Constable: Graphic designer's mug runneth over with hometown Aurora pride
Her photography skills earned graphic designer Sarah Cervantes a spot as the featured artist at Treadwell Coffee as part of February's Downtown Aurora First Fridays monthly celebration of art, music, dance and community. But it's next door at the Wyckwood House home decor shop, where local artisans also are featured, that Cervantes uses another of her talents to make a splash.
"In the last six weeks, I've just become the one who makes the mugs," Cervantes says.
Cervantes, 36, was joking around with her younger sister, Kendra Cervantes, and their cousin, Alexis Cervantes Koslovsky, about the rivalry between Aurora and neighboring Naperville.
Cervantes, a graduate of West Aurora High School who now lives in North Aurora, wanted to show pride in Aurora even though Naperville gets more national attention. They came up with the line, "Naperville? Please. (B-word), I'm from Aurora," which made them laugh.
"Whenever we see something funny, we say, 'Put it on a mug,'" says Cervantes, who does that through her Send Me a Dream online store on etsy.com, where she sells funny and inspirational coffee mugs, backpacks, baby items and other goods.
"We made three or four mugs not even knowing if they'd sell," Cervantes says.
After a purchaser posted a photo of the mug on the Facebook page What's Happening in Aurora, IL? demand for that mug skyrocketed. Shannon Gutierrez, owner of Wyckwood House, already was starting to sell some of Cervantes' work in her store but sold a couple hundred of that mug.
"We're going to make a censored version, too," says Cervantes, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, who says that she's trying to make people smile. "All my mugs started as jokes."
One man, offended by that mug, sent her a nasty message, calling her a "hatemonger" and warning her not to set foot in Naperville. "I was going to block him and move on," says Cervantes, who instead asked for his address. "I sent him a free Naperville mug. I love how everybody is so proud of where they're from."
Yes, she has mugs reading, "I'm from Naperville. Don't be jelly," and "Aurora? Bye. I'm from Naperville, Illinois."
She has spiritual mugs such as, "You're amazing, Bible" and "In everything, give thanks." Pop culture mugs feature sayings such as "Humble, with a hint of Kanye," and "May your coffee be strong, and your eyebrows on point." Her Spanish mugs include "Tacos before Vatos" (food before guys) and "Best Suegra Ever" for a mother-in-law. Her very first mug was a tribute to her grandma and read, "Speak Spanglish to me."
The grandparents of her father, Ralph Cervantes, came from Mexico, and her mother, Diane Tarantino, had grandparents who came from Poland.
"My mom was always teaching me how to sew, or draw something, or paint something," Cervantes says. She got business advice from her dad, who owns an architectural woodworking firm in Montgomery.
It was an "intro to design" class during her junior year of college that put Cervantes on her career path. "My professor pulled me aside and said, 'You really have a knack for this,'" Cervantes remembers. She worked for her mentor, Larry Bohlan, in the Moody Bible Institute marketing department, spent five years as a "house mom" for a house of 10 teenage boys at the residential child-care facility Mooseheart, and worked for a design firm before launching her own design agency.
She calls her company Seven Brighter, a reference to a Bible verse in the book of Isaiah that says, "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted."
"For some reason, that verse just fascinated me," she says.
Cervantes, available at sarahcervantes.com, makes her living through her agency, but she says the extra money from her mugs sales and photo work come in handy as a single mom of son Jack, 13, and daughter Lily, 11. Developing an eye for nature photography, Lily is scheduled to have her own photo exhibition soon.
Whether it's mugs, photographs, illustrations, web design or other graphic design projects, Cervantes says her goal is simple.
"My whole point of what I do," she says, "is to bring joy to other people."