Katarina Roccella is a multi-disciplinary and multimedia artist from Serbia, a country in central-southeast Europe. Her art practice combines mixed media collage, watercolors, inks, and paint media, and natural motifs serve as Katarina’s inspiration for creating unique color schemes. Realizing an opportunity in surface pattern design, Katarina made art her business. Today, she translates her artwork to prints for textiles, wallpaper and home décor. The artist’s designs can be found on Etsy, Spoonflower and Red Bubble.
Delve into Katarina’s story and discover how she built a successful surface design business.
How did you get started as an artist?
Designing is something that has consorted me since my early childhood, as both of my parents are artists. As a really small kid, I was designing doll outfits, and later, when attending the Faculty of Applied Arts and Design, in Belgrade, Serbia, I was designing a variety of things, exploring different mediums. I graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts and Design, where I also finished my Ph.D. with the goal to bond my experience in printmaking and painting with the textile and quilt design. I have been designing fabric since 2010, and I have been a licensed textile designer for Art Gallery fabrics since 2014.
At what point did you realize that you could turn your artwork into a business?
After developing several fabric collections through Spoonflower and making them available, sales have been steadily increasing. So, at that point, I realized that it could become a solid business.
How do you define success for your creative business?
I think that the best part of my work that really makes me extremely happy and hopefully can be defined as successful is seeing incredible and inspirational projects by so many talented people from all over the world featuring my fabrics.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere—in different forms and materials, but also in plants, travels, books, illustrations, exhibitions, fabrics, design blogs, catalogs, photographs, vintage patterns, buttons and laces.
What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started your business?
I wish I had learned before about pitching my artwork through different industries in the field of surface design.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start selling their art or creative product?
To create constantly and organize artwork in collections that could be easier for pitching to companies.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Before pursuing my textile design career, I worked as a teaching assistant in drawing and painting at the Faculty for Arts for ten years.
As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
That’s so true, but I am far from being perfectionist. Actually, I like to define my organic and gestural style as perfectly imperfect.
What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
That you also have to deal daily with many non-creative sides of it being a business.
What advice would you give to someone about handling the highs and lows of running a business?
I think that it is very important to be aware that it’s rather normal to have highs and lows in any kind of business and that some doors closing will only help define who you really are, and it may also unlock another world of possibilities.
Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
Of course, criticism is part of the learning process, and I think that constructive critique can be great for improvement and a challenge to make things even better.
Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just love—one that makes running your business a bit easier?
I couldn’t imagine making my artwork without good watercolors and paper. I really like Schmincke’s paint and Arches and Fabriano paper, to name just a few, but also finishing it digitally without Adobe Photoshop.
What brings you joy?
Besides creative endeavors, I find immense joy in my kids and family, especially when traveling together.
Thanks, Katarina! You can shop the artist’s work at katarinaroccella.com, on Etsy (KatarinaRoccellaShop), Spoonflower and Redbubble. Katarina’s work was also featured in Issue 3 of Artisan Joy magazine.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.