Designer Crush: K'era Morgan, of k-apostrophe

1. How did you get your start in design?

It started out of sheer necessity for my emotional health a few years ago. Although I received my BFA from a top art institution I felt ill-prepared to deal with pursuing a creative career path upon graduation and was fearful of being a starving artist so, I decided that a corporate gig was the best way to keep a roof over my head and pay back my student loans. But after more than a decade of working in public relations I found myself less than fulfilled by my work and realized that I had to immerse myself into something creative asap or else… I took the leap and dove into realizing a business idea I had been tossing around in my head with a previous business partner. That ended but valuable lessons were learned and spurred me to launch k-apostrophe which is my second creative endeavor and solely mine. That leap wasn’t easy and it’s still a hustle. I’m still figuring things out as I go, which means making mistakes and pushing through growing pains. Thankfully, I have life experience and career experience to lean on as well as a community of people I can go to when I need help or advice or a pep talk.

2. Where do you draw inspiration from?

From within and external stimuli. I’m guided by my intuition and a process that focuses on mindfulness. Each piece is a reflection of the unconscious process of the stories we tell ourselves constantly. These stories are reflected in how we live our lives and we constantly pull feedback from the world around us to inform or validate our existing stories or to create new storylines. Each multimedia piece I create is a non-linear story made of fragments sourced from cast-off materials that are manipulated and reassembled. My work plays with color, textures and layers, much like reality which is rarely bland and smooth and constantly shifts.

3. Your work includes found paper sourced from magazines, newspapers, and books — what’s the process for finding the perfect materials for your art? Do you go searching specifically for interesting patterns and prints, or do you use whatever comes into your life at the right time?

I like to say that I’m a calculated hoarder. I’m not constantly looking for things to collect but when I come across something that catches my eye, I snag it and hold onto it until I’m ready to use it. Sometimes it’s the texture or the pattern that I like and it could appear in the most random places...like a flier I receive in a package, for example. Not too long ago I was on a flight to Europe and the airline menu design was gorgeous so, I I ripped off the front cover and kept it. I like to reuse things a lot too. I had all of these vellum bags for some reason and instead of tossing them I manipulated the surface with paint and mark-making, cutting them down into variou shapes to use in my work. The same goes for books. My husband and I like to read a lot and one day I noticed that all of these books we’ve been crating around with us for years have only been read once and yet, we continue to hang onto them. I’m talking about paperback novels with very little monetary value. I found the idea literally altering stories to suit my needs quite interesting and started to use the pages like a canvas for paint where lines of text would transform morph into graphic stripes.

4. To make your woven throw blankets, you work with one of the few remaining American mills — why do you think this art form has become a rarity in the U.S. and why is it important for you to keep your process local?

I believe that weaving among American artisans has become popular once again. Traditional crafts and goods made by hand across the board are seeing a big resurgence which I think is in direct response to the speed in which we are forced to live our lives and how we consume. There is this belief that everyone wants everything fast and cheap ut I don’t believe that to the whole truth. I’ve seen it in my own business with my blankets, which all made to order. That requires the customer to wait two to three weeks to receive their purchase. I could potentially sell more if I could produce and ship faster but  my customers are happy to wait and are always satified when they receive their purchase.

Sadly, there was a major exodus of the U.S. textile industry in the 90’s and it headed overseas to places like China and India or south of the border to Mexico where labor was cheaper and in many cases, that meant inhumane working conditions.

There are a lot of U.S. brands that are working with co-ops, non-profits and artisan groups around the world to produce their products. In turn they provide a fair wage, spur economic development and help keep old world craft traditions alive. I think this is honorable and much needed and I hope to someday have an opportunity to work with international artisans as well to produce k-apostrophe good, especially as a woman of color. However, there is also a rich tradition in the U.S. as well and for me, it was out of pure necessity that I built my business with an American partner. As a one-woman show that was funding my business out of my own pocket I needed a manufacturing partner with whom I could communicate and physically visit with ease and one that didn’t require huge minimum orders. It also meant circumventing costs associated with international shipping and the time it takes to receive goods from overseas manufacturers. Those are two areas where I pass on the savings to my customers.

5. What’s your process for creating new work? Is there a particular type of music you listen to/environment you have to be in?

I try to adhere to a daily art practice which may only mean 30 minutes at my desk working on a piece I started the previous day. There are times when days go by and I can’t work on a new piece because the duties of running a business take precedence over being creative. It’s a daily juggling act that I know a lot of creative-preneurs have to manage, in the beginning at least.  I usually never have a plan ahead of time of what I want to create even though from time to time I think about new techniques or medias I would like to explore. But my process is one that is very intuitive. Sometimes I’ll put music on that is reflective of my mood and other times I just want to hear the sounds of my environment, which will most likely be my home studio. But I enjoy working in different places and when given the opportunity to work while on the road, I eat it up. It’s interesting to see how the change in environment also has an effect on a piece.  There is a quote I found a year ago that rang true to me. It stated, “There is something about seeing things more clearly when you’re somewhere else.”

6. Who are the artists who have influenced you most and why?

Even before specific artists had an influence on me, I was riveted by global textile traditions and growing up in the diverse community of the Bay Area would also have a lasting effect. I spent a lot of time in fabric stores with my mother from a very young age and remember being drawn to the bold, colorful geometric prints of African wax cloth. I have vivid memories of wandering around the Mission District seeing the papel picado or traditional Otomi embroidered textiles. My parents had close friends that were Indian and I was drawn to the color combinations of the women’s saris they would wear to parties. I’m particularly drawn to artists who for one reason or another that were discovered late in life or posthumously like the 103 year old Carmen Herrera and Vivian Meir. More than their work, which I find very compelling, is their character and staying true to their path, creating regardless of any recognition from the outside world. It’s that same calling that made me return to my creative path and drives me to do what I do, day in and day out. There are other artists like Deborah Roberts, Wangechi Mutu or Njideka Akunyili Crosby, whose work I admire because of their subject matter and their technical use of their craft.

7. What’s one album or musician/group that’s played a big role in your life and why?

I can’t pick just one. There are artists or albums that I’m fond of because they remind me of pivotal points in my life or they exuded a sense of truth and authenticity that was refreshing. Some of them include Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Kelis, which are more my counterparts in age. But Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, and Sade remind me of my childhood and my mother.

8. Describe your dream vacation.

Usually I would have said anywhere warm near a body of water with waves and great outdoor activities but right now, I’m dreaming of a nomadic vacation which probably wouldn’t be very glamorous but very adventurous. Me and a backpack hopping around Southeast Asia or in a camper van visiting towns and villages off the beaten path all around South America. A big part of me likes the idea of chucking it all and living a life of exploration.

Lightning round!

9. Favorite ice cream flavor?

Pistachio.

10. First celebrity crush?

Michael Jackson — it happened the moment I saw him moonwalk while singing Billie Jean at the American Music Awards.

11. Favorite holiday?

Does Pi Day count? Math was always challenging for me put who doesn’t love pie?

12. Go-to karaoke track?

Push It by Salt n Pepa.

13. First concert?

New Kids on the Block.