Meet a Mintie: Katharine Watson

We are very excited to be bringing back an old favorite, our ‘Meet a Mintie‘ designer interview series. Look for these ‘get to know a designer’ features every other Friday going forward! And let us know if there is anyone you want us to feature. We’d love to hear from you!

Name: Katharine Watson
Location: Hyde Park, Vermont
Years with Minted: 3.5
Niche: Bringing a modern twist to traditional textile designs with block printing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a designer?
I think I’ve always known, it has just been something I’ve loved to do since I was very little. But it wasn’t until college, when I sold my first painting at a coffee shop, that I realized you could actually make a living as an artist. That was a very exciting day! 

I love that we both have a Hong Kong connection… how did your time there influence your aesthetic or development as a designer? 
Growing up in Hong Kong definitely had a huge impact on my style. Hong Kong is a very eclectic place culturally: people come from all over the world and you can find every type of food and art style there. Plus being such a central location in Asia we got to travel a lot, so that really led to me looking at designs from other cultures and using them in my own work. It would be hard being to be in a place like Hong Kong and not be influenced by all the different cultures you run into every day. 

PLEASE tell us more about your time in India and learning wood block printing.
I’ve always loved textile design and there is no better place for that than India. In college I had a double major (Art and International Studies) and we were required to study abroad for that. I chose India because it is a place where the decorative arts are everywhere and you can’t turn a corner without seeing new pattern inspiration. While I was there, I spent a month learning about woodblock carving at a block printing factory. Their skill is so far beyond what I will ever achieve, it was amazing to work with them.

In India, block carving is reserved for men so it was difficult to find someone to teach me but I eventually found someone. The way they carve blocks is very different from how it is taught in the US, it is a completely different process. It’s not something I am able to replicate here, but it gave me a lot of inspiration for my own work.

What is your normal workflow or process like? How does it differ for your own line / actually wood block printing versus other designs for Minted?
All of my designs start out as hand-carved linoleum blocks. I’ll sketch the design on linoleum and then carve it out and print it. For work that is sold under my own brand, they are usually original prints so the final piece is printed with the block. For Minted I will scan and manipulate the print in Photoshop, sometimes using pieces of different designs merged together. 

How many iterations does it take for a design to become final?
Usually just one! Since you can’t make changes on linoleum blocks, once the carving is done you either like it or you don’t use it, there isn’t really an editing process. Of course for my Minted designs I spend hours playing around with the fonts but the designs usually don’t get much editing. 

What tools, techniques, and mindsets do you find absolutely essential?
Linoleum! Plus lots of scrap paper for taking notes, drawing sketches, and writing down ideas before I forget them. My desk is covered in notes and post-its and to-do lists. 

What are the easiest and the most difficult aspects of the design process?
My favorite part is the carving process. That is where I feel most comfortable, and I think what I am best at. I love the fact that you can’t change the design once it’s done: you do it and move on. I like that way of thinking. 

Tell me about one of your designs for sale on Minted and how it came together.
My favorite design at Minted right now has to be Leaves and Kraft. It started with a sketch of the leaves that I drew in ink, and then I added the block printed flowers on top of that. I love a design that is deceptively simple. 

Where do you go for design inspiration?
If I need inspiration, I step away from the computer. I think the internet is amazing for seeing what other people are doing, but not great for coming up with unique ideas. If I need inspiration I turn it off and go for a walk, watch a movie, cook dinner, or even go on a trip. When I’m doing something completely unrelated is usually when I have my best ideas. 

If you are a crafter or DIYer, what is a cool project you worked on recently?
Right now I am working on a quilt using fabrics I’ve bought while traveling. I’m not so good at finishing outside projects these days though because printmaking keeps me so busy, so I have bags all over the house with half-finished sewing projects and half-finished paintings. It’s hard to have creative hobbies when that is what you do all day for work! 

What advice would you give a new designer?
Find a unique style! There is so much already out there, how can you make yourself stand out? Good advice I’ve heard is to look at what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite.

How did you hear about minted?
I heard about Minted at the 2011 National Stationery Show, which was my first time exhibiting. Some Minted people came by my booth and told me to submit some designs. I did, and I’ve been submitting ever since! 

What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up, take my dogs out to run around, make my breakfast and get to work. That usually means an hour or so of reading blogs and answering emails, and then I get started on my to-do list. That could be anything for working on custom wedding invitations, to filling big wholesale orders, to filling out finance spreadsheets, to shipping online orders, and usually there are a lot of those different tasks to finish in a day. I have an assistant as well, so she comes a few days a week and we listen to podcasts and work on getting orders out the door. 

To you, what is the ultimate indulgence?
Sitting outside in my hammock, eating ice cream and reading a magazine. In fact that is where you will find me most weekends during the summer!

Find more of Natasha on her blog.

  1. Renee Pulve

    Impressive travel resume Katharine! 🙂 Loved hearing about how you learned wood block printing in India.

  2. Olivia

    Love getting to know a little bit more about you, Katharine! I’ve always admired block printing, and your work is just gorgeous!

  3. Fascinating! I’ve always loved Katharine’s work and it’s great to read about her creative experience and process. Very happy to hear about the return of the series, too.