Working as a Toi Ohomai tutor, photographer and graphic designer doesn’t prevent Heidi Douglas from taking time for herself and her creative thoughts. Read about Heidi’s definition of happiness, how she stays grounded, and the summer meal she’d eat every day…
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do)
I am a tutor at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, and a photographer and graphic designer.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
I was born in San Diego, California. I have lived, worked, and traveled through dozens of countries before settling in Mount Maunganui in 2004.
What are the earliest stories you remember hearing? The ones that told you about the world?
I grew up in a house filled with books. Pretty much every room was piled high with them. From my earliest days it was just normal to be reading all the time, and I think this connected me with the wider world and alternate ways of thinking about life. I remember the very first book that I literally couldn’t put down—Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I couldn’t have been much more than 6 or 7 and still vividly remember the feeling of being completely absorbed by the story. Later on I became obsessed with the Greek classics and the tales of the early days of archaeology such as the ‘discovery’ of the city of Troy by Schleiman. This proved that the story of The Iliad was not just legend, but actually happened. As an early teenager I read the writings of John Muir which led me to discover the photography of Ansel Adams thus beginning a life long passion for natural photography.
Looking back at your childhood self: what one sentence describes that person?
One very nerdy kid with a camera around her neck and a book in her hands.
What’s your favourite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? Why?
Mauao has a special place in my heart. I include a walk up or around the mount most days. For me it has a grounding effect. The scenery is always changing, and to have a mountain that is surrounded on three sides by water is magical.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
Life can be pretty hectic with four kids and three fur babies, teaching and running my own creative business. On days that I teach at Toi Ohomai I do all the usual ‘rushing woman’ things in the morning: dishes, kids to school, coffee and then to the Windermere campus where I teach Graphic Design. Afternoons are usually filed with my kids extra curricular activities, dinner, chores. Now that the days are longer I try to get an evening walk in with the dog and my husband before dinner. It’s been a warm spring so far, and the feeling of summer at the beach is teasing us daily. Teaching and running my own creative business requires a bit of juggling, especially when I have multiple projects at the same time. I really enjoy what I do as it allows me to be creative and social, but I try to take at least half an hour a day to spend with myself and allow my mind to slow down and filter through any creative thoughts I’ve had – whether it is about my current work, ideas for future projects, or just enjoying a sunset. This sacred time helps me stay grounded and not lose my own internal focus.
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
It’s definitely a big summer salad with fresh lettuce and veggies from the garden, then completed with bacon and blue cheese dressing and a nice cold glass of vino! I actually do eat this meal most nights during summer!
In one sentence, can you define art?
In my opinion art is about the communication of emotions.
What is missing or lacking from your Bay of Plenty community or environment?
Some kind of cultural centre and/or museum that showcases the unique identity of the Bay of Plenty. A space that would be open to tourists and locals alike and a central gathering point for cultural events, art exhibitions, learning and collaborative space.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
The Way, a film by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen, depicts the story of a man coming to grips with the death of his only son by hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It encompasses travel, life reflection, and personal growth through relationships. My Octopus Teacher which we watched recently on Netflix as a family—and I found it absolutely beautiful. It is the story of a burnt out filmmaker who turns to the ocean as a way of healing. He makes a connection with an octopus, and this charming film is the result. It will really challenge anyone who maintains that animals don’t have feelings. It also resonates with anyone who has pushed themselves too far and needs a bit of time to heal.
What was your first real job, second, third?
Working in a scuba diving shop filling tanks. That led me to working for a local scuba diving publication first as a jack of all trades, then as a sales rep and finally as the marketing manager. This allowed me to take my photography into the realm of underwater photography.
Where would you like to live, but have yet to?
Norway! Having travelled briefly through Scandinavia, I would love to live for at least a whole year in Norway. I love the culture and the extreme changes between summer and winter. I imagine the light would be fabulous and ever changing with the dramatic swing from endless night during the winter to endless days in the summer. I would love to do a photographic exploration of the light within the fjords during these extreme seasonal changes.
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Be true to yourself. It is easy in the creative world to get swept up in another person or person’s visions for your project. By all means take advice and welcome criticism, but if it doesn’t ring true to what you are trying to communicate, then listen to that little voice in your head.
What is your dream of happiness?
I do not have a dream for happiness as I am happy. I believe that happiness is a state of mind rather than a goal, and I strive to always be content with what I have. Cultivating a sense of gratitude for what I have and being content with who, where, and what I am is very important.