We had the good fortune of connecting with Ayla Peña and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ayla, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in the Philippines, but now based on the Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I studied the fine arts and advertising design in a university in the Philippines, and furthered my education with an intensive design program when we moved to Canada. I’ve always loved being creative and working with my hands. My dad used to teach photography, typography, and advertising design, so I remember being curious with the lessons and creative homework he’d assign to his students. I never thought of graphic design as a career path until I came across the design reference books my dad owned. I’ve always been in awe with other designers’ styles and creativity.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I always say I like to make people (happy) cry because of my handwriting. Growing up in a time where the computer wasn’t always readily available, I learned to make use of what I had to express my creativity. More often than not, it was just with a pen and sketchbook, or whatever I can draw/sketch on. For the holidays or special occasions, I’d always write letters or make greeting cards for friends and family. Having acquired a letterpress is probably the most exciting thing that has happened for me and my business. My press is a century-old antique printing machine that can be operated by my hands and feet. There’s a bit of a learning curve while operating a letterpress and it’s not always pretty behind-the-scenes, but I think that adds to uniqueness of each piece produced from it. I’m a sentimental person, so I think nostalgia also plays a part in my offerings especially since my hands do a lot of the work. A little piece of me and my heart always goes with the art that I produce. It’s important for me that when a client, a colleague, or a friend receives a package from me, they feel a familiar excitement, leaving them feeling inspired, satisfied, and/or blissful.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I live on the beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia and I’m so grateful to be surrounded by the ocean and forests. If we had a weeklong itinerary: We would go on a road trip starting in Victoria (south of the island), visit some of the landmarks such as the Hatley Castle, The Butchart Gardens, Victoria Butterfly Gardens, as well as visit the Esquimalt Lagoon. A few cafés and restaurants to try are: Café Fantastico (coffee or lunch), Jam Café or Nourish Kitchen and Café (brunch), and House of Boateng or Il Terrazzo (dinner). I love spending time outdoors, so we will check out some hike trails that are dog-friendly, such as Mill Bay Nature Park, as I have a couple of puppies who are my adventure buddies. The island also has a lot of vineyards we can check out: Damali Lavender and Winery, Rocky Creek Winery, and Blue Grouse Estate Winery. Then we can stay at a BnB in Ladysmith, which is a homey, little town and grab some fresh baked bread from Old Town Bakery and have dinner at Maya Norte or Barnacle Barney’s. There’s a few antique shops in this area as well. Make sure you check out Mahle Restaurant in Cedar and go for a walk in Hemer Park or check out the beach in Cedar by the Sea. Downtown Nanaimo is a picturesque hub for shops and businesses that are worth the visit such as Common Foundry, La Stella Trattoria, Modern Café, and Gallery 223. Then we’re going to head north up to Tofino, which is about a 3-hour drive from the city. There’s a lot of gorgeous accommodations in Tofino if campsites are not available, but I personally think it’s best to camp near Chesterman Beach as there’s nothing better than waking up to sunrise or catching the sunset. A few restaurants to check out are Kuma, Shelter, and 1909 Kitchen. To be honest, it might be a little hard to leave this little slice of heaven after spending a couple of days.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A huge shoutout to my parents who didn’t even bat an eyelash when I said I’m going for the creative career path. I’ve tried different dayjobs in the past, but nothing has ever left me as fulfilled as brainstorming my next printed or graphic design project. When I took the leap and went full-time with my calligraphy and letterpress business, my parents were the most supportive. It was a little unnerving in the beginning especially since I didn’t have any business experience, but I just knew I’m going to make it work and continue doing what fuels my soul.
Maricle Kang — www.mariclekang.com
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