“I believe everyone is creative and an artist, and that your working medium can be so much broader than we typically categorize.”

-Kara Pendl

There is no secret that I’ve always admired artists and creatives, especially if they are women.  I met the creator of Karacotta Ceramics and it felt like I was talking to an old time friend who completely understood my thoughts and ideas. I was able to feel her passion and dedication to her craft.  I was very curious to know the story behind the craft maker who is doing it full time. I knew I needed to tell her story and capture that amazing smile and wild curls. I feel her beautiful pieces reflect exactly who she is; bohemian, timeless, fresh, and modern. She has a peaceful energy that surrounds you, she emanates warmth and her work is unique. I’m very proud of this collaboration, you can imagine my excitement to share her designs and words in this space. If you’re looking for some fun accents, inspiration, smudge the bad vibes away, expression, self-discovery or starting your own business, please keep on scrolling.

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  • Who are you and what do you do? Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?

Hi! I’m Kara Pendl the designer and artist behind Karacotta Ceramics, based in Austin, TX. I’m a {mostly} self taught ceramicist, stemming from a lifetime of creative curiosity, and have been working with clay for over 15 years. Originally a Wisconsin native, I grew up exploring in the

woods, adventuring in nature, and creating with organic materials – these experiences heavily

influence the unique aesthetic and processes in the body of my work. In addition to creating, I teach public and private ceramic classes, that weave in conversations around life-vision and goal-setting. When I’m not blissfully covered in mud, you can find me practicing handstands, reading in the sun, drinking coffee and chatting goals & strategy with other female entrepreneurs via my podcast: Make/Do.

  • Name something you love, and why?

I love working with clay as a medium because we (everything on earth) all eventually go back to dust, and in turn become part of the earth & clay. I love working with a material that holds so much history and energy – you can truly feel it while making!

I also love french fries & champagne, and I could eat that combo for every meal – it’s perfect balance of salty & sweet!

  • What skills or talents do you think would make you even more successful?

I know you’ll appreciate this – I’m thinking about investing in a nice camera (and then learning how to use it, ekkk)! Right now, I take a lot of my social content photos with my iPhone, and I get my product professionally shot a few times a year. It would be super helpful to have a camera on hand to do it myself, and I would be able to update my linesheets, etc a lot more often. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but good photos really do make a huge difference in closing wholesale orders!

  • How did you find your passion?

It was totally by chance! I took a hand-building class in high school, and immediately fell in love. Being a full-time artist had never been modeled to me growing up, so I didn’t realize that was even an occupation choice, so I ended up going to college for business, but I continued to take classes on the side. When I moved to Austin, I found some open studio hours, and then eventually moved into my own studio, while growing my career and building my business acumen. Eventually, I was able to make the transition into ceramics full-time – it can be done!!

  • What is your ideology as a creative person?

I believe everyone is creative and an artist, and that your working medium can be so much broader than we typically categorize. I think you can have artistry in the way you parent, you can be a creative non-profit leader, you can have thoughtful, intentional design in the way you serve dinner, etc – it doesn’t need to be “I’m a painter/ceramicist/weaver” for you to be considered an artist (in my eyes).

  • How do you overcome your fears?

I think Nike was onto it when they said “just do it.” I overcome my fears by just jumping in – I stop thinking about it and just go do it – right now!

I also LOVE this quote by Ira Glass, and have it framed in my office, it reminds me that the only way to not be scared is to crank out a whole lot of work. “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

  • In what way have you changed by following your passion?

I used to be super binary, or black and white, with my decisions/emotions/life choices, and living as a full-time artist, with flexible deadlines, indeterminate pay days, etc, has forced me to live a bit more in the gray area, and I think it’s been good for my soul. I can get a little rigid in the expectations I hold for myself, and the creative process helps force me to stay malleable and playful.

  • Who inspires you today?

I am always inspired by nature!! That is where I find the best color palettes – I often take pictures of sunsets, piles of leaves, bunches of wildflowers, textures of rocks on riverbanks, etc. When you start looking around, you’ll notice palettes everywhere, and nature has the most keen eye for color combinations.

  • Professionally, what’s your goal?

So much is happening in 2018!! I am recording a podcast right now, called Make/Do, that highlights how artists/creatives make what they make, and logistically, do what they do…like, how are you really paying the mortgage? It should be released in early summer, and if you know anyone that should be featured, please reach out! Product-wise, I have some super exciting collaborations releasing this summer, and I will be launching a new line of Smudge Bowls and Bundles with a more developed decorative component. I’m also co-hosting a yoga retreat called Babe Retreat: Yoga, Art & Soul, that is taking place outside Austin on April 20-22 (details on karacotta.com) – it is going to be SO rad! And lastly, my studio is moving to the new Springdale General development in June, please come see the new (gorgeous) space – I’ll be in suite 6D.

  • How being a woman business owner changed your life?

I’m a people-pleaser, as many woman are, and owning a business has definitely brought about opportunities to work on saying No & Yes more powerfully. Saying No to the mediocre or even exciting opportunities that don’t align with my brand or soul, has been enlightening and expansive – it consistently creates more space for the Yeses to come through the door.

Also, managing and balancing all of the moving parts of the business (admin, operations, marketing, making, the list goes on and on), has taught me time-management to make sure all of the pieces of my life (work, friends, family, self-care) get their equal time in the sun!

  • What business advice have you happily ignored?

That the process has to be hard, or there must be a struggle, or you have to grind/hustle for 80+ hours a week. There is truth and weight to the slow and steady race. I believe you can approach your workday with a playful attitude, that solid, gorgeous, work can be completed in short timeframes, that staying lighthearted and easy with the process can yield better results than working through the night to prove you’re committed. Not to say that I don’t sometimes burn the midnight oil, but I think as a general concept, the whole process can also be fun vs a struggle.

  • What is the best piece of advice you will to someone who wants to be start their own business?

My advice is to keep is simple – don’t overcomplicate!! Make a (one page or less) business plan that highlights three or less items that you love making/doing and start there. Do the bare-minimum needed to get your products into the market (minimal pictures, simple website, etc) and riff from there. You can (and should) always go back to update your offerings as the ball gets rolling, but there is no better time to start than right now!!

  • How can women become more empowered?

For me, being empowered means living a life that aligns with my core values. One of my main values is freedom, which to me, means living life on my terms and being my own boss absolutely helps with that. I think you can find empowerment by defining what your core values are, and then editing your life to more closely align – it doesn’t all need to change over night, but what are some of the low hanging fruit that you can shift this afternoon or this week?

  • What is being “free” means to you?

Free to me, means being able to do life on my timeline. If I don’t want to set an alarm, I don’t have to, if I want to work through the weekend, I can, if I choose to fire a client or take on something outside my wheel-house, I don’t need anyone to sign off or approve my decisions… and I LOVE that feeling!!

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Love,

Jessica

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