Five Questions With Paper Boat Press

Written by Kylie Johnson
on 07 December, 2017

Kylie(right) in her Paper Boat Press stall at Finders Keepers Sydney SS16 – beautifully captured by Mark Lobo

LOVE IS LOVE Ornament by Paper Boat Press

We almost lost for words as to how to introduce the amazing Kylie Johnston of Paper Boat Press, a community leader, mentor and a true inspiration!  So just read on.  Be sure to pop by Kylie’s stall at our Sydney market, our final event of the year on this weekend. 

We first interviewed your label in 2009 here. Tell us how you’ve evolved as a label since then?
A lot has changed, but the running of the core business is the same, all of our ceramic work is proudly made piece by piece in my Brisbane studio. Looking back on my first interview with the Finders Keepers in 2009, my 2nd collection of poetry was about to be released, and since then I’ve had a third book published, 2 years ago a collection of the quotes I use on my quote tags was published by UQP (University of Queensland Press) it is called ‘melancholy and bright’.

But since then probably the biggest and most exciting thing that has happened is the opening of our little gallery in Brisbane. It is now five years old, and we have held 13 exhibitions, with four on the calendar for next year. One of the things I think that has also evolved (and naturally so through the gallery) is a collaborating with many artists, using their designs in my work, selling their work and doing pop up events.

ceramic magnets at Paper Boat Press stall at Finders Keepers Brisbane SS17 – beautifully captured by Samee Lapham

works in progress by Paper Boat Press

What has been some highlights for Paper Boat Press since then?
The highlight would have to be the gallery, but I think one thing I am continually grateful for is being able to continue being a full time artist. So much has changed since 2009, we didn’t have instagram (blogs were big!) my online store (and online shopping as a whole) was still very new. I do love instagram as it has allowed me to tell my story, what my days are filled with, the inspirations I find, behind the scenes in the studio.

Another highlight is my sister Tiffany and I are now hosting creative tours of Kyoto. In January we are doing our 2nd tour and have the 3rd booked for October. This is just an extension of my love for ceramics but in a sharing capacity. I have also been awarded a Churchill Fellowship for next year, which is very exciting, and I will be spending 2 months in Japan learning Kintsugi and visiting galleries and learning from them.

How much time a week do you dedicate to your label and what does a typical day working involve for you?
Honestly I work nearly every day on something, but try and have Sunday and Mondays off. The gallery is only open Wednesdays to Saturdays, and we work in the studio on Tuesdays also. I have a wonderful small team of staff.

My days are mostly filled with my hands in clay, stamping in the designs as I have my staff to roll the clay and do a lot of the other jobs like colouring and sponging back, glazing and so on. I also spend time designing, responding to emails (though I’m pretty bad at that) and working on upcoming exhibitions that I host and curate in the gallery. We start making for Christmas in February each year, strange but true.

Paper Boat Press stall at Finders Keepers Brisbane SS17 – beautifully captured by Samee Lapham

christmas ornaments at Paper Boat Press stall at Finders Keepers Brisbane SS17 – beautifully captured by Samee Lapham

What would be one piece of advice you would give a first time seller at The Finders Keepers?
Enjoy and have fun with it, make your stall a reflection of your work and style, be on trend yes, but also be yourself… One thing I have always had in mind when doing a market is the ‘big picture’, it isn’t always about the amount of money you ‘make’. It is about the connections you make with your customers and other makers, sometimes my less profitable markets have still had pearls like meeting a great wholesaler that I still have on my books to this day.

You have to know that it is about getting your product seen and loved for the long term and not just on a sale on the day. Don’t get me wrong it is about selling, that is why it is called a market, but like life there are ebbs and flows and if you are planning to stick with it know that sometimes something you’re not expecting might come from it. And there is so much to learn from just selling and talking to customers face to face, watching their reactions about price, colour, style, size etc… these things can only be seen by observing a customer in front of you at a market and can inform where you go forth from there with a product or whole range.

ceramic vessels – designed and handmade by Paper Boat Press

What goals do you have for your business over the next five years?
To get more sleep (ha ha but true) I think as I’ve been working so very hard this year, and (for the last five years in fact) setting up the gallery as a place to have my work for sale year round, I need to work in a bit more work life balance. I have so many ideas including workshops and sharing more artists work in the space, as well as more ideas for the work itself, new products and designs.

I suppose my goal is simply to continue to live as a working artist and ceramicist and continue to support other artists through sharing their work in my gallery. Oh yeah, and more balance, but I’ve said that already… that is just to remind myself again.

christmas ornaments Paper Boat Press stall at Finders Keepers Sydney SS16 – beautifully captured by Mark Lobo


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