Enjoying the Creative Challenge with Heather Vine
By Melissa Mendonca
Vine on Design
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos courtesy of Alexis LeClair
There’s a fear young professionals can experience when consciously moving to the North State to establish their careers and families. Will they be supported? Heather Vine admits she felt that when deciding to leave her home town of Portland, Ore., to marry Joe Vine, owner of the Copy Center in Red Bluff.
It had only taken a long weekend on Lake Shasta, where she met Joe, to know they'd end up married. The deal was solidified when they traveled successfully for five weeks in Africa, travel being a passion of Heather's that she wants to continue throughout her life. But how would Red Bluff treat a designer with a degree from Pacific Northwest College of Art? She'd sniffed around to find a community of designers and came up empty back in 2007.
She expressed her concerns to an instructor at the college: “I said I don't know what I'm going to design there because I don't know if they have any designers,” she muses. The instructor flipped the idea for her. “What aren't you going to design?” she asked. The possibilities are endless if you're the only one doing what you're doing.
Ten years later, Heather is having a very high arc in her career and credits living in Red Bluff as a major determinant in her success rather than a detraction. “I know I wouldn't have become a business owner had I stayed in Portland,” she says. “I would have been afraid.”
Deciding to establish herself as a freelance designer has allowed her to work from home, where she and Joe are raising two girls, and to take big chances pitching work to companies as diverse as Dignity Health, Sierra Nevada Brewery and Cowboy Candy Beef Jerky. And then there's Santana. Carlos Santana.
Vine created the album art and merchandise designs for the Santana IV album and is busy at work on Santana V. The project itself took eight hours a day for four months to complete, which doesn't include all of the time up front just preparing artwork when the opportunity arrived to pitch a job to the musician. Walking into Santana's San Rafael office, where all of his album covers are framed and hung on the wall, and noticing her own art laid out on the table was a moment of intensity, she says. Santana was impressed. He liked the heavy symbolism in Vine's designs. He liked her.
He said yes to her as the designer. “And then we got in Carlos' Porsche and drove to Sausalito to get tacos,” she says. Four hours after the pitch, Vine saw Santana take a call and her artwork was already programmed as the screen saver of his cell phone.
Vine has since enjoyed the creative challenges of designing for such a soulful, creative and prolific artist. Her work encompasses not only album art, which needs to be customized for every format — CDs, vinyl, etc. — but tour merchandise such as T-shirts and posters.
While she laughs at the truth of her professor's prediction that there won't be much she won't design, Vine wouldn't have it any other way. “I've always known I was going to be an artist,” she says. “I can't think of a day in my life when I didn't want to be an artist.” The idea of not making a living as an artist, “was never an option for me.”
Which isn't to say that the success came easily or that her early education was fun. As a child with learning disabilities, she says, “Art is the only reason I stayed in school. It's the reason I stayed in high school, it's the reason I went to college. It's what I breathe, it's who I am.
“School didn't come easily to me, but I also have determination,” she adds, noting that it's a motivation to volunteer once a week at the Makerspace in Tehama County's Juvenile Justice Center. There she teaches Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as Tinkercad, a software that allows design modeling for 3D printers, “and anything they feel like they want to learn that day.” Vine's influence shows the young students that there are possibilities for meaningful creation that can translate to job opportunities.
Along with the artistic elements of each program, Vine believes it's just as important to teach the business side of living as a Creative. “I never had a freelance class in college,” she says. “I had to learn to bill.” There's also the core concept that “I have to make people feel and I have to sell.”
Today, Vine is one of Tehama County's biggest cheerleaders, noting how small communities encourage entrepreneurship and collaboration over competition. She's also proudly watched other young designers and photographers establish themselves, creating that community of designers that once was missing.
Musing on her success, she indulges in the fact that the work with Santana is a legacy project. She's given credit on the album and smiles in awe as she says, “Nothing I've ever done before has had so many people's eyes on it.”