Kate England finds her global niche

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Problem-solver and project architect Tara Agacayak of Turquoise Poppy presents the stories of creative entrepreneurs building their global niche. She examines the transformational circumstances, tools and vision that can enable us to ‘bloom where we’re planted’.

Turning down job offers from the world’s most illustrious companies, Stockholm-based designer Kate England forged her own path instead. Her inner compass guides her to improve our digital workspaces.

Eroding job security was the spark that drove the Marmalade Moon founder to start her own business. She wondered: Why can’t my computer desktop be beautiful, personal, inspiring and functional? Below she answers my questions from her studio in Fredhäll, the “Beverly Hills of Stockholm”.

Kate’s story in 1 minute:

If you have more than a minute, here’s the full interview.

A RENAISSANCE SOUL Turquoise Poppy: What was happening in your life before you started your creative business?

I was working in the radio drama and documentary department at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation and thought I’d found the perfect job. It was both intellectual and creative and gave my Renaissance soul space for growth and evolution. I could combine and develop my interest for art, design, writing, languages and sound whilst learning the latest technologies for expressing oneself. But the radio was hit by cutback after cutback, and job security faded.

I’ve never considered myself much of a business person, but when I put up a web site with my art work I started getting requests from people who wanted to be clients! My global business got started by accident!

BRINGING A FEMININE PERSPECTIVE TO GLOBAL DESIGN TqP: What spurred you onto your current path?

In 2001 I opened a studio in Fredhäll from where I provide design services for clients all over the world.

I’ve never set up conventional divisions between science and the humanities, technology and art, the practical and the intellectual.

When I started working on a computer I couldn’t help but wonder if the icons really had to be so boring, if there wasn’t a way to make your desktop look more inviting. This turned out to lead to work as an icon designer and internationally, I’m one of few women working in an area dominated by men.

Download  a free Marmalade Moon wallpaper for your computer desktop, like these pink orchids for a zen digital workspace.

 

SAFEGUARDING AN INTEGRATED WORK-LIFE IDENTITY TqP: What did you learn about yourself in the process?

When you work with something you love, your identity becomes intertwined with your work. This is great when everything’s going well, but it can be a big blow when you hit difficulties with work.

For example, I get an enormous sense of satisfaction when people enjoy my work, but I also find it important to strive for integrity and to try to avoid using the need for personal validation as the motor for my creativity.

It’s easy to burn out on a job you’re passionate about, and it’s easy to forget yourself in the flurry of activities. For me it’s been important to reclaim some time to myself and to take the time for some fun, recharging activities that aren’t business related.

MULTIPLICITY OF ROLES AND INSPIRATIONS TqP: What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest challenge in building your business?

Both Apple and Microsoft have asked me to work for them as an icon designer. I was flattered and honored, but I’m glad I decided to continue working independently.

My four sets of Productive Icons are another triumph. This is a unique project where everything from the icon concept to the simple and stylish style is based on feedback from users.

The greatest challenge has been the diversity of being a creative entrepreneur. We’re the boss. The employee. We’re in charge of shipping, ideas and visions.

Marketing. Creativity. Social media. Invoicing, quality control, customer service! The list goes on.

BRINGING CREATIVITY TO DIGITAL ENVIRONS TqP: How has the intersection of innovation, self-discovery and available technology shaped your current business model?

Oh I think that has everything to do with my business. I’m totally fascinated by this intersection! It’s the source of my interest in icon design and one of my passions is to help people find ease and beauty in their digital environments.

I’m exploring fingerpainting with natural media on the iPad and I’m an avid iPhone photographer. I love to pioneer ways to use new technology to express myself creatively.

COMPLEX CULTURAL MAKEUP = PROFESSIONAL EMBRACE OF THE NON-LINEAR AND MULTILAYERED TqP: How has your half-English half-Swedish life contributed to developing your business the way you have? How has living a dual life aided your creative entrepreneurship?

I think my identity as bilingual, half-English and half-Swedish, has shaped my associative personality. I’m intrigued by complexity and see life as woven with parallel threads.

Multi-layered, with non-linear interpretations.

Although I live in Sweden, I spend my working days communicating in English with my clients and I met my American fiancé through e-mail. I can’t claim to be psychic, but I do think that my cultural background helps me to both understand my client’s problems and find the solutions.

My cultural mix has helped to create designs that communicate on a local level as well as on an international level, which is important in a global economy.

FOR e+H READERS TqP: How do you weave all the multi-layered parts of yourself into a productive work-life?
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  • http://www.adventuresinexpatland.com Linda

    Kate’s passion for what she does seeps through every sentence. So glad that she’s concerned not only about a highly functioning workspace, but also an esthetically pleasing one as well. Instead of either/or, she focuses on ‘and’.

  • jacqueline

    Dearest sweet Kate and tara, this is such an inspring interview! Kate, i agree with wini that it’s awesome to get to know you a little more and hear your story! You are my inspiration and i LOVE your work! Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!

    jacqueline
    http://jqlinesocuteithurts.typepad.com/

  • wini

    Thank you Kate and Tara for this interesting and inspiring interview! Its great to learn more about Kate! Kate you are really brave to forge your own path despite job offers from the big companies! I’m inspired by your efforts to maintain your independence, creativity, integrity and balance in a male dominated world. I feel its important to have a feminine perspective in ipad/iphone design especially considering that so many women are using this new technology!! Its interesting to read that your cultural background allows you to move comfortably through cultures and disciplines. I think that your cultural mix would enable you to be more culturally sensitive, adaptable, curious and more objective. Tara, I love the video! Wini xo

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  • Jaytea

    Very rewarding to see how your dual identity has widened your perspective and stimulated your creativity

    • Kate England

      It’s quite a gift!

      • http://about.me/anastasia.ashman Anastasia

        Kate, thanks for the interview. I think you’re right that a certain level of comfort with mixed culture and language is going to show up in your multidisplinary approach and your ability to create whole worlds that should exist — like, a feminine take on icons and desktop wallpaper — but hadn’t yet.

        Tell us more about your fingerpainting for the iPad, please!

        • http://twitter.com/marmalademoon Kate England

          Hello Anastasia, yes, I do think that a multicultural background or migration really can make you more open minded and give you the ability to exist on many levels at once, in several languages but also to take in and move between other environments. What do you think?

          Fingerpainting on the iPad, oh my, it’s just amazing! In a way it’s high tech, in a way it’s back to fingerpainting, the tactility of it is fantastic. In comparison with using analogue paints, you’ve got a never ending set of paints and papers. In comparison with other methods for creating images digitally, it feels more analogue, because of the tactility. When I’ve explored it some more I’ll post some images on my blog.

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