When Bird is the Word moved from just a glimmer in my eye to a living, breathing part of my everyday life, I promised myself I would start an interview series. A series that follows some of my favorite people around for a day, chronicling their lives, their work and their beautiful spirits. And I’m finally making good on that promise. We’re on to our fourth Day in the Life interview today, and boy oh boy, is it a good one. See the other interviews, here.
Maija was a regular at the restaurant I used to work at. I’d see her almost daily, usually accompanied by a friend dressed nearly as well as she was. She seemed vibrant and alive, appearing to me, to be glowing with some secret to living that none of the rest of us knew. And then one day, we became friends on Instagram. I wish I could say the rest was history, and we were thick as thieves from that point on. But in reality, this interview was the first time I’d really spent any time with her. I’d watched the birth of her illustration business online and was so intrigued about the person behind it all. The person I’d made breakfast for 47,000 times. And so I emailed her. And we set up the interview.
And if anyone ever lived up to the hype of nice things said about them, it’s Maija. She’s just so cool. So incredibly poised. Assured of who she is, yet completely open to who she will become. She’s only 23, but strangely has a very grandmotherly wisdom about her. If your grandma was a beautiful, free-sprited, young artist. I feel like the term “old soul,” is pretty cliche at this point, but if ever there was one, it’s her. Spending the day with her sure made me wish I’d had her grace and self-awareness at that age. At 23 I was kneck-deep in a full-blown quarter life crisis, completely unsure of who I was or what I wanted.
Within a few hours of talking and taking photos, we had talked about our businesses, families, romantic relationships, mental health, you name it. I had a true Anne of Green Gables moment sitting across the room from her going, “this girl is a true bosom friend.” After only a few hours together! It’s not too terribly often that I encounter someone with the same zest for cutting the crap and telling it like it is. Though she seems to do it with a grace I’ve never managed to master. She doesn’t waste any time with fluff, and makes no apologies for herself. Chalks her mistakes up to learning. Doesn’t mind being picky and waiting for things to happen in their own time. She’s truly wise beyond her years.
Which is why I’m so thrilled to get to share her with you today. To share her growing business and the journey she’s been on since it began. So funny (and fun!) to watch someone go through the same process you did. Working another job, while doing your thing on the side. Trying to decide when to dive in. Having all these crazy things just happen and trying to wrap your mind around them. I feel like I can see where she’s going and it is going to be good. So instead of gushing any longer about this sweet person, I’ll very proudly share with you A Day in the Life with Maija Rebecca.
Who are you?
Maija (pronounced MAYA) Rebecca Kellner-Rode. I’ve grown to love the uniqueness of my Latvian/Scandinavian name, though so many people mispronounce it. No one else will ever be me.
I’m a Sister, Daughter, Best friend. Illustrator, Designer and Tasting Room Associate.
I’m an artist in it’s entirety. I’m a dreamer and I love dreaming up possibilities and making them happen. The way I view things is through a design lens, I always have. Though I used to feel that my creative side wasn’t “important” enough work, that it wouldn’t change the world, I feel like it’s finally coloring everything I do.
Where do you live?
McMinnville, Oregon. I was born and raised in Alaska, but I’ve lived in Oregon for six years. I feel much more at home here because I’ve chosen to live here. The community is incredible. I can walk into any store downtown and know the owners.
What do you love most about where you live?
The people. The area in general. I feel like I get to be immersed in a culture of food, wine and art. It’s very inspiring and allows people the freedom to create. People are here because they want to experience those three things. I love that I’ve been able to grow with this community.
I love that we are so close to Portland, so I can go into the city and get rejuvenated, but then come back to the country.
What does a normal day in your life look like?
I usually wake up around 6:45 a.m., shower and get ready for a day at the winery, if I’m working that day. I usually take around two hours for breakfast to eat, answer emails, reflect on the day. It’s me time.
If I’m working at Sokol Blosser, I head there around nine. It’s beautiful. An incredible landscape right through the windows. It never fails to take my breath away. Especially seeing that “golden hour,” every day. I love to just BS with my co-workers and get to know these people that come in from all over the world. Not to mention sell a product I’m really proud of. Lately I’ve been doing a lot more design related to merchandising. Putting together some pretty amazing displays with local products. Doing everything with my two hands. It’s wonderful.
