As a designer, you know you’re doing something right when Lego calls. When Melbourne-based craft-designer Kitiya Palaskas received a request from the Danish toy giant to create custom artwork for its 50th anniversary, she leaped at the opportunity.
“Lego is a brand I have always loved since I was a kid,” she says. “As a child, how could you ever imagine that you would end up being involved in something like that?”
Palaskas’s start in business was almost inadvertent. After completing a fine arts degree at university in 2006, she worked for a stylist who asked her to make handmade props for shoots. Soon she was creating props for other stylists who admired her work. “I decided to pursue it as a business because I love crafts and I’ve always loved working with my hands,” she says. “And it seemed like a really special and niche way that I could be a part of the commercial design industry.”
A decade later, Palaskas creates handmade sets, installations, images and props using craft-based techniques for a long list of clients, including Swatch, TK Maxx and Lily Allen.
Initially she rarely allowed herself the time to celebrate these wins. “When I started out, I was hardcore hustling all the time,” she says. “I was going at turbo speed because there was momentum and I was trying to get somewhere. I would never let myself just sit and enjoy the moment of achieving something really awesome – or working really hard on something for ages and then having it come to fruition.”
Now her career is more established, she recognises the value of pausing to celebrate success – even if it’s just going out for drinks with a satisfied client or to dinner with supportive friends. She also finds it beneficial to make time for “internal reflection” in the form of journaling or a self-review, where she looks at what went well with a project and what she could do better next time.
There is also of course the task of staying on top of financial affairs. Palaskas relies on MYOB online accounting software. “I’m the first to admit that I just suck at bookkeeping,” she says. “[MYOB] makes everything super streamlined and super easy.”
Ambitious by nature, Palaskas finds goal-setting an effective way to stay motivated. “Setting small goals regularly is a really good way to stay on track,” she says. “I often set myself larger, more long-term goals. But then, within a month, or even a week, I will try to set myself some things that I want to achieve. I find I don’t do very well when I have nothing going on. No briefs and no goals – I’m just floating.”
For all her success, Palaskas has faced challenges along the way. “A lot of what we see today in the commercial design industry is dictated by trends,” she says. “So, sometimes you’re on trend, and sometimes you’re not. As a freelancer, that can be terrifying at times. You might think, ‘I’ll never get a job again’. But then times when you just can’t stop getting jobs and it’s too much.”
Palaskas’s advice for anyone starting their own business is to “educate yourself on business basics”. Then, she says, “you can focus on the fun stuff.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with MYOB.