When we recently visited Kayla Tafoya at her Milwaukee studio, where were greeted with an inviting smile, a chilled beverage and overflowing welcoming energy. This California native has made roots in the Midwest, designing and selling her witty illustrations + screen prints through wholesale and local boutiques. Kayla has been included in the LOCAL assortment for the west elm Milwaukee store since it opened and her goods are a staple in the community. She spends her days perfecting her signature shimmy while silk screening and singing karaoke over her sewing machine. Take a tour below and learn how this entrepreneur balances life + work, while bringing a smile to all she encounters.
Tell us a little about yourself + your work.
Well, I’m Kayla, the owner + designer of Be Timeless – A Milwaukee-based lifestyle brand with darling, heartfelt and cleverly witted designs that celebrate the everyday and special occasions. I’m a little silly and pretty much all over the place! My designs bring out the best in me, all while passing that joy to all that experience my products. For example, Wisconsin is highlighted in a lot of my work because the people of this state are born with Wisco’ pride coursing through their cheese-filled veins. Inspiration and ideas are endless with the states beautiful landscape – and all the beer + cheese.
Tell us about your studio space.
I work from my home, a darling 1949 cape cod house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve transformed the unfinished basement into a workspace, with an office area entirely painted white – ceiling, floor, & walls. I’m able to design, screen print, sew, package – pretty much the whole show, right from this space. For the work I do, I don’t need anything advanced or spiffy. Even a lot of the tools I use, including my favorite paint-covered apron are from my college days! I avoid using harsh dyes and chemicals, as I’ve found it’s best for my aesthetic to source minimalistic materials, to keep design relevant and original.
Give us a little insight about your design + manufacturing process.
Most of my ideas are scribbled onto post-it notes and stacked onto a shelf. I rifle through those when it comes time to design. And not like you asked, but you really don’t want to see my “notes” app on my phone – I can’t even make sense of some of those “ideas” sometimes.
Anyway, once I have concept in mind – it’s time to apply it to either paper or fabric. There’s nothing I love more in my work than seeing a design I have in my brain come out onto a screen, then applied to fabric, then made into a pillow. AND then, on top of that – have people really connect with that design. It’s pretty damn cool.
What (or who) inspires you the most?
All of the general inspo – nature, travel, texture, prints…blah blah. But you wanna know something? Sometimes the best inspiration comes from a night out with friends, new + old. Experiences is where it’s at – people, stories, authentic interactions. Also, a walk down memory lane is great for inspiration. It’s really nostalgia at its best!
Why do you love the MKE area?
What I love most about Milwaukee is that there are more bars than grocery stores! Just kidding. But, it’s the deep rooted traditions the city has that makes it so charming.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
I don’t have too many complaints, it’s been aces. Although, with the current political status of our country there could be unforeseen disadvantages thrown at small business owners. But I know in my soul, the work I’m putting our there is bringing pure enjoyment – that’s really all I can ask for.