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Quit Your Day Job: karoArt

Oct 15, 2013

by Susannah Bradley handmade and vintage goods

Thank goodness for happy accidents. That’s how Karolina Grudniewska discovered her love of ceramics in Dublin, Ireland. Karolina is now a full-time Etsy seller, and her shop karoArt is seeing increased international traffic. However, her path to success was long and winding, and her ambitions were often thwarted by a lack of confidence. “I always had a creative urge in me but also a head full of limitations,” she says. “I got caught up in a job and school race, with very little time for myself, which does not work in favor of creativity.”

Karolina experimented with several creative jobs and fields of study before saving enough to try out her own interior design business. Only then did she happen upon ceramics, finding two bags of clay as a gift from her partner under the Christmas tree. Little did she (or anyone else) know this gift would unleash a passion that would evolve into a fruitful gig. “I was swept away,” Karolina explains. “It was like being in a right place at the right time — I had freedom for discoveries. I was as surprised with this turn in my career as anybody else.”

You can feel the thrill of surprise in karoArt’s beautiful designs, which range from yarn bowls to fox-shaped butter dishes, each one of a kind, drawing inspiration from organic life. Her pieces find their charm in unexpected touches such as hand-drawn fish inside a cat-food bowl. Read on for her tips on finding your passion, keeping things simple, and appealing to international shoppers.

Working in ceramics seems quite process-heavy — what’s your favorite part?

The process is what’s so fascinating about working with this material. Clay dictates the pace of work and doesn’t like to be rushed. You take a step, then you back out for a few hours, or until the next day, and continue when the pieces are ready for the next phase. It requires patience, planning, and systematic work.


I usually work in batches, making a few pieces of the same kind at a time. I like the moment when I feel like I’m flying through my work and at the end of the week when I have a shelf full of completed pieces left to dry. I also love the “big finale” — the end of the process, when I open the kiln with pieces glazed and ready to go.


What was life like before karoArt?

My primary goal after finishing school was to study at Art Academy in Wroclaw, Poland. I was very determined, attending portfolio preparation courses for almost two years, but then I chickened out before the exams and ended up earning a BA in English instead.

While in Poland, I worked as an English teacher, but I felt it wasn’t my vocation. When I moved to Ireland, I worked as a florist — I started in little flower shops and ended up in a large, very posh hotel. It was very creative at the beginning; I learned loads, and enjoyed it for a good while. However, I never liked the corporate side of my work and I always hoped it was a transitional job. I lasted there for five years and it offered me a good and steady position when I needed security. I later went back to college to study interior architecture, hoping that this would be a solution to having a creative job that could sustain me.


Photo by Christine Burns

You’re a self-taught ceramist. How did you approach a medium you had no formal training in?

I find working with clay very intuitive. Once you get the basics, there’s a world of possibilities in front of you. It takes hours and hours of practice, with many trials and many failures, but each broken piece teaches you a lesson. Practice and repetition brought me to proficiency, but I feel like I’m learning a new thing almost every day, and there’s still so much I’d like to discover and learn.


How much of your sales come from outside of Ireland?

I have well-established sales in my local market — online and in local stores and shows — but Etsy allows me to be found by international customers. Most of my Etsy sales come from the US, and I’ve also had quite a few sales from Australia. In the last year or so, I’ve noticed increased sales from Europe, mainly from the UK. Even local Irish sales have gone up recently. 

The awareness of Etsy is growing in Europe. I remember when I used to mention having an Etsy shop, and it didn’t mean much in Ireland — now most people know what I’m talking about and lots of them are even “Etsy addicts.”

How do you keep international customers in mind when listing an item?

I try to keep tags very simple and obvious, without fancy words or flowery descriptive phrases — I go straight to the point. When it comes to item descriptions, I like to keep them simple, too. It makes scanning through the description easier to understand for customers to whom English is a foreign language. I explain sizes in both inches and millimeters, and I like to add personal touches and a bit of wit to my descriptions.


What are your international shipping tips?

Because my parcels are bulky and heavy, I’ve found it extremely helpful to set up an account with the local postal services provider. In my case, it was a revolutionary step. It allowed me to offer fixed preferential prices on shipping to many countries worldwide. I no longer need to risk bringing bulky parcels to my local post office and waste time in lines. I have a friendly courier who comes to collect the parcels with a day’s notice. I’ve set up my account so that all postage fees are charged monthly and debited from my bank account. Also, I wrap my packages carefully — I prefer to be safe than sorry. I also keep track of all my packages going out, taking down the addressee details together with the weight of the parcel and tracking number.

How did you discover your passion for making the items in your shop? Share your story in comments below. 


Seller Handbook Best-of Archives | Quit Your Day Job Series


  • lisaweir4

    Lisa from LisaWeirJewellery said 7 years ago

    i Love your work Karolina - you deserve all your success!

