What is your official title?
For the last three years I’ve liked to call myself a work in progress. I was finishing up school and wasn’t really sure where I was going to end up. Since then, I’ve had a few different jobs, but right now I’m the Publications Project Manager at Kalamazoo College, the Owner and Illustrator of a freelance company called Klok-Work Design, and the Co-founder of Kalamadoodle with Nick Clark.
What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?
I work from 9-5, so I know that’s always on my schedule. If I get up early, I tend to check email and do some drawing beforehand. I dedicate most of my nights towards Kalamadoodle and Klok-Work. I also do the design work for One Well Brewing, as well as attend events and other things going on around town.
What is your background?
From a really young age I was inspired by using my imagination and creativity. I never knew exactly where I would end up, but I always loved to dream and I loved to draw. I studied advertising in college, but wasn’t sure where I fit in that mold. I always steered myself towards creative freedom and idea driven results. A year or so after college I spent five months in the Royal Oak area looking for a job in marketing, but it didn’t pan out and I moved back to Kalamazoo. Shortly after that I connected with Nick and we got started on Kalamadoodle.
Also, around that time I started to take freelance a little more seriously. I reached out to One Well because their Facebook didn’t have a logo, and we met at Waterstreet downtown. I’ve been working with them ever since.
What is Kalamadoodle?
Kalamadoodle started as a doodle, literally! I have sketch books that I’ve been filling up for years and had the idea of getting others involved. I think that Kalamadoodle is a great way to create informal networking for people. Instead of going up and shaking hands and saying “what do you do?”, you say “ hey, what are you drawing?” and I really like that mentality.
Kalamadoodle was on the backburner until I moved back and connected with Nick. He was all about it and really helped get it to where it is now. Without his help, support, and insights, I don’t think it would have left my sketchbook. He saw a lot of potential and ran with it, so I really appreciate and respect him for that.
Now, we’ve had 11 events and are coming up on our one year anniversary in August. We’ve had a lot of momentum building and are averaging over 40 people for most events, and are testing out new ways to get people more involved and to keep it interesting. We see this as something much larger than us. We want it to benefit the Kalamazoo community and the artistic community. We want to help the people that want to connect and express themselves, but don’t know exactly how or where to start. Informal networking, drinking beer, and some drawing is a great way to bridge that gap.
Who is the team that puts on Kalamadoodle and what are your roles?
Nick and I haven’t set up defined roles; we are both managing whatever we can. We have jobs outside of Kalamadoodle, so whoever has the time to take on that days’ project handles it. We definitely take turns though and everything is agreed upon before we make any serious calls.
What partners make Kalamadoodle possible?
We’ve been happy to spread Kalamadoodle across every brewery that we can right now. We’ve had a couple great events at Arcadia and Rupert’s, and One Well is a big supporter. We’ve also been to Bells, Boatyard, Old Peninsula, and teamed up with Gonzos at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Discover Kalamazoo has really helped get the word out, and we’re incredibly grateful for that. We love that Kalamazoo is about the whole craft beer industry, and not one particular place, so we try to get everyone involved and let people inside and outside of Kalamazoo know how fun and unique this city is.
Tell us about your personal artwork and design exploration.
I’m excited to grow and explore that a little more; it’s always taken a backseat to client work. I see myself creating art prints, merchandise, clothing, and stuff that people can look at, relate to, and celebrate in their own way. It won’t be for everyone, but I think the people that pick up on it will see that it comes from the heart.
Primarily, I want to do paper based screen printing. I love that medium. It’s fun to put different colors down, one at a time, and see what pops up on the page; it’s a really interesting process. A lot of what we do now is digital based and you can play with it and tweak it until your mind wants to explode. Once you print something, it’s done.
I also plan to continue growing through commercial design. Someone has a problem and somewhere there is a solution. It’s all about connecting those dots in a way that engages people. That’s a really unique and rewarding challenge.
Tell us about your new space at Park Trades Center.
Half of the reason I committed to this studio was to give myself a place to work and grow. The other half is for people who want to learn, collaborate, or simply don’t have the space or tools themselves. Equipment isn’t cheap and trial and error is expensive; it can be daunting to take on. Kalamazoo is full of amazingly talented people with great ideas, and I want to bring them together to help encourage each others’ pursuits.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the past, present, and future. I try to stretch my emotions and display them in a way others can relate to. Its the only way that I’ve found happiness or success in what I’ve done.
I also come from a bit of a skateboarding and punk rock background. Those were very formative years for me. So I try to put a bit of grit and energy in what I do, but it comes down to what I’m feeling, and then getting those thoughts out.
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
I think it’s a pretty common answer, but Kalamazoo’s people are incredibly fun, unique, interesting, and inspiring. So many people are trying to do good for this city and that makes you want to be a part of it. There are people trying to create new events, art projects, networking opportunities, and funnels for new businesses. It’s humbling to watch a community come together and do something positive for the people around them. I think Kalamazoo is rich in those type of people.
