Do I need school to be...

a creative maker and paper artist? with Karen Fernández

October 29, 2021 Alex Villacís Season 1 Episode 14
Do I need school to be...
a creative maker and paper artist? with Karen Fernández
Show Notes Transcript

This was one of the first episodes I recorded, with the wonderful paper artist Karen Fernández from Indigo Craftroom. Her work focuses around paper Marbling & Japanese Bookbinding and sharing everything I know about traditional crafts. In this episode we talked about:

  • How one workshop pushed her into a creative career
  • Organising bookbinding workshops
  • Running her own studio and what does Indigo mean
  • Creating digital and physical product
    And more! 

Curious about bookbinding and other paper magic made by Karen? Here are some links to Indigo Craftroom: 

Website
Instagram
Shop
Blog
Newsletter
Freebie ‘My Top 10 Paper Marbling Tips & Tricks’

 In an effort to make this podcast accessible, we make transcripts of every episode. You’ll find the transcripts on our website here,
https://doineedschooltobe.buzzsprout.com

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Karen Fernndez:

Probably because of my maybe lacking background and it has to be really friendly and open. And you know, like like you were having just a conversation with a friend so there is no

Alex Villacis:

Hello friends and welcome back to another episode of Do I need school to be the podcast in which me Alex is going to sit down with people in the creative field or who are creative in their field to ask them about their education. We're all different and we all learn in different ways and I want to talk about it. I want to know if formal informa online for essential methods box mentor, I want to know about all those things. So here we are having those fun conversations. And hopefully if you're looking into transition into one of those fields, you'll see some interesting tips and you'll get some support on your creative journey today. My guest today is Kevin Fernandez, who is a creative maker paper artist bookbinder marbling genius. I actually took one of her courses in person when we actually could go places and take courses long before the pandemic when she was living in the Netherlands. And I went to delve with a friend of mine because it sounded fun. We kicked it off. And yeah, she's a great teacher. I love to see her as one of my teachers when it comes to bookbinding. And I bought her products. They're all Gray's so in this episode, we'll be talking about her journey with Indigo craft Rome, are we talking about her journey, as a teacher learning the craft and so on. I hope you enjoy these really fun episode with my guest, Gavin Fernandes. Hi, Karen, and welcome to the podcast. How are you today?

Karen Fernndez:

Hello. Thank you. Thank you very much for inviting me. Well, just excited to share my story with you. And yeah, everyone who is listening to us today.

Alex Villacis:

So let's begin, let's tell the audience like who you are and what you're currently working on.

Karen Fernndez:

Well, I'm Karen, I am 32 years old. And currently I'm living in Munich in Germany. I am. I like to say creative maker more than parties or anything else. Kind of a mix. I come originally from Venezuela, and I live in Spain and in the Netherlands too. And while I get a we will go dive a little bit more into all my, my learning and my career path. But I actually started journalism. So I consider myself after journalism. But I started my own company in 2000 at Indigo craftroom. And this is my creative career, let's say and what I hoped to be sharing today with you.

Alex Villacis:

That's great. And for those who don't know what Indigo craft is, yeah. What do you do? Exactly? Because you do a huge fan of a lot of things.

Karen Fernndez:

Thank you. Yeah, well, I'm in the your craft room. It start in 2018. While I was living in the Netherlands, when I moved there, I knew I was like, in that moment of my life that I knew I wanted to do something creative, I needed to do something with my hands, after many years working just in an office in front of a computer. So it was like a kind of a I need to you know, be creative in that moment. And first, into your craft room was only an online shop where I sold on all my handmade books. So I went to some markets in the Netherlands and it was everything like small unmake, up. And since then it's it's well it has changed. And now I not only sell my own my handmade books, but I also sell or share with others all about bookbinding modern supply so everyone who has a passion for bookbinding for modelling they can find in my shop all the materials. And since I think 2019 I start also giving workshops It was first of all offline workshops and since COVID then also online workshops and webinars so it keeps developing I don't know what it's gonna be into your craft for next year. But yeah, and as an intrapreneur I consider myself right like you said, I do a lot of stuff like not just the creative the product design, in the making process itself, but also a lot of marketing social media. Also kishin which again, Yeah, newsletter Of course blogs. Yeah, it's well, I will say, content content creator and maker. That could work as a definition of what I do for Indigo craftroom.

