November 25, 2002
Making your passions work for you
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Dalsanders
Cheryl Dalsanders (r.) in Morocco
by Deborah Stone
It's not often that people find jobs in their lives that represent their true passions. For many, a job is simply work that must be done in order to make a living. The pursuit of one's passion usually becomes relegated to time outside of work or simply falls by the wayside and remains an elusive ideal, clinging to lifeís peripheral edges. Those who have been able to make their passions their means of income consider themselves incredibly fortunate.
One such lucky individual is Cheryl Dalsanders, a Woodinville woman who earns a steady living by melding her love of travel with her passions for photography, poetry and the arts. Dalsanders has successfully managed to merge her creative pursuits into several businesses, while wearing a variety of different hats. She designs and manufactures specialty cards, develops and guides art and cuisine tours abroad, gives talks to community groups on travel and her photography and is currently in the initial stages of writing a book in conjunction with a publishing company.
Dalsanders is one busy woman, but when asked to comment on her life, she says, "My life is full, but it's full of the things that I want to do, the things that I love. I'm doing what is truly my passion, but it's important to know that all of this didn't just happen overnight. It's taken years to evolve."
Dalsanders' story begins in Peoria, Illinois some 30 years ago. She was a business major in college who left her studies midstream to work for the Peoria Journal Star as a features writer. Writing came easily to her and she found the position interesting and enjoyable. Along with her stories, she also had to include photos of the subjects. As the paper had no staff photographer at that time, she was forced to take the pictures herself.
"I began taking photos with just a simple point and shoot camera," explains Dalsanders. "I had no prior training in photography when I started and simply learned on the job through lots of trial and error. I followed advice given to me, which emphasized the importance of taking pictures everyday, of different types of subjects, in order to become comfortable with using a camera. I improved my skills over time, but I think what helped me most was that I possessed a good eye for composition and loved the challenges of getting the perfect shot. To this day, however, I am really not a technical photographer."
Dalsanders eventually moved into writing travel pieces, accompanying them with her photos, and soon several larger papers began picking up her stories, allowing her to freelance. She discovered that she loved traveling as much as she loved being a photographer. Her first trip abroad was on assignment for the Star; an experience she says she will never forget. "I got to go to Europe for two weeks," says Dalsanders. "It was one of these where you see several countries in a short time, but I came back with a perspective that I've kept forever. I decided that one should never be a tourist when traveling. People should always view themselves as travelers and make each place they visit their home, even if it is for a few days."
Fifteen years ago, Dalsanders moved to the Northwest, after a short stint in Colorado. She sold real estate for a few years, continuing to support and raise her daughter single handedly. Throughout this time, she continued taking pictures of the scenery around her.
"Being surrounded by so much inspiration — the mountains, lakes, rainforests, beaches — was wonderful," comments Dalsanders. "I felt that I wanted to share this inspiration with others, in the form of my photography, so I decided to make my photos into cards."
Her card collection initially focused on Northwest scenes and centered on a theme, such as "The Ten Best Places for Tea" or "The Ten Best Gardens." Ten years ago, Macy's and Nordstrom's picked up her line and she was named Nordstrom's "Artist of the Year."
Each of the luscious, romantic images on Dalsanders' cards tells a story, and on the back there are bits of poetry (some of Dalsander's original work, as well as pieces from well-known poets), famous quotes and recipes that relate to the scenes.
Courtesy of The Cheryl Dalsanders Collection
"Springtime in China"
Last April, Dalsanders began her "Passport to the World" collection, which includes images taken from her travels abroad. There are note cards with envelopes and self-mailing postcards, each in a triptych form. Beautiful, evocative scenes are melded together under a central theme, from English gardens and French flea markets, to Italian food and classical sculpture.
Dalsanders does detailed research in creating her cards and spends much time on location shooting the photos. She says, "I really enjoy capturing a moment in time and preserving it. I look for pattern, color, design and most importantly, lighting. I shoot all subject matter because it all captivates me. Difficult-to-shoot pictures don't bother me. I look at them as interesting challenges that require me to really use my creativity."
The feedback Dalsanders receives from her cards is overwhelmingly positive and warms her heart.
She gets e-mails and letters from people telling her how her photos affected them and established a special connection or sparked a wonderful memory. "I love to hear these comments," says Dalsanders. "It makes me feel so good to know that my work has touched others. I've been told that my cards give people a total experience with sensory impact and when I hear this, I know that my work has spoken."
Along the way, Dalsanders added tour developer and tour guide to her list of professions. She joined up with her friend Carol Masters, who ran Creative Tours, and the pair began offering specialized tours abroad for small groups of 15-20 people. The trips are carefully planned to give participants unique experiences that focus on art and cuisine. "We try and introduce people to different experiences that they most likely wouldn't be able to have on their own," explains Dalsanders. "We do cooking classes with master chefs, dine in private homes and stay in unique places like palaces and monasteries. It's richly rewarding for me to organize these trips and then escort them. I love sharing my passion for the arts with others."
The pair's next tour is to Spain in May. When asked to comment on her most memorable trip, Dalsanders says, "Actually, that would have to be a trip I took with my daughter when she was 16 years old, to Russia, in 1992. It was incredibly special because that was the time when Russia voted to become a democracy and we were there for the celebrations. It was a life-changing experience event for my daughter and I will always remember that trip."
Currently, Dalsanders is working on a coffee table book that will include her photos and writings.
"It is a woman's journey, a meditation type book that looks at love, healing, forgiveness and other emotional stages" explains Dalsanders. "I hope to do more coffee table books in the future that would allow me to combine my pictures with my prose and poetry.
"It takes determination, hard work, creativity and definitely some luck to do what it is that you truly want to do in life. But what it really takes is not being afraid to pursue your passions."
The Cheryl Dalsanders Collection is available at www.Dalsanders.com or in Woodinville at Pony Express.