Kendra Dixson

Kendra Dixson

French, to snowboard bum, to artist: Kendra Smith designs collector coins

At first she thought the voice message she received was a practical joke being played on her by a friend.

At first she thought the voice message she received was a practical joke being played on her by a friend, but listening closer she realized the invitation was real.

The invitation had come from the Royal Canadian Mint asking Kendra (Smith) Dixson to submit designs for the minting of collectible silver coins.

Just to be on the safe side, Kendra sent five different designs for the mint to choose from and was thrilled when two of her designs featuring alpine skiers in wooded winter settings had been chosen.

Ironically she says neither of the selections were the one she expected to win.

Two of her scenes were engraved for the 2014 Fine Silver Coins O Canada collection. One design appears on the one-ounce $25 silver coin and the other appears on the half-ounce $10 silver coin.

“The call came out of the blue. I am so honoured,” Kendra says. “It has been very exciting to design collector’s coins for Canada.”

Growing up in the Williams Lake area, Kendra says that in high school she might have been voted the least likely to become a snowboard bum, but that choice in life is exactly what led her to become an artist and ultimately being invited by the Royal Canadian Mint to submit designs for the coins. The transformation, however,  took a few years.

After high school Kendra  headed off to the University of Victoria to earn a degree in French which she felt would be the best route for indulging her passion for travel.

She had spent a year as an exchange student in Belgium and after university spent a year working in Quebec teaching conversational English to students whose first language was French.

“I was asked to pretend I only spoke English but that didn’t work for long,” Kendra says. In high school she didn’t go on school ski trips because she was afraid of the sport, but in Quebec she took her first snowboarding lessons on ski trips with her students.

But she didn’t become hooked on the sport until moving back to B.C. and taking a job in Kamloops with Sun Peaks Resort photographing and making season’s passes for people.

That winter she was offered a job on the Sun Peaks hill itself. Her brother left his snowboarding equipment with her when he went travelling in Australia and that was the start of her snowboarding bum days.

She was waitressing to make money for travel and snowboarding on the weekends.

“I loved it,” Kendra says.

The art evolved organically. She and her roommates didn’t have money to buy art for their home  so they decided to create their own paintings. She took a watercolour workshop and started painting winter scenes in her spare time.

She worked at Sun Peaks for two winters, then moved to Fernie where she worked on the ski hill for six winters. Summers she travelled, and worked, and travelled, taking jobs in Jasper, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and for one season a ski hill in Australia.

“To live doing what you love is more important than the money,” Kendra says.

Through her travels she continued to paint and slowly but surely painting became her new passion.

“I knew my passion changed from snowboarding to painting when I stayed home from the hill one day to frame some of my pictures,” Kendra says.

In 2005 Kendra moved to Kelowna to study at the Centre for Arts and Technology.

“I wanted to learn how to make my own website and ended up taking every class they offered and earning a diploma in digital media design,” Kendra says.

She spent two years earning the diploma and after graduating taught at the centre for a year-and-a-half before branching out on her own again.

Today, Kendra continues to live in Kelowna with her husband, Clinton, and their 16-month-old son, Ryland.

Clinton traded his geotechnical engineering career in for self-employment as a website designer and on-line marketing service.

While busy with their young son these days, Kendra continues to paint, teach painting workshops, and works as a graphic designer.

Kendra and Clinton are also involved in dragon boat racing  and with recreational hockey in Kelowna. They play co-ed hockey in the summer and she plays with a women’s team in the winter. She started playing defence and now plays left wing and manages her team, while Clinton is their coach.

Kendra learned to play hockey in Williams Lake. She played with a girls league for a year but when that league folded, she played with the boys league. At age 17 she played on a team with 12 and 13 year old boys.

“I wasn’t very good,” Kendra says. “But I remember being named the most sportsmanlike player in the whole league.”

Kendra is teaching a painting workshop in Williams Lake in May which is already sold out, but may hold a second workshop  if there is enough interest.

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