If you go to a bigger city, that can get lost. The people are there, but you don’t have a face or name to recognize. You don’t find them sitting at a bar across from you, or having lunch down the street. Its really tight knit here, like a big city and a small town all wrapped into one.
What do you think can be improved about Kalamazoo?
Every city can improve, and Kalamazoo has so many passionate people doing things to make it better. Having actual bike lanes downtown is a practical and exciting concept. Public art projects and community outreach are also important for building a vibrant city culture. And we should do more to let recent graduates and small business owners know that Kalamazoo is incredibly affordable and accessible compared to other cities.
What have you been jammin’ to recently?
My music feels pretty seasonal. I really need to be in the mood to listen to certain things. Summer time is soft rock, Beach Boys, Bob Marley, Sublime, stuff that makes you feel like you want to be on a beach with warm weather. In the winter time, if I were to listen to that it’d be too depressing. There’s no particular artist or type of music I listen to, it’s pretty diverse, as it should be. A lot of times I just have my music on shuffle and playing in the background.
How do you take your coffee?…or do you?
I drink coffee black. That’s the only way I drink it, I’ve never added cream or sugar. My buddy told me if I’m going to drink it then I need to drink it straight up. And I said that sounds intimidating. But it tastes good after a while, and I appreciate not adding any more nonsense in there.
Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?
Rupert’s is in my backyard and I really enjoy going over there. Mark is a great guy. He was one of the first people to really support Kalamadoodle and has been an advocate for it ever since. It’s a unique environment, and they embrace people staying true to themselves.
And how could I not mentioned Taco Bobs? I didn’t know true love until I had a Funny Taco.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember telling myself I wanted to be a lawyer; I enjoyed compelling words and arguments. I’m sure I wanted to be a professional sports athlete for everything I played, but I wasn’t good enough, and reality set in. I knew that creative pursuits were always of interest, but I didn’t really know where it could take me.
Tell us about being a self-taught creative.
I left high school not really knowing what I wanted to do. I went to KVCC for two and half years. I took the most general classes. I wasn’t sure what would transfer, so I took business. It seemed safe and there’s jobs in business blah blah blah. Then I took an advertising class or two and saw people using layout and design to solve problems creatively. That was really interesting to me and steered me in this direction.
A lot of what I’ve done is self taught. I’ve taken a couple basic classes. One in high school that introduced me to Adobe Photoshop and that was mind blowing. Before that I was just using Microsoft Paint. Some college art courses, but nothing too substantial. Looking back, I wish I would had pushed harder to create more and get some additional training. It’s never too late I guess.
What advice would you give young creatives?
Forgive yourself; you’ll hate a lot of what you’re doing at first. Design is hard. Being creative is not something you will ever feel comfortable doing. At some point you just have to embrace what you’re coming up with. Believe in yourself and fake it til you make it. All of those things that people tell you. You really have to believe it and people will see your passion and work ethic and be a champion for you. They will want you to do well. Embrace your uniqueness and be weird. All of those things will get you to where you want to go. Following trends that are popular and that have been done before will leave you unsatisfied. Creating your own path is the most exciting part because you don’t know what’s around the next turn.
Who would play you in a movie?
Well I don’t know if he’s ever done acting, but with this haircut I’ve been told that I look like Wayne Rooney, the soccer player for Manchester United. So if we could ever get him to act I think that’d be a good fit. He can’t play soccer forever.
If you were a musician, what would be the title of your first album?
When I was in middle school, I used to create album art all the time. There was my brothers’ band, Jonny and the Big Fat K. There was my band, Mike Like Pudding…but I can’t remember the album titles! I’d have to stay with my job title. Work in Progress. It’s very accurate for where I feel I am in my life right now.
What are your dreams for the future of Kalamadoodle?
Its a project that Nick and I took on to grow Kalamazoo’s craft and creative communities. We told ourselves up front that we were going to handle this and fund it ourselves, and not ask for anything from anybody for as long as we could. But that does present challenges. There’s a lot of time that goes into what we do for Kalamadoodle. Finding a way for it to be more self sustainable is our most immediate goal. We’re working with some different people on how to make that happen.
We see this growing to be something more than a monthly drink and draw event. I partnered with Rupert’s to do a pilot event called Beers and Bricks. I brought in tons of lego pieces and everyone had a great time getting together building stuff. We enjoy getting people together to connect in immature and fun ways. We also see potential in bringing creativity back to people who have maybe lost it a little bit. One of the most rewarding things that I’ve heard recently from an attendee was, “I haven’t drawn in years, and now I’m drawing again!”. If we can inspire people to find that time, we’re incredibly happy.
Do you have any upcoming events or projects that you’re working on?
We’re partnering with MLive Kalamazoo Gazette and One Well Brewing for a Kalamadoodle during July’s Art Hop. We’ll be at their space downtown spreading creativity to anyone and everyone we can. August will be our 1 year anniversary. We want to have a big party to celebrate Kalamazoo’s creative community and were still flushing out the details of that event.
Mike, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Mike through Klok-Work Design on facebook and instagram and through Kalamadoodle on facebook and instagram. Also, be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.