It’s probably safe to say that if you’re reading this, you know Katie. It’s such a treat to have her as a guest. Katie comes to mind when I reflect on the positive impact St. Augustine has had on me. Several years ago I took a class at Flagler with Katie and her sister. That’s how we first became acquainted. Later, the three of us we were assigned to work together on a project during which we delved into a controversial topic. I admired how Katie and her sister drew from what a sacred text had to say on the subject. There is something heroic about those who aren’t afraid to share their values, even if they seem unpopular. Working with Katie in that setting left a lasting impression on me.
Our time at Flagler came and went. I’d say in the end, we only had that one class together - though we saw each other often around campus. Several years passed after graduation during which I didn’t cross paths with Katie. But somehow in recent years, she has proven to be one of the easiest people to run into. We had these rapid fire run ins at The Hyppo, Juniper Market, and Yield Design. Comedian Tig Notaro would argue that Taylor Dane is the easiest person to run into. But I’m here to tell you that Katie is also a contender. If you’re a die hard This American Life listener, I see you and I hear you while hoping the Tig/Taylor reference means something, lol.
Katie did such a captivating job of expounding on the questions I had for her. I hope she writes a short story or poem one day about her morning rituals. It would make for a relatable, uplifting read based on what she shares below. If you’re a teenager feeling overwhelmed with the demands of entering adulthood, this blog post is for you. If you’re trying to make it in the northeast Florida design industry, this is for you. If you’re a small business owner, read on :-) None of the above? You’ll still come away from this discussion smiling.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Katie Provenza...
✔️Do you have any morning rituals?
I’m not much of a morning person, so it might surprise you to find out that many of my mornings begin around 3:30 am in the kitchen at the donut shop I co-own. Sometimes doing what you love requires small sacrifices…but the donuts are worth it! On the days that I don’t go into the donut shop, I love to wake up slowly. Daylight pours into my bedroom windows in a beautiful way, so when I first open my eyes I love to just lay there and revel in a little bit of thankfulness for the day and the beauty that’s already in it. When I get out of bed, I walk through my house and open all the blinds and curtains, then make a pot of coffee. Nothing fancy, just a regular drip coffee maker like your parents probably have (this is my real motivation for getting up!) I usually make two eggs for breakfast, and then get ready to head into work. I feel very fortunate that I don’t have to leave my neighborhood to get to my office on West King Street where I work as a designer.
✔️On the rise of St. Augustine’s design scene in recent years…
It’s been exciting to see opportunities for design in St. Augustine grow over the last few years. An interesting thing about St. Augustine that I’ve noticed is that once people have lived here, they either never leave or always come back eventually. There is this strange pull that draws people back here to stay. The great thing about people who know they want to be somewhere is that they in turn want to make that place a prime destination. As younger generations sink their roots deep into this community, it’s exciting to see lots of interesting people with good ideas enrich our coast and provide opportunities where design makes a difference. It thrills me to have fingerprints on such a vibrant, growing community. Most days I can’t believe that I get to do what I do.
✔️Are your artistic sensibilities blood-borne?
I’ve never really thought of my family as an “artistic” family, but when I stand back a little I realize we are. Though no one in my family pursued art as a career in previous generations, most of us have a creative side. My mom, a teacher and school administrator by profession, has always been creative—she is a wordsmith, calligrapher, great at drawing, and her handwriting is absolutely perfect. She brings a lot of unique ideas to whatever she does and is good at thinking outside the box. My grandfather is also a great creative inspiration for me. After he retired he pursued and mastered so many creative interests (similar to my own!)—playing the violin, painting, woodworking, cooking, gardening, traveling. My sister is the greatest appreciator of art and music that I know. My youngest brother is a fine artist and graphic designer by profession. Even my middle brother who has a business degree pursues an art project on occasion and has quite the eye for interior decorating and fashion. So yes, I would say that art courses through my veins even though I didn’t always know it.
✔️On her transition from teaching Spanish to working in graphic design.
