We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaiah Wessel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaiah, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I am the oldest girl in a family of eight children and so was always very organized and responsible. Very type A, enneagram 1, just very boring essentially. Now don’t get me wrong, I think people like me are a very crucial part of this world, but we can often be so uptight and never want to steer away from our plans. Plans were my whole life. Everything had to always go according to plan, I always wanted to be in control and whenever things would change, I freaked out. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was so stressed by making any decisions that I knew I had to work on it, that I had to let go and be more free. When I started college with a major in Art History, I was at a point where I knew I had to listen to my gut more than just my desire for a perfectly planned life. About two weeks into the first semester I was walking with some of my new classmates, that I barely even knew, to a lecture when I decided this wasn’t the place for me. I looked at them and said: “Hey guys, I think I’m gonna go home.” Their response was: “Oh are you not feeling well? What do you mean you’re going home?” And my answer was simple: “No, I’m feeling fine. I just…I just know I’m not supposed to be here…I’m dropping out. You guys have a great life and I hope you enjoy all of this as much as possible!” Then I said bye and never came back. I was walking through downtown Bratislava to my flat above the castle from the thirteen hundreds and my head was a chaos. I felt so much excitement and felt so very scared. I didn’t really know what I was doing and whether I was doing the right thing, but it FELT right so I stuck with my decision. Little did I know that was just the beginning of plans being flipped upside down and just the very beginning of taking huge risks in life. But it was also the official beginning of my art career. I spent the rest of the week dreaming about and planning what I wanted to do with my art, where I wanted to take it, what my strategy would be, what products I’d be selling, and what clients I wanted to work with. Now, it took a long time for me to actually make the appropriate next steps, but that was where it all started. In December of that year I travelled to Colorado to visit my (then) long-distance boyfriend only to have my whole life changed completely. We got engaged in January and married in March…just a short week before the borders were closed due to the pandemic. It wasn’t the original plan— far from it. I didn’t have a clue I would stay longer that the month I had bought my flight for…But now it’s been almost two years and looking back I’m so very thankful that life has a way to surprise you and change your plans and timelines, because it all ends up falling in place. Even if it makes no sense whatsoever at the beginning. Now I’m a permanent resident and have my business registered in the US and life just keeps throwing things at me. So I guess when I think about taking risks, I think about how scary it is to make a decision we can’t fully grasp, how terrifying it is to feel like we aren’t firmly standing on the ground. But how very gratifying it is to see how it all falls in place and how beautiful our lives become when we loosen the grip, take risks and let them evolve the way they are meant to even if it means falling and failing over and over in the process.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
First of all, I’m still very much in the process of learning and growing and finding my full potential as an artist— and I think I always will be. But as for where I’m at professionally now: I am a freelance digital artist and mostly create fun, playful, and colorful illustrations for all sorts of different clients. I mostly attract small businesses or startups whose products are for children. This means I often get to work on a lot of fun patterns for products like pajamas, baby carriers, childrens’ clothing, but also other smaller but equally important elements for brands like tissue paper design or thank you cards. So if you’re a small business and are in need of a custom made design either for your product, or your stationery, I would love to work with you!
The funny thing, however, is that when I first tried digital art, I absolutely hated it. I had a hard time finding myself in it. I couldn’t figure out how to make it more expressive and I was NOT at all excited about not getting my hands dirty with paint. It felt distant. But I didn’t give up on it because I loved the freedom it offered in being able to do it almost whenever and wherever just with my iPad. Slowly I found that creating digitally can be as exciting as painting with watercolors or acrylic paints. I am so thankful I didn’t give up, because being able to create designs and then seeing them on products in real life is so very rewarding.
One of the projects I’m the most proud of and excited for is a children’s book I’m currently working on. This has been my goal and dream for forever so when one of my friends said he wrote a children’s story, I knew it was a great opportunity for me. I have loved working on the characters and making the story come into life. We are hoping to publish the book by the end of the year!
And as far as what I would want the world to know about my story…I think we often forget that dreams are reachable. That the bigger we dream, the better. We can be terrified of our dreams, but that doesn’t make them impossible. I was terrified and I would’ve never started had my closest people not pushed me and encouraged me. So I want to encourage others to keep fighting for their dreams and to not wait for “the perfect time” in your lives to start working on something. Start now, live your dream now to the extent it’s possible for you. Because at the end of the day, the joy you will get from doing work that excites you and fuels you is so contagious and we need more of that energy in this world!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My husband and I currently live in northern Colorado— in Fort Collins. Now, I’m not from here, I only moved here in December 2019 so there are probably a lot of places I haven’t gotten the chance to explore yet! But, let me share some of my favorites in the area.
Being the coffee lover that I am, if you came to visit me, I would probably take you to some of the best coffee places. My favorites in the area are Harbinger Coffee and Bindle Coffee.
After we’ve been properly caffeinated, we could go explore all the small boutiques around town like Sunday Supply Co., Ivy Boutique, Hey Day, or Maker Hill.
We would definitely spend one day walking around downtown Fort Collins which is small, but has its charm for sure. We could get a delicious pastry at Little Bird in the morning, sit outside at the main square and in the evening, we could go get dinner at Penrose and play mini golf at The Exchange.
But another quite wonderful part of living in Fort Collins are the foothills. We would DEFINITELY have to go on a sunrise or sunset hike to Horsetooth Rock and go to the horsetooth reservoir to soak in the peaceful views!
All in all, Fort Collins is a very quiet and peaceful place to live. We have some great coffee, beer, and food, but we also have some beautiful nature around us! Oftentimes it feels like its own little bubble, but there is beauty to it and the town has its potential. But if we’re being completely honest, we do get bored here sometimes and if that’s the case, we just drive down to Denver and explore Colorado’s capital or drive to Estes Park to explore the Rocky Mountain National Park!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
You know, as cheesy as it may sound, I know I wouldn’t be where I am without my mom, Nika Macinska, who is on instagram under @dennik_mamy_8deti. I am very good at making excuses for why I can’t do this or that or why I’m not good enough. And maybe it’s the nature of mothers, but mine always saw potential in me and couldn’t let it go. She’s a dreamer and a visionary and when she heard over and over that I couldn’t make art because no one would like it, she pushed me to create my own Instagram account to share my art with the world. Well, more like she created it for me because she’s waaay more tech savvy than I ever will. Once that was done, my excuse was that I didn’t have the right equipment to photograph my art and didn’t have a device to create digital art on. One day she came home with an iPad and handed it to me saying: “Here, now you don’t have any more excuses and you have to create.” I was shocked and excited and SO nervous. But since then she kept encouraging me and helping me work through more insecurities as well as walked me through so many business and marketing strategies. She’s a superwoman if you ask me. She’s also an author and a blogger and is super cool, you know? So she’s my number one fan, and I’m hers and it creates this beautiful cycle of pushing each other forward and encouraging each other. And then I also feel like I need to mention a company I’ve worked with for a couple of years now— pretty much from the very beginning of my artistic endeavors. They are called MYMAME (mymame.sk) and they collaborate with various artists on phone case designs. They reached out to me when I didn’t even know my art could be used for anything at all, let alone be used on phone case designs! They gave me a huge boost of confidence and made me realize that there are so many great opportunities ahead!