Sustainability that Sticks

Written by Rhonda Lee McIsaac

Pretty mason jar tumblers and mugs with fresh decals sparkle in the sun on a work bench in her home studio. The crisp artistic vinyl decals are the creation of...



As a self-taught artist and maker, Julia has created “a small side business that is 
more of a hobby” says the full-time teacher. In her down time, you can spot her on the many beaches around Haida Gwaii; like the students she teaches, carefree with a pocketful of seashells, agates, and with driftwood happily in hand.

The wood she salvages from the shores she makes into wooden signs that she sells. “For my wood signs I use the same digital process to create a stencil that I then use to paint onto the wood that I have reclaimed, cut, sanded and stained” she states.

The stencil is made of paper, plastic sheets, or vinyl and makes painting mess free and keeps the lines straight. “For some of my wooden signs I like to have a white background – I think painting this background to be my least favourite as I am eager to get to the next step of either painting the design on or placing the shells or beach glass on the sign. You know – “waiting for paint to dry” is her least favorite part of the process.

Through adding beachcombed items though she finds a therapeutic process. “I find the process of finding the perfect spot for each shell or beach glass therapeutic and very Zen.

It is a relaxing activity that I really enjoy!” she states.

Using a digital app to create her designs she uses a machine to cut onto vinyl to create symmetry, straight lines, different fonts, and measured accuracy.

“I like that in digital designing I can create those clean edges that I am not as able to do with free hand art work” says the lifelong doodler.

Although the digital process is the most time-consuming part it is also a lot of fun for her. She enjoys playing with different fonts for writing on signs or tumblers to putting images together to convey a certain look.

“I often get lost in the process” she says wanting customers to know that this is truly an artistic process often inspired by the light, tides, and wind direction on Haida Gwaii. It is then translated onto an image that encapsulates a specific moment in time.

For a great souvenir she suggests the following, “I also do custom decals, which can be great for gift giving!”. “More recently I have been creating some pieces with beach glass and shells. Around Christmas time I make ornaments with these items” she says - and these ornaments perfectly encapsulate this artistic process.

“I absolutely love beachcombing!” she says, and with her customers taking her signs home they can remember their favourite beach walks while at home before they return.

“Coast and Alpine” is inspired by hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, and camping - all these activities she enjoys so often living on Haida Gwaii.

“From the beaches to the mountain’s, nature is so beautiful and inspiring. I like to bring this vibe to my designs as much as possible” she says.

Julia's crisp crafted creations span many mediums from decals, stickers, signs, ornaments and the list is always growing. She is reusing materials and offering tantalizing low plastic alternatives for you to show the environment some love in style! To check out what Julia is working on next visit her Shop Haida Gwaii Shop | Coast + Alpine Design.

This article was written by Rhonda Lee McIsaac and photographed by Jessica Fairweather.

Rhonda is an Anishnawbek writer, journalist, and artist based on Haida Gwaii. Her work focuses on local, national, indigenous, and environmental issues.

Jessica is a Haida Photographer who was born and raised on Haida Gwaii. She has been practicing photography for 9 years and began her business "Studio Simone A." In 2020. She has experience with product, portrait, lifestyle, maternity, weddings, and many other forms of photography. 

Explore New Vendors

Shop Haida Gwaii is always growing as talented new vendors work behind the scenes to create their shops. Come check out our talented vendors and find new works and wares to gush over!
Explore Vendors