Kaylee Maasdam’s freshman year at Northwestern College in Orange City came to an abrupt end in mid-March when COVID-19 required colleges across the nation to send students home early and finish the year through online courses. The uncertainty of the world’s events carried over to Maasdam’s original plans for a summer waitressing job. With restaurants not even open when she made the early return home, Maasdam knew she’d have to look for other sources to earn extra cash. “I planned on finding a waitressing job this summer, but those turned out to be hard to find with COVID-19,” said Maasdam. However, through a series of twists and turns, her summer of uncertainty has turned into a time of pursuing her passion of creating art, and getting paid to do so.
Maasdam has always had a passion for art. She was heavily involved in art classes all through her K-12 education at Lynnville-Sully. After graduating from L-S as Class of 2019’s valedictorian, Maasdam continued to pursue her passion at Northwestern College. Her freshman year majoring in biology and art, with a Spanish minor, was going great until COVID-19 put an early end to her first year of college. Maasdam, like thousands of other college students, was forced to pack up and move home earlier than expected. Maasdam lives with her parents, Doug and Shawna Maasdam, just southeast of Sully.
Although she was home early and didn’t have the summer waitressing job she
anticipated, Maasdam was not sitting idle. Terry and Paula Nikkel, owners of Coffee Cup Cafe in Sully, reached out to Maasdam for help with a mural they planned for the outside of their building. Maasdam was commissioned to create an eight-foot wide by four-foot high mural that reflected the food industry. Along with their inspiration for the piece and a sheet of plywood, Maasdam was given free reign to create the desired piece. Maasdam’s kitchen floor turned into her studio, and she used her own paint supply to finish the job. After approximately 22 hours of creative work, the mural was completed and now proudly hangs in the west exterior window of Coffee Cup Cafe. It makes a great addition to the alley that is already a beautiful area with professional landscaping and benches.
“The alley piece for Coffee Cup Cafe kickstarted a ton of other jobs,” said Maasdam.
A big job that developed after the Coffee Cup Cafe mural is also tied to the food industry, this time in the form of a life-size hamburger and 7-Up can for Iowa’s Best Burger Cafe located just off I-80 exit 173 near Kellogg. Owner Scott Keenan commissioned Maasdam to paint the unique pieces that now sit outside the building for customers to view and admire. The life-size pieces required more of everything from Maasdam – more hours, more paint, and more logistics. Maasdam spent approximately eight hours each day if the weather cooperated for about a week and a half completing the commissioned job. The hamburger is made of concrete and the can is a trash can with a lid and PVC pipe for the straw. Rather than using her own paint supply, Keenan set Maasdam up with an account at Diamond Vogel in Newton. “Every time I needed paint for these projects, I would just drive up to Newton and get what I needed,” she said.
The mural and life-size hamburger and 7-Up can are among the largest art pieces Maasdam has created this summer, but they certainly aren’t the only ones. Smaller commissioned jobs have also filled up her schedule. Maasdam has long been known to beautify Hydro Flasks, popular water bottles which she has customed painted and made them much more personalized for the recipient. She has also painted everything from landscape murals to portraits to flowers and animal prints on customized Hydro Flasks.
“I’ve done about 30 specifically Hydro Flask water bottles at this point! I am still welcoming orders at this point, but new ones are put at the end of my list,” said Maasdam.
Her growing list of art projects includes a large barn quilt she plans to work on with her mother. Some of the more unique jobs Maasdam has been commissioned in addition to the many Hydro Flasks include the personalization of a University of Iowa tailgate jacket. “I love it when people ask me to do things that are really creative.” Other unique things she has painted on are Polaroid cameras and farm scenes on old building bricks which hold sentimental value for the customer.
Maasdam continues to take on freelance work, something that has flourished due to word of mouth. If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind gift, Maasdam is more than happy to put her artistic talents to good use for that perfect piece. “I actually never thought that I would be doing anything related to art even semi-professionally. But doing commissions, big and small, has been a lot of fun,” said Maasdam.