We want to share with you some inspiring people we have come across on our own creative journey and share an insight into their creative practices, inspirations and projects.
This month’s creative interview is specially dedicated to all women in business, as a celebration to International Women's Day this 8th of March 2022.
We welcome Kitiya Palaskas to this interview series.
Kitiya is an Australian craft-based designer and creative with a multidisciplinary practice. Her work ranges from illustration to installation, content creation and workshop facilitation, among others. She is widely recognised for the hand-crafted signature in her work, which she applies so creatively to contemporary platforms and media.
We have known Kit’s work for a while and have always loved her use of bright colours and how she recovers traditional craft methods. Her stop-motions made in paper or modelling clay, felt sculptures, and diy tutorials bring us a soft nostalgia for those of us who grew up in a non-digital era.
She is also the author of Piñata Party, a craft book published by Hardie Grant. You can find her book for sale on her website here. Or in online shops like Booktopia and Qbd Books.
We talked to Kit this month, and asked her to share some insights of her life and work.
Can you please describe your creative practice and when did this start to be your job?
I am a craft-based designer and content creator working across the retail, events, advertising and entertainment industries. 12 years ago I founded my business, Kitiya Palaskas Studio, specialising in producing work for commercial clients using primarily handmade techniques. Now we specialise in prop and installation design, DIY content creation, public art and events, and creative workshop facilitation. After graduating from art school in 2006 I founded my first business, an online clothing and accessories label called Heartbreaker, while working as a stylist's assistant. The stylist knew I was crafty and would cmmission me to make bespoke handmade props, sets, and costume pieces for her shoots - which was a service that wasn't really being provided in the industry at the time. She would recommend me to her other stylist and creative director friends, which led to my first "proper" client job - creating costumes for a Wolfmother film clip. After that, the ball really started rolling. Craft and handmade design was experiencing a revival at the time - you'd see handmade elements starting to pop up in typography, advertising, editorial campaigns etc. Because what I was offering was so niche, I was able to carve out a little corner of the industry for myself and start to forge a career path in craft-based design. The work we do in my Studio really bridges the gap between craft and design and that's a space I find fascinating to work within. I want to show through my work that handmade techniques have a place in the commercial design world and can be applied to all sorts of design outcomes in really unique and unconventional ways.
Where does this intense creative drive and your original ideas come from? Do you link it to your childhood or a specific period/influence in your life?
I have to attribute a lot of my craftiness to my mum, who is a true Craft Queen. She's a prolific maker, proficient in so many different craft forms, from quilting to textile art, basket making, weaving, embroidery, fashion design - you name it. My dad is an incredible photographer too, so creativity is truly in my DNA. I grew up being heavily influenced by punk music and really resonating with the DIY ethos of that scene. There's also that spirit of rebellion and straying from the status quo there that was really attractive to me also. These things were incredibly formative for me and as a result I developed this passion and drive to live life on my own terms, and make things happen for myself rather than waiting for opportunities to come my way. So combining these beliefs with my love for art, design, and making really created this fertile space for me to pursue creativity as a career. I just couldn't imagine doing anything else and I was really stubborn and determined to make those dreams happen for myself. In terms of where my ideas come from - I am always absorbing things - I get so much inspiration from things around me, from everyday objects, to books, to travelling, to life experiences... I'm like an inspiration sponge, and there's always a pool of ideas to draw from. That's not to say I don't feel uninspired at times, I think everyone does, but there always seems to be a little pilot light left on inside me, even when I'm feeling burnt out that keeps my creativity going somehow. Maybe it's that stubbornness that helps keep that going!
What is your stance towards digital vs handmade techniques?
I believe there is a place for both digital and handmade techniques in design, and I find the act of combining the two extremely exciting. Even though I work with handmade techniques, most of the work I do goes through some form of digital process - whether that be the designs created in digital form to be cut on a machine for me to then assemble by hand, or a digital print being applied to a fabric surface for me to then craft from... the two are constantly linked and I love that. We do live in a very digital world, and we absorb A LOT of content on a daily basis. I think one of the main reasons that my work resonates so much with people is because there is a certain authenticity and human connection that comes from looking at something handmade. When you can tell that a human has built something with their own two hands, that tactility makes you feel like you can reach out and touch it and in doing so, connects you with the maker on a personal level. That kind of authenticity builds trust in an audience. So, when brands use my craft-based design work in their campaigns, that same authentic connection is forged with their customers, and that's really valuable from a brand building perspective. All that being said, my work couldn't be what it is without some kind of digital process happening behind the scenes! It's a harmonious partnership.
You have worked and collaborated with big brands like Adobe, Amazon, Lego and Sony Music. Tell us more about these experiences. How did they get to you, and what do you think is that they like so much about your work?
I feel fortunate to have forged my career before the era of social media! I say fortunate because it meant as I was establishing myself as a professional designer I couldn't rely on social media like I can today to get the word out there about my work. I built my brand's reputation through word of mouth, networking, and personal connections. At the start, referrals were GOLD, and for me this is still the case. It wasn't about how many followers I had on Instagram, or my engagement rate, or any kind of vanity metric, it was literally a creative director chatting to their producer friend about a new project, and the producer mentioning me as someone who might be a good fit, and the connection happening from there. Or, me meeting a stylist at an event or on set, having a laugh with them, and then 5 years later getting referred by them for a job. I've always worked by the ethos of "make friends, not contacts". It's these personal connections that lead me to the majority of my big brand clients. In terms of why they are drawn to my work, I think it's like I said above, I'm offering something niche and different, and there's a power in handmade to forge that authentic connection with an audience and I feel that's attractive to clients.
Any exciting projects coming up soon that you’d like to share with us today?
I've always got something fun and at times random on the go! I'm open to all sorts of opportunities (the sky's the limit!) because I find it really interesting to apply my craft-based design style to different types of projects. 2022 is still unfolding for me, and as we now know all too well, who knows what it will bring, but there's some fun stuff coming up - a few exciting brand collaborations, a book cover design (my first!), a new side business I'm hoping to start... and hopefully lots of time to indulge in making stuff for myself and for pure enjoyment, not just for work. That's really important to me!
Lastly, we just want to highlight the free resources you have available on your website. We think it’s very generous of you to share these step-by-step craft ideas with the public, along with a free craft activity book! How do you have time to do so much?
It's a challenge! I hate the idea of being a martyr to my business but unfortunately I am very prone to getting sucked into the "grind". I love what I do so much so I have to be very conscious about balance, and not letting my work take over my life, because a lot of the time it doesn't feel like work because it's my passion! I could literally stay up all night making fun DIYs and creating stuff for my audience, but that has led me to burn out many times. I am very ambitious and a high achiever, and this means I overstretch myself a lot. I think the key to not burning out is to try and work smarter, not harder. I have put a lot of systems and routines in place for my business that are designed to make it possible for me to run it efficiently, get work done, and have time to create fun stuff too. Maintaining boundaries with myself and with others to protect my time and energy is extremely important as well. Getting all of this right is a huge work in progress for me, and an ongoing challenge. But even just having the consciousness there to be aware of these things is a step in the right direction.