Meet the Maker: Karen Weeks
Meet The Maker: Karen Weeks
If you’ve seen our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere, chances are the first thing you noticed before taking a sip was the beautifully designed bag. That’s thanks to local printer Karen Weeks, the maker behind our Explorer Series coffee bags.
Karen describes her design style as a balance, “between what I would call handmade, but also ‘Chosen’ – with an intentional feel.”
Karen achieves that style by first hand drawing the design, then tweaking details, planning size, and experimenting with colors in Photoshop. Afterwards her design gets transferred to a woodblock via a laser cutter, that will then leave an impression of the pattern on the paper. Each color of the pattern represents one time through the press. For the bag’s text, Karen typesets the individual letters(the movable metal type).
After mixing and preparing the colored inks, she applies it to the roller of Heidelberg Windmill letterpress. When the woodcut is aligned and the press is turned on, it will individually stamp the design on the paper of each bag sleeve.
You can see the impressive results of this process when you check out the recently released Sumatra Silk bag, the second of the small-lot Explorer Series coffees.
Like the first Explorer Series bag, Karen’s design for Sumatra Silk was heavily shaped by the origins of the coffee. Costume patterns from the Gayo region of Sumatra caught her eye when researching the Permata Gayo Cooperative, the group of farmers producing the beans for the Sumatra.
The patterns on the bag’s sleeves are modeled from the textures and forms of the regional dress, and the colors she chose are traditional to the area as well.
“I really like textiles. I’ve always been drawn to that – one of my other focuses in school was textiles, and then when I was living in Germany I was doing a lot of knitting and sewing.”
And that crafted influence in her work was especially appropriate for the Explorer Series project, because it’s “like all the hands that grew and worked on this coffee.”
Textiles weren’t the only influence on her style, though. Karen grew up in Louisville, but has lived all over, often in the pursuit of her art. From her first job as a professional printer in New York City, to a non-paying apprenticeship in small-town Alabama, to San Francisco, Detroit and even Germany, Karen’s clean but handmade style has developed through her exposure to the different artists she’s worked with or studied.
Even her current studio roommate, who she divides the printing space with, has shared tools and typographic knowledge that has helped her develop some of the techniques she’s used for the Explorer Series project.
“You can always learn from what’s around you. It’s about doing what’s natural in the environment you are currently in… Making [art] for other people, people you care about, is a great place to start. Making art they will love and then just keep doing it.”
If you loved her work on the last two Explorer Series bags as much as we have, be on the lookout for her designs on the next two coffees in the series.
Her personal favorite of Heine Brothers’ coffees? She’s sticking to the iced latte: “I love the Iced Latte, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I don’t get it very often because it’s a treat, but the Iced Latte.”
Contact Karen Weeks at email@example.com for more info or business interest!