My name is Christel LeBlanc and I’m an interdisciplinary designer, artist and teacher. I work on projects that have both physical and ephemeral outcomes — graphics, identity and branding, web and app designs, interface/UX design. My process is iterative and flexible, meshing fine arts with new technology and unusual inspiration. I teach at NSCAD University in the Division of Design and the School of Extended Studies, and give workshops on design technology.
The LeBlancs in my family came to Acadia 400 years ago and I’ve lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia almost all my life. These days I nest in the north end with my husband Greg and three rad, bad cats. I spend winter working and making things and devote the summer to camping, feasting and exploring with friends.
I was raised in a creative family: my mother is a talented and prolific painter, my father is an artist, designer and professor at NSCAD University, and my brother is an artisan woodworker and sculptor in Grand Rapids, MI.
I started at the University of King’s College with the Foundation Year Program and I ended up finishing with an honours degree in early modern history with a minor in German. My undergraduate thesis was a small study on the use and meaning of religious artifacts in the poor and largely illiterate northern mountain areas of early modern Italy, where Catholic doctrine and pagan culture merged into a practical, results-driven belief system.
I had never seriously considered pursuing a design degree but I began to see how my academic and creative interests could converge towards a discipline that might be a career as well as a form of artistic fulfilment. In 2008 I started a masters degree in design (MDes) at NSCAD University, where my focus became sustainability and grassroots education in 2D design fields, culminating in a short book titled “A Radical Stance: Addressing Consumerism and Sustainability through Communication Design.”
ESTABLISHING THE STUDIO
When I left school in 2010, I knew I wanted to work independently, though it took a couple of years for that to happen. I established Forest Friend Creative Projects in 2011 as a way to explore my overlapping interests in art, design, history, writing, research and teaching. I took on freelance client projects while working part-time at Dalhousie University and then embarked on my own full-time in 2013.
Since then, I’ve worked with lots of artists, musicians, designers, universities, non-profits and businesses in Canada and the US, providing graphic, print, web and interactive design for projects that range from branding and logos to apps and websites, to books and exhibitions.
I complement my practice by teaching part time at NSCAD University, both in the Division of Design and the School of Extended Studies. I’ve been teaching WordPress and InDesign classes regularly and most recently taught Intro to Interdisciplinary Design in Fall 2016. Last winter I launched Quick Study, a weekend workshop for artists and entrepreneurs.
CLIENTS & PARTNERS
Clients include: Mindful magazine, The Well Creative Consultants, AllNovaScotia, the Halifax Women’s History Society, The Strong House Artisan Collective, jewelry designers Donna Hiebert and Sarah Sears, fashion designer Maggie MacCormick, University of King’s College, Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre, Rural Rides (Rural Transportation Association), disability mapping app Mapability, Halifax Tool Library, WWF-Canada (Atlantic), The Trail Shop, Colibri Software, photographer Dick Blau, Tammachat Natural Textiles, Little Foot Yurts, ACORN, Harvest Hand, Atlantic chapter of Canadian Land Reclamation Association, Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law.
What’s a forest friend?
A forest friend is a genderless, adolescent trickster spirit, mentioned since antiquity in stories and songs of rural coastal peoples on the Atlantic seaboard of North America.
According to legend, forest friends live alone in burrows called “hoards”, where they collect magical objects, and will roam hundreds of square kilometres of woods. They are highly influenced by the moon and some tales allege that they are able to turn invisible at will.
Usually, sighting a forest friend is good luck and may indicate that you have reached a point of focus amidst chaos. The forest friend is associated with a clash of opposing forces (fire/water) and with blithe neutrality, represented by the Fool in tarot arcana.