NEW!
Steam Space is changed! If you’re looking to book a thermal cycle in the wood-fired sauna

About

I grew up in quiet Northern Ontario surrounded by lakes and with a lot of space to play in the forest. I loved being in the water as much as I could. My first sauna took place in my parents’ friends’ basement when I was a young child. To me, it was as exciting as movie nights and sleepovers! In my early teens  my mother remarried a Finnish man who built a traditional sauna where I would spend my summer and winter holidays. We cut holes through the ice to dip into the frozen lake, made steaming snow angels, and enjoyed leisurely swims in the summer after our family sauna. (Sauna can be enjoyed and is beneficial year-round.)

Summer cottage or log cabin by the blue lake in rural Finland. Idyllic countryside landscape view with blue water and green forest.
A hole cut through the ice of a lake.

I had a dream and vision to open a public bathhouse in 1999 in Kjipuktuk (Halifax). I was 19 and struggling with a compromised immune system and a depression that kept me isolated. I longed for a safe, healthy place to socialize and meet people in the evenings that didn’t centre around consumption. I dreamt of a place where I could be myself, relax, hang with my friends, but also meet new people.

My recovery included the sauna and steam room at the YMCA, which sparked a vision for a public bathhouse that would span about two decades. In the first decade I finished an undergrad in Management, specializing in Entrepreneurship. I started and ran a wellness society for 3 years, started my first small business, that won an award under the YES program, and worked as an educator and coordinator.

At the beginning of the second decade, in 2009, I leapt into my first sweat/thermal bathing pilgrimage in South Korea and Japan, visiting and studying jimjilbangs and sentos for 3 weeks. I was seriously hooked. I loved it so much I decided to live in South Korea for a year to deepen my understanding further. I joined the Korean Spa Association as the first international representative, and connected with the Jimjilbang Association. I attended the International Sauna Congress in Tokyo in 2010, where I met other enthusiasts and new friends in the field. This is when I first learned about skinship—a Japanese bathing term. Once you have bathed with someone in public or behind  closed doors, you have skinship with that person. The term originates from parents and children bathing together, and has extended into the communal bathing culture in the sento (bathhouse) and onsen (mineral thermal spa). I loved this concept of community and relationship building, and had to explore it further.

Onna yu ("Bathhouse Women") by Torii Kiyonaga (1752–1815)

The subsequent years were spent learning everything I could. I received funding and support to intern in Germany at Toskana Therme, with CEO Marion Schneider and learning about Liquid Sound with Micky Remann. I consulted on improving the international guest experience and prepared my first spa concept development at Schloss  Heinsheim in Bad Rappenau. I learned about Aufguss (essential oil infusions and towel rituals) and had the opportunity to offer it. I wanted to continue learning, so I worked at the Nordic Spa as a  “sauna meister” guiding rituals. During that time I trained in relaxation massage, offering mobile massages.  

I received a full scholarship for a Master’s degree in Wellness and Spa Service Design in Estonia in 2012. During that time, I learned about traditional smoke sauna and spa therapies. My research studies focused on community wellness and retreat design. In Lithuania I did a beginner level training in whisking with Rimas Kavaliauskas, and attended the International Sauna Congress again to present on sweat bathing terminology and meaning. I initiated a preliminary sauna concept at Barking Bathhouse in East London, UK, in the public library and collaborated with videographer, Katie Bracher to create a short video on London’s bathhouse culture. In 2014 | received the International Spa Association’s Mary Tabacchi scholarship.

Illustrations of Steam Space: Emma Fitzgerald

Between 2007 and 2015 | often hosted very casual sauna and steam sessions on the new lunar cycle. These were held in various facilities, mostly gyms and were a way to connect with water and warmth, share some snacks, and catch up with friends. In 2016 I founded Steam Space, which offered mobile wood-fired sauna sessions and rituals, bringing together the training and teachings I received into practice. I consulted and taught at the Dalhousie Architecture School on bathhouse design and traditional spa practices. In 2017, I organized a Steam Culture tour around Scandinavia and the Baltics to train further in sauna spa therapies with Audra Staskevicien and Eda Veeroja and visited more inspiring saunas, bathhouses, and traditional spas. I’m also trained in cupping with the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy, and in somatic attachment therapy with the Embody Lab.

My mission is to create accessible pathways to well-being through experiential health measures, with a focus on thermal cycling and community-based practices as placemaking tools. Circulate was founded in 2023 for that purpose.

Circulate operates out of a wood-fired mobile sauna

Qualifications

Experiences

Consulting

Sauna Design Consultation

Nate Goudreau’s home sauna

Public Sweat

Public Sweat

Sharing knowledge on cultural bathing practices, places and people

Artist Village

Artist village feasibility review and preliminary concept

Pictou Island Yurts

Consulted on how to optimize their sauna use with a guided experience.

Mackay Lyons Sweet Apple Architects

Concept and guest journey

Dalhousie Architecture School - B5

Heat.Cool.Rest lectures and consultations

Hosting/Facilitation

Windhorse Farm - Transformational Leadership Initiative

Birthdays

Full Circle Music Festival

White Rabbit Arts Festival

Womyn’s Summit

Pictou Island Yurts

Fall Rejuvenation Retreat, Blue Forest

Workshops/Talks

Public Space: Body, Landscape, Art

International Sauna Congress 2014

Lectures at Dalhousie Architecture School

Presentation and guided thermal journey -European youth delegates

Blue Forest Retreat Workshop