Check out our interview with designer and owner of KaylaRae Resin Designs.
Since graduating college in 2017, self- taught Laguna Beach based artist, Kayla Rae Gierut, had a vision to bridge her education in Environmental Science and her passion for art into one. It was during this time she stumbled across a form of fluid art using an epoxy resin (the same material used to glass surfboards).
Kayla has a goal to put a spin on what we normally consider “art” and create works that serve a function in the everyday home while attaining an affordable price. Kayla is most known for her Grazing boards- a must have staple for every home entertainer. Each of these One-of-a-kind homewares are proudly 100% handcrafted in South Orange County. Kayla takes pride in creating these masterpieces in a sustainable environment using renewable materials such as ethically sourced wood, diverting almost all studio waste from the landfills via reutilization, and using a non-toxic, no VOC, plant based/food safe resin; A nod to her background in environmental science.
Furthermore, Kayla pays tribute to her coastal roots by seeking all of her inspiration from her seaside environment . This often means hoaning in on techniques that have taken her years to closely emulate geologic rock formations or seascapes. Resin is an extremely difficult medium to work with as it is known for its challenges, however, Kayla describes herself as someone who is not intimidated by experimentation or getting a little messy. The medium’s unpredictability further encourages that no two works are the same and kayla quite literally “pours” her heart out into each and every piece.
Follow Kayla at @kaylaraeresin
Please introduce yourself:
Hi everyone! My name is Mikayla Gierut and I am the artist behind KaylaRae Resin Designs. I am 25 years old and I live in Laguna Beach, California, though I was raised in a small suburb of Chicago, Illinois until I was 12 years old! I am self- taught in the world of art, and am so excited to share with you all a little bit more about me!
Describe yourself in 3 words
I would say I am passionate, thoughtful, and creative..
When and why did you start your business?
I started KaylaRae Resin Designs in August of 2017 after graduating college with a degree in Environmental Science. I took a few months after graduating to self-reflect, and realized that I lost a huge part of myself along the way…As much as I loved learning about our environment, I forgot how much joy I got from creating art. I also didn’t have a job coming out of college or any financial security, so I was kind of at this,” ok, now what?” stage in my life.
Since I was a little girl, I had always turned to art as a form of therapy when I was feeling down or going through a rough time. So that’s when I started to experiment with different mediums, and then I came across resin art!
What is the key to your success?
ersistence with A LOT of positivity. I have had so many days in the studio where I would waste hundreds of dollars of materials on an experiment gone wrong. It’s all about picking yourself back up, and thinking to yourself, “hmm what could I have done better this time?” instead of focusing on the fact that your paycheck just got washed down the drain. I also value failure so much more than success… each time I screw up, I realize that I am learning so much more about myself and the process!
What is fun and rewarding about what you do? And what’s not?
I absolutely love the anticipation that comes with pouring resin considering it takes 24 hours to completely cure. I will rush to my studio first thing in the morning the day after a studio session to see my artwork look completely different and reveal all these new pretty details.. it really is exciting!
What isn’t fun though is getting resin in your hair…. Once it cures, it turns as hard as plastic, and it is impossible to remove! I’ve had several instances where I’ve accidentally dunked my hair in fresh resin, and I would have to rush up to the shower to douse my hair with pure acetone before it cured! Needless to say, acetone is so bad for your hair, but sometimes it’s a price I’m willing to pay!
How did you come up with the name KaylaRae Resin Designs?
My nickname is Kayla and my middle name is Rae, so naturally I chose something that was short and concise while reflecting a light and fun element to my brand!
What is different from your company to others?
I have really tried to gear Kaylarae Resin Designs towards emphasizing on the art of “coming together”, whether it be physically for a picnic or virtually through our technology (as we may be experiencing during these tough times in quarantine). I think that caring for people or organizations in need within our community reminds us of what we truly value in life and the people who share these values with us.
Any advice to entrepreneurs out there?
Setting high expectations for yourself based off someone else’s idea of “normal” will get you nowhere. We are all different in our own special and unique ways, and only you know what makes you happy… no one else. I have learned this many times the hard way.. and I still struggle tremendously with this every day! But what I have found is that as soon as I stopped comparing my work or my life to others, that’s when my business started to take off!
What book should every entrepreneur read?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It talks about living a creative life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. Elizabeth is also the Author of Eat, Pray, Love, so needless to say, it’s an awesome read!
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
Well… I have actually been out of my normal job as a Landscape Designer since January of this year. I was just starting back up again, and then COVID-19 came into effect mid-March. I was already cutting it close each month between rent and food, but I knew that I needed to keep creating art to keep my head above water. I actually went without groceries for 1 month just to afford art supplies and rent. Thank god my mom lives close as she would always invite me over for dinner and give me leftovers in her fridge. Even though I had an empty pantry, and not much money in my pockets, I continued doing what my heart told me to do during that hard time, and that was to just put my head down and work! I knew it was likely that I wouldn’t make rent the following months, but something in me just didn’t care about the money! I just love doing what I do, and I just stuck with I knew I was good at! It turns out, all that the extra investment of time and energy is what my business needed all along! I SOLD OUT of my spring collection in 2 hours! I’m still reeling with excitement!
What do you think is the secret to have a successful brand?
