Hannah Gebhart

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Hannah recently turned her dingy basement into a creative space for her studio called DinoCat.

Take us back to you as a kid. A little weird. A tad goofy. Constant doodler. Only wore soccer shorts and loved cats. I really don’t think all that much has changed over the years.

What's keeping you busy? Absolutely everything, and it’s crazy/wonderful. I decided to jump head-first into DinoCat Studio, which meant turning my dingy basement into a creative space, working through all the aspects of launching a business, and creating new artwork all at the same time. I also have a full-time design gig, so things have been pretty chaotic. It wasn’t until I had already gotten the DinoCat ball rolling that I realized a good portion of the artwork I’ve made has been commissioned work and isn’t available for production. I see many, many woodcarving and paper-folding nights in my future.

"I’ve been making this and that for friends and family over the years."

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing? I wish I had a cool “this is it!” type of story to share, but it’s really been a slow project that has naturally happened over time. I’ve been making this and that for friends and family over the years. It’s something I love and am passionate about, and recently when my creative life felt like it was being left behind, I decided it was time to get serious. And here we are!

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? Practicing patience. Once I have zeroed in on a project, I go full steam ahead and don’t look back. If it weren’t for my girlfriend I’d probably be a sleepless zombie by now. She’s helped me take a step back, think about what I’m doing and why, and refocuses me on what is important. I have a tendency to focus on one distracting item and she always snaps me out of it. The poor girl has heard me talk way too many times about the different styles of envelopes. 

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? Be diligent, be resourceful, and never be afraid to ask for help. There’s no right or wrong way to go about your work, just make sure you’re doing what you can to set yourself up for success, to push yourself to be better, and to have the support available when you need it most.

"Practicing patience."

Why Des Moines? Ha, this question. I grew up in Kansas and get asked this a lot. “Isn’t Des Moines just like where you grew up?” No way. I used to say that I came to Des Moines for school and then just never left. Which is technically true, but isn’t the reason why I have lived in Des Moines for 12+ years. The Des Moines community invests in itself and you can see that as you walk through the various parts of town. It’s growing and becoming a city that stands on its own, with opportunities for just about anyone who is open to them. Plus, I can eat a damn good sandwich or some sushi whenever I like. Priorities.

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye? The mural explosion. I swear, there’s a new mural everywhere I look, and I love it. More public art, please!

Agreed. More murals. Where should the next one be and of what? It’d be awesome if Des Moines did what a lot of other towns have done – call on local artists to paint electrical boxes or other ugly-but-necessary infrastructure pieces. I’ve been to places that have done this and it’s so awesome. You end up interacting with pieces of art in an unconventional way and it allows a large number of artists to have the opportunity to contribute to the public art scene.

"I swear, there’s a new mural everywhere I look, and I love it."

If you could grant Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? I’d really love for an expansive art store to exist and thrive. Pretty please. I’d love to keep all of my shopping trips local. 

What is your favorite shop now and something you recently purchased that you love? Yikes, hard question. I have to go with an oldie but goodie. Raygun. Every time I step through the doors I tell myself I’m going to reel it in and not go crazy…and then I walk out with a patch with dinosaurs and hot dogs on it and three shirts. That patch is definitely my favorite. Last time I was there I picked up “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” for my little 7-year old activist niece. She lives in Colorado and asked her mom to take her the Women’s March in Denver back in January. Raygun always has the perfect gifts for everyone. 

"Every time I step through the doors I tell myself I’m going to reel it in and not go crazy…and then I walk out with a patch with dinosaurs and hot dogs on it and three shirts."

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. If I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life, this is it and this is how I would do it: I would sit at the sushi bar in Wasabi Tao, sipping Kirin and slamming white tuna nigiri. The best thing in the world and one of my favorite activities. 

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? Definitely Des Moines itself. You have access to just about everything you could ever want – great music, diverse restaurants, the brewery scene is blowing up, unique events and festivals are happening every weekend, and you can get pretty much anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. 20 minutes! It takes forever to do anything in a big city! 

What are you most proud of and why? Back in 2012 I worked with the Chrysalis Foundation to create an original piece of artwork that would be raffled off at their big fundraising event. Dr. Tererai Trent was the headlining speaker – if you haven’t heard her story, Google her immediately. She’s amazing. The extremely short version of her success story is that she was able to break the cycle of poverty, left her village in Zimbabwe and came to the US to get an education, obtained her PhD, rebuilt the school she attended back in Zimbabwe, is an internationally known advocate for education and women’s rights, and is Oprah’s “all-time favorite guest.” No small feats there. 

Anyways, I was able to help raise money for the Chrysalis Foundation and Dr. Trent actually took one of the prints, titled Break the Sky, to hang in her school in Zimbabwe. Oprah Winfrey donated money to build a library (among other things) and that’s where the piece is displayed. So that’s pretty cool. And this is one of those pieces that isn’t available for production ;)

"I’m so excited for that first sale from some random dude in Albuquerque."

In three months what do you hope to accomplish? DinoCat Studio will be officially open for business. On top of that, I’ll make a sale or two from someone other than my brother. I know my friends and family are supportive of my artwork, but I’m so excited for that first sale from some random dude in Albuquerque. It’s going to be awesome.

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? Cats, dinosaurs, sushi, sandwiches. But seriously, there’s always work that needs to be done and it’s important to self-invest. I care about taking the time to learn new skills, building on the ones I have, and staying open to new opportunities.

Photo taken & edited by Anya Bishop