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Meet the artist: Rachel Breeden

Rachel Breeden photo

For the nerdy puzzler, nothing beats the satisfaction of putting together subtle colour gradients that just seem to flow easily, like those in our new puzzles WAVES and CASCADE. Who’s the master colour blender behind these two new puzzles?

Meet Philadelphia-based artist Rachel Breeden of Circa 78 Designs! In this fun interview, we explore her awesome journey as an artist and her experience of creating two new designs for Cloudberries.

Waves is a fun 1000-piece gradient puzzle by Cloudberries

Your design studio, Circa 78 Designs, is super cool. Tell us how it started!

Circa 78 Designs slowly came to life in 2015 — first as a part-time hobby then finally as my own full-time design studio. I’ve always been a “maker” type person (I had an Etsy shop way back in 2007!) and I’ve been drawn to that late-70s/early-80s design sweet spot for as long as I remember; the two finally clicked for me when I dipped back into art after a long hiatus.

It took time to find the direction Circa 78 Designs would ultimately take — at first I made painted glass pieces with big, bold stripes and applique wall hangings out of vintage fabrics. I was throwing ideas at the wall to see what stuck. Then a couple months in, I learned Adobe Illustrator and that changed everything. Now the business has morphed into predominantly art print sales and client work like logos and album covers.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist?

First, and this seems so basic, but I really love making my own schedule. I’m good at keeping myself to a pretty tight routine, which I think is sort of necessary for self-employed people. My second favorite thing is the idea that people have my work in their homes — it’s beyond flattering that people let something I created become a part of their everyday life.

How did you find puzzle design as an artist? Have you done similar work before or is this your first time?

This is my first puzzle design! I’ve always been interested in them as another way to connect people with my art, and I’ve had people tell me quite a few times that my designs would make good, complicated puzzles.

How did you learn about Cloudberries? Share your work experience with us!

Cloudberries reached out to me and I was thrilled to become a part of their puzzle world.

For the first time ever, Cloudberries asked its audience to choose which design to launch for WAVES. Why the two color choices and what led you to these awesome puzzle designs?

My work often contains repeating shapes or forms, but I think this design in particular really lends itself to a complicated puzzle with the slight color changes between the circles and the repetition of the shapes. Hopefully it will be a good challenge for your experienced puzzlers.

If you could choose between the two color schemes, which would you pick?

At the risk of being controversial, I really liked the dark version. Update from Cloudberries: Okay, okay, we actually went ahead and released this one too, but as a 500-piece version called CASCADE!

What’s your favorite part about your collaboration with Cloudberries?

I love the idea that my artwork will help people pass the time in these frustrating days of Covid-19 — it’s an honor to be able to help folks relieve some stress and take their minds off the situation even for a couple hours. I also appreciate the sustainability pledge taken by Cloudberries to plant a tree for each puzzle sold. 

On a scale of newbie to master, what sort of Puzzle Nerd® are you and why?

Definitely a newbie! It’s actually been years since I’ve completed a puzzle myself, so I’m really looking forward to trying my hand with one of my own designs.

What were your inspirations to pursue the sort of late-century art style in your designs?

It’s just what I’ve always been drawn to, before I even knew what it was. I think my art brain stopped developing when I was a child because most of my inspiration comes from the TV I watched when I was little (Sesame Street, Electric Company, Great Space Coaster). There were always these great animated and illustrated elements that just jumped off the screen and implanted themselves deep into my psyche. Growing up my parents also had my dad’s psychedelic 70s art school paintings on the walls — they also made their way into my creative brain.

What accomplishment as an artist and designer are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the fact that I can support myself completely through my artwork now. It was a slow start and took a couple of years, but now I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be able to get paid for what I would otherwise be doing with my time for free.

Any tips for aspiring self-taught artists like yourself?

I would definitely say don’t let the fact that you didn’t go to art school keep you from pursuing any creative career dreams you have. If it’s in you it will find a way out! While there are times I’ve wished I had proper art training, I think my experience and perspective in other areas of my life have given me an advantage — especially on the business side of things. And plenty of people, my dad included, went to art school and then ended up in careers completely removed from the arts.

Tell us one unique thing about what you do as designer and founder of Circa 78 Designs.

I don’t know how unique this is but as designer and founder of Circa 78 Designs I do all the things! I’ve made every decision and pushed every pixel so far, with the exception of building my website. I hired a web development company to handle that project and it was a huge relief to be able to rely on their skills.

Your work is amazing and we’d love to see more of it! Can you tell us where (or how)?

You can follow me on my Instagram, and I also just launched a new website and online shop — I have tons of prints there to brighten up your walls. I also have a lot of work in my Society6 shop where you can find my designs on bedding, home decor, phone cases, etc.

Any other projects in progress you’d like to share?

I’ve actually been taking a bit of a break from client work and extra projects after a big move this fall, so I’m hoping to have new things in the works after the new year.

Excited for WAVES? Grab your puzzle here! Or check out the smaller, easier version right here.

Explore other unique designs with our exciting puzzles!