Thursday, January 1, 2015

about the artist: Kissa Design

Kathleen has been a gardener all her life, and was called a "free spirit" early on, due to her carefree yet spirited personality. After receiving a B.A. in archaeology and English literature at the University of Michigan, she worked at a national advertising agency for many years.

"It was a good experience overall, and I learned a lot about that side of business, but I always felt a strong pull towards my other more creative interests, and to working with my hands, so I started exploring some of the traditional crafts handed down through my family." Thus, her business, Kissa Design, was born in 2007. Kissa, which means "cat" in Finnish, is a play on her nickname, Kat, and is also a nod to her Finnish heritage.

"I especially enjoyed exploring the paper folk art ornament first taught to me when I was a child; it became a means to connect me to my Polish heritage. At different points in history it was called a porcupine ball in the U.S., but its name was derived from the Polish word jeżyk, meaning hedgehog. Today, this type of ornament is most commonly referred to as a 'Polish star'." She presented her colorful, modern work to a new generation of crafters through the handmade marketplace Etsy, and a global revitalization of the craft soon followed. Kathleen says that her popular handcrafted ornaments, which she named Star Urchins, are the perfect marriage between current vintage and modern design aesthetics. Her work has appeared in Coastal LivingThe Wall Street Journal, and in Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living and BUST magazines, as well as on numerous blogs and web sites, including BuzzFeed,, Apartment Therapy, Design*Sponge, Food52 and more.

Kathleen is a certified Master Gardener with a passion for transforming small static urban landscapes into personalized retreats. "I like to encourage harmonies between nature and the urban environment, to infuse age-old gardening techniques with modern strategies. Why not try to grow corn in the city?", she urges. "My Finnish mother grew up in the country, adjoining a family farm in the Upper Peninsula, where land and fresh produce were plentiful; my Polish father on the east side of Detroit. But even his family had a small vegetable plot, and they also raised chickens there. I really feel I am a good blend of the two. I am 'a tale of two gardeners', and I guess you could say that I'm 'a tale of two peninsulas' as well. I deeply crave connecting with the earth the way farmers do, and the serenity and sense of space that the Upper Peninsula can provide, but I still enjoy the diversity of cultures and the challenges of a more urban environment."

In addition to having been a garden design consultant, illustrator and coach, she is an artist who has designed across many media, from digital page to paper, and has produced countless drawings, paintings and other handcrafted goods throughout the years. Her primary design influences come from nature and her family's many crafting traditions.

"Above all, I believe everyone, no matter where they live, should have beautiful surroundings..." she says.

A vital part of her personal surroundings are what could be called "unearthed treasures." Her passion for neatly designed antique, vintage and modern furniture, art and decor led her to open a second Etsy shop that she hopes to continue to expand upon in the future.

Kathleen currently lives in small community near Detroit, Michigan USA. She calls her own backyard "... a continual work in progress/test lab," and each year adds to her "moonlit garden" intoxicating fragrances and dreamy colors of soft whites, pastels, and silvery blues and greens, mixed with bright accents of modern color.

on the shore of Lake Superior, in Michigan's U.P.

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