Ignite the heart Weekend


(pic taken by stranger with Robin’s camera)

Two days.

One amazing Oregon Coast location.

Five creative, industrious women.

A gorgeous, all-white beach house styled by an artist.

An all-white clothing line launched by this same artist.

One photo shoot on the beach at sunset.

Countless soul-baring conversations.

One heart exploding with excitement (namely, mine).

When my friend Leah Brown, creator of all things fabulous, talked with me about doing a photo shoot of her clothing line Belle Blanc, I was ecstatic. I thought I was being clever by calling it “White-Out Weekend” because we would be seeing her all-white beach cottage and (nearly all white) clothing designs for the first time. It turned out to be so much more than I could’ve imagined…in fact, I had a bit of trouble putting the experience into words. It all had to do with the women involved (truly an inspirational group) and what was created when we all spent uninterrupted time together. So what was to be coined a weekend “a lighter shade of pale” (to quote Van Morrison) actually became “Ignite the heart” because that is exactly what happened to all of us.

Let’s start with the women…

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Natalie of Sparrow (last one on left being kissed by Debbie), rock star vendor at Barnhouse is one of the most gentle, kind-hearted people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve seen her so many times at all of the vintagey events around the NW, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I truly saw her creative genius firsthand. She sees beauty in the mundane and creates special out of the ordinary. She is in love with her family, putting them first, showing this consistently through her actions in her busy life. Natalie is what I would call a Sparkly Gem….shy and a bit reserved, but a wealth of creative spark and fire when you have the time and privilege to be in her company.

Debbie (kisser of Natalie), of Worthy Goods stardom (also a BH vendor and Monticello regular) is a box of beauty/elegance/grace/warmth/sparkle/compassion tied with a big, beautiful vintage ribbon. My first encounter with Debbie was when Sainta Maria and I went to a BH sale for the first time and both said to each other, “Look at that gorgeous, elegant woman.” She carries herself like a swan and you try not to stare, but it’s hard! She is a “captivates the room with her presence” person not only with her natural (seemingly effortless) beauty, but with her kind demeanor and warm spirit. Another magician with vintage style…someone who regularly renovates the old into something lovely and functional. Her partner Laurie couldn’t come and she was greatly missed. She is the other half of the dynamic duo that creates this magic.

Robin (being smooched by me), of Bird Tweets fame, is someone I hold very dear. We share a common love for photography—that’s a given—but it has become so much more than that for me. She is one of “safe places” in my life with her wise words and loving heart. Her talent for image capturing is obvious with all of the eye candy she creates for her blog and for the beloved vintage events in our area…yet if you read her heartfelt words and listen to the stories of the relationships she’s formed in the past few years, you get a clear picture of the extreme depth of this woman. She is love personified and I am calmer just being around her.

Leah (stunning woman in the very top picture on the far right), the mastermind of this little adventure, is someone I have referred to as my “girl crush”…you know what I mean–the woman you want to be…the woman who makes you feel like you can do anything. I stood behind her in line at a BH sale (good grief, all the serendipity happens for me at that wonderland) and knew within minutes of conversation that this was someone I wanted to know and know well. From my first visit to her incredible (all-white–drool drool) cottage in Portland to assisting me with some dog sessions (she’s a dog whisperer too) at a swanky hotel in the city, I felt like Leah knew my heart completely…just her accent alone (an interesting mix of her homes in Iran, England, Canada, and Jamaica to name a few) is enough to make you wonder about this woman. A painter, an interior designer, a horse woman, a clothing designer…the list goes on and on. And with all of that, she seems to have endless amounts of time to cheer the rest of us on who are figuring it all out. Leah is one of the reasons that I feel like I’m sprouting wings.

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Robin was there with camera in hand. I love it when I can put my camera down and someone else captures the moment. I rarely get to see what this looks like…me having a good time, I mean. It’s a strange thing seeing spontaneous happiness on one’s own face…I can honestly say that during those conversations at various spots in this incredible house I felt complete fulfillment. Sharing with like-minded women who seem to understand your own chaos is really a special thing.

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Funny how much JUMPING went on in two days. They were making fun of the height I could get with the Big Kahuna strapped to my neck. I do love jumping. Makes me feel young. I like the whole metaphorical thing is represents too. George, Leah’s Standard Poodle, always seemed to be in on the vertical leaping action.

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The Oregon Coast is a gem for us Northwest folk….it’s not warm or swimsuit worthy, but it offers something else that is easily cherished. My dad lives in Manzanita, a sweet little hamlet ten minutes from Leah’s cottage town, Cannon Beach.  We completely lucked out on the weather—it was supposed to rain and wouldn’t you know it that every time we stepped outside (for the photo shoot, to walk, to shop) is was sunny and gorgeous with no wind. We actually found it comical when the rain would start every time we opened the door to the house to go in. Just fantastic.

I love taking shots at the beach when there’s no agenda for a client or dog event. So free!

