Sunday, January 20, 2013

Buy Handmade v. 43

We are headed to Dublin, Ireland this week.

Name: Karolina 
Age: 31 
Occupation: Ceramicist - designer and maker

Web Site:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I come from a small spa town in the lovely mountain valley in Poland but currently Dublin is my home. I moved to Ireland over seven years ago together with my partner, Jacek. When we came to Ireland, we thought we were only going to stay for the summer, get a summer job and travel around the country, but somehow we kept extending our stay and now we're very much settled on 'the green island'. We live in a tiny cottage house tucked away in a quite cul-de-sac in the heart of the city. Good old Richard the Cat is a very important member of our family; he came to our house one day and after a few extra 'test' visits happily decided to stay with us for good. 

When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?

I think I was just born that way. As a child I always loved to get my hands dirty in paint, modelling clay, mud, whatever...

After I finished school I wanted to go to art college but never took the exams as I was confident my portfolio was not good enough.

So I studied to be a teacher, then left for Ireland and while working as a florist took up studying again and graduated to be an interior architect. But in my heart I was still searching for the right, more hands on creative way to express myself. One Christmas Jacek gave me two bags of clay as a present... that's how it all started... my great adventure with ceramics. I thought myself how to work with clay from books, internet, through advice of a few people I know and who also do pottery, and mainly through experiment- plenty of failures and some happy successful trials.

I started Etsy shop over two years ago because I wanted to see what other people think of my work.
A timid idea that ceramics could maybe become a real occupation rather than a mere hobby started sprouting in my head...

... first few Etsy sales made me so excited and motivated me so much, I started to think it is worth to give it a try and do I love to earn my living.

How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?

It's a simple combination of the my nick name, Karo and word 'art'. It is short and simple, personal as it refers to my name , and sounds quite strong. 

Has your Etsy shop become your full time job? If not, would you like it to be?

karoArt is my full time job and Etsy is one of the great channels I use to show and sell my work. I also have my work displayed in a few arty shops around Ireland and do some markets, fairs and craft shows throughout the year.

How would you describe your creative process?

Very spontaneous and unorganized. The initial ideas come to me out of the blue, very often early in the morning, right after I wake up. I carry the new concept in my head; I keep rethinking it while working away in my studio, I look for inspiration in books, on Pinterest, I make simple sketches and finally give it a try and make a piece if I think I'm ready. Sometimes it's an instant process that only takes a day or two. Other times, it needs more time to grow and evolve, and I then carry the idea in me for months on end. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Nature is a big one for me as there is nothing more perfect or elaborate. I often find inspiration in everyday life. I get quite excited about simple things; it may be a well designed tea packaging or someone's brightly pink tights out in the street. It's little things that trigger my mind. Colour is definitely an important stimulus, also textures make big impression on me. I like magical realism and the whimsical against simple and minimalist design.  

Do you also sell your work at craft shows? 

I do two big shows in Dublin. 

Bloom is an early summer gardening festival taking place in a huge park in the heart of the city. The second one is The National Craft and Design Fair and takes place early December. It is probably the biggest event of this kind promoting craft in Ireland. I also travel to across the country to Galway to do newly established Potters Market that gathers together over 20 ceramicist from around Ireland. 

• How long does it take you to prepare for a show? Do you have any special methods of getting ready?

It is hours, days and even months of extremely hard work. I start by tracing my sales from previous year to see what products sold best and draw up an exact list of how many of each piece I would like to make. I estimate the making time and order a bulk of pottery supplies to have them ready at hand. Then I basically lock myself up in the studio and follow the list of things to do... I do not usually allow myself to design and test new designs during those busy times as it might prove very counterproductive and interfere with my 'to do' list. So the preparation for the shows time is not a creative time; it is however, a great way to improve and master the purely technical and manual skills.

Describe an experience from a show (good or bad) and why that pushes you to continue with your work 

Regardless of the extremely hard work, I really enjoy doing big shows. It gives a great opportunity to meet the customers in person and I think both sides benefit from such an encounter. I emerge from my lonely 'cave', put a nice dress on and enjoy the buzz of such events while the customers simply love to meet the maker!  It is the best opportunity to build a local customer base by directing people to my website, Etsy shop, 'my' local shops, and growing a list of newsletter subscribers. Also, there is no better way to test your product; you get an honest feedback straight in your face.

What is your most cherished handmade item?

Oh, have quite a few... I quite often bring them from my travels as a reminder of places I've been to. I have the most fabulous hand-felted coat I have fallen in love with in Iceland, a beautiful green wooly sheep by Tissa Gibbons who greets everyone coming into our house and Cyril squirrel-fox by Donna Wilson who sits in our armchair. I could go on for a while...

Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?

Me and Jacek, we're both cinema lovers so we go to see the movies quite a lot and also watch them at home in the evenings. In the wintertime I take out a box with all episodes of my favorite TV series, Northern Exposure, and watch them one after another- I never seem to get bored with it. I like cycling to work and around Dublin on my very old bike. I love a good book- I often read during the lunchtime giving myself a nice rest during a working day. 

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be and why?

I would not want to be anyone else, at least for now.

Five years from now you will be…

I have no idea. i'm not very good at making far fetched plans.

Describe yourself in five words:

I think I am a shy, stubborn, hardworking introvert. 

Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <insert whatever type of music player you use here>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?

Gaba Kulka (amazing Polish singer and songwriter)

Charlotte Geinsborough
Tom Waits
Kate Bush
Radio- I am a real radio addict!

Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft shows?

Just go for it! It is hard work but the feeling of satisfaction compensates a lot. It is really worth an effort.