Alex Villacis:

It's gonna be fun to figure out what I'm going to title this episode because the podcast is called, do I need school to be feeling what you're and I was thinking of putting creative maker bookbinder paper artist, I was like bouncing a lot of things in my head. But I think creative maker is the best one because you're putting your creativity into everything that you do. Yeah, yeah, that's a that's a good title. As a person that has bought your products, and I have, I especially loved the amount of care and creativity that you put into the packaging, even. It's all these, it has all these layers, how you're not just putting the book by the needles, in a plastic packaging, you're actually made a piece to fit the needles in. So there is there is this level of care and creativity to every single part of the experience. And that's also taking your workshops. They're so fun, and I don't know it oozes out of you these creativity. Thank you. How did you get into this bookbinding paper marbling? How did you get into it? Because feels that very niche to me?

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, totally. Totally. So I think it was back in 2017 or so. I was living back in that time in Munich two, and I had the typical nine to five office job. And I was like, Well, you know, I want to do something else just to relax and do something in the evenings not just working. And I started looking for, for worships. And well, I, I work also for publishing houses that I had something to do with books, I was already like, in the book industry. And I thought it would be nice to see how books are made, and learn how how they are traditionally made. So I took a, I took a bookbinding workshop, and we learned a typical tradition, traditional binding techniques. And we had an evening we have a model. And at first I was like, Oh, you know, I don't really want to go to this lesson. Because it's Marty, what's that? You know, I the idea of Marvin I had was just this antiquarian books, that looks pretty old and brown and sad. And he was not ready for me. But I thought, you know, okay, let's go. So, so I took the class. And while I was fascinated, I really loved the modelling. It was very relaxing. And when when I start brainstorming for my own business idea for Indigo craft room, I knew that okay, I want to take this this craft is mobbing and bookbinding and mixed them and create something with them. So this is where everything start. And since then, while I have just been keep learning and reading books and watching video tutorials, and this is how, how I learned and how I yeah.

Alex Villacis:

So cool. And I have a question Where did the name Indigo craft Come come from?

Karen Fernndez:

Good question. I think that it didn't really I mean, it doesn't have like a biggest story behind so it was I love the colour blue. And it was like well, you know, blue indigo, it has also something to do with the Japanese culture. So Indigo is very typical in traditional Japanese crafts. If you think of indigo and she body so it was already there something so I thought blue doesn't doesn't doesn't sound very cool. So but Indigo. And, and craftroom was the idea just, you know, having your own craft like this. I always dream of having a place where it's a mix of chop and a mix of workshops. Something where people can just join and be there and explore creativity. So yeah, there was the combination of these two three words and that's that was actually yeah, nothing really fancy. Just it

Alex Villacis:

still sounds really cool. And to be honest, yeah, indigo sounds more mystical than blue.

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, yeah, indeed. So it has also, if you look, if you aren't if you Google or if you look for indigo, then you see this very intense blue and he was also this Special blue indigo that gives me also some some calm serenity that was also kind of what I wanted to express with walk with my work.

Alex Villacis:

Wow, that's awesome. It's also from from what I hear you're mostly self taught like you took one workshop one time and then you just follow your curiosity.

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, kind of so I didn't really it was just shorter workshops maybe a weekend or a couple of days and then from that I just start making so it's it's, it's I think the only way I know how to how to learn a new craft or a new hobby or a new technique. Yeah, it was okay. I know the basics. So from here, then just experimenting and a lot of trial error of course.

Alex Villacis:

Of course. Of course. In the end, that's the best teacher trial and error. Just be like yeah, that did not work.

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, it's probably not the short, the shortest way. Maybe some of this not as smart as going but I think for me, it's the only way that I that I know that it works for me.

Alex Villacis:

That's great and I've seen in your work because I follow you on social media that you're even doing marbling on textiles.

