I was lucky as I did not make a conscious career turn. When I was working as a digital designer, I already spent lots of time making bags, and I really enjoyed it. Coming back from work, I would just get on the sewing machine, start making and creating products, and doing the same thing over the weekends. I remember going into the job interviews, instead of talking about the jobs, I would just talk about my bags. At that point, it became clear that that’s what I really wanted to do. Meanwhile, having just moved from London to Amsterdam, without knowing the industry very well and without any network, it was very hard for me to find work. To fill my time there, I was doing a lot of crafts, and I managed to sell some online. I realised that it could work. By the time when I moved back to England, the digital world has already changed so much and it was hard for me to catch up. But I also realised that my passion was not there. Many people would constantly search for interesting things related to digital, but it was never the case for me.
To me, design is really about problem solving; aesthetics is secondary. When I was working as a digital designer, I had to work according to the clients’ parameters; whereas now, I don’t have those parameters anymore, apart from the fact that I want to solve practical issues for people by making very functional products. There is a constant battle between business and design, though. To what extent you need to design for your market and to what extent you should stay true to yourself. You can’t have one without the other, because you need buyers to be able to sustain yourself and continue doing what you love doing; but at the same time, you don’t want to do what everybody else is doing just to please the market and to follow the trend. It is a very hard thing, and I am trying to find a balance. You work a lot and you do work really really hard. Sometimes things go wrong or they don’t happen in the way you expected, but it doesn’t matter. You just keep going, simply because you love it.
Candice Lau, founder of Kukubigbag.
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(Photo credit to: Alun Callender)