This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Rainbow Artists team blog here.
Let’s get to know Catherine from Tribal Handmade. She sells a variety of handmade items inspired by her tribal belly dancing practice.. Catherine opened up about her home town in and the crafts that she enjoys making.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live in beautiful city Lviv in western Ukraine. I’m 27 and have live here all my life. I enjoy it. Lviv is one of the favorite cities for tourists to visit. It was found in 1256 and has been part of numerous states and empires since then – including Poland, Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Then it was part of the short-lived West Ukrainian People’s Republic, then Poland again and then Soviet Union. And each one of them has left a trace in the architectural, cultural and national variety.
I like to travel and see different cities and countries, but I love to go back home every time.
Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?
I live on the street with lots of Austrian and Polish villas around me, mixed with modern houses. Some of the old buildings were ruined during World War II. Lviv is very green, people here love gardening. One traveler said: “I saw parks in the city, but never a city in the park.”
What do you like most about where you live?
It’s authentic beauty. Lviv is famous with its architectural heritage. The central part and some old streets are a must see. If you ever been to Prague, Lviv is very similar, but has its own spirit.
What do you like least about where you live?
I hate sudden weather changes. Sunny pleasant weather can swiftly turn into a storm or other way around.
Where do you make the items that you sell?
I’m on my maternity leave now, so I work at home. I like making all of my houses and miniatures but hand. I usually don’t have plan or sketch of what I’m going to make, everything is made on wave of inspiration. I wake up, I see it in my head and just do it. Details are coming to me in progress.
Tell me about the fairy houses that you sell on etsy. How did you come to start making fairy houses?
It all started from a Valentine’s gift that my husband made for me. He decided to make a replica of little baby Groot from movie “Guardians of the galaxy”. There were some leftovers of clay, and I wanted to make some beads for my dance costume. In progress I realized that clay is very pleasant to work with and wanted to make something bigger than just beads. The idea of houses came itself. I still think that the first one was the best of all. I always try to grow, use different tools and techniques.
What do you like most about working with polymer clay to make the fairy houses?
Clay is very flexible. You can create any shape or texture or material that you want – wood, bone, stone, leather, metal. This is what I like the most about working with polymer clay.
What is the hardest part about making the fairy houses with polymer clay?
The hardest, as in murder, is not to leave fingerprints. I hate working with gloves. I can’t feel the clay when I’m wearing them. So it takes a lot of time smoothing or texturing the surface. Also I usually don’t have a sketch and think of the details during the process, so I can accidentally smash something tiny while adding details to already existing design.
What is your favorite tool, piece of equipment, or material to work with?
I love everything about it otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Metal tools, wooden sticks and soft pastels paints help me to achieve required result.
If I could choose to have any item in your shop it would be these ‘Tribal Fluorescent Earrings’. Can you tell me what inspired you to make them and tell me where you’d wear them in the Ukraine? I personally would be wearing them to clubs, festivals, events and parties!!
I drew few ornaments long before those earrings appear. I was just waiting for inspiration for the shape to apply them onto. So one day it just came to me – “Hey, triangles with chains!” Then I drew it, liked what I saw and just made them.
All of the jewelry I make can be worn every day with the appropriate outfit. So I don’t think of any boundaries. But if you really think about, probably they are more appropriate for parties, then business meetings.
Ha! Yeah I guess it would be fun to wear them to work.
Can you tell me a bit about your tribal belly dancing and how that inspires your hand-made items?
Tribal began as a system of dance improvisation. It was created by Carolena Nericcio and is also known as American Tribal Style (ATS). They have amazing costumes! Concept is pretty similar to all of them – huge 2 layered skirt, Rajasthan choli, bra with coins and chains, colorful hip scarves, mostly hand-crocheted, lots of flowers in hair, beaded medallions on a belt and lots and lots of antique bracelets, huge earrings and necklaces. As you can see field for inspiration here is endless.
Our local dance collective is called ‘Drakaris Lviv Tribal Clan’ and mostly we dance ‘Tribal Fusion’. This is another subcategory of tribal belly dance – here the dancer can mix and match style and elements of her favorite dance styles with ATS basics. Creating costumes for tribal fusion is a bit of a challenge because here you can make really anything almost without limits!
What are you working on making at the moment?
In the last two weeks I finally finished my cross stitching project – Celtic Dragon. I worked on it for a long time and I’m happy finally to hang it on my wall.
Wow, Catherine, that’s a lot of work. Congratulations on finishing it. Thanks for giving us an insight into your life in Lviv and the process of how you make your shop items!