karrie kaneda is a pattern and textile designer based in Kansas City, MO. She believes that blankets are the perfect canvas to create a giant piece of happy art. She puts emphasis on strong pattern play and bold color blocking to create unique textiles. She designs throws made from recycled cotton and sells them on her website and to small boutiques all over the world.
HOW DID YOU START IN THE TEXTILE DESIGN BUSINESS?
I’D SAY I STARTED IN THE TEXTILE BUSINESS QUITE BY ACCIDENT. When I got laid off from my corporate job, I knew I really wanted to do some soul searching, I didn’t want to just take a ‘job’. I felt like getting laid off was a sign and I should take advantage of that. Although I was on unemployment, it didn’t stop me from ‘window’ shopping on the internet. I was on a shopping hunt for a Moroccan patterned throw and when saw that one did not exist I thought I should try to make it myself. I’ll admit that I’m not a skilled craftsman when it comes to making things with my own two hands and being in the mindset of looking for a new career, I began searching for textile mill that could make the products for me. So I guess my start came out of unemployment and the search for a product that didn’t exist.
BOLD COLORS AND PATTERNS ARE PRESENT IN ALL OF YOUR PRODUCTS. WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WORK AND WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS IN CREATING THEM?
IT’S THE COLORS AND PATTERNS themselves that inspire me. I work with a maximum of 4 colors, including white and you would think that would be limiting, but the possibilities never end. I keep a running list of color combinations on my iPhone that I’d like to try out—right now I have 14 unused combinations. I love the way colors change when next to each other—I get so excited about putting colors together and seeing them come to life in a pattern. When creating a throw, I think a lot about scale. As much as I’d love to go big and have the blanket be a canvas that’s seen as a whole, it is a functional item and is usually thrown over a sofa arm or chair, so in order to see what’s happening with the pattern, it has to be small enough so you can see the repetition or get a feel for what’s happening. There’s a lot of moving and flipping things around and changing colors. The end goal is to achieve a good balance.
“I LOVE THE WAY COLORS CHANGE WHEN NEXT TO EACH OTHER—I GET SO EXCITED ABOUT PUTTING COLORS TOGETHER AND SEEING THEM COME TO LIFE IN A PATTERN.”
DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL WORKDAY.
THINGS CHANGE DAY TO DAY, but the constants are: email, coffee, music, instagram. Variables are: processing orders, talking with retailers, talking with designers, designing new patterns, sending invoices, photoshoots/taking product photos, pretending to be a PR person, pretending to be an accounting person.
YOUR BLANKETS ARE MADE FROM 80% RECYCLED COTTON. WAS SUSTAINABILITY ALWAYS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO INCLUDE IN THE BRAND?
I WANTED GOOD TO BE ASSOCIATED with whatever I was going to do. Recycled cotton was perfect because taking care of mother earth is definitely tops the list of GOOD for me.
“I REALLY DO BELIEVE
THAT MIDWEST PEOPLE
ARE A RARE KIND...
THERE IS A HUGE SENSE
OF ENTREPRENEUR CAMARADERIE HERE.”
YOUR PRODUCT SELLS IN RETAILERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AS WELL AS SEVERAL INTERNATIONAL COUNTRIES.
WHAT ARE YOUR WISHES FOR HAPPY HABITAT’S FUTURE?
MORE OF WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. I love selling to small boutiques, and it’s a big world and there’s lots of shops out there. The future will always be about pattern, and always eco-conscious.
YOU GREW UP IN KANSAS CITY, HOW HAS THIS CITY SHAPED WHO YOU ARE.
IT’S HARD TO BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT THIS, but I really do believe that midwest people are a rare kind. And by that I really just mean they aren’t weird or flakey, but genuine, normal, authentic folks. I got my start on the internet, but about a year ago Kansas City took notice of Happy Habitat and since then the local support has been amazing. There is a huge sense of entrepreneur camaraderie here. Everyone is rooting for everyone else and trying to make connections that could be helpful. KC entrepreneurs want their fellow entrepreneurs to succeed—it’s contagious.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON THAT YOU ARE MOST EXCITED ABOUT THESE DAYS?
I’M WORKING ON SOME DESIGNS WITH SOME TEXTURED YARNS that will have a different look than what I currently do. I’m excited to play with a surface that’ll be a little less flat.
IF YOU COULD MEET ONE PERSON DEAD OR ALIVE THAT HAS INFLUENCED YOU, WHO WOULD IT BE?
WHAT WOULD TALK ABOUT?
MY CHILDHOOD ART TEACHER. I would love the opportunity to properly thank her. She taught me to see things in a different way—to look CLOSER and carefully with full attention to small details—not just look, but to really see things in their entirety.
“...SHE TAUGHT ME TO SEE THINGS IN A DIFFERENT
WAY—TO LOOK CLOSER
AND CAREFULLY WITH
FULL ATTENTION TO
WHERE IS THE COOLEST PLACE YOU’VE SEEN ONE OF YOUR PRODUCTS IN USE?
I LOVE SEEING MY THROWS IN THE HANDS OF DESIGNERS AND ARTISTS THAT I ADMIRE—so seeing my throw at Jaime Derringer’s house was pretty awesome (founder of Design Milk), also love anytime Emily Henderson uses my products. Kirsten Grove from Simply Grove nails it every time too.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE LOOKING TO START A SMALL BUSINESS?
I LOVE encouraging people to take the leap, but only if I believe in their idea. If it IS a good idea—then do it. Stop talking about it and take a first step, then a second, then just keep doing SOMETHING. Don’t wait til things are perfectly in order—just DO.
WHAT ARE THREE THINGS YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT?
Technology, coffee, people.
UNIQUE TO KANSAS CITY WHAT IS ONE LOCAL RESTAURANT, STORE OR SPACE YOU LOVE?
MY GO-TO RESTAURANT IS ROOM 39. It never disappoints.