Kirsten Miller Interview (aka Quernus Crafts)
Why do you do what you do Kirsten?
When I left my 15 year career as a lawyer in summer 2009, I really didn’t have a clue what I was going to do next. I had promised myself a six month mini-retirement to get clear on the next steps, I began to play around with polymer clay, something I had done on and off for years, but never in a serious way. But once I had the time, energy and space to just ‘be’, all these wee creatures started appearing - looks like they were just waiting for the opportunity to be made! Now, I can’t imagine not doing what I do – it’s so much fun to see which wee characters are going to appear next!
I am also passionate about promoting and supporting the handmade movement. There is such a wealth of creative talent in this country which the public are only beginning to know about. The message needs to get out there, and I’m glad I can use some of the skills learned as a lawyer to help with that.
Do you work better with music blaring or the sound of silence or ...?
Radio 4 is my constant companion. It’s on from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, and I’m more familiar with the World Service than I really should be! There’s something very comforting and relaxing about the spoken word, and it’s easier to zone in and out to the radio, rather than to music, which I feel compelled to listen to when it’s on.
What's your routine/structure to starting any project?
When I’m making a pet commission, I start out by closely studying the photos I’ve been sent, to make sure I’ve got a good feel for the character, shape and markings. I usually bring the laptop over to the kitchen table where I work so I can refer to the photos when I need to. I’ll start by making up any millefiori canes I need for the fur and markings, and then I’ll start work on the basic shape, continuing on until the piece is finished, no matter how long that takes (usually several hours).
Working on my main Quernus range is a bit more ad hoc – although I’ll know roughly what pieces I need to make up, I tend to go with what feels right at the time. It’s more fun that way! The wee creatures have a mind of their own – sometimes I’ll plan to make up, say, wee horses, and before I know it, a trayful of mice have appeared!
Favourite music / favourite artist, designer or maker?
I love 16th century polyphonic choral music – Byrd, Tallis, Victoria – it’s the most sublime music in the world and gives me goosebumps! As for my favourite maker, that’s a tough one – there are so many amazing people out there, and I keep finding more and more! One of my all time favourites is Elki Shaw, the genius behind It Belongs To Turtle (http://www.folksy.com/shops/ItBelongsToTurtle).
What was life like before you were a creative and is your life better now?
(Probably answered this in the first question!)
What was Plan B?
I guess this is! Doesn’t feel much like a plan, though – although I plan on a micro level (marketing, events, product ranges, etc), the overall shape of where I’m going, I leave very much to intuition and going with the flow. That way I can be open to opportunities and be more flexible. And it’s more fun this way!
Any advice for people starting out on the creative path
First and foremost, do what you love and love what you do. Second and nextmost, have fun! There are few careers out there that let you play with your inner muse and create something unique and beautiful out of raw materials. It’s transformative. And one thing I’ve learned is that people buy into the love and passion you have for what you do, not whether you’ve got the fanciest stall or best marketing strategy (although that does help). Third and lastmost, be patient and keep going. It can take a while to become established, and in the early stages, it’s tempting to become disheartened. But keep going, and focus more on what you want, not your fears. Oh, and did I mention having fun?!
Susan Morrow of Lynwood Jewellery (http://www.lynwood-jewellery.co.uk/default.htm). Not only is she an amazing jewellery designer and maker, but she also is a passionate advocate for the handmade movement and runs Handmade and Fabulous! (http://fabulouslyhandmade.blogspot.com/). She’s also done a lot of work for UK Handmade. She’s an amazingly strong woman. (And I have a ton of other suggestions if you want any more!)
For further info about Kirsten:-