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An interview with Karishma Kusurkar

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Blick Studios resident, Karishma Kusurkar is an independent, multi-disciplinary, designer based in Belfast and founder of Karishma’s World. She recently featured in Irish News, discussing Belfast Design Week, which she co-founded and her most recent project, Espionage.
Karishma designs and works on a wide range of projects, but specialises in Print & Accessories; everything from prints on materials, to digital print and products such as scarves and bags.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my crowdfunded-game Espionage – the merchandise has been arriving over the past couple of weeks –  which is very exciting – and the game will be landing here in December! I’m also planning projects for 2018 as well as a few smaller products to retail at my pop up store on the 9th December at Blick Malone.  I’m looking at how I can upscale my blog and I’m getting lots of inspiration via the podcast Design Matters with Debbie Millman.

What encouraged you to create Espionage?

I had always wanted my brand to be multidisciplinary and I finally decided to make that leap this year.  I was initially inspired by the boxes that “The School of Life” produces and wanted to create a series of similar boxes with my own original content. I’d looked into various themes including politics, tourism and design thinking.  Politics in the age of Twitter has become increasingly surreal, it seems that an endless train of shocks and unbelievable things keep popping up one after another. The election of Trump has added a layer of mania to global politics.  With all of this in mind, it made sense to me to make politics the theme of the first box and it also inspired the concept of the game – people fighting to gain control of the world.   

The box turned into a game for a couple of reasons – our friend circle had been playing a lot more tabletop games over the past couple of years and I loved how party games added an extra element of fun to every party or gathering. I also wanted to create something that people would go back to and see over and over again. Too often, pretty boxes of things are looked at once and then put away to be looked at again once in a blue moon. I wanted the box to be something people would go back to over and over again and what better way to do that than to create a game.

How did you get into the creative industries (education/previous jobs etc)?

I studied Foundation Art & Design in Belfast at Ulster University after which I completed my BA (Hons) Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts at University of the Arts London. Textile Design too often is thought of as something that is only about stitching or knitting or something very traditional, but actually it is a lot broader and has so many contemporary applications in the design industry. On our course, one of the modules we studied was Digital Print which is what I specialised in.  We also had projects in Graphic Design, Fashion, Interiors, Screen-print, Plastics, Illustration and Design Theory.  We had a couple of great live industry projects with WGSN and with The Wallace Collection. My work was selected by WGSN for their Graphics Now section.  I was fortunate to have designer Melanie Bowles as one of my tutors. She has a great entrepreneurial spirit and has set up lots of amazing projects within the Digital Print sector including authoring Print Make Wear and co-founding The People’s Print.  One of the internships I completed whilst at university was with TopShop Design in Print Design which was a great experience learning about producing design in a commercial environment. We were also based across the road from Berwick Street (near Oxford Circus) which is amazing for fabric and design inspiration.  

After my degree, I worked in print and costume design and as a freelance designer and design workshop facilitator. I was able to sell my design work through an agency to high fashion brands in New York. I then got my Masters in Multidisciplinary Design (MFA) at Ulster University because I wanted to broaden the area of design I was working in and learn how I could develop my own design business.  The Masters was completely different to my previous studies primarily as students on the course worked across a broad range of design disciplines – from furniture design to animation and interaction design.  One of our course tutors was the inimitable Christopher Murphy who brought a different lens to how I had previously looked at Design, looking at the storytelling, the presenting and the branding part of the business and finding a niche.  Since then, I started up my own brand Karishma’s World. I am self-employed and also freelance in events, design, education and workshops alongside creating new products.

What projects would you like to work on in the future?

One of my main aims in 2018 is to collaborate more.  I am at my best and enjoying myself the most when I work with other people… depending on who those people are of course!  The endless possibilities of multidisciplinary design can be completely distracting and so I am improving my focus on my business and also how I upscale it.  Next year I will be looking at the next steps for Espionage as well as a new game which I have left a lot more time to develop (you live and you learn!) and my accessories collections.  I don’t want to say too much about the new projects as they are in the early development phase.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I am most proud of setting up my own business. It ain’t easy and I’m certainly still learning how best to do it, but it’s not something everyone can or is willing to do and so I’m proud of bringing something new to the design world.