An Interview with K'era of k-apostrophe
November 07, 2020
An Interview with K'era of k-apostrophe
Revival: how did you come to this work?
K’era: I had an indirect path - I was academically trained, went to art school, got my bachelors degree in fine arts, studied textile and photography—but I left it all behind when I graduated. I was working in PR for quite a long time, but at some point I realized I was burnt out, and unfulfilled, and I needed to get back to making art.So I came back to it but it’s a complete second career - a rebirth, I guess you could say.
R: Ok cool. So you had this epiphany, and then you started k-apostrophe?
K: I actually had another business first, that I formed with a partner from art school. We did photographic printed sarongs and scarves. We combined our love of photography and textile, and it was a great crash course in setting up a business: figuring out suppliers and manufacturing and pricing and the website and the gross nitty gritty parts of running a company that you don’t think about when you dream of being your own boss! (laughs)
But I eventually realized we had a different vision; I was still spending so much time with this machine to capture the artwork I wanted to create. I was still sitting at a computer manipulating things, and I wanted to do something that's more tactile. I wanted to get my hands dirty.
So, I just decided to create a regular studio practice. And I went back to painting and creating and exploring. I didn’t really have an agenda. I just needed to give myself time and space to figure out what I wanted. I knew it would happen. And it did!
R: I love that. What a gift. Also, you work in so many mediums! Like, I would guess that first and foremost you are a painter, but I’d love to know how you realized you could expand into textile.
K: Not everybody is into art. There’s a higher barrier to entry, and I needed to create a business! Homes are people’s sanctuaries and if there is something I can do to add to that, great. I think a lot of people are more comfortable buying a pillow or a blanket [than a painting]. I hear people say all that all time, like, “I don’t know anything about art”. I mean some people say that about a pillow or a blanket too (laughs), but a couple hundred dollars is really different from a few thousand.
R: We feel you - that’s a big reason we started our business too, because we feel like rugs are affordable art you can live with. You do, though, sell some of your art on your site. What persuaded you to do that?
K: My husband was the one that encouraged me to start selling my artwork again. That was something I was going to keep for myself, and sell only whatever made its way into the woven products. He was the one that was like, you need to sell THIS, you need people to be able to see that this blanket comes from you working with your hands in the studio! That was a confidence thing I had to get over too, because it’s so personal and putting your artwork out there is so vulnerable. Like you don’t have to like my blanket, but the art is putting me raw on paper.
R: That’s fantastic - to have a partner that’s your champion. What does he do?
K: He’s a director. Two crazy artists! Be careful walking into our house because some days we don’t know what’s going on over here.
R: Sounds like a dream house! Can you tell us a little about your art practice and studio routine?
K: My practice is so different now that the business has grown. I try to do something creative every day. You have to maintain that habit. The reality is, spending hours upon hours in my studio every day is not realistic! Because I have a business, for which I'm so grateful. So there are times when I don’t go into my studio and paint - but my creative practice could be journaling, or sketching or doodling - is that ideal? No, but it’s something! And it does help; it does help a lot.
For example on Monday I did something randomly with some friends. I was like, let's do SUN PRINTS! For the simple pleasure of it. And today I got in my studio - I usually try to get there in the morning, when it’s quiet. If I’ve had any dreams, things are top of mind. I stay away from email and phone in the morning because before you know it, it takes over your whole day. I roll outta bed, go to the studio in my pajamas, meditate, and do it! Thankfully, my studio is in my garage, so the commute is really short. But running my own business, I work all the time. The blessing there is that when I work on the weekend, it doesn’t feel like work.
R: That’s true luxury. Can you tell us about the mill where our blankets are produced? Only if you’re comfortable sharing that secret, of course.
K: I don’t believe in that - industry secrets - it comes from a place of fear. There's room for all of us. The work that I’m putting out will look different from your work on a blanket; it's just as simple as that. People will DM me and ask me where I get things made, and I’m like, “Yeah sure here, just contact here!” Also, if you spend a long enough time searching, you will find it. It’s not that hidden.
R: We need this attitude. How did you find them originally?
