For the second installment of our monthly series About Her Business, TSU profiles maker and business owner Kira Tippenhauer of Kiramade. Check out out first installment here.
TSU: Tell us about your business. What kind of products or services do you offer?
Kiramade (www.kiramade.com) is a design line consisting of modern handmade ceramic homeware, ranging from functional items (dinnerware, cups and bowls) to decorative pieces (lidded vessels and planters) all handcrafted by me in my home-studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Through my business, I also offer workshops and classes teaching children and adults the basics of working with clay. I also illustrate, work with photography collages, and often share and sell my other creations on social media and on my website.
TSU: What inspires your work?
My Afro-Caribbean roots, for sure! There’s no doubt about it. I grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I was born there. My parents are also Haitian, in fact, our Haitian roots can be traced all the way back to Toussaint L’Ouverture! I’ve always been proud of my island upbringing and I’ve always valued my connection to its beauty, its rich history and culture, despite the fact my country has been in a persistent state of turmoil for my entire life. Haiti is home to me and a huge part of my identity. While most people see bright colors and lush floral patterns when you think of a tropical environment, I personally think of a much more simple palette, reflective of the simple life we lead growing up in Haiti. Hence, why most of my current ceramic work is presented in its naked form and finished with a partial white glaze, a piece of driftwood, or woven raffia handles. These three particular accents reflect my tropical and Afro Caribbean roots, are drawn from childhood memories and are elemental to my current work.
TSU: Walk us through your process. Where do you start when you’ve got an idea for a new design?
This is perfect, because I’m currently developing a new line for the Spring of 2017 and I’m happy to walk you through the process! I wanted to continue creating work that reflected my identity, but share a little more of my Haitian culture. So I’m working on three new series that I feel represent not only the city I grew up in, Port-au-Prince, but two other towns my family and I often travelled to — Kenskoff, which is in the mountain (think 60 degree weather, a thick denim jacket, and locally grown wild mint tea) and Jacmel, which is a coastal city in the south of Haiti (think Mardi Gras, but with handcrafted costumes and instruments made with local materials). To reflect these feelings and memories in this Spring 2017 collection, I’m combining other materials with ceramics. For the Port-au-Prince Series, I’m weaving vintage fabrics that were once part of school or work uniforms, this representing the hardworking life people lead in the city. For the Kenskoff Series, I’ve collected this long velvet blue rope that was once part of these old curtains from our Kenskoff cabin and will be implemented in a series of ceramic jewelry. And for the Jacmel Series, I’ve chosen a color palette that I felt reflected the jovial and festive atmosphere of Mardi-Gras and will create a series of marbled dinnerware, cups, and bowls with colored clay. I’ve completed a few samples of the Port-au-Prince and Kenskoff series, and need to do some color corrections for the Jacmel series. Nonetheless, things are well underway, so stay tuned for the Kiramade Spring 2017 collection!
TSU: What experiences have influenced how you approach your business today?
I’m happy to admit that I’m able to create small batches of ceramics and market/sell my work to a generally eco-conscious audience, thanks to the Slow Movement. The Slow Foods and Slow Fashion movements have been encouraging sustainable local production, awareness of heritage, and strong connections to local culture and community, and thanks to this much more sensitive audience, I’m able to sustain myself as a local ceramic maker and teacher.
TSU: What’s the most challenging aspect of running your own business? The most rewarding?
Ouf! Although I have a worldwide community of ceramic enthusiasts supporting and buying my work, I still come across moments where I doubt myself and the success of Kiramade. These negative thoughts/insecurities can get in the way of being productive and sometimes can be very challenging to overcome. Sometimes I’m also afraid that the business side might ruin the fun and creative side of Kiramade, which is why it’s important to find and maintain the balance between the two aspects of the business. The most rewarding part of this business is after the number of trials and errors in testing materials, color palettes, overall researching and creating a design line, finally seeing your ideas come to life feels amazing, and the best part of it is when people connect with your creations, invest in it, and put it in their home. It generates a great sense of accomplishment.
TSU: What are your goals for your business in 2017?
In the course of 2016, I participated at one craft fair, every month. This brought a lot of exposure and sales to my business. For the year 2017, I’d love to push it to having a craft fair event every weekend or at least 4 craft fairs every month. I’m dedicated to meet this goal, to the point where I started exercising more, having a better sleep schedule, and making overall healthier choices to get in better shape so that I can keep up with studio production, fulfill my online sales and marketing tasks, and participate at a craft fair event every weekend without tiring myself physically.
TSU: Any advice for women looking to start their own ventures?
When in self-doubt, push harder. This advice is particularly for women who don’t believe they can run their very own business. I’ll be the first to admit that it comes with its challenges, but you have to find a way to place yourself above the negative thoughts and push on through. The same way you have a “hypercritical committee” residing in your head instilling self-doubt, somewhere inside that same head, you also have the strength to overcome any obstacle you face. You can do this and I highly encourage you to push. on. through.
Photos courtesy of Kari Ann Camacho of JCKC Productions