Sometimes we meet folks the minute they step foot into the neighborhood. At other times, we catch them on the way out. Bekah Bohlen is one of the latter.
Bohlen is a talented artist who will soon leave Fondren, following her husband’s medical schooling to North Carolina. She has spent the last five or so years here, perfecting her craft. With recent news that she’s receiving a major grant, Bohlen is hoping for big things in her next stage of life.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Fondren?
My husband and I are from the RTP (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) area of North Carolina. We moved to Jackson and to Fondren about 5 1/2 years ago when he began working on his Ph.D in Neuroscience at UMMC. We actually found the Fondren neighorhood and decided it was where we wanted to be long before we moved by doing some good old fashioned google searches on art districts and such in the area. And, the neighborhood just so happened to be close enough for him to bike to school, which was a top priority, so it was a win-win for us both from the get-go.
But you guys are on the move?
We are! And, we’ve got so many mixed feelings about it. My husband will be finishing up his Ph.D in the coming weeks and he’ll be taking on a post-doctorate position at Duke in April. We are so sad to leave, we’ve made the best of friends here and we’ve enjoyed this community so much, but we are excited to be close to family again and to take on this next chapter of life.
What is your trade?
My background is as a self-taught graphic designer, but in the last year and a half I have been transitioning and focusing these skills into the trade of letterpress print-making and stationery design.
Where has that skill taken you over the years? Specifically, what have you done with it here?
In my time here in Mississippi I have had the great pleasure of working for a number of great companies and with great folks- my very first job here was at Kalalou working for the Customer Service Team and jumping on board to assist the Creative Team whenever possible. In 2011, I joined the team at Libby Story in Ridgeland and handled various projects in my time there from website and social media management, to photography, styling, event planning and art direction of their print publication, Storied Magazine. And, in 2014 I took a leap and joined the amazing team at Thimblepress® in downtown Jackson where I’ve been handling social media and creative project management while simultaneously soaking up all the knowledge I can about printmaking and small business from the best boss around, Kristen Ley.
From the skills I developed through all of these positions and especially the technical details of printmaking I learned through my time at Thimblepress®, I started my own letterpress line, Cat Call Collective™, in August of 2015. I purchased an antique letterpress from Birmingham, Alabama and have been printing away ever since!
You’ve recently been awarded a grant. Can you tell us more?
In February, I was awarded a grant from the Girl Boss Foundation in California, designed specifically to support women in small business. My project submission concept was to build out a mobile shop, the Cat Call Collective™ Tiny Shop, in a similar fashion to a Tiny House. My husband, Martin, is an amazing woodworker and I am so grateful that he’s always on board to help me with my newest ideas.
The shop will be a custom built space where I can sell my line and I’ll also carry a number of other makers’ goods. And since it will be mobile, it can go where we go, whether that be craft fairs, about town or full-fledged moves. (Read more about the GirlBoss Foundation and my grant HERE)
What do you hope that does for you?
I hope this platform will help me get out into the community to talk to customers and to learn about their design tastes and needs. If all goes according to plan this will help me find holes in the market where I can design products to meet the needs, and the shop business will support the new ventures and designs we come up with for our line. Longer term, I hope this Tiny Shop concept will allow me to be self employed and will give me the flexibility to spend more time drawing, designing and printing.
What will you take away from your time here?
The best things we’ll take away are the relationships we’ve made, hands down. We’ve met more friends than we can count on both hands that we know we’ll be close with for the rest of our lives. There’s nothing better than that. But, we’ll also take away so many great experiences we’ve had and enjoyed from both Jackson and trips to surrounding areas like New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. These are things that will inspire our work and future and will surely bring us back as often as possible.