Our Story

Blank Canvas Story

Have you ever felt something was completely right?

That you were doing exactly what you were meant to. At exactly the right time.

It’s not a feeling I’ve had often in my 40+ years, but when the idea for Blank Canvas Gifts popped into my head in early 2014, I knew in my heart it was right.

My little girl had just turned two when I gave her some canvas runners, textas and rhinestones and without knowing it at the time; we made our first Blank Canvas creation. It wasn’t that Sophie’s shoes were spectacular. They were just rough texta marks (you could call them abstract masterpieces – though let’s be honest, only in my eyes!). But what I noticed more than anything was how proud she was when she wore them. Strangers would comment. Friends would gush. And with every compliment she received, her smile widened.

It made me think this was something I should be exploring. I was coy about discussing the idea at first, wondering if ‘mummy brain’ had got the better of me. But one day I mentioned it to my mum and without hesitating, she went to the family album and pulled out a photo of me decorating my own shoes and pants when I was 12. It was one of those ‘pinch-me’ moments.

Sonia Johansen decorates her shoes and pants as a girl
Sonia Johansen decorates her shoes and pants as a girl

Suddenly I felt I’d been given the green light and it was time to turn this idea into reality. And so the journey began.

From the beginning I wanted to create beautiful pieces children would be proud to decorate and wear. It was all about getting kids' art off the pin-up board where no one sees it and on show for the world to admire.

That meant manufacturing beautiful pieces and sourcing quality paints and markers. Sounds easy enough until I remembered that I don’t sew! And that’s when this story gets a little remarkable.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever forget the day I was talking to a friend I’d met at Mother’s Group. She asked me innocently enough what I was doing with my business now that Sophie was getting older. I don’t know why, but that day I decided to tell her about my idea for Blank Canvas Gifts. She didn’t say a lot until I’d finished. And then very simply she replied, “I can help you with that".

It turns out my friend JJ designed and crafted clothes before her son was born. She worked for high-end manufacturers in Thailand and had her own clothing label in Australia. I could hardly believe my luck.

To say she was generous with her time is an understatement. Coming from such a low knowledge base, I asked her everything. She patiently held my hand through every step and together we created the first range of ‘blank canvases’.

I’m incredibly proud of the Blank Canvas Gifts debut collection. I’ve personally tried all of the products more than once. I’ve washed them. Ironed them. Tested them with different age groups. And been involved in every aspect of their design and creation.

It’s my firm belief that within every child is an artist. All they need are the tools and encouragement to bring their imaginations to life.

I hope, just like Sophie and I, the little people in your life enjoy creating something truly unique and beautiful with their gift from Blank Canvas.

Sonia Johansen with her daughter, Sophie

Sonia Johansen