A story about our embroidered Intuit Tee collaboration with Vancouver-based calligrapher Maurelle de los Santos.
I was welcomed into Maurelle's apartment by two small faces. Teetering between caution and curiosity, a young boy slowly opened the door. A girl two-thirds of his height peered out from behind him, scrutinizing the stranger who just walked in. At this moment, a woman whisked out of the bedroom with a third little one on her arms.
"I am sorry! Kade has been fussy the whole morning. Let me quickly feed him, and I will be ready for you shortly." With a warm smile and the upbeat greeting, Maurelle disappeared into her room once again.
When I started collecting the handwritten messages for Vestige's Mother's Day project, I knew immediately that the first collaborator had to be Maurelle de los Santos.
Maurelle is anything but an ordinary woman. She is a self-taught artist, runs her own calligraphy business, and has three young children— all of whom she decided to homeschool herself.
Though not a teacher by trade, Maurelle is a true advocate of learning. She studied Biology and Nursing in the Philippines, and worked in marketing and events before her immigration to Canada. An entrepreneur at heart, she wanted to pursuing becoming her own boss and made the big leap to change her career. She knew right away it had to be in the creative field. Eventually, she taught herself calligraphy and made it into a self-supporting business.
"What are your names?" I asked, trying to break the ice while I waited for Maurelle.
"I am Kal, and she is my sister Kassey," the young boy responded. He paused, then added, "and our youngest brother is Kade. He is just a baby."
"And who is this?" I pointed at the small brown bear Kal held in his hand.
"My best friend Lance!"
The two children continued to tour me around their play space in the living room. Once they shredded the initial shyness, they became animated with bright smiles and free-spirited laughter. I watched as they built wooden towers and pieced together puzzles. Kal even proudly paraded his beautifully drawn "homework" assigned by their mother.
When Maurelle finally emerged from her bedroom, I took out the t-shirt we collaborated on and showed her the fruits of our efforts. I have asked her to handwrite a message regarding the theme of motherhood. She chose the words "shape a kind heart", which I embroidered onto our Intuit Tees.
"Shape a kind heart is both a reminder to myself as a mother and wife, as well as a message I would like to pass on to my kids. To remind them that a kind heart is far more critical than any wealth, status or achievement in life," she smiled, as she ran her fingers over the little stitches that made up her own handwriting.
Maurelle described that her days with her children centres on igniting their curiosity. On top of daily maths and language lessons, they engage in fun hands-on activities like baking or take nature walks at nearby parks. On rainy days, they would play board games, or have indoor dance time where the children follow her lead to 90's hits. And in between all of moments of learning and fun, there is always time for tickle time.
"Being a force for good is vital," Maurelle explained, "especially if we want to teach our kids about gratitude and kindness. To impart them with the beauty of giving without any expectation of receiving. Aside from explaining and showing to them why we contribute to our church, we are teaching them acts of kindness to do for other people like being courteous, mindful in public places, respecting elders etc."
To Maurelle, being a mother means unconditional love. It means to accept imperfect and failures that everyday life brings. As she patiently calmed each of her children and drew them closer for their daily lesson, I knew that Kal, Kassey and Kade were all loved equally for their own unique characteristics. As both mother and teacher of these young ones, she assumes the essential role of teaching them respect, compassion, empathy and gratitude.
When it came to dressing for her hectic day-to-day, Maurelle looked for casual, minimal pieces that are made with comfort in mind. What drew her to Vestige's designs, and our eventual collaboration is our use of natural fabrics and our subtle artistic details.
"Your brand's concept of creating pieces through inspirations from different stories of artists really gets me! The embroidery also gives this t-shirt a beautiful artistic flare. It provides raw but authentic message from whoever wrote the message."
After a morning of photos, learning and laughter, our small gathering came to an end. From this process, I not only gained a beautiful new design for my collection
— I also became friends with four beautiful souls.