Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by MARGARET HOEGG
Photo by Callen Singer
At the family dining table in her cozy, Old Town Lunenburg home, Mary Anne Donovan shares meals with her family, helps her kids with homework and craft projects, and runs her creative empire.
Mary Anne is a fibre artist and the entrepreneur behind House of Woolly Thyme through which she sells her beautiful original hand-woven tapestries and handcrafted knitwear and hosts popular weaving workshops.
Fifteen years ago, Mary Anne left her home of St. John’s, Newfoundland in the dead of winter for a job with a Biotech company in Chester, Nova Scotia. Within a year, she met her now-husband, Travis Hiltz, on a blind date and, over the following decade, they grew to a family of five. What started as a hobby – making things for her children, sharing her textile art with friends and family – evolved into a business when a friend asked to carry her designs in her shop.
Small gatherings of close friends who wanted to learn to make their own tapestries sparked the demand for public workshops. Mary Anne never imagined she would leave lab work behind for the uncharted territory of creative entrepreneurship. Yet, her life today, among a close-knit community in a culturally vibrant fishing village, feels very familiar.
“Whenever friends or family would come to visit, I’d always bring them to Lunenburg and say, ‘this feels like home’. I never really imagined ourselves living here until we started looking for a house,” she says, “And when we moved here, I stopped pining for Newfoundland.”
With neighbours so close you can borrow a cup of sugar in the middle of baking, and neighbourhood children running freely, it feels much like the Newfoundland of her childhood.
Lunenburg’s vibrant community is full of young families, artists, and professionals, drawn to the charming shops, bakeries, restaurants, the historic harbour, and incredible beaches. The beach is a cherished place for the young family to hang out, swim, picnic, and create lasting memories together. They’re also practically next door to the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (LAMP) which hosts some of the world’s most versatile and accomplished musicians. “It’s kind of ‘pinch me’ really - we can be outside playing on the playground, listening to an opera singer or hear beautiful classical music floating out of the building while we’re flying a kite. It’s a bit surreal, but we live it.”
The heritage building was recently renovated to house the public library and now includes a community garden, a project Mary Anne’s family helped to get off the ground.
Giving back to her community means a lot to Mary Anne, as both a gesture of gratitude and for modelling community building for her three daughters. “If you want to see things happen, you can make things . happen,” she says, “and if there’s something missing you can create it.”
This culture of support is ultimately what gave her permission to turn her creative passions into a way to make a living.
“And that’s what I find is the most amazing and beautiful thing here in this community is that sense of ‘you can do it’ and ‘we support you.’ I’ve been able to kind of find myself and not feel like I have to be what I thought I had to be.”