You think you have everything that you’ve ever wanted, until an unfamiliar desire starts to bubble up inside you. It might be a feeling, a little voice inside your head, or a drive for something you feel that you shouldn’t want. Many people experience these uninvited symptoms once they tick off items on their “should list:” I should get married, I should own a house, or I should have a white picket fence.
It’s a story that is common, and all too often, it ends there. These uneasy feelings create a war within us, and often create a fork in the road: on one side, the predictable path that others want for you; on the other, a mysterious path that is both terrifying and exciting.
Designer Jillian Zdunich of Mortar and Pestle chose the path of extremes. She was living the “perfect” life; the one that society tells us to chase after. She had a job in a corporate environment, made a steady income, and lived in a beautiful home. Jill often worked long hours, lived for the weekend, and felt like she was living a “grey life.” After listening to other people and fighting the rumbles of a deep inner desire for something more, she reached her breaking point, and decided to create the life that she truly wanted.
Growing up on a farm in a small town offered limited activities, so Jill took up sewing. As she grew up, so did her creative drive, but she felt like she had to take the path most travelled and go to school for something more traditional: business, psychology, and eventually primate studies. Although everyone was telling her that she should be happy, she wasn’t.
She turned her predictable Calgary life upside down when she decided to pack up her things, leave her grey life behind, and pursue what she longed for. She moved to Vancouver and enrolled in fashion design school at Blanche Macdonald, and slowly but surely, the inner longing started to weaken.
In March of 2010, she started designing full-time, and Mortar and Pestle was born. Her collection at Vancouver Fashion Week was one of the most talked about shows this season, where she showed a collection of unique colorful staple pieces. Feminine and streamlined, her clothing can be mixed and matched with almost anything, or can be worn from head to toe to create a signature classic Mortar and Pestle look.
As I explored her funky designing studio, I was surrounded by the sound of sheers cutting fabric, jars of buttons, numerous vintage sewing machines, and a pug named Jack. Her design studio that she shares with other local designers is a space swirling with creativity, which she is very grateful for.
She recalls her old life, which was drastically different from her life now. “I would go to work, and I would get a lot of work done, but I would go home and ask myself, ‘what did I do today?’ I didn’t have anything in my pockets; I had nothing that I could see, touch, or feel that I had made.” As a designer, making is what Jill focuses on doing now, in addition to a few other business related tasks. She’s grateful for her corporate background, and taps into it when she needs it.
Jill’s advice that she gives to people that are feeling lost in an unflattering shade of grey is to “Stop wishing, and just do it.” She is a person who follows her own advice, and has created a colourful life that is full of excitement and passion. The one thing that hasn’t changed for her is the long hours, but the difference is that now she wouldn’t change it for the world.