This is a guest entry from Sam Cooper, a graphic designer and illustrator in Lexington, Kentucky. We have partnered with him to support his new business, Timber & Bluff Design Company.
When I was very young, my mother bought me a book about trees. I called it my tree book. I became obsessed with trees while on a trip to Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky, and so, at the gift store, my mother bought me a book about trees. Ever since, I have loved nature, though I have not always been able to take part in its beauty as much as I should have or would have liked to. Growing up in the rolling hills of Central Kentucky, on a small, 5-acre farm, I was raised to appreciate and take care of nature, and to pursue my passions and talents. The burr oak tree quickly became my favorite, by the way.
Fast forward to 2009. I was on a train taking me from Maysville, Kentucky, to Raton, New Mexico. Me, my father, one of my best friends, and several soon to be good friends, were on the way to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I spent 10 days in the backcountry of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and from that point, nature began to influence my artwork and design. When I started college in 2011 at the University of Kentucky, I had big plans on being a graphic designer when I graduated. The world around me still influenced my work, and I even took some spontaneous trips to Red River Gorge (one of my favorite places in the world) to clear my head and find inspiration. My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew live in Denver, Colorado. I try to go out there as much as possible – the Rockies are amazing, and I always find inspiration and new ideas when I’m there.
So, here we are in 2016, and how my life changed. I still am a graphic designer, but not in the way I originally planned. I did land myself a graphic design job when I graduated, but I soon found, though I loved the people I worked with, it wasn’t the fulfilling thing that I was looking for. I have been working, ever since I graduated, on starting my own business doing freelance design (hand lettering, illustration, and logos, especially) and designing apparel and products to sell.
On Thursday, February 25th, I worked my last day as a graphic designer, and plunged head on into starting my own business, Timber & Bluff Design Company. I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by creative friends from Kentucky, and to meet some awesome creative individuals that have helped me get this thing started. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m excited for the future.
My first official launch of apparel and handmade flags, the States Project, was an idea that started in the shower one morning while getting ready for work. What would have been a normal shower turned into an hour long shower, and caused me to be late for work. I wanted to create products that show why each state is unique and different from other states. Two things came to mind: the lay of the land, the topography - what makes the state unique visually, and the history or culture of the state - what makes them different from a deeper point of view, what they stand for and their meaning.
You can pre-order the Kentucky Topo shirt today here on Explore Kentucky’s shop, however, we have partnered up to do a limited run of 50 shirts, so snag one while you can. I will eventually expand to all 50 states, as well. The first batch of products will be available for pre-order in April, and will include Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, and Colorado. You can follow me on Instagram (@timberandbluff) to keep up with the project, and go to timberandbluff.com to sign up to learn more.
All of this started because of my love of nature and adventure. I constantly want to find new places to explore. To me, nature is not only beautiful, but also spiritual, and I find myself content when surrounded by mountains or trees. Places like Cumberland Gap and the view from White Rocks there. Or Pilot Knob, near Clay City, Kentucky, or Sally Brown Nature Preserve and the stunning view of the Kentucky River Palisades. Or the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the snow capped peaks that are just stunning. Or even a greasy burger from the Rusty Fork Café in Elkhorn City can be the most wonderful small town experience. These views and memories are the things that inspired me to do this project and take this leap.
Go out and explore nature, it’s life-changing.