Artist, musician and multi-business owner Jared DeMeester was born and raised in Grand Rapids. He works as a freelance designer under the moniker I Tried My Best and is a founder of Stovetop Coffee Roasters, which is opening a café on 944 E. Fulton St. this fall. Over the past few years, DeMeester has started eight companies, played in multiple bands and become an award-winning package designer for Stovetop. But for DeMeester, this is all just the beginning.
What got you into art and music?
I started playing guitar when I was in fourth grade. When I was in fifth grade, I had the choice between bass and tuba for band. I was for some reason inclined to choose bass, which has absolutely formed my entire existence. There are strange decisions like that when you’re small, where you have no idea what that decision is going to affect.
Where did that particular decision lead you?
Sixteen-year-old Jared then thought he was going to go be a doctor by day and play jazz music on a riverboat by night in Boston. I went on to graduate with a chemistry and jazz double major from Hope College, and I was dead set on going to medical school. The thing that swayed my decision against this plan was Sweet Spot, a longboard wheel company Alex Bolen and I started in college. I literally could not have in my wildest dreams predicted then what I’m doing now.
How did Stovetop Coffee Roasters begin?
I was in grad school for jazz music, and (my friend) Steve came to me and asked if I wanted to start a coffee roasting company. I bought a coffee roaster on a credit card and was like, ‘Let’s go!’
What’s your creative process when making a design for Stovetop?
I seriously just try my best, and I don’t mean that to sound kitschy. We taste the coffee, and I literally, with an ink pen, draw the first thing that comes to mind. The goal is all about accessibility. I’m not going to say that I draw a narwhal because I taste that; I’m just a guy with a pen that likes drawing weird things, and I’m really grateful I have a canvas to do it on.
Left: Stovetop Roasters Packaging. Middle: Jared DeMeester. Right: Sloth Thing Tee.
How has Grand Rapids influenced you creatively?
It’s really beautiful here, and beauty does cultivate beauty. There are so many talented people in such a small area, the concentration is significant. I make because I’m inspired by other makers. Being born and raised in Grand Rapids, I spent a good amount of time downtown because my mom and dad ran a small theater where the police department is now. I love being in Grand Rapids and having a lot of history here, because I see ‘little Jared’ and the things I experienced growing up. I almost feel inspired by my past life here. Being a part of a place where you have a really small piece of what has come of it is really cool and humbling.
What’s most important to you as an artist and a creative?
You can get better at anything if you practice it. Something that I value about the artist lifestyle is how much discipline it teaches you and how much of a better person it makes you. Your emotional well-being is so uplifted by your pursuit of artistry, but it also can be crushed if you’re placing significant expectation on what you plan to create, but you’re not actually committing the time or headspace to create it. Your inner life informs your art, and your output will inform your inner life.
What keeps you going as an artist?
It feels good to make things, at a very fundamental level. It feels good to make decisions; it feels good to make breakfast; it feels good to make art. I definitely think people are the reason that I make, and it energizes me in a really real way. It makes me excited. This is a super dramatic statement, but I think music and art literally bridge together and speak the impossible in some roundabout way. And I freaking love that. That’s why I do it.
Find DeMeester’s work at stovetoproasters.com.