The new De Villiers-Cooper coat of arms

De Villiers-Cooper coat of arms

I mentioned to Stefan that, in the midst of all the packing and prep for our big move to Calgary, that I was starting to feel like we were becoming the De Villiers-Cooper clan about to set off on our epic adventure.⠀

His response: “We need a coat of arms.”⠀

With a prompt like that, how could I possibly resist?⠀

The finished result features our alter egos, Horace and Abigail, from our webcomic. I also wove in some personally relevant symbols from our relationship—and our dog Lola, of course.

Doodle Collabs by Stefan & Athena

One of the many things I love about our relationship is that we aren’t just partners romantically, Stefan and I also really enjoy partnering up creatively. This began back in early 2016 when we co-founded Tilted Windmills and now we’re experimenting in the visual realm by combining Stefan’s stream of conscious patterning, (aka “doodles”), with my love of light, texture and colour.

When he’s home, I’ll find these patterns drawn on napkins or the back of grocery lists—all over the place—and they always make me smile. Now, with him being away in Calgary, we thought this would be a fun way for us to create something together even though we’re apart.

Here are a few of the collaborations we’ve created so far.

Cultivate Your Orchid Child

Our “Cultivate Your Orchid Child” design has been a long time in the making… over two years, in fact. It all started with me reading a Scientific American article, “On the Trail of the Orchid Child”, outlining kids’ biological sensitivities and susceptibility to different environmental factors. The article explores how most children are like dandelions, hardy and capable of adapting to virtually any environment they may find themselves in. In contrast, orchid children are more sensitive and, like their floral counterparts, need specific environmental ingredients before they can truly thrive. If they don’t receive the care they need, they wither away.

The idea is that orchid children are more sensitive to their environments than their dandelion peers. The article goes on to explore the role that genetics plays in kids’ capacity for resilience, and identifies one gene in particular that may have a critical role in the development of orchid children: CHRM2. Interestingly, this same gene is linked to alcohol dependence, and behavioural disorders. But more intriguing to me is what happens when orchid children receive the nurturing they so desperately need. Those rare yet sensitive children have the potential to become “a flower of unusual delicacy and beauty,” according to the authors of the original study, Bruce J. Ellis and W. Thomas Boyce. Ellis and Boyce are human development specialists from the University of Arizona, and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively.

Here at Tilted Windmills we believe in the power of diverse skill-sets, abilities, lived experiences, ideas, and ways of being in the world. When I read this article I thought about the many kids out there who are born with what society labels a disability, or kids who exist outside of typical gender norms. We focus specifically on issues around (dis)ability and gender nonconformity, because we have lived experience with them. With my partner Athena, I started to think of ways we could raise awareness and celebrate the wonderful diversity that makes up humanity, especially when it comes to these children. But of course this doesn’t apply to them alone – any child who has ever experienced being an outsider in one way or another can benefit from a loving and nurturing environment.

Athena, our resident artist, took the ball and ran with it, and the result is a beautiful design that captures something of the ideas I just described. Tilted Windmills’ Orchid Child campaign is about embracing the beauty and vulnerability all children represent.

The design is a layered, multimedia creation that includes Athena’s original acrylic painting of the dandelion field and digitally manipulated photographs of the orchid and child. It suggests a field of dandelions outside a greenhouse that shelters the delicate orchid and curious child.

Want to show your support? Buy your own “Cultivate Your Orchid Child” merchandise and let us know what you think!

Stefan


Cultivate Your Orchid Child

Concept by: Stefan // Design by: Athena

Horace & Abigail wish you happy holidays!

Horace and Abigail Christmas card 2017

Dear friends,

Don’t know about you, but around here, 2017 came with many surprises, challenges, and memorable moments. Some of those memorable moments included my acceptance into the Master’s of Social Work program at University of Calgary, and Athena participating in her first two art gallery showings in Vancouver, both of them a rousing success. Lola, our furry four-legged partner-in-life, had a healthy year of belly rubs, and chasing squirrels.

The upcoming 2018 promises some big moments too, with Athena and Lola to join me in Calgary in the fall, as I enter my final year of graduate school. Until then, we are stuck in separate cities, an experience Horace and Abigail shares in our end-of-year webcomic.

Hoping 2018 is a year of laughter, love, and light, for you and your dearly beloveds.

Happy Holidays!

Stefan