We chat with T. Benjamin Fischer and Kat Melheim about how Glitter Cat Barista Camp’s 2018-2019 participants shared their artistic visions through a yearbook zine.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Umeko Motoyoshi
As the members of the coffee training competition program Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp reflect on a fulfilling first year, a lot of memories have resurfaced in creative form. Where else to showcase this brilliance but a zine? Glitter Cat Founder T. Benjamin Fischer and Coffee People Zine’s Kat Melheim have joined their worlds for a sparkling (literally, because there is micro-glitter caked on the cover) special edition of the zine, which arrived just before Issue 06 earlier this summer. With splashes of color, design chops from Kelsey Maccombs, and editing wizardry by Eric J. Grimm, the Glitter People Zine is a compilation of artistic genius from the minds of the participants.
While much of the zine consists of post-competition reflections, many pieces are serious works of art outside of the coffee world, too, from ceramic conceptions to sociopolitical poetry and nature photography. It’s available for purchase now on the website, and we got a chance to learn about how it all came together with Kat and T. Ben.
Glitter Cat Barista Camp applications are now closed for the 2020 season, but you can follow the updates on their Instagram.
Katrina Yentch: Where did you get the idea for the Glitter Cats to have a yearbook?
T. Ben Fischer: I wanted a way to immortalize the Glitter Cats, and I was reading Volume 2 of Coffee People Zine when the idea popped into my head! I guess it is kind of like a certificate of participation but on a more tangible and personal level!
Kat Melheim: T. Ben approached me and said, “Hey, let’s collaborate,” and I was instantly on board. What T. Ben has been able to accomplish in just over a year with Glitter Cat is astounding, and I look up to him greatly. I feel like Glitter Cat does to competition what I try to do with creative print media—lower barriers to entry, highlight under-represented and marginalized voices, and bring people together for a fun time!
What was the inspiration for this zine? Why did you decide that the Glitter Cat yearbook would take a zine format?
T. Ben: We are all way more than simply skills in making coffee, and we wanted to show the world that we are human beings, not only just competitive baristas. I think we can get pigeonholed into what the public sees, but we are more than that. Kat started this zine to give coffee people an avenue to showcase their creative skills and talents, and we thought what better way to support each other, and the Glitter Cats, than to team up?
Kat: Exactly what T. Ben said. When he came to me with the desire to collaborate, a Glitter Cat yearbook zine just seemed like the natural result. Glitter Cat does an amazing job of supporting baristas (and coming this year will support brewers, roasters, and CIGs) on the competition stage. And what is the competition stage but a platform to share a story? Each of last year’s Glitter Cats had the chance to voice their values, beliefs, and stories from that competition stage. But they are all so much more than a seven-to-15-minute routine! That’s what Coffee People is all about—going beyond the coffee skills and getting to the other things that drive us, the things we are passionate about. So we thought, why not extend the stage to the printed page? Give each Glitter Cat a little more space to expand on who they are creatively.
What did you request from the Glitter Cats when you told them you were putting together this zine?
T. Ben: Whatever! I literally think the email said, “Send us anything you want in print. Photos/writings/smears/lyrics/art/nothing … this is your time to do what you want with no rules, so have fun with it!” USBC is full of rule-following, and if there is anything I like to do more than break rules, it is to not have them!
Kat: Haha—exactly. This was a very open-format project. We wanted the Glitter Cats to share their outside-of-coffee talents and passions, so we left it up to them.
We’ll continue this conversation with Kat and T. Ben in an article on Barista Magazine Online next week.