Building a Brand and a Life by Design: Jeremy Ambers Continues His Family’s Art Legacy
“Art has always been in my family, in my world. I grew up around a lot of creativity so that shaped my future,” Jeremy Ambers explains. He is from the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people; his family is from Village Island. He grew up in Alert Bay, raised by parents who were artists. His dad was a carver and his mom was a First Nations artist who received a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria.
Ambers dabbled in music in his youth, then went to Camosun College in his twenties and took an applied communication program. He learned publishing, video, photography, radio and graphic design. He continued on at Pacific Design Academy, which focused on graphic design. He learned the essentials of Adobe Suite, Affinity Designer and other multimedia design applications.
While he was refining his craft, he practiced his cultural art, drawing on the teachings he received growing up. While he enjoys that style, he also does brand identity, logo design and print work. He freelances for a company called Illuminative while creating his own merchandise and building his brand on the side. When Ambers is selecting projects, he prefers to work on causes he believes in or with people he resonates with.
He’s artistically inspired by Doug Cranmer, his parents and his friends who are artists. He enjoys the history of design and digging into the work of historically successful designers. “There's that quote ‘Success leaves clues’. If you look at past people who have done work before you, you can find little gems of knowledge,” he relays.
Given his family background, moving into the arts was a logical choice. “I think it felt more natural than easy. I think that would be the better way to say it. My godfather was Doug Cranmer, he mentored my dad and my mom. When I was growing up in Alert Bay, I was just surrounded by that kind of atmosphere. It was always something that I knew and it was familiar to me,” he explains. Ambers grew up with three sisters and a brother and graduated from high school in Victoria.
Thinking of youth considering leaving their home community for work and school, Ambers has advice and insights. “That's a hard thing to do. Be open to learning. Learn as much as you can from as many different people as you can. Be open to collaboration. Just be present,” he counsels.
To make things work as a freelancer, he’s taken part-time jobs to try and help manage the instability. “Sometimes there are low points where there's not a lot of clients coming in,” Ambers explains. He isn’t too proud to work in a kitchen or do other jobs to sustain himself. “I've gone through my highs and lows. I've learned a lot, I’ve failed. I've succeeded. You’ve just got to keep going, that's what I try to do, anyway,” he continues.
While things can be unstable, he’s full of hope. “I feel like this is the best time for Indigenous people to be professionals and out in the field. When I was younger, there weren't a whole lot of opportunities and nowadays, it just seems like things are getting better,” Ambers asserts, noting how much easier social media makes it to get your name out there and how in demand the art and stories of Indigenous people are.
In his free time, Ambers maintains a bullet journal and exercises as much as he can. He enjoys reading, fashion and spending time outside. He likes listening to music, collecting records, studying design and collecting watches. He enjoys having his own space to recharge and take time away from people.
“I don't believe in the idea of mastering something. I feel like you can always learn more.”
His advice for people considering a career in design is to do research and find a course that resonates. “Just learn the basics. That'll take you very far in design, especially learning typographic fundamentals, the fundamentals of design, colour, all of that sort of stuff. If you nail that you can do anything within the realms of design,” he confides. “As far as art goes, just do a lot of art and just keep doing it. That's all I can say, really, is just practice. Even if you feel like you're not making any strides or anything, it'll come,” he elaborates, suggesting that in branching off from lessons learned, you can end up finding your niche.
Art has always been in his family and in his world. Jeremy Ambers grew up around a lot of creativity which shaped his future. As a working artist inspired by the talented people in his world, he’s building a life for himself by design (and full of design, too.) He watches for the clues success leaves and learns from the professionals that came before him to find his own way forward.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.