I’m starting a new regular post called, “Meet My Alumni” showcasing and highlighting former previous awesome students. (This could be you!) I’ve been thinking of doing this for quite some time, but like you, I’m often juggling many things and it slipped through the digital cracks. When Kristen Shearon of Havok Designs interviewed me for her blog recently, I was revamped on starting this series.
My goal is to interview 2-3 former students per semester to get their experience at Palm Beach State Art + Design department, as well as see what they are doing now and hopefully inspire you that you will “make it” in the real world!
So here it goes: Meet My Alumni: Kristen Shearon
Kristen Shearon was a student in my 3D Design Fundamentals class in the Spring of 2011. During her semester, we explored new materials such as cardboard, wood and paper sculpture and I remember her particularly excelling at the cardboard and paper project. (Ironically, not necessarily wood.. which is the material she now exclusively works with!) She was not only an extremely creative student, but she made huge efforts to get involved in the local art community, going to art exhibits (including a few of mine!) and being curious about the world around her. I have recently reconnected with her, (online of course) and was curious how her new and thriving design business, Havok Designs as well as her big move to Montana was going. She even recently was highlighted on the front page of Etsy! As stated above, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by her about 6 months ago, and thought she was the perfect fit to start this new series.
Kudos to Kristen for starting her own business and carving out her place in the ever-changing art and design world. Let’s here from her…
Prof. Hopkins: Intro: “Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where are you now and how did you get there?”
Kristen Shearon: The majority of my life was spent living in South Florida in Palm Beach County. Currently, I am living in the small town of Hamilton, Montana that is nestled in the Bitterroot Valley, which is surrounded by the beautiful, magnificent Rocky and Bitterroot Mountain ranges. We moved here in April 2011 (a few months after I graduated) because we needed a change and wanted to be surrounded by expansive natural beauty.
Prof. Hopkins: What was your experience like in the Art and Design Department at PBSC? How did your classes and studies here prepare you for the real world?
KS: “My experience taking classes in the Art and Design Department at PBSC was a really fun one! The classes were quite enriching, and my teachers were always very supportive, knowledgeable, and committed to our growth as students. There were several projects that were presented to us that made us think, question, and pushed us to go outside of the class to learn what we needed to learn in order to complete them. I think the variety of the projects was what helped prepare me for the real world the most. Whether it was in my graphic design courses or my art classes, the teachers were honest about what I did right and wrong, the areas that needed improvement, and they never let me miss a deadline. ”
Prof. Hopkins: “What are you doing now?”
KS: ” I am happy to say that I currently own and run my own company called Havok Designs where I design + create laser cut wooden jewelry, home décor, artwork, and also sew handmade soft device cases. It is still quite small, with me being the only employee, but it keeps growing in interest and popularity all the time. The public reaction has been amazing and I have been quite lucky to receive the support of so many amazing people along the way. ”
Prof. Hopkins: “Any advice for current Art and Design students at PBSC? (This could be anything from which classes to take, how to market yourself or methods of working)”
KS: “I would definitely suggest getting a job, finding an internship or starting to do freelance in whichever field you are studying while you are still in school. Having the added bonus of working in “the real world” type atmosphere during your studies just helps build an even more solid foundation for your career going forward. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, to make mistakes, ask questions or make contacts. It is all a learning experience, which will continue even after graduating. So if you get started doing all that early, it will be much more natural to you when you are dealing with companies and clients later on. ”
Prof. Hopkins: “The art and design world is often hard to break into . .. Are you working in the field now (freelance or fulltime?) or still trying to get into it? What are some obstacles that you have come across in your path to being an artist / designer? “
KS: “It is hard to break into the art and design world, but you just need to find your niche. For me, so far it has been thru the website Etsy. It has become a full-time job for me, but it has been a long road in order to get here. When I started (and still even now) my advertising + marketing budgets were $0, so I decided to use the free resources that I had available to me, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogging and Etsy. Not having any start up capital or budget for pretty much anything was a real challenge, so I just did what I could do, slaved away endlessly on all of those sites, and just kept creating and designing to get myself and my work out there as much as possible. The people who did see my work responded beautifully, which lead to sales, which then lead to more sales, and before I knew it I had some money to play around with in order to keep working on new ideas, advertise on some blogs, and get featured on other websites. Getting over my fear of rejection, failure and putting myself out there was difficult at first, but I quickly realized that failure is an option, but I was not going to let it be an inevitability and that putting myself and my work out into the world was the only way that I was going to grow and flourish as a designer and owner of my own company.”
Prof. Hopkins: Do you plan on pursuing more education in art and design, and if so, where?
KS: I have wanted for a while to eventually go back and get my Bachelors degree and possibly my Masters degree in art. However, after owning my own business for about a year now and seeing how much you can do on your own without getting a degree, my dream of owning my own art gallery may be accessible without going back to school as I had originally intended. I’m not sure where I will be living in a few years, but having this type of business allows me to do it anywhere I please. For now I am comfortable with continuing on the road I am on and seeing where it will take me, or should I say, where I will take it…
Prof. Hopkins: “Has your style evolved since leaving school, and how? “
KS: “Yes, in the way that I was not working with wood when I was in school. All of my projects were either graphic design, drawing, or mixed media/3D style artworks. But my overall design style is still the same. I am still drawn to simple geometric shapes and lines, I still have to line up my typography just so, I still love making mixed media 3D art pieces, and I still love taking something old and giving it new life in a new form. ”
Prof. Hopkins: Do you have a website we can follow your projects with?
BIG THANKS to Kristen for taking the time to do this interview. Now go to her shop and support a former fellow Palm Beach State College artist/designer!