This past April, I had the pleasure of catching up with an artist I have long admired but never met. June Hunter is part photographer, part artist and full-time magpie in spirit … she makes a living ‘collecting’ the beautiful pieces of everyday life and turning them into wondrous objets d’art.
June’s art has long appealed to me. A friend first introduced me to June’s work and I have continued to love it the many times I have seen her artwork at Granville Island and other galleries in Vancouver. A trip in April 2014 to Vancouver had me corresponding ahead of time with June, and she invited me to visit her in her Vancouver home-based art studio.
I was delighted – not only because I LOVE peeking into other artists’ studios and processes – but because I had a feeling that June was my kind of person. (Corvid-lovers recognize others of their kind!)
June is a bird lover, flower follower and Vancouver urbanite who has the most amazing eye for detail. The studio visit was a thrill, and meeting the generous and engaging June Hunter was a highlight of my trip. Here are the details of my studio visit to this magical place.
Upon arrival, June introduced me to Edgar, her cat, who is quite a character, then proceeded to make me a homemade latte. I felt like a member of the family from the get-go. It being April and WAY more green than our still-snowy Canmore, we opted to drink our coffee outside in her garden. (That’s June’s studio behind her.)
June’s backyard is a gorgeous mix of greenery, bird feeders and raised garden beds. Here, she regaled me with stories of her neighborhood critters: including the adventures of the baby crows and the hilarious squirrel who steals everything – including light bulbs from her Christmas decorations! She’s just started a blog that is well worth following that covers the natural beauty in her urban Vancouver neighborhood.
June was born in Newcastle, England, in an urban area with no yard (she joked that the neighborhood cemetery was her green space). Her family lived in a flat under the Tyne Bridge, and it surprised me that she did not have a garden growing up because so much of her art is informed by flowers and gardening. But, she credits her mom for always engaging her with nature on their walks when she was a child.
June’s had a few jobs and a very interesting life – tree planter, camp cook, marketing advisor, and eventually, artist. The camera she got as a gift at age nine began her passion with the natural world and has kept her grounded through busy times raising children and challenging family events.
While working in the marketing department of Capilano College (now University), she brought some of her botanical photos into work. Her colleagues always loved them, and over time, encouraged her to sell them. A very short version of what happened next is that she began selling at art shows, and in 2006, her family and colleagues gave her an almighty push into full-time art.
“They basically harassed me,” June says. “One friend offered to build my website and my husband was relentless. My supervisor at work was also very kind, allowing me to cut back on my work as the art business grew.”
And, grow the business certainly did. Today, June’s art and jewellery has been featured in individual and group shows in Canada and the UK, and she has a thriving Etsy business. She also sells her work at Granville Island and Ladner Village Markets, plus retail shops and art galleries throughout Vancouver.
As June’s business grew, she knew that she would have to invest in better studio space. She began working from her Vancouver home’s original garage, but when a neighborhood squirrel family moved into the overhead beams and starting having babies (that were not potty trained), let’s just say the space became less-than-ideal.
June had the happy task of designing her art studio and building it from scratch. It’s a beauty: the studio has a great homey feel, is crowded with lots of art projects, and has tons of natural light and built-in storage – enough to make any artist drool.
Here, June shows me the process where she takes her original photographs, then applies a transfer medium plus turpentine to make the image absorb into the stone. You can see samples of her beautiful tiles (and a description of the process) here.
Storage drawers and racks hold the large inventory June needs for her online store, the galleries and shops that sell her work, and the numerous art sales she attends throughout the year. The studio boasts a very large back door – similar to a garage door – that allows June to back up a vehicle and load up for those off-site shows.
How does June like running the art business full time? “I love it, but it’s also very busy. At times I feel a little bit like Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings when he says: ‘I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread’.” She laughs that contagious laugh of hers.
June says, though, she is also grateful for a career that feeds her thirst for the natural world. “I have so many friends who have retired early or are off travelling now that they are finished their careers. I am just ramping up. But, although I joke about my ‘freedom 95’ lifestyle, I get to be inspired every day by the beauty of the natural world around me.”
She smiles and adds, “That drop of rain on the leaf is amazing if you take the time to really look at it. I don’t need a trip to the Grand Canyon to feel the wonder of the world. I am so inspired by what I find outside my door, in my own neighborhood.”
More of June Hunter’s artwork and story can be found on her website June Hunter Images.