A Q&A with Lenora Yerkes

  • Top down photo of a box of Field Trip coffee on a stump.

Lenora Yerkes is an artist and coffee person living, drawing, reading and brewing coffee in Washington DC. While she was Sales and Account Manager based in Washington, DC she was also the artist behind our 2019 Limited-Release blend, Field Trip!

Q: Tell us about how the Field Trip concept came to life.

A: Great coffee is no accident—so much education and openness to learning is needed to make it happen. For coffee people, I think it's vital to remember that we can't stop being students. Because the world is changing, we have to embrace being students in order to make coffee excellent and to make coffee sustainable and that desire to learn happens at coffee farms, in washing mills, at cupping tables, in roasting, in buying, and in brewing coffee. It happens over what could be enormous divides, so it requires a lot of humility. I loved the idea to show education along the seed to cup path—to illustrate that education isn't one direction and it's not rigid. It's adaptable and it's generous and it bridges distances.

So, for the design, we really wanted to show all the places along the supply chain where people learn and teach. As a primarily analog artist, I bluelined my first drawings with a Staedtler Non Photo Blue pencil, before inking them with a Pilot VBall .5 ink pen and painting into the drawings with gouache.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

A: An artist friend was just asking me if I keep a schedule. I didn't really understand what she meant, because I keep a detailed calendar, but I don't think of myself as rigidly "œscheduled." I thought about it all week and when she asked again, I said, yes, of course. I keep studio hours every day, times when I show up and draw and see what happens, because for me, the most important part of creativity is reliably showing up. You can't expect to learn anything if you cut class.

Q: Tell us about your coffee journey and how it led you to Counter Culture.

A: I first thought there was something neat about coffee (it was Counter Culture Coffee!) when I met the folks at Big Bear Cafe in DC back in 2007, where I found a bunch of people excited about sustainable agriculture, which I loved, and also community, which I needed. After seeing a bit about how other coffee roasters operated, I knew Counter Culture was the real deal. I celebrated four years here December 2018.

Photo of a box of Field Trip coffee next to a mug full of coffee.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I'm really into the 90 bus right now.

Q: What coffee do you drink while you make art?

A: Whatever is in season, roasted fresh, and brewed by me. Recently Incahuasi, but before that Ngaratua and Iridescent!

Q: What do you listen to while you're creating?

A: LeVar Burton Reads, Kojo Nnamdi, and occasional SCA podcasts.

Q: How do you continue learning through art?

A: Fearless self-examination is a good start, but you must be patient. We have to try new things and new ways of creating, but we also have to be tolerant when it doesn't come easily the first time. Nobody gets it on the first shot. It takes practice and kindness and good, open feedback.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

A: One of my favorite benefits of working with Counter Culture is the Pushing Potential fund, which provides financial support toward something that develops us personally or professionally. In 2017, I used my fund to attend the Writing from Workbook 52 workshop taught by cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry and writer Dan Chaon in Rhinebeck, NY. It was hosted by my incredible former Counter Culture colleague Lindsay Lee and the entire experience was transformative for my drawing and writing practice. I can't recommend it enough—thanks to Counter Culture for their support. 

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