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Alberta Artisan Creates Rock Portraits to Protect Families from Violence

Deb Firth is a retired teacher from Alberta with a passion for justice, children, and all things creative! Lately, she's been flexing her artistic muscle by creating unique "pebble portraits" and selling them to raise funds for IJM Canada. She kindly shared with us the story behind her business, "Rock Thoughts".

1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Rock Thoughts? How did you get started?
My husband (28 years) and I love to run and keep physically active and healthy. We rarely go anywhere without our dog Brie, an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd. After 25 years of teaching (Grade one), I recently retired in June of this year. I love art of all types and equally love teaching children to see "things” differently and then turn around and create their own pieces of art.
I heard about International Justice Mission from a speaker who had come to our church a number of years ago. His message of "injustice to the poor and what someone could and should do about it, (as Jesus calls us to do)” stayed in my heart. I also love rocks and happened upon an artist by the name of Sharon Nowlan and her Pebble Art in Nova Scotia. I love her work and thought "I don’t have sea glass around me, but I can do something with the pebble rock I find here in the coulees (the name referred to our hills around here!).
"Rock Thoughts" was born when the images of the suffering and injustice seen in the rock quarries in India collided in my brain with the idea of making and selling rock pictures. The proceeds are directed to IJM Canada to help rescue these families.
2) How did you learn about IJM?
Mr. [Ed] Wilson from IJM Canada came to our church (the Evangelical Free Church of Lethbridge) and spoke during Missions Week one year.
3) Tell us about your personal justice journey.
I grew up with little "church” experience and through God’s leading, my husband and I eventually ended up at E-Free. I don’t have a personal justice story, just zero tolerance for injustice toward any living thing (human or animal).
4) What are your goals for Rock Thoughts?
My goals are simple – The first goal is for my pictures to sell. The second goal is for IJM Canada to use the proceeds from the sales of my pictures toward:
a) the rescue of those oppressed and suffering at the hands of others, and
b) assist financially with subsequent court proceedings and transition periods of healing and retraining for those rescued.
My third goal is for others to become aware of IJM Global's efforts and their impact in this world.
5) Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! Bible verses, inspirational and motivational quotes I see; through struggles I see people going through where I think of a "saying” which might help them; simple beauty in the world. A particular rock might have a certain look to it and then I find a quote or inspirational message I can put with it. For example, a curved rock could be a hill, a canoe, an angel wing, a crib. It’s endless!

6) Tell us about your favourite memory from the creation or selling of your pieces.
I’ve done many wedding and bird pictures which are always special, but I enjoy the scripture verses and motivational quotes best, and have had people tell me they "read my picture every day!” and it helps them through whatever it is they are going through.
7) How can our readers purchase one of your creations?
Hmmm… that’s a bit of a problem as I don’t/haven’t shipped any pictures. At present, sales have been through word of mouth, as well as from both a coffee house and a flower shop here in the city. I’m not a techie or business person, so I don’t have a website to buy from. Perhaps now that I’m retired, I’ll have more time to delve into that aspect of sales. If you know of anyone coming west and can take things back….

8) What's currently on your bucket list?
The list is long…. I like adventure and nature, so two near the top of my list are doing the West Coast Trail and hiking to Machu Picchu. I also love doing watercolours and am looking forward to having more time to play with paint!
10) What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
Countless children's books! I love reading to kids! One that has a powerful message is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. In my opinion it should be read in every single classroom in this country the first month of school. I have had students in different grade levels actually do the "bowl” activity in the story. It’s very powerful and can then be used throughout the year as a "ripple reminder”. It also turned into a powerful group art project which sold at a local art gala with proceeds directed toward programming for new teenage immigrants to Canada.
10) What is your favourite way to waste time now that you’re retired?
Walking or running in the coulees with my dog, although she now gets upset because I’m forever stopping to pick up rocks!
7) What is your advice for someone who would like to use their creativity to fundraise?
Go for it! There’s a great children’s book that a friend gave me called, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada. They should read it for inspiration!

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