Alta States 

Susan Butler - you can go home again


You've seen examples of her work all over town. On restaurant menus, Intrawest and Playground real estate campaigns, Whistler Blackcomb ads. She does big events too. Kokanee Crankworx, the upcoming jazz festival, Vancouver's National Award For Non-Fiction - they all benefit from her light-handed artistic touch.

She insists she has no favourites - "they're all great to work with," she says - but admits to a bit of "parental" pride in the now-iconic bike festival. "It's been seven years now," says Brand Central Design's Susan Butler. "It's my pride and joy - something I look forward to every summer." She pauses for a breath. "It's a big job. But the control freak in me loves that I'm responsible for everything from the brand story, the art, the website, and right down to the way the medals are designed."

She laughs. "You know," she says finally. "It's almost become part of who I am. I can't help it." She laughs again. Shrugs, almost apologetically. "I take my work very personally," she explains. "I know this may sound naive, but I really care about my clients."

And her clients have responded in kind. But that doesn't make it easy. Now based in Squamish - and the mum of a very active, outgoing two-year-old boy - the 10-year Whistler resident admits it's no small trick to manage both motherhood and a highly demanding career as a roving art director.

"The problem for me," she says, "is that everything has to be perfect. My expectations for myself are way too high." A long sigh. "And motherhood, as I'm learning, is about everything but perfection."

Sea to Sky country is certainly a long way from North Bay and the wild shores of Lake Nipissing where Butler grew up. But living in Squamish, she says, is not all that different to the life she led as a young girl in Northern Ontario. "I grew up in a really outdoorsy family," says the forty-something snowboarder. "You know, hunting and fishing and skiing and hiking. So you see, I've kind of come full circle." She laughs. "Venison on the table, salmon in the freezer, fresh berries in the fridge..."

She's not sure how to put the next thought diplomatically. "I loved living at Whistler," she says. "I wouldn't trade the decade I spent there for anything in the world. To have access to all that terrain - to be able to snowboard daily on some of the best slopes in the world - it was a unique experience. But Whistler never really became home for me." She lets a couple of beats pass. "Squamish - now that's a different story."


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