A couple of days ago I was in Illyria and somehow age came up. Like the older I get, the less accurate I am at guessing people’s age. I assume everyone is my age? Or maybe a smidge younger? When you’re a kid, or a teenager- age makes all the difference but at some point, it doesn’t matter. Some of my dearest friends are older, some are younger. This is the long-way-round way of saying that Eleanor Stewart is one of those people who seems timeless, but also regal. Elegant. Poised.  (Lots of things I wish I was but most days I’m just a hot-mess.)

From what I can gather, Eleanor is a kind-hearted friend. She’s got an amazing eye for style and curated items. She is an animated story teller and also one of the most effortlessly beautiful people I know. She is an artist, a stunning jewellery designer, and now the owner of Illyria.

I don’t think any of us could have fathomed all that 2020 had in store- and certainly not Eleanor as she began to dream and plan for her new store.  Illyria Studio Shop is a really beautiful addition to our little down town, and it recently (May 9, 2021) turned ONE! If ever there was a time to celebrate a business succeeding in their first year, I think it’s now… opening mid-pandemic must have been a stressful and daunting time! Being a shop owner is only one aspect of who Eleanor is, and it’s my pleasure to get to know her and to highlight her here.

Welcome to the table, Eleanor!

How long have you called the Bulkley Valley home?

I first arrived in the Bulkley Valley over 15 years ago on a sunny and glorious Labour Day weekend and was completely seduced by her beauty. Having grown up in Bella Coola, my rule has always been – if you’re going to live small – live beautiful and while few places hold a candle to Bella Coola – that sunny weekend in 2005 sealed the deal!

What is one thing you have learned about friendship, or community?

Community for me has always been about relationships, and in a sense when I came to the Valley – I had a built-in community already. Having grown up in and worked in the fly-fishing world – I was fortunate to know a wonderful group of people (anglers and fellow Lodge folk) whom already lived here. From there it was about building relationships within the Valley and within that first year made some dear life-long friends.

The best example of community that has always resonated the most with me is our Farmers Market. The number of dedicated growers, farmers, bakers and crafts people who gather to feed and inspire our community has always been a huge source of joy. As someone who has worked in customer service for always and in Smithers since I arrived, the Farmers Market is something I always encourage any visitors to enjoy. You cannot hit the market and not see a friend!

A better answer to that for the sake of your project might be – community and friendship is about caring for one another. This Valley is full of stories about great adventures, beautiful days, trying situations, and so on that often have a wonderful element of connectedness to them. I feel like you know you officially belong somewhere when you can call on a neighbour or a friend, be it to help you change a tire or for gardening advice – and this Valley is brimming with gardening advice 😉

What is one area you are growing?

There is no one area I am growing in – I feel like as a new business owner – I am being stretched in every direction! I suppose the area that demands the most attention is really striving for balance. Ensuring I am able to give my business the attention it requires and being available to my lovely customers; while also prioritizing my family life. Weekends have a whole new feeling – truly time to step away from the shoppe and into my family time.

What is one thing you’d say to your younger self?

Advice to my younger self would likely touch on the importance of healthy boundaries. Being sure to prioritize and care for oneself in order to be able to attend to the needs of others. And that to accomplish anything well and sustainably – requires a strong foundation (boundaries).

Who inspires you and why?

What inspires me is less of a “who” and more of a “what”. I am most inspired in nature – my creativity as a designer always starts outside. All of my jewellery collections have been born of a beach combing adventure, walk along the river, & wander through the woods. And when it comes to curating spaces, you will always find objects from out of doors brought in. To my eye there is endless beauty in plants, twigs, rocks, feathers and blooms.

What do you know to be true, and how do you carry that day to day?

What I know, or what I think I know is always evolving. I suppose one guiding principal is to stay true to myself and my values. To check in with myself regularly and to create from a place of authenticity. To care for and leave the places, people and things better than when I arrived.