K: So I knew I was going to do a collection of blankets, that was what I was going to start with. Luckily because of my other business I knew where to look.
R: The internet?
K: The internet! But, there's a lot of information [there] that doesn’t really serve you. I knew for American manufacturing, for interiors, it happens in North Carolina for the most part. One of our other printers was in North Carolina, so that’s where I looked. Mills popped up in Maine and the midwest but they were massive mills, producing for the military, and then I stumbled upon this little family-run mill. I sent an email thinking, if I hear back from them it won’t be right away.
But lo and behold, the VP of the mill called me the next day and left a message. And I was like, wait what! Get outta here!
I saw they did custom orders for colleges, or grandma's birthday. We had the best conversation. They’re just regular, normal, salt-of-the-earth people, and I loved the fact that it was family owned and run and that they called me the next day. Also my dad lives 2 hours away. And then they invited me down!
K: Exactly. I thought, this is a sign, I gotta follow through with it. I flew down, saw my dad, drove two hours to some little town in the middle of nowhere. I met everyone who worked there. It’s run by the original owner’s son who was there, the looms are MASSIVE. You have drive along a road that lines this massive field and I remember the first time I went there were horses just milling about.
R: That sounds amazing.
K: At the time, several years ago, they weren’t busy, but since we’ve started working together they have grown and so have I! The demand is so high they are looking for additional looms to increase their production output. We’re totally codependent - there are so many people that actually touch one blanket and one pillow - we need each other!Well, I probably need them much more than they need me but they make me feel like a valued partner.
I need to be able to talk to somebody that understands my language. So their accessibility made them invaluable to me. I send the file, a tech designer comes in and translates it. But they also have cutters and sewers and everything: people who take care of the machine, cleaning it, people hand-cutting and people sewing.
R: That’s so cool. Can you tell us how it works? What’s the deal with the looms?
K: It’s a lot more complicated than I can explain, but they have these massive German or maybe Belgian looms and I guess there is only one place that makes them.
You won’t find this type of weaving everywhere - they are extremely rare, even across Europe it’s hard to find. The really cool thing is that there are only 8 colors of thread they use.
Regardless of what you send in your artwork file, they are able to capture the color, the exact hue, the precise shade almost 100%. And for my work there is so much texture and they’re able to pick up on that. That's what makes my stuff different - there’s more texture and gestures.
R: Yeah, that’s a big reason why our design director was drawn to your work.
K: I was just amazed when I went in there and they were like ok we only use these 8 colors but we’ll get you all of the colors in your design. My work is digitized and they have certain specs it has to be in, they translate that file into a loom file, so it's like another language - they have a code that the loom needs to operate. Like I said these looms are HUGE - at least a story or two stories tall! But sometimes the threads break, at which point someone must manually go in there and find the thread and fix it.
All I know is I just send something and it magically appears (laughs) and I’m like, perfect!
R: It sounds like an extremely special place, and a valuable relationship. Ok - last question: are there any influences, or artists or vibes or works you love? Right now or in general?
There are so many! It's hard to narrow it down. Last week we were watching a documentary called My Octopus Teacher, which is a super endearing story about how a man reconnects to himself through his relationship with an octopus.
I looked at the title and was like wtf - and then I was like, I’m watching this.
I was so taken with the color. I had some markers lying around and they weren’t the right markers but I had to capture it anyways. I’m sure it was color corrected, but we just never get to see the undersea world, these incredible kelp forests and how the octopus is able to camouflage herself by changing colors to match the anemones.
It’s those things that arrive in unexpected places or times that I value most.
R: Right, you were just on Netflix. You weren’t anticipating the octopus!
K: It’s that type of experience that really crystalizes [inspiration]. Of course I have artists and places I love but … stuff like that is like burned into my mind.
R: Wow I can’t wait to watch this.
K: You have to. The protagonist of the documentary simply started going every day, snorkeling, and then he kept going deeper and deeper, and eventually documented their relationship. Octopus are this very shy and skittish type of animal not to mention extremely intelligent and this particular one had this amazing capacity to bond with another species. It’s just crazy.