Artists In Their Own Words: Bernie January Jr. and Natasha Noordhoff
Who: Natasha Noordhoff and Bernie January Jr.
What: Graphic Designers and Screen Printers of Heartsleeve
Artists’ Chosen Location for Interview: Bittersweet Confections (725 Magazine Street)
Q: What’s an animal or living organism that you don’t think can be personified positively?
NN: I know mine, and it’s a cockroach. Bernie has tried to get me to at least respect them, and there’s no way. I can see the nobility in their ability to survive, but that’s not enough to overcome their disgusting nature. No matter how you dress it up, I would never wear anything with a roach on it. Or decorate with roaches. I mean, can you imagine cockroach wallpaper? No.
BJ: But you have to respect something that you can smash with a shoe three times, and it just keeps going.
NN: Eww. They have all those prickly parts and move so erratically.
BJ: But they’re like the cleanup crew.
NN: I accept that they have a place in the ecological food web, as in eating the trash that nobody else will touch.
BJ: You also got to respect that as well.
Q: What would be the worst texture to step on with a bare foot?
BJ: Hmm…what is something I’ve stepped on recently?
BJ: I did do that, but my foot was not bare.
(At this point, the barista told the three of us her story about stepping in a pile of her cat’s barf in the middle of the night).
NN: A dead roach would be pretty bad. Or a live roach. I gotta get off this roach thing.
Q: How about, what’s the worst texture to make a t-shirt out of?
NN: Right now—a thick, itchy, raw, wool t-shirt sounds like the most disgusting thing ever. Or Velcro.
BJ: Heavy Velcro.
Q: How about the worst texture to have put on your face?
BJ: I like gritty things. Most of my soaps have grit in them. So, I don’t know if this is just because it’s hot out, but bacon fat would be awful. Anything greasy that would clog your pores.
Q: How about the worst texture to have poured into your ear?
BJ: I pour a lot of things into my ear. I had one ear infection almost two years ago, and now it’s always clogged. I put prescription eardrops in there, hydrogen peroxide, and even Q-tips—even though you’re not supposed to do that. Technically, you’re pushing the wax down into your ear canal rather than getting it out with Q-tips. That’s what I hear.
Texture-wise, though, I’d say sand.
NN: Ohhhh, yeah. Sand would be horrible.
Q: When do you most feel like a visitor in your own life?
NN: Huh. That’s a hard one.
BJ: I’m not sure I have an answer for that one.
NN: Did you [Bernie] feel that way when we were first starting Heartsleeve and had to take care of the minutiae? We started this business to have a creative outlet, but—of course—running a business isn’t really a creative outlet. You get in it because of the fun aspect, but then you have to sit down and say, ‘Okay, I need to fill out these forms to file taxes and get the right permits.’
It’s super valuable to learn that information. I just didn’t expect it to be all that complex, and then when you’re submerged in it, you realize that it’s way more than you ever expected. I mean, who knows how to do business taxes?
Q: What’s your fantasy stardom that will most likely never be played out?
BJ: I used to want to be an astronaut, but then I realized that space is really dark, and I’m afraid of the dark. I like a cave-like darkness where there’s low light and warmth. But it’s cold in space. It’s forever cold and forever dark. So, this is making me think this isn’t an appropriate response to this answer. What about you, Natasha?
NN: I always wanted to be a marine researcher/scientist. As a kid watching Jaws and all of the whale specials on television, you just realize how awesome underwater creatures are. It has to do with exploration, and you want to have that discovery and check out all these cool animals and creatures. Learning about that kind of stuff is amazing, so I’d want that to be my alternate reality.
I went through the Louisiana Master Naturalist Program, and they immerse you in all the environmental ecosystems of southern Louisiana. You talk about plants, animals, the food web, the impact of humans, and the whole shebang. And you’re in the class with someone who is a spider specialist, or someone who knows all about rats. I geeked-out in the best way. The program runs twice a year, and each term goes on ten different outings.
Although, I think I’d prefer dive-exploring the Caribbean blue water compared to swamp waters.
BJ: Actually, I think I have mine now. It would be in relation to space. I’d love to be an astrophysicist and deal with the complexities of time. We used to think that time was constant, and now we know it changes. If I could grapple with time and try to understand it, that would be super awesome.
A theoretical physicist, though. No numbers.
Q: When have you ever felt like a solution?
BJ: Well, I used to be a teacher, so I always had all the solutions [laughing]. A lot of the times, the best solutions would come out on the fly. You want to be as prepared as possible, but when you have to go off the cuff, that’s often when the best ideas come out.
One time I had a student who was, and is, absolutely brilliant. It was post-Katrina, and I was teaching in Baton Rouge. I had about 30 students in every class, and everyone was dealing with trauma and living their lives in a totally different city. In my physics class, though, I still only had six students because, you know, it’s a physics class. Not everyone is rushing to sign up for that class.
One day we had parent-teacher conferences, and a parent said to me, ‘Mr. January, I have an issue.’ You don’t want to hear that from a parent when you’re a teacher. But she says, ‘I’m thinking about moving my daughter to another school that has better resources, but my daughter doesn’t want to leave because she wants to be in your class.’
I just melted. I sat there for a moment. I didn’t have a good answer, and then I finally said, ‘I feel like she would be better at a school with better resources.’
I told the student that the next day, and that was so difficult because she was my favorite student. Teachers will say they don’t have a favorite student, but you do, and she was mine. Then I saw her at a basketball game and she was a cheerleader at the new school, and she was so happy. That made it all worth it.
NN: We have to keep that the only answer. I love that story.