Interview with Katie Gillies 2021

Artist Katie Gillies has been using Jesmonite for over 7 years as a Terrazzo Surface Designer making trays, coasters, plinths, mirror frames and much, much more. We featured her in 2019, so we thought it was about time we caught up again – and we’re pleased to report she’s had a pretty exciting couple of years since. Katie started 2020 focused on expanding the wholesaling side of her business and looking forward to a trip to America to meet new clients and hosts workshops. One of these didn’t happen, the other one was bigger than Katie could have imagined. Of course, Coronavirus put a halt to any plans to travel abroad, but Katie timed her wholesaling perfectly and was even nominated for a Great British Young Entrepreneur Award for the way she has adapted her business. In fact, she’s seen a 150% increase in business in the last year through online sales and she’s very happy with how things are going.

“I never thought I’d be in a position where I am hiring people,” she said. “I’m trying to make my work more accessible, not just on my online site, and there has been more of a constant flow of orders for wholesale now. The wholesale side has gotten bigger than I ever thought it would get and even though it’s been tough, with my workshops being cancelled, I’m very grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to pause and grow the business. Social media has helped so much too. We’re getting a lot of interaction and interest there, I have struggled to keep up with orders at times but it’s a very welcome challenge. I have some amazing opportunities.”

Katie has recently completed her biggest wholesale order of 350 pieces for British company Liberty. She’s also completed a week pop-up with H&M HOME at their London Regent Street, Westfield, and Birmingham stores. And despite lockdowns – she’s gone international. Shipping products to sell in places like Slow Down studio in the USA, Cool Machine Shop in Brussels and others in Hong Kong and Canada too. This is on top of the work she was doing for Topshop, Glossier, Papersmiths and numerous private clients pre 2019. Katie is also on the lookout for a new studio space in Nottingham next year to accommodate her growing team. And the way she uses Jesmonite has adapted too. She’s designed and made an array of items such as tables, vanity top units, fireplace features, kitchen worktops and splash backs. And now she’s going 3D.

“I’m more confident in the material now and I’m looking to push it as far as I can,” she added. “There has been a lot of testing and being patient with it, I want to develop the 3D aspect of it and incorporate more Jesmonite into my homewares, like making it strong enough to use for table legs as well, not just table tops. I’ve been making breeze blocks to practice this. But I’m also looking at reducing the weight of the material, so our floor length mirror can become one that you can hang on the wall. I’ve been making more complex moulds and practicing to know if the material will work – it’s the only material I work with other than silicone and I’m finding it very interesting to push it as much as you can and work with colours too, it really is exciting to see what we can do!”

Katie graduated from Leeds College of Art with a Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design degree in 2015. She makes everything by hand; from making the mould, mixing pigments and compounds to create a design, allowing to set and cure and then hours and hours of sanding to bring the aggregate to the top of the surface. But don’t worry – Katie is not lost in the world of wholesale now. It’s served well this year and she’s expanding her team to continue keeping up with the demand, but private clients will be customers and workshops will be back again – when legally allowed!

To find out more about Katie Gillies visit her website.