As a consumer, I find that brands who are constantly trying to change it up every season are hard to identify with. I love a company who has a STORY and reflects that story into their unique style!
What is next in 2020?
No clue… haha I’m just taking this one day at a time! However, I set a goal at the beginning of 2020 that I would focus on commissioned art pieces, and that is already coming true! As of April, I completed 4 large commissions for clients all over the country, so that was a huge milestone for me! I plan on keeping this up for the rest of the year, while also creating exclusive collections of my popular grazing boards that would be released periodically throughout the year.
Something people don’t know about you?
I am obsessed with horses. I have actually been riding since I was 2 years old (my parents somehow convinced the barn owners I was old enough). I have always shared a special connection with these animals which actually led me to start drawing them as soon as I could pick up the pencil! This is what initially triggered my passion for art… I would bring my sketchpad into the stables with me and draw the horses in their stalls after each riding lesson until my parents picked me up. To this day, I still love practicing equine art, and would say that it is a hidden talent of mine!
Who was your role model as a child?
I really looked up to my au pair as a child. An au pair is defined as a “helper” who is from a foreign country working for and living with a host family. We had several growing up, as my mother and father were both full time workers and my sisters and I needed someone to look after us, but this one au pair was special. Her name is Agnes, and she came to live with us from Latvia when she was only 18 years old and I was only 5 years old. Not only was she (and still is) stunningly beautiful, but she was gifted in so many ways. A true artist. Some of my earliest memories of having this passion for art came from sitting down and watching her sculpt or teaching me to play piano. She was this older sister figure to me and looked out for my younger sisters and I for almost seven years as if we were her own. She is just that kind of person who had such a gentle nature and grace to her personality, and it seemed as if she would radiate kindness and compassion towards everyone around her.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Johanna Gains, 1000%. Not only is her eye for design insane but I love how she carries a down to earth presence and able to weave her and her family’s story into every part of her company. The way she did this while keeping it relatable and real is so special. She has supported and built her community up in so many ways as an entrepreneur, which is something I really look up to!
What is your favorite healthy food?
Acai Bowls 100%… I have a crazy sweet tooth and will sometimes add an ungodly amount of dark chocolate chips. Probably not so healthy after doing so that, but it’s just too good!
And your favorite cheat food?
Ghirardelli double chocolate brownies…which I also add a handful or two of dark chocolate chips to because my sweet tooth is just that bad.
In five years from now, where do you see yourself and your career?
I would love to eventually open up my own art studio space where I can offer a store front with my products, as well as workspace/ consultation space in the back. I am also a Landscape designer, so it would be my dream to somehow merge my art career with my design career in some shape or form into one company!
Which charities do you support?
Since first opening my doors, I have always donated a portion of my proceeds towards environmental initiatives in an effort to bridge my passion of art with Environmental Science. I also wanted to make sure I was contributing to local initiatives because I knew my donations were going to go the furthest with the charities I chose and make the biggest difference. These charities would include the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Institute of Dana Point, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, the Conservation Fund of Laguna Beach, and purchasing “Carbon credits” with a goal to offset all emissions that went into the production of my materials, travel, shipping, etc.!
However, when COVID came along in March, I decided to switch it up. With the first onset of panic, I set my sight on contributing to organizations that provided PPE to Emergency Departments. I knew first-hand how serious this shortage of PPE was after it was brought to my attention by my mother, an OBGYN, and my boyfriend, an EMT; both continuing to work on cut paychecks and in the now unsafe conditions. I knew that our family wasn’t the only one who was scared to see our loved ones that were working on the frontlines because of their chance of exposure. What saddened me even more was that several coworkers and close friends of my mother and boyfriend had even insisted on not returning home after their long shifts with the fear that they would spread their potential exposure of COVID to their loved ones. I knew that by providing this much needed PPE would at least give these families of frontline workers the peace of mind that their loved ones are better equipped to work the front lines.
By May, it was brought to my attention that Food banks and local pantries had begun struggling to sustain the ever-growing food insecurity caused by COVID. It angered me to learn that there are billions of dollars of food and produce sitting in stockpiles that were once planned to be distributed towards the restaurant industry. However, now that many storefronts or closed or met with far lower demand, products are being simply discarded or dumped without any regard for the increasing demand seen in Food Banks nationwide. As a result, I will be contributing a portion of my proceeds this month towards a local initiative called “Second Harvest Food Bank” in Orange county to try to alleviate some pressure seen in my community.
What do you like to watch on Tv?
I have this sick obsession with HGTV… I could sit there for hours and watch Fixer Upper! If you know anyone that needs a home remodel, I could probably whip up some plans based on how much time I’ve put into watching that show!
3 things you can’t leave home without?
My hydro flask, my dog Charlie (he has severe separation anxiety, and I like to think that he’s my therapy dog) and yoga pants!
What do you think of Social Media?
I honestly think that it has revolutionized marketing and has made it SO much easier for small businesses, independent contractors, and artists, like me, to connect with their audience through their story, while still promoting their products and services in a unique way! I also think that it has sparked creativity in each and every one of us that we may not have known existed. Of course, social media has obtained a little bit of a bad rep when it comes to defining social norms, cyber bullying, unrealistic perceptions, etc.. but from a small business perspective, I think that social media has made owning your own business easier than ever!
Where we can follow you?
Favorite Quote: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together” -Vincent Van Goh