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, that's also well there there are a lot of things that you can still I can still learn and experiment when it comes to mobbing. And yeah, of course one of them is it's also on fabrics. It's not yet my favourite material tomorrow because I really love with paper but but yeah, of course then you can also try it with other paints and there are a lot of new things that you can learn and endless possibilities

Alex Villacis:

and I personally think that there is this beauty to being self taught it's that you're following your own curiosity and you can learn you're essentially teaching yourself you are going through everything and looking at okay I made this mistake I'm gonna go back and check it or I'm gonna or you look at something you made you're like I'm gonna give myself feedback on it that's actually something that I wanted to touch in the podcast about and I wanted to ask you in the past before before Indigo craft Did you have any teachers that you were like wow this person really taught me or this person really cared especially really pushed me or somebody that taught you a lesson that you see Wow, I'm applying that today in my work

Karen Fernndez:

I don't think so really. So I first I tried to figure out this this question and it a little bit of brainstorming and so I don't really think of like a someone or a T shirt that pushed me in that way I guess there is more just life experiences like Like for instance I know from you know from your family or for instance my mom which is someone is someone that is just always okay let's try this I will figure out how to do it or are also from other jobs I had what I had to work you know improvise figure out things had to be done so I had to be creative in that moment so I think it's more about this life experiences so I believe that I had well because of my of my own journey of first being born in Venezuela and moving to Spain and to Germany I have been you know in touch with too many different people and cultures and and societies though that's also for me like really life school I think that that's that's probably then yeah the best teaching or the best teacher I had

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, and that and that comes with being self taught with being just seeing every single experience every experience is a learning experience. And you and me that we have migrated so much and they have changed countries so much we have that that we can look at a situation and be like okay, I'm gonna take a little bit from this one I'm gonna I'm gonna take a little bit from now and just put it all together Yeah, because they're teachers everywhere and now you are a teacher yourself because you mentioned your teaching you taught me so

Karen Fernndez:

it's it's always weird this word. Yeah, I mean I don't sometimes I use the word teacher because it just is easier you know to explain to others Okay, what I do, for instance, for the workshops, but I don't know if I you know, the word t shirt is just remind me like Someone in a school you know, the typical teacher in basic school that it's I don't know, not really the kind of teacher I want to be.

Alex Villacis:

So what, what can the teacher Do you want to be?

Karen Fernndez:

Well, I think the kind of teacher I am right now. And I still I want to keep in this slide it for me, it's important to be to be there for you to really teach you step by step that's very important to me. So one step at a time, one thing at a time. Also, to be someone that doesn't say always, this is wrong, this is right. For me in my worship, there is there is not really a right or wrong way of doing something. So I usually just plain how I learned this, I maybe give some tips and give some advice on all you can try this, you can try that. And then I hope and I just tell my students, you know, you have to find your own way of of learning this technique. So sometimes there are no like, for instance, for bookbinding, there are some people, we have a typical tool, which is called bookbinding. Oh, and there's like a punching tool, something you can punch holes in paper, and I had my own way, and other bookbinders have their own way, you know that you have to find your own way. So so this is I try to give people the tips and some advice and let them know, okay, no, try it and look for what it feels right to you. What works the best to you. And, apart from that, I don't know, I mean that it has to be seen all of my worships. And that's probably because of my maybe Latin background. And it has to be really friendly and open. And, you know, like, like you were having just a conversation with a friend. So there is no, I don't know, in other countries. For instance, in Germany, people it's very formal. So there are these, if you go to a workshop, if you attend occurs, they are very formal. So it's just like really the teacher and the students and you have to be very polite in the way how you speak to and how they refer to you. And that's not I mean, in my courses, it's really like, like we are friends. And we're just talking about these crafts. And I like to walk just create an environment that it's very cosy and that everybody feels secure and that they don't have any fears of learning something new. Yeah,

Alex Villacis:

I can confirm that. Hi, everyone, it's Alex just wanted to interrupt the episode for a little bit to let you know that if you're using Apple podcast, you might not be able to see the links in the show notes. If you're not subscribed to the show. subscribing has a lot of benefits. Aside from having access to the links. It helps support the podcasting community. It lets the app know what podcast you'd like to make a suggestion about a podcast or a more interesting array of podcasts. So I would highly recommend that also it helps to show and gives you a more round experience and allows you access to the information about my guests. I like to put links to their shops, I like to put links to their information to their social media accounts. And if they have any interesting events, I will also put them on the show notes. So I can highly recommend that. And yeah, if for example, if you go in this episode, you'll see links to Karen's shops, amazing products, I have to say, and a lot more. So I'm going to stop babbling now. And I gotta let you go back to the episode with Karen Fernnnez. It's the truth. In the end. I think that there are teachers who want to make more of themselves, they just want to replicate themselves into other people, or just teach the way they learned or just push the technicalities. But from my experience with you and from what I want to give people the map, but don't tell them how to go there.

