We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Spoelstra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
It all started with a band trip and a pink detention slip.
Fed up with my high school fast-food job at Kentucky Fried Rat (ahem, I mean chicken), my mom suggested I start weaving rugs on an old floor loom in our garage. I made enough that summer to fund a band trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii my junior year. Through my family and my collective experiences, I learned how to value hard work, grit, and the hustle of running a business which I bring with me into Moonshine Design.
It was 1994, and I was eager to ditch my band geek persona, so I signed up for Mr. Horan’s photography class. He was one of the “cool” teachers — sporting a curly mullet with a pierced ear and into heavy metal and guitars. Back then, I had a bad case of senioritis and an even worse habit of skipping classes that lead to a backpack full of pink detention slips. Mr. Horan offered to let me make up my detention by spending time in Yearbook — either photographing school events, laying out the book in Quark or editing photos in Photoshop 2.0 (aren’t we on version 20 something now?)
Until then, I was convinced I would be a journalist when my best friends since the 7th grade, the twins, introduced me to Northwest College in Powell, WY. It offered a photography degree. I applied to South Dakota State University and NWC, but I still wasn’t sure which road to take? I was accepted to both but received scholarships to NWC. Off to the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, I went.
In my final year at NWC, I found my calling sitting in Mr. Tyree’s Electronic Typesetting class. After all, I had always questioned why some signs and menus were so dang ugly? Why not make them look better? It dawned on me that what came easy to me didn’t come easy to others.
I could make a career helping people communicate their message, make the world a more beautiful place, and channel my inner rebel by challenging conventions. It was then, and there I decided to become a graphic designer.
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.
Everyone falls down. Getting back up is how you learn how to walk. ~ Walt Disney
In 1998, I graduated with my AAS degree in Photographic Communications. I migrated west to Denver, attending Platt College in Aurora, Colorado, while working at a small print shop. By 2000 I earned another AAS in Multimedia Design and was drafted into an ad agency before finishing school. But a month into the job, they fired me — no reason given. And I swore never to work for an agency again.
Not one to sit on my laurels, I swiftly wrangled myself a new role at Villager Newspaper. I stayed up until 2 am one night to meet a deadline, printing and pasting blocks of text and masking it off with rubylith laying out the newspaper since they hadn’t gone digital yet. Sleep deprivation isn’t my jam though, so it was time to move on.
Did you know the original Daisy Duke grew up in South Dakota and went to my high school? Well, she did, which leads me to a couple of good old boys from Lincoln, Nebraska who hired me on to lead up the production and design of their monthly print and online publication, Computer Market Source Magazine. But as you well know, the dot com bubble burst in 2001, and it folded fast.
I quickly recovered and found myself designing logos for the golf apparel industry Imperial Headwear (now Imperial Sportswear). It was the perfect place to sharpen my understanding of logo design, but I needed more challenges so I continued my search for just the right fit.
I settled in at Pumpkin Masters in 2002, designing pumpkin carving kits for Disney, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and the big 3 retailers (K-mart, Walmart, and Target). All good things come to an end, though, and Pumpkin Masters was sold in 2004 to Signature Brands in North Carolina.
Next, I struck it rich at Scott’s Liquid Gold, working with a multitude of brands from cosmetics to household chemicals — supporting the sales department with collateral and designing logos and packaging, and acting as an in-house photographer. But in 2007, I started feeling restless, itching for a new challenge.
I advanced North to the flatirons of Boulder and Covidien, now Medtronics — working there for a little under a year on the production and design of packaging and instructions for FDA-regulated respiratory medical devices.
Pregnant, a new job wasn’t even on my radar. But word of my skills had traveled fast through the grapevine. In the Spring of 2008, Sashco, a manufacturer of caulking and stains, reached out. I freelanced for them while still working at Covidien, developing a logo and packaging for a new product called Stacker. I was hired a month later for a remote, part-time work-from-home position. It was a dream come true — I could raise my daughter and not give up design. I had hit the jackpot!
I held steadfast at Sashco for 13 years designing for the log home segment side on every medium you can imagine — print, packaging, digital, and even video for a spell. When you’re at a company for that long, you pick up skills along the way. I served with eight different marketing directors and six creative directors. Through them all, I learned about business, marketing, consumers, dealers, packaging, and about the kind of leader I wanted to be. But things can get a little boring, too, when you’re standing still, so I started freelancing in earnest again in 2018. Then in January 2021, Sashco restructured their marketing department, leading them to eliminate a few in-house positions, mine being one of them.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Day 1: The first stop on my best friend trip itinerary would be to head out of town to Rocky Mountain National Park for a walk around Sprague Lake and to drive Trail Ridge Road taking in the scenery and photographing the rugged Rocky Mountains.
After a long day of exploring the National Park, we’d retire to the MacGregor, a cozy log-sided cabin nestled on a mountainside just outside of the park at Della Terra Resort. We’d spend the evening lazying around, playing cards and board games while laughing at old stories from our younger days.
Day 2: The next day, we’d go to Estes Park ATV Rentals, suit up and get the keys to a 4-person Razor to challenge our four-wheeling technical skills on the Bunce School Road.
After a long day ATV’ing, we’d be famished and need to quench our thirst by downing a STEM cider or two back at the Acreage in Lafayette. We’d top it by watching the sunset over the Rockies on their patio while sampling the snacks of warm cured olives, soft pretzels, and my favorite, the beet salad.
Day 3: Next, it’s time for some urban fun at Central Park’s Standley Marketplace shopping, wandering and weaving around the old ejection seat factory turned indoor shopping center. We’d make a quick stop at Sweet Cow for a waffle cone of Milk Chocolate or Captain Crunchberry before heading out for an evening at the Rockies Game, enjoying a game and a Rockies Dog.
Day 4: It’s time for a bit of art and culture on day 4, so we’d fill the morning touring the Denver Art Museum and then put on our fanciest hats and have high tea at the Brown Palace. Sitting back sipping our tea while the melodies of the piano player drifted in and out, enjoying teeny tiny sandwiches and truffles that are works of art on their own.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be where I am without my mom. She embodies a true midwestern rebel spirit and taught me how to come up with creative solutions. One of my favorite stories about her is how she and her best friend took her brother’s 1967 forest green Ford Mustang out for joy rides on the old country roads and then drove it backwards all the way home to take the mileage off. Later she became a psychiatric nurse and the director of the hospital in town. But before she got big-time, my mom was a master side hustler. She came up with all kinds of inventive schemes. From growing violets under the house and selling them to the local nurseries or making ceramics in our laundry room and then hawking them at craft fairs. Finally self-publishing her crochet patterns books and peddling them on eBay. As they say — where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Other: Clubhouse: @sarahspoelstra