Raven Shields is the epitome of a multifaceted Toronto creative. She grew up being exposed to a diverse musical culture and it shows in her music. Her first album Matches was released in 2013 and highlights her sultry, soulful voice that sounds decades older than her. She's recently turned her vintage jacket hunting pastime into a side hustle and we couldn't be more thrilled to talk to her. From building a supportive creative community to growing comfortable in your skin in the social media era, Raven Shields has some important input and we're all ears.
First of all… Raven Shields. That’s a pretty bad ass name. Is there a story behind it?
Hahahaha I get asked that so often! Everyone thinks it’s a stage name. The real story is that when my parents were very young, my mum was really into mythology. The Raven appears in various indigenous creation stories, often as a trickster and a keeper of secrets. Some stories say the Raven stole the moon, the sun, and the stars and in doing so, brought light to the whole world.
The common theme is that the Raven isn’t all good or all bad and whatever the Raven does, it’s always an act of creation, even if mistakes are made along the way. The mistakes often end up being important discoveries in the end. I can most definitely relate to that.
Tell me a bit about yourself (name, where you’re from, what you do, what interests you etc.)
I’m born and raised in Toronto. I’d say that I’m still primarily a musician but I now do so many different things that I suppose you could say I work in the “creative” industries. I’ve always been interested in design and started working as a freelance graphic designer about 3 years ago. I also work as the creative director at a non-profit called The Urban Worker Project. You could say I have my fingers in many different pies, probably too many. I am also a self diagnosed jacket addict hahaha - That’s why I started Lover Jackets in the first place, as a way of somehow justifying my out of control collection of vintage denim.
You seem super multifaceted and have a diverse musical background. Can you speak a bit about your memories of music growing up?
My dad was a big part of that, he introduced me to a lot of what became classic records for me. He was also the one who really got me singing in the first place, we used to learn songs together. When I was really young, I was very protective of my favourite cassette tapes.
I used to carry around Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and Lauryn Hill’s “ The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” with me everywhere, always ready if anyone asked. And still, those records are some of my most played! Even now.
What are Lover Jackets?
Lover Jackets are hand picked vintage denim and leather jackets, hand painted by yours truly. I have about five consistent designs that I always have ready and then we also do custom designs as well. Earlier this summer, I made a pair of matching wedding jackets for a couple in California, it was very sweet.
There are so many jean jackets out there in the world and I have always been fascinated by the ones with a little history in them, the ones that have that perfect amount of wear and tear, making them soft and comfy.
I know not everyone is as patient when it comes to searching, and I wanted to share the thrill I get from finding the perfect one, so I started stockpiling them and then eventually selling them. It started with denim but I’m really excited to say that I’ve been working on a collection of leather jackets too. They will be released this fall.
How did they come to be?
Lover Jackets started because my own interest in vintage denim was getting a little out of control. You know how you are just always kind of looking for the perfect jean jacket? Or the perfect pair of vintage jeans? Well I’d found about 15 of my “perfect” jean jackets and so I thought it might be cool if I painted one for a show. Someone tried to buy it off me that night after the show and so I started making them and selling them as part of my merch. Once I got a little bit more exposure, I started getting custom orders, and now here we are! It’s all happened very fast. I’m just trying to keep up. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about starting a business, taking lots of people out for coffee and asking them questions.
I don’t have any formal training in business, or design and music for that matter, but I’ve the learned the most from asking questions, talking to people who are already doing what I want to be doing. I think that is a really valuable way of sharing knowledge and building a supportive creative community.
What do you think is the most important change that needs to take place in society around menstruation/women's health?
Well, first of all, the work you guys are doing is amazing. I think we are really in an interesting time in terms of women’s health I think that it comes down to making sure that young girls are given the space and support to feel comfortable about their bodies.
With the way social media exists even amongst kids now, I feel like the act of constantly comparing yourself to other girls is inevitable and that is really damaging if you’re not comfortable in your own body. It’s damaging to grown women like me, I can’t imagine how it would be for a 12 year old.
Being a 12 year old is weird enough, you shouldn’t have to worry about comparing yourself to the unrealistic images that are aggressively all around you. I think body positivity is incredibly important and I think if you start to learn to love and accept your body when you’re that age, you will be so much happier as an adult.
I also just think that we are finally approaching a time where we can talk openly about menstruation, amongst both men and women. I think back to when I got my period for the first time and it was terrifying! and it was not something that I was excited to tell all my friends about, but it should have been! It should be something to celebrate!
I think that women are reclaiming that amazing process of creation and celebrating it. The more open we are about women’s health and sexuality, the easier it is for us to all ask and answer each others questions.
Tell me about one woman that inspires you that we can check out.
Can I say two women? They are Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson and they have a comedy podcast called “2 Dope Queens”. I first was introduced properly to podcasts while I was touring a couple years ago. There was the classic stuff, like “Serial” and lots and lots of comedy podcasts. However, because I was touring with three white guys in their mid thirties (love you guys) - there was a serious lack of female comedians and about half the material was just not my jam. I immediately started searching through the comedy podcast ether to find some funny ladies and could barely find anything. Now I know it’s been a few years and there’s a little more selection but when I finally found “2 Dope Queens” I was very excited. They host the show and bring on other comedian friends of theirs or just interesting male AND female comedians that don’t fall into the straight-white-male category. The diversity of the show has introduced me to so many hilarious and intelligent people and I can say I feel a little less left out of the traditional comedy sphere.
I actually listen to podcasts all the time, pretty much any time I’m working on design stuff or painting jackets. I’m also happy to say that there are now a lot of incredible women hosting their own podcasts. It’s a really cool new medium and a new platform for women to have a voice that is not beholden to a major news network / newspaper. I have so many good recommendations!
As a creative finding your path, what words of advice do you have for the easy. Community?
Ask everyone all the questions. In my experience, people are more than happy to help you and who knows, that might be the beginning of a cool partnership or friendship.