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5 Questions with Kay Wolfersperger

"Single Origin" is on display at Foxy Loxy through Dec. 29.

Kay Wolfersperger has her mark all around Savannah, literally.

In addition to being the longtime graphic designer for Foxy Loxy Café and its sister restaurants, she also does branding for Green Truck Pub and PERC Coffee.

“Single Origin,” on view now through the end of the year at Foxy, is a collection of Wolfersperger’s coffee-centric artwork. She created the work for herself instead of for a client, yet she maintains the same whimsical, fun style that she’s become known for.

Wolfersperger currently lives and works in New York. We caught up with her last week.

1. How did you begin the freelance work you do?

Oh wow, let’s rewind the clock! I went to SCAD and graduated from there. I worked for the college, and when I did, I befriended Jennifer Jenkins. She went to Lacoste with a study abroad thing SCAD does, and she came back inspired to open up a coffee shop, which ended up being Foxy Loxy Café. She was like, “Oh, I need a graphic designer to do the logo,” and at that time we were both really naïve and didn’t know what the demands were, and I was like, okay! [laughs]

That’s what got the ball rolling—she opened that café and I did work for them. I was interested in dabbling in the freelance lifestyle because that way, I could work on my illustration and art career more. So I left SCAD and started doing just that. I was starting to work with different clients in Savannah, and Jen grew and a year later, it was, “Let’s do the Coffee Fox.” A year later, “Let’s do Henny Penny.” And kept going. That starts the flame of, “Who does your logo?” People would get in touch with me, and here were are eight years later. I can’t believe it’s been eight years since Foxy Loxy and how wonderfully that’s grown.

2. You have such a signature style. How do you adapt it, or not, across brands?

Style-wise, it’s developed over time. The best advice I got about creating style is just to create a lot of work. You can’t force it, you can’t rush it, just do it. When I left my professional full-time corporate job in corporate world, it came down to that. Make work, take on the client, stay up late, get it done, work, work, work. Do the thing you love, and eventually your style will evolve or become more obvious. I’ve been doing this for years now and it’s still evolving and changing, but that’s what I love about it too.

Mid-Century Coffee Square.
Mid-Century Coffee Square.

It’s morphed into my style being something clients might look for. “Oh, that girl does that artwork, let’s get in touch with her.” But in terms of trying to respect each client’s look, I’ve been really lucky that a lot of clients have a fun vibe. If a corporate person came to me, at this point in my career, I’d probably say, “This might be a bad fit.” So in time, I’ve also recognized what might be a better fit. Now I can recognize that me and the client would both be miserable, I think, if they wanted something dry and rigid and simple.

I take these art classes, Make Art that Sells, by this lady named Lilla Rogers, and she says, “People buy your joy.” That’s so simple, right? But it’s like, boom—it just says everything.

3. Tell me about “Single Origin” and the work for that.

I’ve been trying to balance this freelance life of work vs. making artwork, and oftentimes the work part, because it pays the bills, takes precedent. I’ve been struggling for years to decide, what’s my voice? What’s my thesis? What do I want to talk about as an artist and an illustrator? I decided I just needed to do something. What do I know about; what have I drawn a lot? And it came back to coffee. Single origin is a term in the coffee world about where a coffee comes from, a farm or a region or a location, and it’s a play on that.

Over the years, I’ve had outtakes and things that didn’t go to finish, but that I really believed in and loved, so I gathered all that up and started to recolor it and rework it.

4. How do you balance client work and personal work?

I have all these little sketches on my desktop like, “Oh, remember this idea,” but at the end of the day, if I have to get six hours of client work done, there’s no mental energy left and I have to prioritize. From what I’ve read and who I’ve met, I haven’t found the perfect formula. Maybe there doesn’t need to be one. It might just be the teeter-totter of productivity that we’re all exploring.

Tea with Tigers.
Tea with Tigers.

5.What has your process of working remotely been like?

Jen and I have known each other for a while. She started the business and it was symbiotic and moved along. She became pregnant with her son Ison, but before that we’d have in-person meetings and I’d see her at the cafes and whatever. When she had Ison, she needed to be at home. She got really great at communicating through email, and I did too, because we still needed to keep things going. We also developed a really good shorthand and communication system that was happening simultaneously as [husband] Ben and I were like, “Oh my God, we need to travel or see another city!” We seemed to be doing well through email, so I decided to pitch to work remotely when Ben and I decided to leave Savannah, and it’s been that way for four years.

It’s been challenging in New York emotionally. In Savannah, I worked remotely, but I could just go down to the café and see people I know. Here, it’s much more challenging. Ben and I were in town for my show and we had been kicking around the idea of moving back to Savannah, and we had a really good visit last week, so we’re actually moving back to Savannah in the spring. New York is wonderful and fun and it’s been a good experience overall, but I’m realizing emotionally and physically there are a lot of challenges here in New York that we didn’t have in Savannah. We are so pumped to get back to our network and our friends.