Creative Business Interview - Kate Kelly

I love it when people combine print with something 3 dimensional - and this is one of the reasons I was drawn to Kate's paper sculptures.  Wise words and some good advice as well as beautiful work, and if you want to meet her pet parrots then be sure to go follow her on social media - I'm sure you're going to enjoy finding out more...

Tell us a bit about your business - what do you do?  

I make playful paper sculptures, mostly of birds and flowers, using hand printed papers. I fell in love with printmaking on my art foundation course and combined that with 3d sculpture building after my degree. I’ve been in business nearly 15 years now, but I’m not sure I actively decided to set up a creative business, since I’m not remotely a forward planner! I was lucky enough to be offered various opportunities at New Designers and that led me down the rabbit hole! I’m really grateful for that, because I absolutely love my job and I’m not sure I would have been brave enough left to my own volitionI can easily have a panic attack just thinking about applying for things! 

What is your typical work day like?

I have rescue parrots, so I start early with the dawn chorus! They are the ultimate sticklers for routine, so they really help to structure my day. I work in the attic at home, at a massive desk under a giant south facing window, so the light is lovely. I have a view of the garden, rooftops and miles of clouds. Mornings usually involve computer work, afternoons I spend making and evenings are for doodling and designing, or messy jobs like screen printing, which isn’t practical during the day with a parrot on my shoulder! Break times involve parrot tricks and pecans.

What’s your favourite thing to create and why?  Where do you get your inspiration from?

The best part of making things for me is designing, so my newest thing is always my favourite! I’m a really seasonal maker, so whatever I see in bloom on a walk, or if Instagram/a nature programme shows me some delightful hatchlings somewhere in a rainforest across the globe, I’m immediately doodling and figuring out how to make it.

If you were starting your business again is there anything you would have done differently?

wish it hadn’t taken me quite so long to realise that making happy paper things has value. I resisted being a paper artist for a while. I had this idea that other materials were better because they were strong and sturdy or would lend themselves to more functional design. Eventually though, that just led to me problem solving how to design the strongest paper structures I could. And the chip on my shoulder about needing to create functional pieces fell away too. Bringing a bit of cheer to somebody’s decoris a nice thing and hopefully my work puts a smile on somebody’s face. 

What’s the best thing about being a creative business owner?

Being my own boss! Every risk, every failure, every success is mine. I earn it and I own it and there’s something quite empowering about that.

And other creative business owners. It’s a fabulous group of people to be among.

And what’s the toughest? 

Probably income fluctuation. I don’t have a second job, so there is no safety net. There’s no guarantee that any money is coming in at all from month to month. It’s not for everyone!

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Patricia from The Design Trust likes to say ‘Be Marmite’. Lots of people aren’t going to like your work, and that’s okay. You can’t please everybody. Your audience are the ones that fall in love with what you do. 

What advice would you give other creative business starting out?

Be yourself. I think what you make says a lot about who you are as a person and that’s a fairly vulnerable thing. I spent a lot of time thinking I had to make things that were functional and useful in order to be considered valuable. That’s not really how it works. Making things you love, that interest you, has value. People can see that in your making. My business didn’t get its feet off the ground until I embraced that.

Do you have any exciting plans for your business in the future?

I have more design ideas than I could ever work through in my lifetime, so I’m always looking forward to making new work! 

I’d like to expand on my workshops and paper model kits. I find making things so therapeutic and it’s nice to think people might enjoy an afternoon making something I have designed. I’m currently working on some dragons, penguins and a dodo.

Where can people find out more about you? 

My website is and I’m on social media @kaperkate