Olivia and I meet on a warm, summer day at Lakeside St. Coffee House, where she is shocked to learn it is my first visit. “You must be a regular,” I say to her after she greets one employee by name, then another. “Is this your favorite coffee shop?” Choosing one favorite proves to be a difficult task. “I’d say it’s tied with Johnson Public House. But Indie Coffee takes the award for Best Cold Brew in Madison.” We place our orders at the counter and find a table near the back, bathed in the light streaming through the tall windows next to us.
Before the food arrives, I notice Olivia lifting a fork closer to her face, examining the handle. She explains to me that the utensils here are real sterling silver. “You have to look for the number ‘925,’ or sometimes just ‘sterling silver’ marked somewhere on the metal.” A local treasure hunter, she describes to me the experience of combing through the boxes at Dig & Save, where used goods are sold by weight, which drove her to learn more about metals. In addition to thrifting, she tells me, she enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on, riding her bike, gardening, and supporting the local bluegrass music scene.
“Did you see the tweet about the 30-50 feral hogs?” I ask her, distracted. Suddenly, inspired by the meme of the day, we’re discussing our plans to write a children’s book for millennials. She says we’ll need to find a publisher and a writer. “And probably an internet person, too, someone who keeps up to date on this kind of stuff.” Clearly an imaginative mind, Olivia tells me that in addition to creating art, she appreciates finding art in the everyday. I can see that she’s a good fit for the field of landscape architecture, which she says appealed to her because it offered an opportunity to work with art and the environment.
Before our meeting comes to an end, I am compelled to ask her about the row of lustrous jewelry lining her outer ear. “When did you get all of those cartilage piercings?” She touches her ear, as if to recall that the jewelry is there. “Oh these? I did them all myself, during high school.” This doesn’t quite shock me, considering the bold and ambitious personality she brings to her work and everyday interactions.