Hailing from St. Ignace, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, brothers Forest and Michael Evashevski were raised with fond memories of the wildlife and water of the Mitten State. Not surprisingly, these are the source of their inspiration. With nearly 20 years of design experience between them, the Evashevskis create prints, cards, apparel, and more through their lifestyle company, Roo Kee Roo. Their designs deliver a level of quality, elegant simplicity, and hometown nostalgia that has made them popular around the world.
Peninsulas is proud to partner with Forest and Michael Evashevski to create ‘Into the Wild,’ #4 in our Michigan State Parks Artist Series. Their design, inspired by the classic symbol of adventure, a wooden canoe, appears on a fine-art print and mug in the Peninsulas' Michigan State Parks Collection.
I spoke with Forest and Michael to learn about their art, inspirations and hear their stories:
Tell me a little about your company Roo Kee Roo!
Michael: A lot of inspiration for what we design comes from growing up in St. Ignace Michigan, the “gateway to the U.P.” We did a lot of boating and camping together, and enjoyed the fresh air of the outdoors. Things like building a fire, drilling holes in the ice, and stacking wood- we had a relationship with the elements.
Forest: Yes, for me, creating Roo Kee Roo allowed me to recall and articulate my experiences as a child, there’s a lot of nostalgia there.
Michael: I agree, our childhood was very pure Michigan. It was very rural where we grew up, in the woods and on the lakes. There were times when there was nobody around. When you move away from a place like that to the city where everything is man-made and there are people everywhere - it puts things into perspective. We are grateful for what we had and where we came from - those simple times in life.
We started Roo Kee Roo in a very intuitive way, thinking about these memories and distilled everything into really simple moments and objects.
What were some of your favorite memories growing up in Lake Country?
Forest: I loved swimming!
Michael: Yeah, we used to spend so many summer days at the Dunes on Lake Michigan. We have fantastic memories from then, as well summer days spent jumping off the dock into Lake Huron at Les Cheneaux.
Is there a place you recommend I should stop in while in your hometown?
Forest: The Ojibwa Museum.
Michael: Clyde’s. It’s a vintage drive-in burger joint.
If you had to pick one of these to eat or drink right now which would it be: Detroit style pizza, a Hani, Vernors, veggies fresh from the garden, Mackinac Island fudge, a pasty, Bell’s Two Hearted, or Better Maid potato chips?
Michael: Detroit-Style Pizza, hands-down.
Forest: Same. There’s a really good one here in New York called Lions, Tigers, and Squares and I’m never not amazed with how many references are in that one name.
What type of music do you like to listen to when you work on your illustrations?
Michael: I’m all over the place. Everything from Bob Seger to Nirvana to Eminem to FM-84.
Forest: I usually have a tv going in the background. Anything I know well with a lot of cadence. The former so I’m not too distracted and the latter for pacing. That can range from Harry Potter, to Golden Girls, to Absolutely Fabulous, to PBS documentaries.
Early riser or night owl?
Michael: Night owl
What is something you never leave home without?
Forest: Phone. But my phone is actually my apartment key!
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
What is your favorite color?
Michael: So many. But probably yellow.
Forest. Blue for sure. French blues, deep blues like the Great Lakes, and more soft blues similar to our brand color.
Having grown up in Michigan, you have been able to experience the seasons. What was your favorite?
Michael: Fall. I like how quiet it is, there’s a melancholy in Northern Michigan that I relish.
Forest: Probably summer but I do really enjoy autumn through the holidays.
Is there anyone you are thankful for?
Michael: Yeah, I think the real obvious answer is our parents. Our dad and mom always supported us and both inspired us in different ways creatively. When creating a design for Roo Kee Roo, we think back to all the great experiences we had with both of them. For instance, our dad had this workbench and I think that’s where the workbench collection started. Our mom was really artistic and we were around it a lot- she was quilting, crafting, doing things with her friends. I think that just kind of rubs off on you. You think, “I could do that too.”
You are brothers, did you always get along so well?
Michael: Mostly yes. But you can’t grow up 16 months apart without having some raging fights.
Forest: I concur with Michael’s answer!
Is there anything that shows your special bond?
Michael: A number of things, but the stories our father used to tell us as kids.
Forest: The name Roo Kee Roo comes from the stories our Father would tell us around the campfire; a legend the French brought to Michigan first known as ‘le Loup des Loups’ or ‘Wolf of Wolves.’ He’d tell us “After sunset he’ll come to eat you! But if you stick together you can defeat the Roo Kee Roo.” Today after nearly 20 years of combined experience in design and illustration, we’ve brought Roo Kee Roo to life by doing exactly that.
I had so much fun chatting with you, Forest and Michael! Thank you!
To see more Roo Kee Roo designs visit www.rookeeroo.com.