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, I mean, I think that also has to be with the fact that most of my workshops are for beginners. So it's usually people that hasn't tried that before that they don't really have an idea of Oh, what bookbinding what is marbling? What are these tools? So they are like, okay, you don't know anything? I'm gonna show you the basics I'm gonna give you this this first concepts and then you can start just working your technique and your way up, though. It's not. Yeah, I guess that if it's someone that already has some previous knowledge they probably will have also some preconceptions and they are going to be probably less open mind about maybe my teaching style so but so far everybody was lucky and happy

Alex Villacis:

yeah I mean there's a there's a there's a lid for every pot I think that is that's what that's what the saying is that everybody finds a teacher you find that the right teacher for you and not everybody's the right teacher for everybody especially when it comes to these creative things that match has to be right and the match has to be correct and these teaching style that you have that come from you from how you're you were mentioning your mom before how your mom approached life or did you have any teachers that you said that's how I want to teach or anybody else social media any distant mentor that you said yeah that's that's something that I want to do or is just what's come quite what comes naturally to you it's

Karen Fernndez:

probably a mix so yeah, what I mentioned before like I think I have just too much background it's just too different and so I guess there is a mix of all of that experiences so I know for instance while I was in the Netherlands and I was giving my workshops there people was so so kind and so open and so warm you know like I can't get it's a bit different in Germany so I tried to for instance bring a little bit of this yeah this Dutch spirit to my classes, which is also a little bit more like like Latin America like you're a more warm up people and yeah, just just only an example but of course like I mentioned before for instance for my mom I know that I'm very well organised and I love planning and it's very important to me that my worships are perfectly organised and prepared so I guess that for instance something I got from my monitor also from all the jobs I had but I was very important that that everything is perfect in the day of the event or in the venue So yeah, that's and i don't i don't think Yeah, I don't I don't want to just mentioned one person or one t shirt so I guess as I say it's a mix

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, it's a combination of different things like all the experiences shaped you and then they turn you into this type of teacher that creates this very welcoming environment gives people space to just be creative like I remember in the workshop we were doing the kettle stitch Yeah, and I just started putting different papers to make like different layers of paper and you were like that's great it looks awesome I'm yeah not not point I had not thought at no point that I think Did you say no don't do it like this was a good experiment take the we have the I remember you also put like coloured papers on the table yeah that's a yeah take whatever you want experiment play he was a very playful there was there was space to just explore and test things yeah,

Karen Fernndez:

yeah, yeah, that's that's important to me. I mean, like, I'm very prepared for all of my workshops I have like a route like okay, this is what I want to share with you what I want to teach you so it's important of course, that we go through all these steps so that at the end, you go home knowing more than when you came in. But there is of course room for for experimentation. And I'm also always surprised by how creative people is like like many many, many students that come to my workshop they The first thing to say is like, Oh no, I'm not creative. Oh, I can I can do this. Or you know, we have still this this mentality, this mindset, and, and then I love her, you know, they start working on the project as they're doing their book, or mowing their papers. And at the end, they are like, oh, wow, I did this. They did, and they're surprised by how creative they, they were and and also, as you say before, like, you start just putting some papers in between like, Yeah, sometimes people just in the students Yeah, they just come out with some colour combinations, or with the mixing some materials that at first, I didn't plan like really didn't I want to think of mixing for instance, this and this colour, and then people during the worship, they just do it, and we both realise, oh, that's actually cool.

