Casey is sort of an all around wonder. She’s a successful creative business owner, and successful blogger. With her products out in the market, and her DIY tutorials on the web, you can get a sense of her determination to do the best she can with what she does. Meet Casey and enjoy this interview with her!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Casey Starks and I’m the designer and maker at Vitamini, a line of handmade gifts and greeting cards, and blogger at Vitamini Handmade, a craft, diy, and inspiration blog. I grew up in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties with my parents, three sisters, and lots of pets. I attended UC Davis and studied Landscape Architecture and Art History, and afterwards spent 10 years moving around Northern California for work. I just recently moved back to the Monterey Bay. I’m happy to be back in the fog (literal, not figurative!) where I feel most at home.
What do you make or do?
My handmade line consists of greeting cards, housewares, and gift items that I hand screen print with my original drawings. I also design repeat patterns that I have digitally printed on fabric. My designs are peppy and colorful with a retro twist.
I love trying out all sorts of art techniques and materials, so I also create craft projects and tutorials for my blog. My diys are very general and range from home decor to wearables. I especially enjoy working with simple, versatile materials (like paper or gold leaf) to make cool and unique things that you’d want to give as gifts of keep for yourself!
Where can we find your creations?
I sell my work online in my shop www.vitaminimodern.com and on Etsy at www.vitamini.etsy.com. I also sell in person at various craft fairs around the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find my blog at www.vitaminihandmade.com. I also share photos of my creative process, my dachshund puppy, and other stuff that I like and that I’m doing on Instagram at www.instagram.com/vitaminimodern.
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business? How did the name come about?
When I first started out, my artwork was based on my favorite little car – the Mini! I thought of the name Vitamini when I was thinking about getting a vanity license plate for my new yellow Mini Cooper so it seemed fitting to name my work as such. My work now includes other themes that I love, vintage travel, architecture, and other little things that make life sweet. I started my blog as an off-shoot of my business to help illustrate the handmade aspects of my work and other creative pursuits, so I named the blog Vitamini Handmade.
How long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
During the first 5 years of running my business I was working full-time at a Landscape Architecture firm during the day. I left my day job at the very end of 2013 to pursue Vitamini and Vitamini Handmade full time. It took many years of late nights and weekend work to get to that point! Honestly, there are still moments when I question if it was the right time, but overall I know it was the right decision. I’m glad I had the courage to make a change when I did!
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
I honestly feel like I’m never not making things. I’m so glad I have the blog as an outlet because it gives me a good excuse to pursue ideas that aren’t related to my prints and drawings for Vitamini. At any time I probably have 10 different projects around at varying levels of completion – some that I’ve started with intent for sharing on the blog, and others are just for fun. I love learning about new things and being able to add new skills to my repertoire. I was the exact same way as a kid! I didn’t know any other 12 year olds that enjoyed re-wiring lamps like I did.
But to answer the question, I love gardening and have a collection of cacti and succulents that I enjoy taking care of. Some of them I’ve had for over 10 years! I also like reading, thrift shopping, going to museums, and learning new things. I took tennis lessons for a while recently and had a lot of fun!
Is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?
Necessity, 100%. As a kid, I was always creative and inventive (see lamp wiring comment above). I grew up in a household that encouraged that creativity and also took part in other enriching activities like music groups and 4-H. At the same time, I was a little shy and downplayed my creative extracurriculars with my classmates at school (I don’t think I told anyone that I made the dress I wore to the senior prom – what?!). When I went to college I jumped into a 4 year-long loop of projects, essays, midterms and finals. It wasn’t until I was working full time and living on my own in a new city that I felt like something was missing. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to be using my ideas and making things on a consistent basis in order to feel complete. Not long after I figured that out, I taught myself how to screen print and opened my Etsy shop.
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
My mom grew up raising milk goats and sewing her own clothes and my dad built the first house he and my mom lived in as newlyweds. Making things wasn’t special in my family, it was just normal! My mom was always very supportive of my sisters and my creative pursuits. She never complained about us making messes which I think was so important! When I was a kid, my mom had a handmade business she ran out of the garage. I spent many weekends waking up early to load up the station wagon and head off to craft fairs with her as her assistant. I never thought I’d be doing that myself as an adult but it must have rubbed off on me!
Where do you find inspiration?
My creativity as an adult is closely linked to my college education, since I didn’t actually start drawing until I took drafting for my landscape architecture major. I’m inspired by architecture, landscapes, and travel, plants, and anything related to mid-century design. I’m really into architectural diagrams, sketches, and renderings (I wonder now if I chose that major because I liked the drawings so much). Thrift shops are inspiring places for me – I love browsing around looking at old stuff.
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
If you have an idea, just start! Take incremental steps, however small, towards your goal every day. Don’t get distracted by all of the information out there. It’s ok to learn as you go. You don’t have to be an expert when you’re just starting out or trying something new. In Maya Angelou’s words; “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”