art:. Mike Herabot, Coffee Powder Series

brown powder

He thought he could get away from art. In so doing, he took a job as a barista for temporary creative respite, only to find being a barista was art and inspired another expression of it, all unto itself. Mike Herabot, a fine artist by trade and in coffee powder in Singapore, allows this culture into his daily life where art can never be on holiday.

c:. How do you like to experience your first cup of coffee of the day?

Mike Herabot: The first cup of the day is very important to me and I believe it is very important for other coffee lovers. When I am making coffee, the calibration of the coffee is absolutely crucial, especially the taste. And to finally get the right taste is extremely fulfilling.

I always have my first cup before the start of every working shift or my day (when I am not making coffee) because it will determine how my day will turn out. Peace and quiet, without any distraction from the outside world. It is like waking up at the right side of the bed.

c:. I believe you work in a coffee shop? Can you share which one and how that came about?

m.h.: My journey of being a barista started off one and a half year ago.  I got a job opportunity at Habitat Coffee from a friend after graduating from Lasalle College of the Arts. Working as a barista allows me to take a break from Art. Little did I know that this path has led me to discover a different art form in coffee.

c.: Before the #coffeepowderseries, you often showed images of your coffee and something else. But now with the coffee series its an entirely new expression. Firstly, what a great name. Second, what a great use of recycling coffee powder. How did the idea come about?

m.h.: First of all, thank you for your compliment! 

Is a funny story to begin with actually…Coffee powder has been one of my everyday interactions ever since I started as a barista; from perking up my mornings to making a cup for a coffee lover. From those tedious extractions of espresso right to the intricacy of the latte art.  Though, the process of making a good latte art falls short because of my expectation in creating a perfect cup.

“Coffee powder series” was basically inspired by my daily collection of thrown away coffee powder. The everyday disposal from the calibration of the coffee grinder became my way of creating a latte art. So I decided to deconstruct the process of making a coffee and reconstruct into making my own perfect latte art without wasting any coffee powder away.

Because of my strong attachment to my artwork, I often struggled to salvage and keep the artwork’s existence.  By using coffee powder as my choice of medium, it’s like creating a painting and white washing it right after it is complete. In a way, the only existing evidences of the artwork remains in the photograph.

c.: How long does it take for you to arrange a visual and about how much coffee powder does it take?

m.h.: Hm.. That is quite a tricky question!  I use approximately 150-200g of thrown away coffee powder. I would normally use 100g – 150g depending on the size of the artwork that I am about to create. Oh my! I sound very mathematical, don’t I?

Its okay, I like the mathematics.

Each artwork will take around an hour to two depending on the intricacy of the work.  For example the portrait of Charlie Chaplin took me two hours to complete the details of the face, especially to create life in his eyes.

c.: I saw and read about your recent collaboration with Public Residence, did you ever imagine that your art could also become another kind of consuming art and how does this feel that people can actually carry your coffee in away other than physically carrying a cup of coffee?

h.: Truth to be told, I have never imagined myself to be involve in a collaboration of a different art field. The collaborative effort with Public Residence was an amazing experience!

Making a cup of coffee, serving a cup to someone, when they finish their coffee and I collect the emptied cup, seeing traces of my latte art remains.  It consumes me with satisfaction. In a way, it is the same feeling to having someone carrying a bag printed with my artwork as I see traces of my coffee powder; it consumes me further with fulfillment.

c.: Coffee is art. As well ,it inspires art. Outside of this, how did coffee begin to inspire you to create with it?

m.h.: Coffee was one essential in starting my day right. Now, it is not just a need to consume but also it becomes one of my mediums in the adventure of establishing my fine arts career. Well, I have always been fascinated with portraiture; it is a subject that I explored most in my process of art-making. I enjoy my work as a barista very much so, from experimenting on latte art to breaking boundaries of how one material could create portraits that gives life as well.  It is very much similar to drawing or painting my subject matters.

c.:  Art comes in so many forms. What is the value of art to coffee shop culture?

m.h.: Art is first of all a subjective topic, different people appreciate different forms of art, and the same way goes to a cup of coffee. One can never make a satisfying taste for every taste bud. And that is the beauty of it all. It is that never-ending thirst to create that perfect art, in terms of both the process of art and coffee making. And that is what art and coffee have in common. It is based on the personal preference.

For more of Mr. Herabot’s work visit here.