Alex Villacis:

That's really nice. And especially because then it switches then you're learning from them. Oh, yeah. And mute. So there is still always these. I think that comes from the fact that you're you're not these formal, super hierarchical stature of teacher in which the teacher is always a teacher. Yeah, but you allow space For it to swap to be like, okay, now I'm going to learn a little bit from you, and you're going to learn from me and you're going to learn from you and from me and yeah, it's beautiful, especially in creative education, because there is there's so subjective. And we can all learn from each other so much. To my, my next question is like, how do you see? So now you're teaching online, in through online workshops? And you put a lot of content in your newsletter, and you're giving all these avenues to get knowledge? Do you think that's something that's going to move forward? Or what do you see design education, like creative education going?

Karen Fernndez:

Well, I'm surprised by amazed by how many online courses have been launched since COVID. It is, it's crazy. I actually want to I thought I was more like, an of a digital person. But I realised that actually, I'm not that much as i as i thought at the beginning, like I wanted to also give online like having more online courses in my worship offer, but somehow I'm procrastinating. So I guess that, well, I would like to do this. So I would like to keep building my digital online offer. And I see that this is gonna continue, I think that it's gonna be a mix, hopefully, when when things start getting better with COVID, I think that it's gonna be a mix of, okay, offline and online workshops. People still wants to have this, you know, these events in person. But it's, it's, it's great that we had this opportunity that we, we were like, a challenge to, you know, before I didn't do any online workshops, or webinars. And at first, I was very nervous. And I was like, Oh, my God, how I'm gonna teach bookbinding and modelling online is just too crazy. I don't know, because I cannot help people there. You know, I cannot teach them how to how to how to practice tool or anything so different. But it turns out that yes, it's also possible in creative in the creative industry. So I think I'm gonna go for Yeah, again, a mix of offline online. And personalization, I believe that personalization is going to be also very important in education. I hope so I enjoy all sorts of personalised worship. So that you really can can just create worship or a curse that is that fits that person that, like, I'm having this, you know, people that, oh, I want to make a book like this. Can we do it? Can you teach me so? Then I try to figure out Yeah, of course. So I think that that's personalization is going to be quite important, hopefully, for other creators.

Alex Villacis:

And it could even be this thing in which somebody can have an idea in their head and say, like, I want to make a Japanese bounded book about birds of paradise and texted in, I don't know, Sanskrit, so they can take a Sanskrit course they can take a photography course they can take a bookbinding course from you. So I love these that personalization because that means that we no longer have these strict ways to learn or the strict syllabus but that you can create your own with all the things that you find around and come up with this patchwork of education or the hyper niche thing because you're in a niche right now so you're finding paper marvelling niche and you can even like niche beyond that like somebody could come to you say like I want to niche beyond that I want to go to a different step even deeper. Yeah, previously. And how is it How is it like because, to me, personally, I'm a person that needs personally I'm a person that's a sentence needs for example, when we were doing that book, but I am not very handy when it comes to like sewing and stuff like that. So to me, it was great to have you there to be teaching me like okay, this is how you hold the ball so it won't hurt your hand because you don't hold it properly will like destroy the your hand. So are those kind of little things that you put in the workshop? So you have to be a lot more descriptive with your language because you cannot show people how to hold it. You have to explain to them how to do it right.

Karen Fernndez:

You mean in the online courses?

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, and the only courses yeah

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, I mean it's it's, it's a challenge to chair some some stuff. Of course it has. Its its advantages and disadvantages. So for now, I'm mostly have been doing a live online workshops or even I cannot be right there sitting next to you to help you to show you exactly how to do it. There is room for questions. So most of the time and we can just discuss like, I also can see the participants. Most of the time they also have MRI on so I can see the participants and well it's a bit difficult sometimes to really okay, where they go in there. But yeah, sometimes and then I just first show the technique, and so they they can see it, and then they can repeat it, they can do it at home. And then I take that time to watch what they're doing. And then maybe while I tried to give some advice, like oh, I see that you're holding the needle, I think maybe you can try like this. But yeah, well, it's, it's better than nothing. But it's not it does not really compares to any person experience.

