The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire and empower their community, and continue to gift us with their creativity, these are their stories.
Katya | Katusha Co.
This brand is beloved by makers. Katya’s cute and quirky sense of humour is infused into each piece of Katusha Co. She captures our love of supporting local, any and all animals and pop culture in her beautiful illustrations. They are cheerful, colourful and meaningful! I loved diving deeper with Katya about her brand and she just so happens to offer custom illustrations this time of year, which would make an amazing holiday gift.
How did you come to start Katusha Co.?
It started as a way for me to get creative and it just grew from there. When I was deciding on my career path, my mom essentially said you can either go to art school and move out or you can do something sensible and live at home. I feel like it was her way of making sure I really wanted this. I always had an inkling for art and that never went away and eventually I built my whole career around it. I currently am employed during the day and Katusha Co. became something that was just for me, where I could draw and make the kind of art I wanted.
You recently posted about your day job with the government. I love the idea of your happy, whimsical mind designing for the government, but I imagine it is quite a different design process, how is it balancing what they want with what you want to create?
I think it's no surprise to say the government design is a bit stiff. It was always my goal, when I started this graphic design job, to make the artwork for the government more modern. There are a lot more requirements especially when it comes to featuring both languages, this automatically affects how you plan your design. There are obviously things that I would love to see the government do that are just not feasible because they don't qualify under the bilingualism or the accessibility requirements.
What I usually try to do with my approach to government artwork is; how do we make using accessibility and language at the forefront of my design? How do we still make it relatable? I never have to think that way when designing for Katusha, I can just make what I want. My government work really challenges me in that way, but I find it to be quite an interesting challenge and one that pushes my work in new directions.
What is the meaning behind your brand name Katusha?
It's actually my name, in Russian, the language tends to cutify words, by adding ‘sha’ and ‘a’ to the end of most words. My mom always called me Katusha, so it’s my nickname.
You keep things light and fun on Instagram, but you also are honest and inclusive, for example your sticker ‘Hello my name is anxiety.’ What is the feedback from customers on these pieces that seem simple, but really hit home?
People tend to love them, I think it's because I create what I want to see in the world. Before this I was taking an approach of creating things I thought people would love and I never found happiness in that. I was really creating for somebody else, and not for myself. I have now discovered that the best designs come from something that hits home for me and my anxiety sticker was that. It was the design that helped me, and it helped others as well. It has that element that we want in our art, to see ourselves.
I will say one thing about this sticker. I had a comment that I ended up deleting, somebody posted, “you don't need to know if a person has anxiety, they'll tell you.” Essentially, along the lines of keep it to yourself. I instantly was like no, no, no, this isn't what I foster. I want to relate to others and talk about mental health and this is a really fun way to do it.
Your reels show off a lot of mediums, pencil crayons, ink, paints and digital illustration, do you have a favourite medium to work in?
I'm really into my acrylics right now, which I use a lot. It's a very matte medium, and it's not water soluble. Which means you can't budge it and it's a really nice complement to digital art, which has a lot of blackness. I’ve been loving that it's such a great way to mix colors and just be wild. This year I really pushed into creating for me, and nobody else, and by doing this I really found the joy in mixing random colors, random effects and getting into the chaos. I love to layer and make my art dynamic, fun and have it that each time you look at it, you might see something new.
What pressure do you feel come from being a small business owner?
I think there's a niche of small business owners that don't get the recognition that perhaps we might need. The ones that work full time and do this on the side. Being a small business owner is hard no matter what: you are the founder, the graphic designer, the web developer, and everything else in between, it's a lot, but it’s not your full-time job. For me I found the expectations never stopped and with that I found myself creating too many things. For some reason I thought each launch needed to be six cards, six stickers, prints, and it suddenly became me creating 30 things for every launch and it burnt me out. This is when I stopped, took a step back and tried to find my niche again. I got back into painting illustrations and my sketchbook world. Now if I really truly love something, I'll turn it into a product as opposed to creating things just to be a product.
Lastly what are you currently reading?
The Zodiac Academy this one is a quick read, & the other is The Body Keeps the Score.
Talking with makers is something that brings me pure joy. No matter what we make, whether it is illustrations or clothing we all think the same way. We are looking to make the best, most unique product that our customers will love and have forever. Katusha Co. is about bringing joy, sparking meaningful conversations, but there is also a maker behind these products, who is consciously thinking about how to make pieces that will last forever. Find these pieces online & at her upcoming shows
Freewheeling Craft Holiday Market @ the NAC November 27th
Baby Mama Hustle @ Aberdeen Pavilion December 4th.