After teaching for four years I came to a breaking point in my life where I knew something needed to change. I wasn’t sure if I should pursue teaching in a different place, or move overseas, or become a missionary…all these things were out on the table. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a quiet idea whispering that I should go back to school to pursue graphic design - which had been an interest of mine for a while. But of all the ideas I had, this seemed like the most unrealistic and unlikely. Shortly thereafter, the stars aligned for that to become a reality, so I went for it! I don’t think the nerves hit me until I walked into my first drawing class, realizing I never had formal training in art of any kind. There were no guarantees about how it would go. But what I was sure of was the desire inside to pursue creativity in this new concentrated way. In the end and with lots of hard work, I wound up right where I belong, even if it took a long, winding road of school and career to find out I belong here.
💡 What advice do you have for those graduating from High School/contemplating their next moves? How much of a bearing does institutional education have on niche and passion? Does a student necessarily have to know right away what she wants to do with the rest of her life?
I have a few pieces of advice for those looking ahead to college and careers.
1: TAKE YOUR TIME. Not all of us have known since we were little exactly what we wanted to be when we grew up, and it’s ok to not know. Take it slow figuring this out, because it may take some time. Maybe that means taking a gap year to work a certain job or experience another culture. Or maybe it means trying out a few random college classes in the beginning—creative writing, nutrition, or drawing (these are just a few that I tried!). With each passing year and experience, you learn more about yourself, what you like and what you don’t like, what inspires you, what makes you feel alive. And these are the things that eventually point you to where you should go and what you should do. No one is forcing you to graduate from college or have a career at a certain age, so don’t be afraid to take the time you need to figure out where you really want to be.
2: “Wherever you are, be all there.” I have used this quote by Jim Elliot to instruct and inspire my life since I was in high school. If you are pursuing a job, (even if it’s not your ultimate career) find one that you love and invest yourself in it. If you’re traveling, treasure and learn from every experience. If you’re in school, take all the classes that sound interesting, talk to your professors, study abroad— life is rife with opportunities, why not pursue all of them?
3: Don’t be afraid of the unconventional route. When I started college I was pretty sure I wanted to be a teacher when I got done. But I also knew that I could get certified without having a degree specifically in education, so I decided to study Spanish and history instead. I didn’t want to waste time in school not learning about something I was truly interested in. In the end, I did become a teacher but also got to study something that I love. After all of that, I even went back to school to study something else that I love (art and design). My path was certainly unconventional, but I don’t regret any of it.
✔️Are we beyond a time in which formal training is required when working in creative industries? So many self-taught professionals have made names for themselves with the help of social media, for example.
This is a tricky question. There are millions of ways to pursue creativity without formal training and there are plenty of people who have found their niche in the creative world without going to school for it. I do think these people have to have a pretty significant personal drive for what they do. One of the great benefits of going to school is that it provides a space for you to explore different avenues of creativity and learn from many different perspectives all within the structure of the classroom, which can be less scary than the real world sometimes. I used to view it as a good practice round for whatever was ahead of me in my creative life. I think it really depends on the individual, and what their goals are. Some people are really cut out for school, and other people really aren’t and I think there is room for both types of people in the creative world.
✔️On business owners connecting vs. competing…
One of the beautiful things about our small community is that we all take such pride in each other’s work, and have the opportunity to support each other. A lot of people asked me when we opened our donut shop if we were worried about the competition with so many other donut shops opening around the same time. My answer was always no! As a donut lover, anytime I travel to another city I try to find as many donut shops as I can. I’m so glad that now St. Augustine has a few to choose from—the more donuts we have, the better off we all are!
✔️On her ideal STA outing…
Every ideal day in STA starts with breakfast at the Blue Hen. After fueling up on coffee and home fries, it’s the perfect time to go thrifting and antiquing around town. Some of my favorite spots are the Betty Griffin House thrift store, the Haven Hospice Attic, and Out There Antiques. After thrifting (and hopefully with some new-found treasures in hand), if the tide is low I might head out to Vilano Beach for a good shark tooth hunt. If I’ve planned ahead, I’ve maybe brought along a charcuterie picnic and a few friends to enjoy it with.
✔️Can you imagine relocating someday?
I love living in St. Augustine. My history is here, my family is here and I recently bought a dream of a home here. My roots run pretty deep and the more time that passes, the more I feel that I am woven into the fabric of this community. So I don’t think I’m going anywhere. BUT if I were to relocate, I am a pretty big fan of the Pacific Northwest—I could definitely see myself living and working there. I’ve also traveled the world pretty extensively and wouldn’t rule out the idea of living abroad. Who knows?!