Alex Villacis:

So it's and now, I also see like opening the door to accessibility. For other people, maybe it's not possible to, especially during COVID, it was not possible to leave your

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, that was amazing. Because also, I had I seen about a month ago, a Canadian university that contacted me to give an all a workshop about bookbinding. It was like, from Canada. How do you find me? Yeah, and I just did a an online course for them. And I'm repeating in February next year. So if I wouldn't have this online workshop on my website, and they probably wouldn't have find me and I wouldn't have the opportunity to share my story in my craft with people on the other corner of the world. So yeah, having this online offers online learning offers is amazing also to connect with around the world. And especially as for me, like I move in every two, three years. So yeah, people that know me from some other place, they can still connect with me and join my workshops.

Alex Villacis:

Yeah, so this. So creative education now that has moved online, it's suddenly become more accessible than before. I mean, if we take a look into Let's jump to the Renaissance, if you wanted to learn how to be a painter, or how to be of sculpture, you needed to go get a mentorship or an apprenticeship for one particular person. So you have to leave your town, your village, wherever you are to move to a CD and then live with this person. But now we're experiencing the complete opposite in which you can be in any corner of the world, find an amazing maker, like yourself, and just learn how to make things. And maybe this will move into the future. Maybe your next worship will be Mars.

Karen Fernndez:

Oh my god

Alex Villacis:

we're not only breaking the barrier of space, but also the barrier of time, you can record something, two months from now, and that will be available two years from now, as long as the internet exists. Hopefully, Lord Ilan will publish starlink. And we'll all be available forever.

Karen Fernndez:

Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I mean, that there was before COVID, there was course online workshops. And, but I think it's now more and more and also small, small creators like me, we can do this too. I mean, that not only that, you go to the big platforms, where you can buy until now online courses, but that you can connect with creators in small businesses, for instance, via social media, and then join one of their online courses. So yeah. I'm happy that we have this opportunity. I mean, it's, I think that Yeah, it's a it's a good time to listen to, to be a maker and a creator.

Alex Villacis:

What a time to be alive. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. This has been a really fun interview and really insightful into how your mind works, how you teach, and yeah, it's gave me a whole new perspective on things. Now that we're making it to the end, is there anything you want to plug anything that you're working on right now or that it's coming in the future they would like to tell the audience about

Karen Fernndez:

well just keep an eye on my social media profiles and on my website, indigo craft and.com because as I say it and I share today, a lot of things change every now and then. So for now, I know my crafts are very niche as you mentioned. So traditional Japanese bookbinding very small niche and paper mobbing. But yeah, I'm always sharing. They're all about these crafts. And also, I'm also sharing just inspiration about my, my, my journey as an intrapreneur. So if it's anybody that wants to take a look and connect with me, then yeah, feel free to just text me visit my website, and on my Instagram account and let's see, let's talk and who knows, maybe we can create something together.

Alex Villacis:

That's that's that's recommend to the audience, the newsletter, it's really, really interesting. I loved personally that Kingston yetta project that you did, yeah, it was so cool. I figured I need to, I need to have another case where I never had the first one, I need to have a dislike, and I can have this book. But honestly, it's really worth connecting with you. You're an amazing teacher. And I am so happy they gave me this interview. And I hope you have a super incredible day, and that you stay creative.

Karen Fernndez:

Thank you very much. And yeah, talk to you soon.

Alex Villacis:

And just like that, we have come to the end of another wonderful episode. I really love this one specialty because she's one of my teachers. Like seriously, I my mom turned 50 last year, and I made her a bug, which is a collection of letters from Bill have met all over the world. And I use Karen's products, like I bought the whole nine of them. And she was super attentive. When I reached out to her with questions. She replied to me right away, she helped me whenever I had an issue, so I could make something really special. If you're somebody who spends a lot of time in your computer, I can recommend bookbinding. It's not an expensive hobby, you can do it with recycled materials if you want to. And it just it's good for your hands. It's good for your eyes to not be looking at a screen the entire time. So if you're interested in it, please go to Karen's website. You'll see it on the show notes, join her newsletter, take her classes. They're really fun. And yeah, they'll bring you a lot of joy into your life. I know it did into mine. Thank you for joining me again this week. I hope you like it. Feel free to leave us a review on Apple podcasts or any podcasting app that you use. And to shoot us a DM reach out to us on social media via the website, all the things you know what to do. And yeah, I hope to be in your ears next week with another awesome interview. Keep learning stay curious and have a good week. Bye