KITIYA PALASKAS- CREATIVITY + CRAFT
Ever wonder, ‘what exactly is a craft-based designer and what do they do?’ Well then meet this week’s guest, Kitiya Palaskas. In this episode Kitiya will discuss how she got her start in this industry, how she stays creative in this crazy, tips to get reaching out and staying on big brands radar, and advice for turning your creative passion into a career.
Kitiya Palaskas is an Australian craft-based designer, author and speaker with a multi-disciplinary practice. She specialises in prop and installation design, content creation, illustration and workshops, focusing primarily on using handmade techniques and traditional craft methods re-imagined in contemporary ways. Her work is characterised by its bold colours and quirky themes and has spanned the retail, music, advertising and publishing industries. Her clients have included: Lego, Etsy, The Washington Post, Warner Music, Amazon, Bailey Nelson, Frankie Magazine and Lily Allen, among others. She is the author of Piñata Party, a DIY craft book available in Australia, the UK and the USA.
TELL THE LISTENERS ABOUT WHAT YOU DO.
Ever wonder what a craft-based designer is and what do they actually do? Meet Kitiya Palaskas. A crafter who’s been in the business for 11 years, she first came up with this term because she realized the niche offerings of her business, which is “producing handmake, bespoke, things that exist for commercial design clients,” she says, exists between the craft and design world.
You have to remember, that up until 2010 campaign work for big brands came from photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, artists. There were hardly, if any people, using crafting techniques to build and handmake props and installations for big brand campaigns and photo shoots.
HISTORY (WHERE DID YOUR LOVE OF CRAFTING EMERGE? AND HOW DID IT BECOME A JOB?)
While growing up, Kitiya was always super crafty and when it was time for college she decided to major in fine art. Throughout university she used crafting as the basis for everything she did. Right as she graduated, Etsy was just launched and Kitiya saw this as an opportunity to try her hand at fashion and launch her own brand. After a while, she realized that the fashion industry wasn’t something she wanted to be a part of, and instead started assisting stylists on sets and making props and crafts for models to wear during shoots. It was during this time that she realized her passion was creating bespoke things for campaigns and shoots and really giving sleek commercials projects a handmade touch.
Since that moment, Kitiya has worked with a ton of brands from all over the world and brought her style and unique handmade items to their campaigns. Recently, Kitiya launched her newest side project—a collection of vintage homeware. “I get these ideas and I get so passionate about them and I just have to see them through. Life's short you just gotta like like your dreams,” she recommends.
HOW DO YOU STAY INSPIRED?
When it comes creativity and inspiration, Kitiya does this by taking in the world around her, (i.e, looking at old signs, souvenirs, patterns, and flowers and visiting thrift shopping or “opp shopping” if you’re in Australia) really tries to get her inspiration from the physical world rather than the digital one. "I think it's really easy to think that you're looking for inspiration as you're scrolling through Pinterest or scrolling through Instagram feed, but really you're just absorbing the ideas of other people. I know that's what inspiration is, but it's really hard when you then want to use your inspiration to create original work if the core inspiration came from somebody else's work because it starts to form this rehashing cycle, where your work starts looking like everything else on Pinterest,” she says.
Another way she keeps herself inspired and sane is by getting her body moving through weight training and will give her mind a break by watching trashy TV and Law & Order SVU.
YOU’VE WORKED WITH HUGE BRANDS LIKE ADOBE, LEGO, AMAZON AND MORE. TELL US ABOUT WORKING WITH BRANDS? WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY FOR OUTREACH? OR DO THESE BRAND DEALS JUST LAND IN YOUR LAP?
Kitiya enjoys working with brands for many different reasons. They typically have higher budgets which allows her to really get creative and imaginative in what she can do for them. Along with getting to see her work published and be part of major campaigns across the world, one of the main reasons she enjoys working with such big name brands is because she’s able to go on set which is one of her favorite things to do.
While working with bigger name brands does require more planning and strategy, she really enjoys the challenge and opportunity to create unique one-of-a-kind pieces for their campaigns.
These brands get pitched all day long and have multiple campaigns running for different aspects of their business all the time. So you wanna make it really easy for them and clear for them to see exactly how they could use you
HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY GET IN FRONT OF THESE COMPANIES?
When it comes to getting in front of big name brands, Kitiya has a tried and true three step process that she follows.
