Photo by Margaret Jacobsen, Interviewed by Kerri Jarema
EDITOR’S NOTE: An ongoing series (both in print and online), Girl Like Us will spotlight women, in their 20’s and 30’s, who are making waves in their various fields. It is easy to be inspired by those who came before, but there are countless women just like us who are making their ways in multiple and varied careers, women who are running their own shops, writing, working with and for others while pursuing their own creative projects — these women are smart and witty and passionate and multitasking and awesome. I can’t say how thrilled we are to share their stories with all of you.
WHO Kara Haupt, 23
WHERE Portland, Oregon
Kara Haupt is a babe and she thinks you’re one, too. That’s the philosophy behind her web project, Babe Vibes, which is a study on women and empowerment. The site launched in 2014 and has since featured multiple women in creative Visual Interviews, opened up a print and zine shop featuring work by Kara and other creative women, and developed a Pep Talk Generator that has been featured everywhere from Seventeen Magazine to TIME.
The designer has also been creating art journals since 2009 and she shares her tips, tricks and know-how on Classes Kara Made, where you can download prompts for making your own journals on a wide variety of topics including music, summer and feminism.
In fact, it is Kara’s feminist meets creative outlook that originally drew us in. Her Twitter and Instagram pages are full of sharp-witted observations on women’s issues and empowerment, work and the frustrations, epiphanies and even hilarity of living a creatively fulfilling life and the passion and sense of humor it takes to live as a person who needs to make “stuff” that means something— whatever medium it may take.
DESIGN LOVE I grew up in Boise, Idaho and began photographing, blogging, and creating online art journaling classes while in high school. I had a lot of free time due to being homeschooled and needed a creative escape. I went to an art school in Brooklyn, NY for my first year of college to study photography. I dreaded my photography homework, but loved my six hour Color/Design course. There I also realized I didn’t want to photograph for a living. I knew the school wasn’t the best fit for me and I didn’t want to live in NY while in college for financial reasons, so I took a semester off school and then moved to Portland, Oregon with my childhood best friend, changed my major to Design, and here I am! I graduated in 2015 and now I work at a design firm and on Babe Vibes, Classes Kara Made, and other freelance.
INSPIRATION IS KEY My biggest design inspirations are usually fine artists and writers. I’m obsessed with Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker, and Barbara Kruger. I’m currently interested in woman artists making loud, feminist, text-based work. Since working on my design school thesis (an interactive, nonlinear digital publication), I’ve been really inspired by writers in my design work — I think writing is really overlooked when it comes to the practice of design. I love writers like Durga Chew-Bose, Sheila Heti, Sarah Nicole Prickett, Chelsea Summers, Fariha Roisin — to name a few.
THE LIST MAKER I’m a stringent list-maker, so I have list called “good ideas” that I’m constantly adding to. Some of the ideas are dumb or whacky, other ones are things that eventually ignite projects, classes, or business ideas.
Whenever I’m feeling creatively bleh, I like to revisit the list and remember the rad stuff I could start right then. I also make lists for every month so I always have stuff to do. Conceptualization is an important part of my process and I write weird and manic notes, statements, and questions all over on paper in the beginning of the process. I then try to make sense of my notes — figure out what it needs, what it doesn’t need, what the point is, what isn’t necessary. I usually turn to using Pinterest next to figure out the aesthetic. I then dive in and go through countless reiterations until it starts to make sense.
That process is pretty consistent throughout all my creative work, some things are more sporadic and I figure out what it needs to be instantly, but it always feel organic. Though, when I design for other people, my process is more regimented and specific. I’m trying to figure out how to marry the two currently.
CLASSES KARA MADE The first class I ever made was in 2009, when I was 16. I cringe looking back at the first iteration of the class, I had no idea what I was doing, ha! But I like to reference a lot of that work now, it was very raw and genuine and I think age has helped me to make it cleaner and more sophisticated. I kept making classes through high school and college and later rebranded as Classes Kara Made.
It’s exciting because of the control. I can really do whatever — rebrand, evolve, change directions. CKM itself isn’t usually daunting to me anymore, but other parts of business, like bookkeeping or IRL networking still freak me out. I’ll figure it out.
