Alumnus Takes Experience Designing for Fashion and Creates Independent Art Career
Many artistic people don't find their path in life until after college. Trev Yoder graduated from CLAS with a Sociology degree in 1990, and went on to a very successful career designing for one of the world's most iconic brands: Levi Strauss & Company. Though CU Denver didn't provide Yoder with his art training, his liberal arts education was key to his future. "I think it's a great place for young people, the location and the campus," Yoder says of his time at CU Denver. "I had some really interesting professors there; it was a school that suited me well."
After graduation Yoder first moved to Los Angeles, but when some CU Denver friends graduated the following year and moved to San Francisco Yoder followed. He worked in the interior design industry and the clothing industry in, "whatever job I could find." He was uncertain about his future until a friend took it upon himself to help Yoder sketch out his passions. "This friend gave me a huge piece of paper and told me to starting writing down anything, any word that comes into my head. And I did, and it was this big mess of things, and I wrote and I wrote, and then we were looking at this crazy thing, and we thought well maybe it's graphic design."
This creative experiment sent Yoder to Platt College to study graphic design, where he met people who got him an interview with Levis. Yoder's first job at the fashion power-house was in design support, doing whatever needed to be done for the staff artists, but over his ten year career he worked his way up to managing the department. "I have really good memories; I grew so much there and had so much freedom." He had a ten year career designing some of the company's most memorable branding. "My experiences with Levi's were amazing. I got to travel the world—just to go shopping. To find stuff and get inspired."
"And then I had this art show, I'm not really even sure how that came about, but I was like, 'Why aren't I making my living on my own art?'" So in 2009, having reached the top in his chosen field, Yoder decided to take a giant leap and leave Levis to focus all his time on his solo-art career. "I started to do art shows, and then I got my own solo-space, and I sold pieces." He describes his style as a cross between pop and folk art, "If you just look at it, from a distance, you might think, 'Oh yeah, that's nice.' But when you approach it there are a lot of layers and it's very involved." He says his work has elements of collage, but doesn't qualify as "collage" the way people traditionally conceptualize it. "It's not just paper, after paper, after paper. In one piece maybe I've used stencils, then script printing, cut paper, could be stained paper, maybe paint. It'll be whatever I'm feeling at that moment."
Because the craft of constructing each piece is so labor intensive, he soon discovered making his living solely as an artist would be difficult. "When you try to sell some of your collection, and put a price on it, knowing how many hours and hours went into it, it's hard to make your living like that." Yoder also learned that when you sell through a gallery you only get a fraction of the selling price, and that's when he started thinking about how he could take a less traditional approach. Now he's working on making his art available directly on-line, getting the word out via social-media, and pioneering some truly guerilla marketing tactics. A friend recently helped him come up with the idea for a "traveling-pop-up-art-show"-- they will make a huge, folding display case out of denim, which he and his friend will be able to carry around the city, to spontaneously put Yoder's work on sale anywhere. "Those are the kind of things I like. Those are the interesting ways to get yourself out there." In addition, San Francisco has Open Studio Weekends, not unlike Denver's First Friday Art Walk, and Yoder looks forward to opening up his studio as part of that.
To augment his solo-artist income, Yoder decided last year to begin doing free-lance graphic design work. His new graphic design business has already attracted clients the likes of the San Francisco Marathon. "We have been elevating the graphics, making it a little bit more interesting." For the 2011 race his company designed everything: from temporary tattoos to huge display items. Moving forward in the free-lance graphic design business, Yoder would be open to working for anyone, from large corporations to small non-profits. "I would love to work with other independent artists who might need things." A friend has begun designing men's neckties, and Yoder will be creating the packaging for them. With his extensive knowledge of the clothing industry, Yoder could see himself flourishing again in that type of work.
His advice for students looking to get into art is simple: "Just go for it. I don't know, to me it's like when you're going to try to be an artist, or a graphic designer, it's going to be scary. You know everything you do is going to be criticized, and everyone is going have an opinion—whether it be on the color, or font choice, or placement—or anything. But be proud of your work and believe in yourself, and just keep doing it."
Advice Yoder will be taking himself soon, for while big changes may be coming to his geography he says he will always be doing his art and staying creative. "I have a new goal in life now. I want to start looking for about fifty acres somewhere, and I want to have a little farm. I want goats, and chickens, and I want to grow my own food, and do my art and my graphic design from there. " He took a recent trip with his father to Texas, and was scouting out spots for his art/farm haven outside of Austin. The vision of the artists/farmer is one that appeals to his Colorado roots, and advances in technology may soon make marketing that dream and staying connected to the urban art-world from anywhere a reality.
To see more of Yoder's work, and get information on his design business, go to http://trevyoder.com/.