any ways to defend yourself?
I’ve done everything from emailing the person directly, which doesn’t always work, to filing claims. Certain sites will let you file claims easily and most of the time, it works. I have filed claims on sites like Teespring and Sunfrog.com and they are good about taking stuff down. People are smart to watermark images but it does take away from it, so I chose not to do that. The real problem is that it happens so frequently that if you don’t keep checking on it, it can get out of control. That’s what happened with my Ferocious Vegan design. Amazon.com made a shitty version of it and now there are a bunch of different versions on Amazon.com and someone is selling a shitty version of it on Ebay. Most of these people are not vegan, they just scout the internet for other people’s ideas. It is a huge time suck to file claims and argue with people about why it’s not ok to steal from other small businesses. One thing that has been pretty cool is that I have worked together with a bunch of other vegan t-shirt companies to get rip off’s removed. Instead of being super competitive, we look out for each other. It is such a nice feeling and the support of the vegan community has been so amazing as well.
This sounds great, like real solidarity! Is Etsy a good platform to meet your needs as a craftswoman?
It really is. I mean it’s not perfect by any means but it has given me the ability to be an artist for a living, so I have a lot of love for Etsy. It’s kind of getting swamped now but you can still find a lot of amazing stuff on there. I think the majority of shops on Etsy are female run which is really great.
Patriarchy hurts all of us – in which kind of a world would you love to raise your son?
It’s difficult to think about because we have a long way to go with so many things and climate change is already here. Things will get a lot worse before they get better but I do believe that things will get better. My son is 6 but he seems to understand certain things better than many adults do. I answer all of his questions and we talk a lot about politics, advertising, religion, sexism, racism, the LGBTQ community and veganism of course. I also have a 2 year old daughter and I will do the same for her when she is a bit older. They are both happy children and I want them to feel free to become whoever they want to be. I would love a world where were are looking out for each other, respecting all species, protecting the earth, not oppressing each other and valuing art and music. I would love to raise them in a world without capitalism. I think it will collapse one day and despite the chaos that will ensue, I have hopes that what would come after would be a beautiful thing.
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