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Meet Graeme Smith Part I

Aaron Shively continues his series of interviews with Batdorf & Bronson employees whose creative contribution goes beyond their job description. Here, Aaron speaks with Graeme Smith, one of our baristas in Olympia.

Aaron: How did you first get involved in giving creative input with Batdorf and Bronson?

Graeme SmithGraeme: Well, I’ve always wanted to be an artist.  I’ve always been pushing to have my art shown in any way possible.  Carolyn Skye (Batdorf & Bronson Creative Director) knew I was an artist, and through talking with her, and showing her some of my art, she asked me to come up with some ideas for our coffee labels.   That’s how it all got started – with the Colombia, French Roast, Bohemian Blend and Holiday Blend labels.  I think this is the third year we’ve used the Holiday Blend label.  These were all super fun, because they started out as quick doodles, but people seemed to really like them.

A:  And you did all of these while you were working in our Tasting Room?

G: Yes, I was in the Tasting Room.  I’d start the drawing and then Carolyn colored them all in and finalized them.  At first I thought our Holiday label may come across a bit too Christmas tree – like, but coworkers and Carolyn seemed to like it, so we just ran with the “holiday, Charlie Brown coffee plant.”

A:  So, you’ve recently started your Guram Guram clothing line.  Can you tell us a little bit about how you made that jump from small coffee labels to clothing?

G: Well, I started getting into clothing when I started playing music in bands.  I’d always make t-shirts for bands that I played with.  I think I started doing that around 2006; shirts for my bands and my friend’s bands.  I’ve actually taken a break from screening shirts for the last few years.  I’ve only recently started it back up.

I’ve always been inspired by band’s shirts.  They’re usually abstract and creative – more creative than a lot of shirts that you’d buy at a store.  They’re pretty DIY, imperfect – with lots of personality.  That’s always inspired me to make my own.Graeme Smith

A: I think that aesthetic translates over to the shirts that you’ve made for us.  You can sift through all of the shirts that you’ve made and the image will vary from the distance of the collar line and things like that.  It may be less exact, but I also think that it gives people options – which is good too.

G: I think it’s a very Olympia thing to do.  It shouldn’t look too machine made.  It needs to have a little more personality.  Even the way I’ve designed it – I didn’t draw it first.  I painted directly on the screen, so you can see all of the brush strokes. The lines are intentionally imperfect to give the image more movement.  I just think it makes the whole thing look a little more…electric.

A: Yeah, cool.  So, how long have you been working at Batdorf & Bronson?

G: Um, about 7 years now.  I was a junior in high school when I was hired.  At the time, I was actually learning to silk screen from a teacher whose partner worked at Batdorf & Bronson.  And she told me about a job opening in production.  So, it’s full-circle.  The person I learned to silk screen from hooked me up with this job.  I don’t think I even drank coffee back then.  It was a temporary position at the time.  I was filling promotional orders for people that purchased green power during a campaign we were running.

A:  Okay, yeah, I remember that.

G: Yeah, I’d send folks a pound of coffee and some chocolate if they signed up to use alternative power sources to help off-set some of the conventional energy uses.

Then I became the bucket washer.  And, eventually found my way into the Tasting Room.  I’d also help Jim (Unziger, maintenance engineer) out around the Roastery grounds.  I developed a healthy coffee habit and never left.

BohemainA:  Even when you went away to college, right?

G: Yeah, I’d always come back and work summer and winter breaks.  Even back in high school, I didn’t work here that much.  Mostly on the weekends.  It’s just been over the last few years that I’m here a lot more and feeling very immersed in the coffee world.

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