Amy Viktoria Wakefield is the Kevin Bacon of my photography world. A few years back a friend bought me a small photo of records in a record shop. Fast forward a few years later, I spot the same print in a different friend’s living room. Then, in late 2014 I meet this lovely freckled, photographer friend of a friend who…. you guessed it, is the record shop print photographer. And that my friends is only the tip of the glacier in terms of AV Wakefield’s mountain photography talent, not to mention her knack for bringing people together.
As the owner of North Birch Grove AV inspires you to wander with photo products (think Canadian provinces overlaid with stunning landscape shots) or vibrant photo magnets with inspiring text. As the proprietor of North Birch Grove, AV sells her photo wares at markets across Canada and online and as a Canmore resident she gets outside as much as possible.
Enter Hike365, a hiking collective based in the Canmore/Banff area. For the last couple of years AV and her home girls take smallish groups of gals out for hikes in the Canadian Rockies. In the summer Hike365 gathers monthly and sometimes bi-monthly through winter. Amy is the Hike365 ring leader and, of course, their office photographer.
When not striding up mountains, you can can find AV at Calgary’s Market Collective or Vancouver or Edmonton’s Make It shows. Stop by her booth, chat up this kinda/kinda not shy gal. Her wide smile, loud laugh and very talented index finger (she presses buttons to capture perfectly composed landscape/canine/fine art photographs) make her an overall lovely person to shoot the bull with. I’m so stoked to share AV’s story f*#king awesome job story today.
Name, Title/Company, Age, Location
AV Wakefield – North Birch Grove – Grown Up (almost) – Canmore, Alberta, Canada
So how did you get that f*#king awesome job? Can you describe what your job is and what it is that you do?
I am the artist, photographer + owner behind North Birch Grove: a fine art photography + home décor brand. I work in my studio with wood to create one of a kind pieces with my photography as the base + work with a Canadian production team to create my line of home décor products.
I also operate Hike365, an outdoor + wellness community for women who want to make new friends and explore nature together safely + respectfully all 365 days of the year which I founded.
I attended ACAD in Calgary Alberta + completed a B.Des in Photography, then said to my wise 20 something year old self “now what?!”
I started selling my artwork in person at small craft sales + online, did a number of showings + would take any contract commercial photography job out there offered to my to gain experience post-university. After a while, the craft sales weren’t craft sales anymore, they were replaced by artisan markets + pop up shops, the showings were replaced with online sales, + I was able to take on only the commercial jobs that truly interested me as a creative. This process took about 5 years, with little time for sleep, but I’d do it all again to end up where I am today; with a healthy work-life balance + work I love to wake up for!
In May of 2014 I organized a girls hike in Kananaskis. I didn’t have many girl friends to hike with + thought this was a great way to meet new people. I chose to open the registration up for free (which it remains to this day) to 12 girls interested in doing a group hike. We hit the trail that day with far more than 12 girls + many on the wait list. I realized the need for building a community of women with an interest in both photography + hiking based around a social media platform so that we could share our experiences via photographs, recipes, + trip reports. Thus Hike365.org was born. As I work towards integrating this additional career into my day to day it remains a work in progress, allowing me to learn as I go how to efficiently run a community based project.
Did you have to give anything up to get here?
I gave up rural living in exchange for years of city living in downtown Calgary, attending university + building my business before I was able to make the move to Canmore + connect back with a slower pace + a work life balance tailored to my love for the outdoors.
Who or what has been your mentor/inspiration along the way?
My Pops. He is the one who fostered my “it’s in my head, I can see how it looks in there, and I want to make it real” way of thinking when it comes to art + design, through teaching me woodworking since I was a kid.
In three words or less, what’s the best part of your job?
I feel accomplished
In three words or less, what’s the worst part of your job?
Too little sleep
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh there were many potential vocations on my list as a child but my fav was: a pro snowmobiler
What is your drink of choice?
Water + at the end of a long day, Kentucky bourbon neat.
Where was the last place you travelled?
North America: I recently completed a truck camping trip across Montana, Wyoming + South Dakota to the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota with just me + my blue heeler sidekick Metsä!
International: North of the Arctic Circle in Norway – solo backpacking camping trip
What’s on your playlist right now?
Turnpike Troubadours, Kurt Vile, Kacey Musgraves, Alan Jackson + Jason Aldean
What are your top three reads vis a vis your career (books, magazines, manuals, podcasts)?
Greg Proops Smartest Man in the World – Podcast
Mister Weekender – Jaharn Giles – Website
Any advice for someone who’s looking to lock down their f*#king awesome job?
Take a chance! Cut back on your life hustle + bustle + focus on the job that allows you have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day + is f*#king AWESOME!
What does the future behold for your f*#king awesome job?
I’m excited to pair my love of travel + hiking/backpacking with my skills as an educator in photography techniques together in 2016! Perhaps some photography workshops in tandem with outdoor activities in amazing locations across the world are in the works for female adventurers + North Birch Grove!
Did you love reading about AV? To read about more inspiring folks working at their dream jobs go here for profiles on folks such as an innovative northern chef, an Africa-hopping yoga teacher or a travel television show/producer.