I had been wanting to meet Kim Roth for months and we finally met for a fun (and delicious!) lunch at Southie on College Avenue. She is the founder of Bright Room Studio, a boutique stationery design studio based in Oakland, where she does custom hand lettering and graphic design. Not only did I learn about how she got her start, but it was interesting to learn about her “light bulb moment” and her tips for staying motivated when you work for yourself. Keep reading to learn more about this talented woman, see her stunning work, and find out what she loves about Oakland.
24 East: What is your background?
Kim Roth: I got my degree in Business from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a focus in marketing and a minor in graphic communications. After college, I went to work in advertising as an account manager, where I wasn’t doing anything creative at all (though I would also make my PowerPoint presentation pretty!). After 4 years in the ad business, I was feeling pretty burnt out – the hours were long and stressful, I really felt like I needed a creative outlet and I just didn’t see myself in the advertising business long-term. So I left that job in the classic search for “what do I want to be when I grow up.” My first venture was interior design; I enrolled in classes at Berkeley Extension and got an internship with a design firm. However, after a semester of that, it just didn’t feel like a fit for me. I had always done some graphic design work on the side for friends and little random personal projects, and started to think that maybe the world of graphic design might be my place. I did some logo and branding work (drawing from my marketing and advertising experience) but still wasn’t inspired. While this is all happening, I was also planning my own wedding and doing all my own paper goods. The response I received from those made me think that maybe this was something I could do.
24E: When did you decide to start Bright Room Studio?
KR: After my wedding in September of 2012, I had decided to pursue something in the design world but I still wasn’t sure what. I was applying for a variety of jobs without much luck (and some that I just wasn’t interested in). That Christmas, I made all my own wrapping paper, just for fun. My new sister-in-law said “you could totally sell this,” which was kind of my light bulb moment. I considered designing cards and stationery products, but custom wedding invitations felt like the perfect entry into the industry for me. So after putting myself out there – on Craigslist and Facebook and with some wedding pros I knew, I had a few clients and the business was born.
24E: What projects are the majority of your business?
KR: Most of what I do are custom wedding invitations. Together with my clients, we design invitations that are totally customized to them and their big day. I like to incorporate lots of personal details like illustrations of their venues or other elements that are really personal to them. Most of my work is lettered or painted by hand, scanned into the computer and compiled using Photoshop and Illustrator. I then print everything through an awesome printer in Berkeley.
24E: What are your favorite projects to work on?
KR: I love when clients come to me with a really unique vision. Like I said, the more personal details I can incorporate the better. Recently I got to illustrate what the night sky will look like at their wedding day from their venue. It came out really amazing and it is so incredibly special to the bride and groom. I love working on projects that people will keep in their home for many years and that really mean something to them.
24E: Where do you find inspiration if you get creative-block?
KR: In a practical sense, I often turn to Pinterest if I need some fresh ideas. But more broadly, I also get a lot of inspiration from my husband, other talented artists in the industry, travel and walks around the neighborhood with my pup.
24E: How do you plan your day so you put boundaries on when work begins and ends?
KR: Fortunately, I’m person that thrives with structure and am pretty disciplined, so this hasn’t been too challenging for me. I always shower and put on real clothes (ok, sometimes I stay in yoga pants…), get to my desk around the same time, take a little lunch break and run errands if needed, and then leave my office in the evening. Having a dedicated work space is a big help too.
24E: What would surprise people about hand lettering?
KR: People always tell me they want to try calligraphy or lettering but they don’t have good handwriting, and I always assure them that good handwriting is not required! Hand lettering is more like drawing letters than it is writing. Its all about learning the shapes and the tools and training your hand. In the same way that you could learn to draw a vase or flower, you could definitely learn to hand-letter if you practice, practice, practice!
24E: You’re an East Bay native and grew up in Moraga. What was the best thing about growing up here?
KR: While Moraga isn’t the most exciting place for a kid, it does have an incredibly community. I’m still friends with so many people from high school as well as the rest of their families. Plus, its such a great area that many people are going back there to raise their families. We have an awesome support system that are all super close by, and hopefully we’ll all raise our families together one day.
24E: What is unique about living and working in Oakland?
KR: Oakland is seriously the best. There is endless inspiration. From the beautiful mature trees (there is one right outside my window that I love) to the beautifully designed coffee shops and restaurants, to the eclectic people. There’s always something to see and be inspired by. There’s something to be said for being a bit of an “underdog”; people from San Francisco don’t always “get” Oakland and that’s fine by me! More good coffee for me 😉
Looking for custom invitations, illustrations or hand-lettered signage for your next event or birthday? You can find out more about Bright Room Studio here.
Design lovers, you’ll also love this behind-the-scenes look.
Kim’s cute designs would go perfectly with this artistic and carefully curated children’s brand — don’t you think?!
Photos by Chiarashine Photography.