  • marskymac

    Mary Mac from marskymac said 7 years ago

    That's the path I'd like to take. It's going to be hard though. Do you have any advice to stop me getting downhearted? :-)

  • renphotographycouk

    ren a from renphotographycouk said 7 years ago

    Friends and family were telling me how great my pictures were. At that the time I didn't know that that's what friends and family are for. So I bought big camera and began taking photography seriously. Only then when I began getting feedback from pros I realised how kind my nearest and dearest were to me. But I loved it so much I didn't care and continued on my journey. Now I can't believe how much I love it, and why didn't I buy camera a lot sooner.

  • JaniceArtShip

    Janice MacLeod from JaniceArtShip said 7 years ago

    Beautiful work and lovely story. Your whole interview seems infused with peace, grace and strength.

  • annamariapotamiti

    Annamaria Potamiti from annamariapotamiti said 7 years ago

    I love the story too, and I can relate to it. For some creative people it takes many years before they find what they are really supposed to be doing. But it's worth all the wait and the uphill running! Thank you for making such beautiful work and for the inspiration!

  • ZiBagz

    Lisa Zinza from ZiBagz said 7 years ago

    Bravo! One of my very favorite artists!! Truly an inspiration .. wonderful article!

  • Agasart

    Aga from AgasJourney said 7 years ago

    Well done Karolina!!! Inspiring creations and colours. Wish you all the best for the future and huge congratulations on your success.

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 7 years ago

    Wonderful work and story!! All the best to you and your shop!! Congratulations!!!

  • CambridgeCraftStudio

    Katusha from CambridgeCraftStudio said 7 years ago

    Beautiful work! I admire your story, Karolina. That is an example how the good things happen in life. I found out about decoupage just half year ago and being a mum of a baby it is difficult to find much time for craft. But those moments when I am doing and decorating the cases are so wonderful. I feel so relaxed and happy..Those moments bring so much joy. I wish you, Karolina, all the best in your business.

  • ICAlien

    Intercontinental Alien from ICAlien said 7 years ago

    Great ceramics - I've seen your bowls and wall art in a few shops here in Dublin. A real addition to any home. So good to see that you "made it", getting you handmade goods out there is not easy! Congratulations again :)

  • hollysandiford1977

    holly sandiford from crimsonsilkvintage said 7 years ago

    really inspiring- good example of following your heart x

  • SchneiderGallery

    Magdalena from SchneiderGallery said 7 years ago

    Karolinko wspaniałe prace, zycze wszystkiego najlepszego i wielu sukcesow, trzymaj sie!

  • epicstitching

    Mel Ladner from epicstitching said 7 years ago

    Wonderful work and great tips for international shipping. Thank you for sharing!

  • RuffledRuby

    RuffledRuby from RuffledRuby said 7 years ago

    Lovely to see you featured on Etsy especially in the Quit toy Day Job series! (Would love to see Ruffled Ruby here someday!) I have been a fan of yours since I saw your beautiful stand at the RDS Christmas Fair last year and I have also swooned over your tiles when you were stocked in A.Rubenesque! Best wishes for the future!

  • theowlinthearttree

    The Owl in the Art Tree from TheOwlintheArtTree said 7 years ago

    A need to work from home and a concern for packaging and waste has inspired me to make decorative packaging for my products. I am currently painting on pre-made ceramics and making an extra feature of the box they arrive in. Re-using packaging for scrap-booking is encouraged by my shop. For example with the hair ribbons I make. They are packaged on a hand-made card that can be easily re-used to store the ribbons when not in use or re-used for something else. I enjoy the process of making alongside teaching my daughter from home . And always being open for trying a new craft we can both learn. We love ceramics and are heading in that direction more intensely soon, we hope. A joy and inspiration to read this blog post. And to feel like we chatted with Karolina ourselfs. Off to see her work Thanks Susannah Amelia xxx

  • Crafts2Cherish

    Suzanna from Crafts2Cherish said 7 years ago

    Congratulations!Inspiring story and pretty shop.Well done Karolina ;o)

  • azoegarner

    Zoe Garner from ArtinInteriors said 7 years ago

    Love all your great pieces

  • DerwentTextiles

    Rose Marie from DerwentArt said 7 years ago

    WEll done Karolina !

  • guidouxvintage

    Guidoux Vintage from GuidouxVintage said 7 years ago

    Very inspiring success story! Well done for taking the right decision and for making such wonderful designs!

  • behindmyeyeballs

    Stacey Lou from BehindMyEyeballs said 7 years ago

    I love this. I am taking a pottery class at the weekend. Keep it up x

  • celiareid

    Celia Reid from CeliaReid said 7 years ago

    Great success story Karolina! I look forward to the day when my greeting card business is something that I'm doing full time also.

  • Vitza

    Vitza Gabor from Vitza said 7 years ago

    I just opened my shop and was great to read such an inspiring article! Thank you for sharing!

  • BadgerandBulldog

    Liz Badger from PaperHausPress said 7 years ago

    Is that an etching press for rolling out clay? wow what a nice story.

  • Craftelina

    vik and ig from Craftelina said 7 years ago

    We follow you on ETSY for quite a while now. :) Love your work and approach. best of luck!

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