On my days off, that’s when I’m really able to do what I want to be doing. I still get up pretty early, make coffee, check emails, grab my computer and do edits in bed. That’s the dream. Being tucked in your cozy bed, doing what you love. That’s when you know you’re doing the right thing.
I usually spend the early hours of the day at my desk working on illustrations; scanning them in digitally, reconstructing, redesigning and refining them. Sometimes I head into town, grab some coffee at my favorite coffee shop and have a meeting or two with cleints. In the evenings, my brother David and I usually cook dinner. I love to cook. It’s my way of letting down, and we (David + roommate) all usually eat dinner together and have a glass of wine. We show each other our latest projects and give feedback and encouragement.
And then, I usually head upstairs to my room and get back to it. Working on designs, social networking, checking emails and setting meetings. I love it.
How did you get into what you do?
It’s a funny story.
I graduated from college about two years ago. I’d gone to college to get an education, not a job. So I studied sociology. I loved being able to understand how our society works and how I fit into that. How I could impact the world to make it more beautiful. Throughout college I mentored high school students and figured I would be a teacher or end up somewhere in the mentoring realm or do non-profit work. I even had a job lined up at a local school district when I graduated. But instead, I went on a solo trip to Europe.
I spent a month and a half there between arrival and departure. Needless to say I had time for a lot of self-reflection. A lot of time to think.
And I realized three things. 1) I knew I wanted to be in McMinnville. 2) The lack of creativity in my life. I wasn’t experiencing or developing in that area because I felt guilty, because being creative wasn’t necessary, wasn’t going to change the world. But that needed to change. 3) I was very reassured that love and light, God, whatever you want to call it, was real. Love is the core. And that translates to everything. It was really a profound realization for me.
Life is an incredible miracle. The fact that humans even exist is just crazy. And that means anything is possible. I realized if you want something to happen, and put your whole heart into it, anything can happen. If you are following your heart, you will feel satisfied and people will see that and want to support what you’re doing.
So I came back and got a job where I knew I would have free time to explore what I wanted to do. I had zero illustration training, I’d never drawn. I had all these ideas of botanicals floating around in my head and I just needed to get them out. So I started to sketch. And one day at a cafe, this couple from Hood River came over and asked me for one. They said they thought I’d be famous one day and wanted a piece of my work. It made a huge impact on me. This was just two weeks after I’d begun sketching.
And everything just sort of snowballed from there. I started drawing more, people were very reassuring. Chelsey Nichol, owner of a local letterpress shop, gave me a big boost when she asked me to illustrate a whole line for food blogger Beth Kirby. I really got to learn the process of doing a commissioned piece and it shaped me and my work. I’ve had to learn to draw things I’d never drawn before. A chicken. A pinecone. Every time someone hires me to do something, it’ll very often be the first time I’ve ever drawn it.
As this process has unfolded, I’ve started to hone in on my style. And one thing has led to another. That first project became a website, which became business cards, and merchandise, and now I have invoices and am putting money away for retirement. It’s pretty surreal.
What do you like most about it? What inspires you?
Being able to put my creative sensibility to use. Creating logos, branding, labels and assisting in other people’s businesses growing. I feel useful. Like I can really help.
And it’s pretty great knowing something that’s so intuitive to who I am, people really respond to. Being able to do something that makes me feel like what I’m doing is what I’m 100% supposed to be doing. I’ve always had working for myself in the back of my mind and I love being able to meet with people and help their vision come to life.
Favorite thing to illustrate/design?
Sometimes the most mundane things. Leaves, branches, weeds. I think there is such beauty in what we often overlook. It provides depth and life to view those things as pleasing. I love to draw botanicals. But I also love a new challenge, something I’ve never done before.
I’m really inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe, her whole persona towards art is really great. I read a quote of hers a few years ago, about focusing on the seemingly insignificant details of flowerrs, and thought, “Holy shit, that’s powerful. If people aren’t doing this, I’m going to do it.”
What do you like to do on a NOT so normal day?
Dance. Be outside. Go to to coast. Go out to eat. Have leisurely meals. Go to the city. Concerts. Music shows.
Thank you so much Maija, you are such a beautiful human and I can’t wait to spend more time together.
If you are interested in doing a Day in the Life interview, please get in touch.