"Creativity always seemed to be the North Star when it came to my life directions,” said Andrew Reiland, the creative artist behind our fresh FreeForm Coffee branding and beautiful bag designs. We had admired Andrew’s work for years: as the former Creative Director at Cafe Imports, an independent importer of fine specialty green coffees, we’d come across his work on big burlap coffee bags, promotional posters, informational maps, videos of coffee farmers at origin, and more.
Andrew’s style is unique and soulful, and after meeting him in person on his trips through the southwest to soak up some sun during long Minnesota winters, we knew he was the right guy for the job. We talked yoga, Ram Dass, sacred geometry, communing with nature, and of course, coffee. To find a talented artist with whom we shared so many personal values, and who had the professionalism and follow through to complete our rebranding was a blessing. Just as Andrew was setting out to chart a new path in his career, we, too, were looking to shift the direction of our work and our brand. It was a match made in Sedona.
“I had a fairly artistic background growing up, mainly drawing and playing with clay and such mediums in the raw studio arts. When the communities and places I found myself engaging in started working with new ideas, there would most always be a visual art medium necessary to promote the development of that idea,” described Andrew. “There was a need for artwork, and in the spirit of exploring the ideas, I would apply my basic art background to the concepts.”
Andrew’s creative process was honed as a practice during his teenage years working as a camp counselor at Camp Minikani, a YMCA Camp in southeastern Wisconsin. Tasked with developing games and activities centered around various themes and objectives, innovation and originality were emphasized -- a unique type of problem solving for the summer camp environment. Beyond the scope of summer camp, Andrew found himself developing more artistic skillsets depending on the needs of his community: designing T-shirts, making signs, learning graphic design, making team uniforms, running his own screen-printing company, painting murals, making logos, developing brands, building websites, and producing photos, videos, and packaging for various people and projects.
“I designed a shirt for a high school dance, and a couple months later for the camp that I worked at. This experience kind of compounded a gravitation toward the application of visual arts,” recalled Andrew. “I was intrigued how design and imagery could serve as messaging or branding for an idea, place, or thing. It was art that also had a direct function: it served and communicated ideas. If done right it could communicate something -- feelings or energy -- without words, and sometimes beyond words.
“At the same time, as a bonus, it was something that served the communities and organizations that I was involved with. It was a fulfilling type of connection,” he continued. “This practicality, more subconsciously than intentional, led me to take on both a business degree and a studio art degree in college… two ends of the spectrum that can take a long time to harness, but I have found can be a valuable pairing.”
Collaboration and Community Building
Merging his artistic abilities with his desire to uplift, enhance, and actively participate in community seems to be a theme for Andrew’s creative work and life path. “I appreciate the connection that creativity makes for in community,” he explained. “Any creative process between two parties is a collaboration, and I view collaboration as a service in community. Working and creating together makes our experiences evolve, and hopefully for the better! This reality that we are creating together through our degrees of collaboration also is the notion of co-creativity.” Aptly, Andrew has recently launched his own design and branding studio: Superwell Co-Creative.
After working as Creative Director at Cafe Imports for five years, a position he playfully refers to as a master’s program for his creative career, he will be able to put to use the valuable photography, videography, and marketing skills he learned on the job to help clients beyond the scope of the coffee industry. “I was thrilled by the opportunity that I had to immerse myself in the industry and tap into the tremendous landscape of culture and global-sociodynamics that coffee co-creates,” he said.
Telling the stories of the people behind the coffees at Cafe Imports was enriching both professionally and spiritually, but Andrew reached a time in his life when he was ready to broaden his horizons. “While I developed to the point where I can wear several different hats in visual design and marketing, my one through-line specialty from the beginning has been creativity itself,” he stated. “I have allowed this broader interest to dictate the directions and mediums of the expression -- which has led to a wide path. Creativity as a North Star makes for a wide path, which means it can have many switchbacks, rugged terrain and uncharted territory, and that’s part of the design… it can't be done solely at a desk.”
