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Life and Work with Kayla Gilbert

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kayla Gilbert.

Kayla, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have always loved all kinds of art. I started drawing, painting, and crafting at a young age, and then played music through my teenage and young adult years. I told myself I wasn’t good at drawing as a teenager, and it wasn’t until a few years ago when I finally decided that it was stupid to hold myself back! I embarked on a #100daychallenge on my Instagram to make art consistently every day for 100 days, and grew my skills so much during that time and loved every minute of it. Since then, I still try to create something every day, which is at the core of Blackheart Creations.

I’m also an avid community organizer in the Denver area, having gotten my start about a decade ago with Plants & Animals – a local volunteer-run non-profit that put on Chomp! Vegan Supper Club and Neat Market, some of Denver’s first vegan community events. We also started the annual Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale fundraiser back then, which just raised $6370 in its 8th year this past spring. I co-founded Blackheart Creations in 2013 with fellow P&A organizer/vegan badass Melanie Minard, originally creating vegan food at our pop-up markets and catering events. Several years later after Melanie moved away, I picked the name back up for my own crafts and eventually my art and graphic design. The name is in memory of our friend and also fellow P&A organizer, Gelseigh, who was also a passionate creator and died in a bike crash in 2012. I have a black heart tattoo on my wrist in memory of Gelseigh, as a reminder to always extend love, compassion, and kindness to everyone I meet.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’m a dabbler and a creator so it’s always been hard for me to stay focused on one type of art, craft, or style. That’s often led me into frustration or anxiety about not being ‘good enough’ at any one thing. However, realizing that about myself has been huge toward coming into my own as an artist and creator. It’s so easy to look at your peers’ art and put yourself down for not being as good at X, Y, or Z. When I learned to just focus on me, creating art for the sake of my love for creating, and growing my own style and skills, I really felt myself starting to flourish.

As a woman learning to run my own business, I’ve also had to struggle with what I value my work at, and how firmly I stick to my guns. It helps to keep records and always be prepared for new projects and discussions about timelines and budgets, so you don’t undercut yourself or needlessly stress yourself out when things catch you by surprise. Learning leadership skills such as coaching and difficult conversations has helped me be a better business person.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Blackheart Creations – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I am primarily an artist and crafter but have my hands in some event organizing as well. Most of my current Blackheart Creations is in the form of graphic design commissions (creating logos, labels, and other custom artwork) and small products I sell locally at art markets and a couple of shops (stickers, cookbooks/coloring books, art prints, and cards). I am probably best locally known for my artwork for Alternation Brewing Company’s (https://www.instagram.com/alternationbrewing/) beer labels, stickers and cards sold at Nooch Vegan Market (https://www.noochveganmarket.com/), and organizing Denver’s Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale (https://www.blackheartcreations.com/wvbs).

I pour my heart and soul into all the artwork that I create and truly love doing custom commission work. From logos to pet portraits, I love giving my client a product they will enjoy for years to come. As an avid crafter and never one to shy from a challenge, I am always interested to build my portfolio and do new projects. Recently, I have been perfecting my Adobe skills, taught myself linocut stamp carving, and learned how to make gif animations. Over the next year, I am hoping to build my apparel inventory and get into larger-scale murals locally in Denver.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well-positioned for?
I believe that everyone has a unique purpose, skill, or lived experience to bring to the table, and that is valuable. So worry less about making art that everyone will like, but worry more about making art that you truly love, because it shows. Perfecting your craft isn’t about changing your style to fit someone else’s preferences, but honing your execution and process of your own style.

You also have to put yourself out there, and do it consistently, even if it makes you feel awkward and vulnerable. One of my first paid logo design clients happened just because I told a friend I was now doing graphic design and gave her my rates – literally like the scariest thing ever to me at that point. I also have found that just being honest, collaborative, and supportive has led me to like-minded business owners and artist friends. There are great networks of lady bosses, young artists, musicians, fellow vegans, or wherever your niche is, that are looking for people just like you to work and grow with.

Pricing:

  • Custom graphic design/art – $30/hr
  • Pet/people portraits – $50/character
  • Prints – $10 each
  • Stickers – $1 each
  • Hand stamped Cards – $3 each

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
(beer can picture) Alternation Brewing Company
(all others) Blackheart Creations

(not all of my images would upload – I put all of the images into a google folder here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1m7J3B0CvxmdMmgicgvAOU3RVtzx8O5gE)

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