The first step is to make friends with someone from the brand on Instagram—typically it’s whoever is in charge with running that company's social media accounts. It’s important to remember that for bigger companies, many of them actually run their social media through other agencies, so it’s always good to get on creative and digital agency radars. Then once you’ve made friends with someone at the company/brand, it’s important that you comment on all of their posts in an organic way. Did they use an interesting color scheme for their latest project? Comment on it and why you liked it. Did they release new and innovative campaigns? Give them a shout out as to what you liked most about it. Things like this are what Kitiya believes helps develop an authentic connection between you and the company.
Then once you’ve got their attention, and successfully slid into their DMs, it’s time for step two—building a rapport with them. When building your rapport with them, ask for their email address and then send them over a clear idea on how the two of you could collaborate together. “These brands get pitched all day long and have multiple campaigns running for different aspects of their business all the time. So you wanna make it really easy for them and clear for them to see exactly how they could use you,” she says.
Lastly, when you have the brand as a client or a warm lead it’s important to stay on their radar. Kitiya does this by including her current and past clients a bulletin note once a quarter. In these emails she’ll include work that she’s recently done as well as more specific content about the industry links to blog posts she thinks they’ll like and want to utilize in their next campaign. By sending out these emails quarterly, she’s staying on top of their minds right when they’re reevaluating budgets and keeping an authentic relationship with them.
“It's not just about what you can get from them, but it's about how you can nurture them once they are your client and keep them on your list," she comments.
WHAT WAS YOUR JOB LIKE BEFORE COVID, AND NOW WHAT IS IT LIKE?
2020 was a big year for Kitiya in terms of realizing how she structured her career. With her business focusing on creating works for events, instialliations, workshops, and things like that brought to a dead halt, she had to come to the scary realization that for the first time in her career, creating props to be her main source of income. Like many of us over the past year, she pivoted in order to keep her business afloat and switch to fully digital service offering. She focused on creating content packages for brands through her crafts, creating a craft club via Zoom, and other things.
It was during this time that she realized that who she is as a maker doesn’t have to make solely props. In fact, the prop industry, which she’s always loved working in, is relentless and was forcing her to burn herself out. With that realization, she wanted to focus on working smarter not harder in the future through continuing with some of her new virtual brand offerings.
Post COVID, like many of us, Kitiya has plans to travel. In 2021 she hopes to plan a sabbatical for a month or two, where she visits her friends in the US and creative and collaborative with them on fulfilling projects.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CREATIVES WHO ARE STRUGGLING CREATIVELY?
First, it’s important to understand that everyone is struggling creatively—we’re in a pandemic after all. Also, understand that everyone, no matter the creative field, has at some point struggled with creativity. Kitiya’s main advice is to realize that your creativity isn’t going anywhere, be gentle on yourself, and take time for yourself. “Self care and well-being need to come first! Because if you don't feel great like that, then you're not going to be able to be your most creative and authentic self and that's the thing that brands and clients want to work with you for,” she comments.
If you're struggling with finding time to get your creative juices flowing, she suggests putting a time block for 30-minutes and just looking through your old inspiration books, playing with the materials you typically use, or even just being present in that 30 minutes and acknowledging that this is your time to be creative.
First thing to do is just start putting your work out there! Don't worry too much about having a fully realized brand from the get-go, before you begin, because you might never feel ready then.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CREATIVES WHO WANT TO START MAKING MONEY FROM THEIR CREATIVE PASSION?
Kitiya believes that a lot of people are holding themselves back because they believe they need to have this perfect brand before they can start working. Instead, her philosophy and suggestion to all new creatives is to “just start putting your work out there. Don't worry too much about having a fully realized brand from the get-go, before you begin because you might never feel ready then.”
Once you start, Kitiya believes that the rest will flow naturally and over time you’ll start to learn more about your services, products, and your brand in general. While learning all of these things on the job, she also recommends taking a course, like GCC’s, to help you learn and scale your business. But, she points out, you want to pick one small thing to learn first, like growing your business via Instagram or email marketing, rather than trying to learn everything at once.
Lastly understand that your journey to being a creative entrepreneur is unique and can’t and shouldn’t be compared to everyone else's. It’s okay to go slow and steady when launching your business, as it gives you time to better reflect on your brand and allow it to grow naturally without having to put a ton of pressure on yourself.
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