We’re excited to introduce a series of interviews with the Keap team. Read on to get to know the folks behind your candles!
Sofia Barbaresco is part of the Candle Operations Team working out of our candle-making studio in Kingston, NY. Originally from Brazil, she grew up in New York City and recently moved to Kingston where she has been feeling grateful for her new community at Keap, her art practice, and finding connection to nature in the Hudson Valley. She has an infectious smile, has learned a lot about herself during the pandemic, and hopes to hold onto the grounding rituals of listening and writing more.
Can you walk me through a typical day as Operations Associate at Keap?
One thing I like about being an operations associate at Keap is that we rotate through different positions throughout the week. So for example, today I'm working on shipping but tomorrow I might be pouring candles.
I like that we rotate through the positions because you gain a deeper understanding of what everybody does. I've found that it really fosters a sense of empathy for other people's work flow. You understand what they're doing because you’ve been there too.
Out of all the areas you get to work in, is there one that you enjoy the most?
It definitely depends on where my head is at because they each engage different parts of my mind. For instance on Fridays I really enjoy working in production because it's a nice way to end the week; it's very meditative. If it’s earlier in the week I enjoy working in the other roles that require a little more focus. When you're in a task like pouring candles you have to figure out which scent you're going to work with, how much you need to pour, and what has already been poured, it requires a different way of thinking.
Sofia enjoying some coffee in the back of the Keap studio this past summer.
“I often like to think of the candles as having different personalities, like they all have a different story to tell.”
While we're on the topic of candle making, what is your favorite Keap candle scent?
It depends on the season but Northlands is probably my favorite overall. It always feels celebratory and it’s an aroma that I really like in my home. I also love Wild Figs, it’s hard to choose! I often like to think of the candles as all having different personalities; like they all have a different story to tell.
What were you working on before you started at Keap?
Right after college I started home brewing beer. It began as a hobby at first and I eventually got more serious about it and got a degree in brewing science and decided to make it my career. Then I worked in a few different craft breweries in the Hudson valley for about seven years.
Do you still brew on occasion?
I do sometimes. I think leaving the industry has brought me back to enjoying drinking for pleasure again. Now I don't have to be as focused and critical when I drink a beer. I also really enjoy going out and supporting the people I know in the industry. I'm not working in craft beer anymore but I made a lot of friendships there and enjoy supporting my friend’s endeavors.
I know you moved to Kingston recently, where are you from originally?
I was born in a small town in a rural part of Brazil. My family have been farmers there for many generations. I came to the United States when I was three and we lived in Boston for a few years. Then from age six onward I grew up in New York City. I went to college in Vermont and after that I spent time again in New York City and Brazil for a while. And now I’m in Kingston!
Here's a glimpse of Anápolis, Goiás, the city in Brazil where Sofia grew up.
“I’ve developed a completely different visual language and (my practice) has led me to express myself in a different way...I’m grateful for that.”
Do you feel working at Keap and with the team here has helped you feel more connected to the city of Kingston?
It's funny because I was disappointed when I first started at Keap and realized everybody was new to the area just like me. I was actually the person who had lived in Kingston the longest and I'd only been here for about four months. I was looking forward to meeting people who were from here but at the same time it's been nice that we're all new because we've been able to support each other in getting to know the area together.
When I moved here there wasn't any way to connect with the community because of COVID so it was helpful to know people who were in a similar position. We have supported each other through lots of transition phases and I really see those relationships getting deeper over time.
I know you’ve recently been able to connect to an art community in Kingston. Can you tell me more about that?
One of the first things I did once things started opening up again during the pandemic was to sign up for an art class. I haven't had a consistent visual art practice for a long time so I was really looking forward to starting this again.
I went to my first class and I met this wonderful community of makers of all different ages and my teacher was incredible. In the process of taking these classes, I’ve developed a completely different visual language that I didn't even know I had and my work is really resonating with the rest of the group. It’s pushed me to express myself in a different way and I’m grateful for that.
One of Sofia's beautiful art pieces.
“I didn't go on hikes regularly until I got my dog about 5 years ago...I think because of him I've become more focused on nature and being outside.”
The past couple of years have been unique to say the least. Are there any rituals you’ve leaned into that have helped you stay grounded?
One thing I'm feeling for the first time in a long time is a true sense of work life balance. The way things are structured at Keap gives me the energy to actually pursue interests outside of work which is something I haven’t experienced in the past. Over the past year I have slowly been rediscovering things that I like to do for the sake of doing them and in turn I think that has made me enjoy working more.
It sounds like you’ve really been able to connect back to the natural world here in Kingston. What’s your favorite way to connect to nature right now?
It’s definitely through my dog, Boca. I didn't go on hikes regularly until I got him about 5 years ago. He’s also made me a morning person because he's so excited that the sun comes out every single day and he gets to go outside. Seeing his joy at running around in the woods, sniffing and chasing things and discovering, it's so contagious. He's just so happy out there. I think in a big way it is because of him that I've become more focused on nature and being outside.
Sofia's doggo, Boca!
Over the summer we had a two week sabbatical and I know you spent some time traveling and being outside. What was your favorite memory from that trip?
I spent the two weeks traveling around the U.S. in a camper van with my partner Matt. It’s funny because my favorite memory would have to be the moment when our van broke down (laughs). Honestly it was my favorite part of the trip because the van started making all of these terrible noises and then smoke was coming out and Matt and I really had to work together to figure out what we were going to do and how to get through it. It really made me appreciate the strength of our partnership.
Overall though the trip was beautiful and it was really cool to see how little we needed to have a great time. We packed everything in two suitcases and lived out of the van and we didn't need that much because we were in such beautiful places.
Sofia and her partner, Matt, on their summer trip.
Is there anything you're hopeful for in the next year? Anything you're looking forward to or reflecting on?
As we're slowly moving out of this unique time, I'm hopeful that the lessons I've learned stay with me. As things open back up and we become more consumed by to-dos, social obligations, and general keeping up, I think it's easy to forget where our minds were during this time. I'm hopeful that I'll remember how important time to myself and retreat is, even when there's outside pressure to fill things up. Writing things down has really helped me remember how the experience has been so I hope I keep that up.