Kelsi Sharp, Graphic Designer & Sign Maker
Graphic Designer & Sign Maker
Craft beer, hiking, spending time with friends
Northern Virginia, suburbs of Washington, D.C.
SFF: Where are you from and how did you decide to live in Santa Fe?
KS: My family relocated from the east coast to New Mexico when I was a teen. My first experiences with New Mexico were in Belin and Albuquerque. I'm originally from D.C. and I've lived in Dallas, San Antonio, and briefly in Chicago, and now I'm back in New Mexico. I moved to Santa Fe for a job as an in-house designer - they gave me a full-time offer if I moved here, and it came at a moment when I'd just given up my previous apartment, with no plan of where to go.
SFF: What is your personal background and what was your professional journey to get to where you are today?
KS: I've worked for several years as a graphic designer in a few different capacities. When I decided to leave my most recent job, I put in a month's notice and left to build my own business. I've never taken a professional development class or had any financial education, so I'm constantly learning. I've been at this for nearly two years now.
SFF: What services do you offer and who are some of your clients?
KS: I am a graphic designer, which encompasses web design and print design. I really like working with tangible design, like product packaging, and wayfinding signage. I also offer a spectrum of social media services and my sign making services are the newest part of my career. Some of the clients I work with are Violet Crown, Sky Coffee, Seamless Skin, and Cynthia Jones Jewelry.
SFF: Why did you decide to work freelance?
KS: Working as a contractor wasn't my first choice, but many of the companies that I aspired to work with wouldn't consider me because of my limited experience. Most creative director positions required several more years of experience than I had at the time.
SFF: How would you describe your design philosophy?
KS: I look at design from a mathematical, technical, and practical perspective - I'm constantly considering the ratios and alignments of different elements with the composition, even looking at the mathematical, scientific, and emotional components of color. I always want to be doing something new, though, so I approach each project differently. With sign making, I am in this place where I'm constantly working with new materials. I started with wood, acrylic, and steel, and now I'm getting really curious about different applications for vinyl, resin, and rubber latex.
SFF: What's your take on social media?
KS: Social media has been a powerful tool for growth, in my experience. I've been really transparent and that seems to have paid off. That being said, I'm constantly trying to balance how much I should share.
SFF: What aspect of your business are you most proud of?
KS: I grew up with very little and I've worked to overcome many hardships in life. I feel very fortunate to be able to make a comfortable living for myself while doing something creative. This is not where I thought I would be at this point in my life, and I have really surprised myself with what I have accomplished.
SFF: What's your favorite project you've worked on recently?
KS: Right now I'm working on some of my biggest signs to date. Working on a large scale is really satisfying, especially since I'm 5' 2" and I drive the tiniest car, and I live in the smallest studio apartment. Everything in my life is miniature, so it is really gratifying to be making monument signs. I just finished product packaging for Golightly Cashmere's private label cleaning products, which is launching in the spring, and I am really happy with how they turned out. I also just pitched a branding project in the Railyard district and landed it, so I'm looking forward to sharing more about that.
SFF: What's your ultimate goal for your business?
KS: I want to grow. I'm working to expand the scope of my offerings and I am building a team. I want to attract some of the larger clients that I've had on my wishlist for a while. In terms of my sign making, I really want to work with galleries and museums, and clients that incorporate a larger amount of signage into their customer experience. Right now I'm working on a really involved signage package for a retail client in Albuquerque - and that's the direction I want to move.
SFF: What's your favorite thing about what you do?
KS: I like that every day is different - even with my recurring clients, the work is constantly evolving.
SFF: What's the most challenging thing about your work?
KS: It can be very alienating. There is so much solitude in my life at this moment. I'm juggling more work than I've ever had before, and it has impacted my lifestyle.
SFF: What is the best entrepreneurship advice you've ever received?
KS: One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten comes from Twyla Tharp. I always grew up watching movies and reading books about creatives who were really disheveled and who worked when creative inspiration struck them, and those were the types of artists I looked up to. But, I've learned that creativity is a habit, a daily one, that you have to be really disciplined about. So, I usually get to my desk at 9:00 and get to work. But if I don't get to my desk until 10:00, then I'm responsible for keeping myself later at work.
The advice that I would give to others is that you never know who is who and for that reason and many others, be kind. You will see your client in the grocery store, you will see your vendor at the traffic light, so always be kind and always be prepared to interact with someone. We only have about three grocery stories in this town.
SFF: What makes Santa Fe special to you? What are your favorite things about this place?
KS: It's so picturesque - I love the historic buildings and the natural distressing. I love the way the new buildings honor the traditions of this region - it's a very aesthetically pleasing environment, especially where I live and work, near downtown. Though there are very few young people here, we are tightly knit, and every single person is creatively involved.
SFF: What would you change about Santa Fe if you could?
KS: I wouldn't change anything, but I know that I am only going to be able to maintain myself here for as long as this city continues the current trends of economic development. I appreciate that Santa Fe invests so much into preserving the city’s culture and history, but I need to be in a place that is also invested in moving forward.
SFF: What are you passionate about outside of running your business?
KS: I'm doing a sobriety challenge right now, but I generally really enjoy craft beer. I have a group of close friends that I like to spend time with and I want to travel more - I just left the country for the first time this year.
SFF: At the end of the day, why do you do what you do?
KS: At the end of the day, I am very financially motivated, maybe because I've never had the luxury not to be. I've always admired people who have artistic hobbies, but that's never been me. I've always been determined to make a living and profit from my own creative zeal.
SFF: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your business?
KS: Thank you for recognizing me, I'm so honored to be included alongside these artisans and a few of my friends!