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There were several animal sightings…this little guy needed assistance as he was being pecked to death by seagulls…Leah had an animal rescue group come pick him up. We saw five otters in a little lagoon area near town doing their thing and a bunch of multi-colored bunnies hopping about in an area that had bunny in the name, it escapes me now.

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Okay, so the whole reason we came out for all of this spontaneous fun was to check out Belle Blanc and capture some images. I wish I could put the full monty in this post, but we will need to wait a bit. All I can tell you is:

-These will be the ONLY clothes you need in your closet (I swear)

-You will feel like a princess wearing them

-The thought and creative energy put into this line is years in the making

-The photo shoot was pure magic (as was the model Miss D)

-You will be seeing a lot more of Miss Leah’s creations in posts to come

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What can I say but I am grateful. My heart is on fire. These gals definitely lit the pilot light on a collaborative effort, but also of my own creative journey.

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Leah’s beach house is another whole post in itself…I took tons of shots and will post them this week. You just won’t believe this place…I was completely speechless walking through her creation…something that rarely happens to this chatterbox. It is like standing in a giant puffy cloud. Can’t wait to show you!

Happy Tuesday, lovelies.


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12 Responses to Ignite the heart Weekend

  1. Sharon Scott says:

    Great shots again. I was at the Oregon coast last summer with my husband, from Newport down to Devils churn.

    That beautiful white dress with the ruffles, perfect, perfect attire for a beach destination wedding somewhere!!

  2. Kim says:

    I had no idea these were the women you were with this weekend. I can. not. begin. to tell you how incredibly envious I am that you spent the weekend with those fabulous girlies!!! With the exception of Leah, I know each of them and absolutely adore all of you! How does one finagle an invite to spend such an inspiring weekend with such a diverse, amazing, fun, and incredibly friendly group of ladies???
    I am so happy that you shared this, even if it makes me wish like crazy that I was there. You are a lucky, lucky girl to have been a part of something so wonderful~

  3. leah says:

    What can I say Lara :) Like always you are able to come as close as humanly possible to capture the magic that happened at this “ignite the heart” weekend…(which, by the way I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the name…how perfect) I feel honored and blessed to know all of you, and am excited for our “future” together. Thank you my dear friend for taking the time to express in beautiful words and photographs our time together. It’s important to share this very special time with our friends and family to help remind all of us to take the time out of our busy schedules to make sure we ALLOW these times to happen.

    p.s. A note to J and J (aka Barnhouse Boys)
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU…. somehow special things happen on your beautiful little farm, and if it wasn’t for you and all the special people you bring into your lives I might not have had the opportunity to be a part of this. XOXO

  4. Lulu says:

    Hey Lala,

    Sounds like it was FUCKING amazing! (what the hell, you always say I can get away with it)
    Beautiful warm hearts and souls, not forgetting looks, too, to spend girl time with. Cannot wait for the rest of the pics.

    Kisses & hugs,


  5. robin says:

    your tag on this post: “Spontaneous Combustion of the best kind” is so obviously from your heart and captures my own feelings and the many moments we all shared. speechless moments, many with tears of joy, amazement and gratitude for the perfection of ourselves and life when we let go of fear and jump! This post is pure perfection dearest Lara :) I loved watching you work; i learned so much and i loved seeing you reveal your heart minute by minute. and the girls?? well i don’t think even ‘girl crush’ can cover the feelings i had at various moments of the weekend; “i adore you”, “Your heart is made of purest gold, lighting an entire room”, “you are beautiful, soft and perfect just the way you are” “we are like small girls who revel in infectious laughter and tears” what an amazing way to get to know you all better. this affection felt and expressed is exactly what i crave in relationships with girlfriends. y’all made me very, very, VERY happy :)
    I better stop and create an added comment on the subject of Leah; Belle Blanc Queen.

  6. robin says:

    Thank you dear Lara for befriending me and seeing qualities in me that are not so obvious on first meeting. i think you liked me at once and that has made me open my heart in return. XO wow

    I better not try to accurately capture the Leah who brought us all together here in your post… i will make an attempt to do that in one of my own…but beware to any who are reading this: words cannot really do her justice.

    “the woman who makes you(me) feel like you (i) can do anything, A painter, an interior designer, a horse woman, a clothing designer, a friend :)”

  7. Kelly says:

    That’s my Momma! Thank you for the pictures…my mom Debbie tried to explain the amazing weekend to me but with the help of your photos I was able to grasp it a little more. Wow!

  8. kath says:

    heavy sigh…….so far away, woe am I. I do feel the vibes though… and they are lovely! Keep it up!! xo

  9. M says:

    I love you L!!!

  10. Michelle Lacy says:

    amazing photography, amazing women and most of all – amazing clothes. Leah, you go girl! I just got back from 8 days in NYC and now Im off to Chicago, lets catch up after. XOX

  11. Jeane says:

    I love how you described your weekend and the girls on the trip. Your photos are gorgeous!!! Women can either be so uplifting and encouraging or just the opposite to one another. I am so glad you found some women that you connected with so deeply.

  12. Lauren says:

    I wanna go! I can sew very well-drag me along…please!

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