Member Profile: Aly Miller, Illustrator and Graphic Design Artist with a Penchant for Food

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Brooklyn Creative League is truly home to a plethora of creatives. Architects, writers, media producers, and graphic designers, such as Aly Miller, who is also an illustrator, are some of the many members who have set up shop at our coworking space.

We spoke to Aly to learn more about her work with Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), a company that works out of BCL, and offers peer-review certification to farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities without relying on synthetic chemicals or GMOs.

We also learned more about Aly, the freelance artist, and the many ways she’s benefitted as an independent artist at a coworking space.

Graphic Design to Promote Food Sustainability

Aly has been working at CNG for over 5 years as a part-time employee. She helps farmers market themselves through the creation of banners, postcards, and other marketing materials. In addition to helping farmers in the CNG network, Aly helps raise the profile of CNG through the creation of graphic and promo materials. Aly shares that she enjoys the interactions she has with farmers because they connect her with rural America and the culture of growing clean, sustainable food. As a part-time employee, she appreciates the flexibility she has to contribute to the team.

Working part-time allows Aly to spend more time on her own graphic design projects, which are also food-related. For instance, Aly’s work has been featured on Grow NYC’s Greenmarket banners and marketing materials. You may be familiar with Grow NYC from your local farmer’s market; the organization runs programs across New York City. Grow NYC’s “mission is to improve NYC’s quality of life through environmental programs […] and empowers all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment.” Aly believes that the portfolio she’s developed through her work with CNG may have contributed to her success with Grow NYC.

Some examples of Aly’s artwork: Grow NYC calendar and poster for The Nosher

Some examples of Aly’s artwork: Grow NYC calendar and poster for The Nosher

“The More You Create, the More You’ll be Asked to Create”

Aly tells us that she decided to be a freelance artist because she wanted the ability to work on multiple projects at once; she enjoys the challenge of working with different styles and requests. She shares that once she started gaining more recognition through her own project posts on social media and via tags to her work from organizations she’s worked with, people started asking her to do projects for them. Aly credits social media and working in Brooklyn and at BCL as some sources of referrals for her work.

Aly says that while at BCL, people see her working on projects, ask questions about it, and share ideas about some of the creative work that they might need.

She finds that working at BCL makes connecting with other business professionals much easier, and has also found inspiration from other freelancers. She tells us that through meeting people who work in a variety of industries, she’s been able to have conversations about marketing, contracts, and other business-related topics that have helped her believe more in herself, “I’m not sure if I would’ve felt so confident it I wasn’t here,” she says.

Facilitating the Community

In addition to her CNG part-time and professional freelance work, Aly can sometimes be found at one of the front desks of BCL. In late 2018, Aly was asked to help watch over the desks about once a week, and since it worked within her schedule, she shares that she was open to the opportunity. “It brings me a lot of joy. I really like working here. It feels natural to me to fill in and help out,” says Aly, about her role at BCL.

Be sure to say Hi to Aly when you see her at the front desk!

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BCL Featured Artist: Deb Klein—Capturing the Unplanned in the Everyday

Photo by Dan Ichimoto

Photo by Dan Ichimoto

Just a Moment, is BCL’s latest art installation on the third floor cafe by Deb Klein, a former, long-term BCL member and New York City based photographer. This series of photographs features friends and strangers and focuses on reactions, responses, caught in the moment. According to Deb, expressions and gestures are so fleeting, and she loves freezing them in time.

Capturing Beauty in Unchoreographed Ways

Deb shares that her love for photography started at an early age. In high school, she had the opportunity to explore this artistic medium with her beloved teacher Mr. Gordon. Deb was immediately immersed into the world of photography, learning how to develop photographs in a dark room and use an analog camera. Since high school, she has pursued photography in a variety of contexts.

Professionally, Deb considers herself an environmental portraitist, placing her subjects—usually people and oftentimes their partners or pets—in natural lighting while focusing on the needs and wants of the client. Her street photography uses many of these same elements—capturing beauty in unchoreographed ways, captivating the eye and drawing in the viewer. Deb tells us that she strives to create pieces where the viewer can’t tear themselves away, where they’re engaged with the subject, and where they want to know the story of the people, places, and things in the moments she recorded.

The photographic journey for Deb began in high school, with an analog camera and a dark room, but today, it’s a whole different ballgame. Even though she loves the old-school processes, she works almost exclusively with digital photography, due to a lack of time and darkroom space. Deb tells us that she dreams of the day when she can turn her bathroom, basement, or any extra room, into a personal darkroom, but for now, her images are captured on her trusty Fuji mirrorless camera. After experimenting with other cameras, and experiencing some back pain from heavier devices, Deb settled on this model. With a different mechanism inside, the camera is lighter and less bulky and takes beautiful images without the use of a mirror.

Deb’s photo of Dirk on the 3rd floor

Deb’s photo of Dirk on the 3rd floor

Finding Inspiration From Feelings, People, and the Environment

Deb says that she is inspired by her contemporaries, specifically the many photographers she follows on Instagram. While she sees these artists to be influential, her real inspiration is simply the world around her—the events and sights she sees, and the feelings conjured by them. 

Deb finds her subjects in a variety of ways—some people she knows and others are people she has just met. Depending on the day, her mood, and her subjects’ disposition, Deb may strike up a conversation with the individuals, talks that often blossom into longtime friendships. There are people like Dirk, a man captured sitting and drinking by himself on a dirty couch in a barn at a music festival. Her brief photograph turned into an introduction, then developed into a two-hour conversation. Today, the pair is still friends on Facebook.

Other times, Deb says that she remains more distant, snapping a few pictures before quietly removing herself from her subject. She often reflects on what could have been if she had worked up the gumption to speak to these people—missed conversations and connections are aspects of Deb’s work that she regrets.

Moving on to New Adventures

A native New Yorker, Deb will be leaving this bustling city for the sandy beaches of Brighton, England. Her new adventure begins in May, and she shares with us that she’s excited to be inspired by a new place. Deb is ready to explore new people and places, as well as the emotions her new surroundings will create. According to Deb, a benefit of Brighton, and the U.K. in general, is that the people there seem to be more open to having their photographs taken. Men, women, and children are generally more comfortable with having their pictures taken by photographers on the street. This openness to photography, conversations, and connections is an exciting new opportunity for her. 

While she will be leaving Brooklyn for Brighton, New York will always be Deb’s hometown and she plans to continue her photography career in this vibrant city when she returns home for visits. With a plan to do photography sessions in New York on her return trips from Brighton, she tells us that she hopes to keep her connection with BCL and its members strong.

To see more of Deb’s work, visit her website, Deb Klein Photo.

Member Profile: Author Hana Schank Shares Inspiration Behind Her New Book, "The Ambition Decisions"

Hana Schank, a part-time BCL Member and author of The Ambition DecisionsWhat Women Know About Work, Family, and the Path to Building a Life, shares her inspiration behind the book, life as a working mother, and why she decided to work at BCL.