BALANCING ACT It really ebbs and flows with what I have going on, the time of year, my work schedule etc. I almost completely stopped watching Netflix/Hulu in late 2013 and it was honestly wonderful for my productivity and life. I realized I wasn’t really enjoying binge-watching TV shows, but using it to distract myself (and not in a good way). There is no magic trick unfortunately, successful juggling happens because of prioritization and organization. You have to figure out what makes you happy and healthy and use your time wisely.
For me, it’s going to bed early, keeping my apt clean, using tons of lists, coffee dates with my best friends, taking appropriate breaks, and removing pointless energy-sucking things and people from my life. Obvious, but difficult to implement, stuff. I’ve also really found that tough love language toward myself does not work at all. I used to be kind of cruel to myself thinking it would make me more productive, all it did was inhibit me. Now I am much more kind and patient to myself.
FINDING AN OUTLET I think having an easy creative outlet is super important. I love Instagram, for instance, because I can spend 15 minutes drawing something, post it, and feel instant gratification. Some people think that’s bad (I guess because its “the Internet” and instant gratification is terrible or something) —I think it’s really wonderful. I work from home and being a motivated, creative person gets lonely. My work is personal, but a lot of it is for an audience. I want to see it do something. It’s the perfect platform to try things out, create your community, and keep a record of work. I used Instagram to conceptualize Babe Vibes in the beginning and it helped me to realize it was a viable and interesting concept, the hashtag became a thing, women and girls were posting selfies and mantras with no push from me — it became its own thing and that was exciting and affirming to see. A zine I’m working on also started from something I randomly drew for Instagram too.
FIERCE FEMINISM When I was younger, feminism gave me the tools and the voice to understand myself. It’s fucking hard to be a woman in this world and feminism taught me I wasn’t alone and that 98% of the things I felt and feel shamed/guilty/bad about/aren’t my fault.
When I realized, as a teenager, that the reason I felt bad about my body wasn’t because I was a silly, superficial, “naturally hysterical” girl, but because I lived in a culture that teaches women most of our value comes from fitting into a narrow conception of what “beauty” is and I was liberated. I felt less guilt about feeling “ugly” or whatever, it wasn’t my fault! I was never told that growing up and feminism helped me understand that.
Feminism, as a movement, has so much potential to fix culture, to break down the racist, sexist, classist systems that make this world go ’round. It empowers, plus it has given me the strongest friendships. The sisterhood is my life blood, my biggest inspirations, and the best fucking support system. I love women.
BABE VIBES When I first started Babe Vibes I was thinking of it as a digital publication, now I would describe it less as that and as more of a collective or project. My thesis made me realize that digital publication — even as weird I was being about it — felt limiting. I like that if I want to make something, I can find the right women and the right medium to make it in — whether that’s a print zine or an interactive thing or a series of photos.
As far as theme goes… It’s by women. I’m interested in certain topics right now and that’s really reflected in Babe Vibes — self-care, revenge, empowerment (whatever that means), wanting, reflection etc. I think Babe Vibes will ebb as I change and how I collaborate with others. Maybe that’s vague, but I’ve never been sure how to describe it — I think Babe Vibes might just be an excuse to make stuff I want to make with interesting women. I can’t wrap it a bow, but I have never run out of ideas for things to make next, so I think that’s better.
PEP TALK GENERATOR I was standing in line at a coffee shop last year and I needed a pep talk. My 45 Pep Talks project was on my mind (I had written myself a pep talk every day for 45 days) and I was thinking it was would be great to turn it into a digital experience, a place to go for pep talks and inspiration. I’m really proud of it! It was really wild to see it explode the way it did, very surreal.
It felt like it was long-time coming in ways, the success of it didn’t surprise me whatsoever. I knew what I was doing. Virality like that was really overwhelming, exciting, but by the end of that week I felt like a kid who had been at Disneyland way too long. I don’t know if it changed my approach, but it did really remind me that the things I do have power and I should make sure I’m doing good things with it.
WHAT’S NEXT I’m coming out of a bad season of depression and hoping to finally finish projects that have been in the works for awhile. New print zines, a new interview series, a monthly column with a writer I love, and some of my own work. Stay tuned!
Kara just recently launched a Kickstarter to help fund Babe Vibes. DONATE HERE!
See more from our Winter 2015/2016 issue below!