Creative Expression - Wielding Free into Form
Leading a FreeForm life, one of creative expression, means that Andrew merges creativity (imagination and ideas) with expression (application, structure, or form). He unites the free with the form to create something beautiful that serves a purpose. “I feel I have followed intuition, and have worked to bring form to whatever it is that life is presenting to me,” he reflected. “Sometimes I've been a little too free, and other times I’ve had a bit too much rigid form. As I've grown through more experience and awareness in that spectrum, I’ve found more of a foundation on which to be centered. My work reflects this directly, because I have made my livelihood from wielding wild creative imagination into thought and form.”
Coffee still factors into his creative process. While he is methodical when it comes to scanning and arranging notes/reminders, lists, and Post-its on a daily basis, he says these systems of keeping track of and developing ideas is on stand-by for when inspiration strikes. “My follow through is more regimented—it requires me to intentionally create space to examine and organize the imagination coming through, and to determine what I should pursue further,” he described. “I create the space to connect with that idea, with as little distraction as possible. The goal is to get lost in the exploration a bit… asking ‘how should I bring this into form?’ I’ll play with it, in whatever medium it calls for -- writing, graphic design, story boarding, etc. At this stage of the game, coffee is a helpful tool (and sometimes a prerequisite) in setting the stage for creativity, and bringing some comfort in my battles with resistance.”
At home, he brews coffee on a Hario V60 and at local cafés, where he sometimes escapes to for an energetic break during work sessions, he enjoys a house blend espresso. “I always will try the blend first at any coffee roaster; I view it as the prime creative expression from a roaster since it has so many variables,” he said. “It typically comes with a good creative name, too.”
Self-Inquiry as a Creative Catalyst
Outside of his work life, Andrew makes time for self-inquiry and growth by regularly attending men’s retreats. “Men’s work is a very important component of my self-knowing and integration processes and I believe it to be an invaluable ‘medicine’ for our collective at this time,” he explained. “Beyond the power that the connection and mirror of community and relationships can drive in shadow work, pattern breaking and accountability, it has helped me develop a more expansive understanding of creatorhood as well as masculine and feminine principles, which are ubiquitous to all aspects of the human experience.
“All along the way, I could not help but see the parallels between the creative process and the processes that men’s work, and many other methods of self-inquiry and integration, reflect,” he mused. “I've been working to articulate the through line between these realms and I intend to explore this more formally in the work I will be putting out with Superwell Co-Creative.”
His advice for someone who feels called to create but doesn’t know where to start? Examine and question the very meaning of creativity and what it may look like in the particular circumstances of your own life. “Too often ‘creativity’ is segmented into a box, most often artwork and nothing else,” he suggested. “Art in any form -- whether it’s visual, physical, audible, etc. -- it is perhaps the most direct case study of creativity, but limiting the idea of what creativity is can lead many people to feel that they aren’t ‘creative’ because they don’t also identify as an artist. I've got news for you: You are creative whether you like it or not… and I’ll even go as far as saying that every human being is an artist!
“To me creativity is in everything we do, even if what we do is unintentional—our lives are a product of creation, and we are contributing to that. Enter an attitude of empowerment into that equation and it can help inspire more intention to how we co-create with life.”
He recommends following whatever it is that inspires you: “That doesn’t have to look any specific way. Whatever way it is will be unique to you as long as it is true to yourself,” he reflected. “That’s why if you are still stuck, I encourage people to do more self-inquiry… the better you know yourself, the better you may be aligned to your gifts from which you create.
“Creations carry the consciousness of the creator, so if your work is feeling stagnant, suffocated, or uninspired… provoke your own awareness. Where are you feeling stagnant or confined? Where are you giving your attention and energy that aren’t serving your authentic self? Do you have limiting beliefs? What are you consuming physically or energetically that might not be serving you? Are you exercising discipline and accountability or do you need to regenerate?”
He continued: “It may be worth walking away from the blank canvas and seeking answers to those questions. I have found that connecting to the body through movement, making space for thoughts and emotions, seeking reflection and support through relationships and community, and connecting to nature are all fruitful paths to finding clarity to these questions. I have learned to view working on myself as a valuable part of my creative process, and the more I've associated the idea of creativity with self-understanding, the more aligned I have felt with empowerment and inspiration in my process.”
Visit superwellcocreative.com to view Andrew’s latest projects
Instagram: @superwellcocreative @andyreiland