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Life & Work with Tara Berger

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tara Berger.

Hi Tara, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’m a graphic designer and fine artist by trade. I was born in New York and raised in Bologna, Italy, for the first part of my life. I, however, consider myself to be a California Native. I’m passionate about all things related to art and consider my motto to be “life’s an art.”

My career trajectory was a long and winding road. It began with a passion for Law and Forensics but ended with studying illustration and communications at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. I wanted to work in the music and film industry, so I positioned myself in motion picture advertising. I got into a school that focused on film and television but realized that new media design was where it was at. Having worked through the Dot-Com boom and bust, I quickly transitioned into teaching. My path was always art, and teaching art to children, teens, and young adults was incredibly satisfying. For nearly a decade, I taught art while freelancing and working in the non-profit world. While teaching at an elementary school, I met my former business partner Jamie Perez. Together we started Ki’i Boards. We shared a passion for Hawaiian culture and a love of fine art. A client of mine wanted to know if I could do something with her old surfboard to put in her garden. I went to Jamie and asked if she wanted to help me. Our friendship soon became a creative partnership when we discovered an artistic way to combine our interests: using surfboards as canvases.

Going by the name Ki’i Boards, we took the idea of “green” to the next level. The main goal was to upcycle non-biodegradable boards no longer seaworthy and turn them into wall-art pieces. We displayed our pieces in several galleries and auctioned a few to local charities. Jamie has since then become a full-time teacher, and I’ve continued to work as Ki’i Boards on my own.

Each board tells a story; I don’t simply repair a broken board; I beautify it with original designs using mixed media such as paper, acrylics, markers, and other found materials. Through Ki’i Boards, I have found a unique and environmentally friendly way to showcase my fine-art skills. And it’s not just surfboards. I reclaim skateboards and snowboards.

I continue to work as an artist, from the computer to the kitchen and everything in between. If you can envision it, I can bring it to life in some form or another.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
My career has taken many turns, but it also had several roadblocks. Having been in a lucrative position as an Art Director at age 26 and then finding myself unemployed and looking for a new creative career outlet was not easy. When one door closes, another opens. I would not have met Jamie had I not been laid off, and I would not have met some significant people who helped me move from one career to the next. I consider myself a magnet walking through life, and I connect with the right people, and they stick with me. Even today, having been laid off due to Covid, the people I’ve met along the way are working with me as I venture into my next career experience as an interior decorator. Again “life’s an art,” and I’m navigating my way through it by learning new skill sets that are just an extension of who I am and not necessarily what I do.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I consider myself a renaissance woman. During covid, I took on the 100-day challenge. Every day for 100 days, I did something creative. Some creative things included jewelry design, creating my brand for food, creating my brand for knit hats, taking on interior design projects, learning how to video edit. All while still working as a designer and implementing marketing and communications strategies for clients.

I’m most proud of the fact that instead of taking this challenging time in my life and sinking into a depression, I’ve instead chosen to put my rose-colored glasses on. I have taken the opportunity to better myself, my skills and make hand-crafted items that make people feel good.

Like a chameleon, I can adapt to almost any situation, setting me apart. It is my goal to make your vision a reality. My design studio is Leo Creations, and I am open to creating anything in all media.

How do you define success?
I’m a Divergent thinker. Success is realizing that a goal is just a marker in time and that you will and can always set new goals and keep going, and it doesn’t have to be the same path. Life is a winding road, and we should enjoy the curves.

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