Cafe Notes is a recurring series featuring interviews with Cafe Notes + Company collaborators, personal stories + coffee shop musings.
Working with creative professionals is pretty much a dream come true. I had the pleasure of working side by side with Kristen Rebelo for a year before collaborating with her on a collection for Cafe Notes + Company. I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to sit down with her before she packed up and made the exciting move cross country, but we had a pseudo coffee date so I could pick her brain and you could get to know the artist behind the work!
How do you take your coffee?
I take my coffee either with sugar or black – depending on if I’ve been responsible enough to buy sugar. I’d say it’s 50 / 50.
When did you become interested in graphic design?
The path to design took a few turns, but I knew I wanted to be in a creative field probably as early as 10. I actually began wanting to do fashion design as a kid, all the way through high school until I realized the industry just wasn’t for me. Even in college, I majored in illustration instead of graphic design. But by sophomore year, I was already veering off and taking as many design classes as possible.
What is one of the best things you’ve ever designed? Why did it resonate with you?
I think some of the best things I’ve designed are (not surprisingly) things I’ve done outside of any sort of work environment, and even outside the design field. I’m really proud of some zines I’ve made, since I’m able to handle every step from the ideation, to the production, to the sale – it’s a completely self produced medium without any restrictions. I tend to have a lot of ongoing projects that I’ll pick up every few months for a while until they’re done (I’ve been making a ceramic mobile for months now). These are fun because after taken a break, I can always re-approach them with fresh eyes and I’m able to take my time.
Where do you do your best work? What environment inspires you?
I do my best work in the quiet of my home, usually after a day or two of not thinking concretely about it. I’m a big proponent of allowing for mental breaks in all creative processes and stepping away from things to recharge for a while.
As a graphic designer you spend a lot of time working with technology, do you find it important to unplug?
Yes, I think it’s important to unplug, and I think it’s more of a mindset than a direct action of turning off technology. To me, unplugging can mean reading or going for a run, but it can also mean having a meaningful conversation with a loved one even if a phone is involved. I like to think of unplugging more from...life’s bullshit...than from technology specifically.
Have you found it hard making a career of such a creative profession?
AH the age old question – it’s a tough one. Yes and no. No, it’s not hard in the sense that I’ve chosen a creative field that is both supported by capitalism and currently in demand. But also yes it’s hard, for the exact same reason. I’m really lucky to have found success, even in small ways, in this industry and that I’m able to support myself. But constant creation for the sake of the bottom line can be really tough if not done in a sustainable and supportive environment – it will lead to burnout. So I think it’s really important to find supportive and genuine creative atmospheres, to seek sustainable methods of inspiration and process, and to practice self-care.
When was the last time you received a card? How did it make you feel?
The most recent card I got was from Matthew – my best friend and colleague at my old job back in DC! It was a silly little “I miss you” card but it both brightened my day and acted as the first card I’ve received since moving to Portland (apparently my family is protesting).
If you could send a card to anyone who would you send it to and why?
Probably my Nana. While lots of relatives send cards for the big holidays, Nana always surprises me with cards that congratulate life events like moving into a new apartment or getting a promotion. People don’t do that a lot anymore, and the sentimental side of me appreciates it (I just moved across the country this month, and am dragging all the Nana cards from over the years with me).
How do you make connections with people?
Nothing beats one on one talking for me – I think voice and body language is an important part of getting to know someone. In second place would be writing in any form (cards, old school letters, emails, etc). Lastly, and to be avoided at all costs, is talking on the phone. There’s probably a special level of Hell designed for talking to a relative on the phone when your reception sucks and their use of speaker phone just equates to screaming in your ear.
What is your opinion on letter writing and sending cards?
I really love the romantic notion of sending letters and cards and the idea of having a collection of written communication to look back on. Plus, getting mail that is not bills is one of the small joys in life. I think the challenging part though, is keeping momentum. I’ve found over the years that the letters will stop as soon as one person gets busy and misses their turn, so I’m always impressed by long term letter writers.
Other environments that inspire me: my Nana's sunroom, anywhere in nature, tiny cafes very early in the morning, quiet cities at night + libraries
Do you have a go-to coffee shop or cafe that you like to visit?
Always! In Richmond, it was Harrison St. Cafe, which was right behind my apartment and made the best vegetarian breakfast burritos that I still crave almost daily. In DC it was Dos Gringos, a tiny place that was miraculously cheap and never crowded with business people. I haven’t decided on my spot in Portland yet, but the 2 places on my street are duking it out.
How do you feel technology has influenced the way we communicate with each other?
No matter how many articles TIME magazine will publish about “these damn kids and their cell phones,” I’m a firm believer that technology has done nothing but improve our communication, bring communities together, and make information more accessible. I was reading something the other day about how we’ve literally expanded the English language through use of capitalization and punctuation within texting to create multiple meanings for the same word. I’m a big fan of it all though – writing letters, social media, and face to face conversation. Whatever method people have the best access to, and are the most comfortable with, I’m cool with.
Want to know more? Check out what Kristen has to say about the collection she designed for Cafe Notes + Company or head over to her site to see what other amazing work she's done!