Happy Feature Friday! Today we’re featuring Kaia Bakken, the creator behind DustlingandHart. We were mesmerized when we first saw her leather and resin books! We love how she incorporates natural elements into all of her pieces and think her journals would be perfect for writing all your daily thoughts down! She’s self taught and has great advice for those looking to get started on their own creative endeavor. Keep reading to learn more about her and her creations!
: Hey Kaia! We’d love if you could tell us a little about yourself.
: I’m a 25 year-old mother and wife currently living in the magical state of Oregon. A Midwest native, I grew up in Minnesota and plan to move back there with our little family this year. Art is my life and passion, I read fantasy novels when I can, and I love taking photos of the day-to-day. Nature inspires me and I collect most of it for my work whenever we go on hiking adventures or walks about the neighborhood.
: You have such beautiful leather books, resin work and illustrations in your Etsy shop, DustlingandHart. Describe the creative journey you took to create your products and shop.
: I’ve always loved drawing and writing – I’ve been doing it since I could pick up a crayon – but I didn’t start working with leather until a few years ago. My husband and I had just gotten married and we’d discussed me quitting my part-time barista gig to dive full-on into my passion. That’s when I really started up my Etsy. There was so much freedom and joy there – the jobs I had been working were really weighing down on me, and I wanted to do more of what I was skilled in. I began illustrating my own coloring book and experimenting with different methods of art, including making hardcover books.
: It seems like you’re always experimenting with your art. What inspires you to keep exploring?
: Boredom inspires me. Providing for my family motivates me. Asking, “Okay, what next? What else can I do with this?” When I’ve explored all there is to a method, I want to know how it can be expanded on or how it can become a new way of expression. I’m always thinking about something to make or new ways to make it, using the passion I have of simple story-telling in my work.
: How did you get started using the mediums of leather and resin?
: I actually started with leather when my husband needed a new leather belt. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy making new things, especially for gifts. I remember walking into the leather shop and talking to the manager about what I needed, being so incredibly intimidated by this vast new medium that I’d never really noticed before. When I brought the tools home and figured out how to make his belt, I felt empowered and curious by the craft. The fact that I didn’t know how to do it pushed me forward. With my husband’s encouragement, I found some scrap leather and began experimenting and researching tutorials online. I fell in love with its forgiving, but structured, nature and quickly dove into the process, researching everything I could on it. Then I discovered a wonderful artist who inlaid fabric and lovely detail into her books, and the idea sprung to do the same with collected items around the house. I was pushed to make it my own and really worked hard to figure out what my style was. During that process, I eventually I stumbled upon resin, and, combined with my love of collecting nature and little odds and ends, it’s been the perfect fit.
: Are you a self taught maker? What would you recommend to people who are looking to learn a new craft?
: I’ve had drawing and other art-related lessons in the past, but I’ve learned everything about bookmaking and leather on my own, or through people at the leather store answering my many questions. I’d recommend looking online – there are a lot of resources and tutorials that can help you to learn what you’d like to, if you do some digging.
: Do you have a favorite piece of yours or a particular work that was hard to let go?
: It’s always hard for me to let go of my books. They are bits of my heart that I get super excited about creating. Letting that go for money is kind of the worst, and the best, thing. I’d say any of my resin cover books I get a little sad over – those continue to surprise and amaze me every time I pull them out of their molds. But, in the end, I get really excited knowing someone is going to fill them with all the parts of their heart.
: We love your whimsy aesthetic. What drew you to this look and what do you wish it to express to your customers?
: I’ve always loved fantasy novels and whimsical movies. That, and nature, has always been an inspiration to me. I think I’m always searching for a way to make reality magical and reveal its many mysteries. I also really want people to walk away with something that is beautiful and speaks to them, but is also functional.
: You even have a great whimsical coloring book! What was it like creating this?
: Oh, it was a dream. It was just after I had quit my part time job and really dove into the art world full time. The weight of not knowing where I was going was lifted and I just created out of freedom and joy and gratitude. It took a long time to design, but each character came from the happiest part of my heart. I’d say it was the best start to this journey I could have ever asked for.
: What are your goals and plans for your future creative endeavors?
: My dream is to write, illustrate, and bind my own books. I plan to get published in the next few years and want to make a limited edition of leather bound copies of my first book series.
: Any advice?
: Don’t copy other people’s style for profit or just because you can figure out how they did it. Do that for yourself as a way of learning and then give it away and find your own way of doing things. Get in trouble and learn from it – that will push you into becoming the best version of yourself you can be, if that’s what you want. Experiment. Play. Don’t get caught up in thinking about whether or not you can do it, or if you should do it – just start and stumble and make mistakes and eventually you’ll come up with something beautiful.
See more from DustlingandHart at:
Instagram: @dustlingandhart || Etsy Shop: DustlingandHart