Meet the Maker: Monika Lukasik from Blue Toucan UK
Monika Lukasik’s mission is to make you smile. After training as an artist in Poland, Monika moved to Norwich but lost her job just before the first lockdown. She took this as a sign to finally start her own creative business – and Blue Toucan was born. Here Monika talks to fellow Folksy maker Louise Condon, Ceramic Botanist, about the inspiration behind her hand-painted birds and animals, and how being able to make a living from her creativity has helped build her self-confidence.
To celebrate being our featured maker Monika is offering 15% off all her orders placed before the end of 24th October 2021 with discount code ‘HAPPY15’. Shop here: https://folksy.com/shops/BlueToucan
Hi Monika. I’m excited to hear more about you and your creative business. Can you introduce yourself?
Hi everyone! I’m really happy to have this opportunity to introduce myself and my wooden ornaments to you. I’m Monika. I’m originally from Poland, but since 2014 I’ve lived in Norwich, Norfolk, where accidentally I became a full-time maker in 2020.
I had lost my full-time job just before the first UK lockdown was announced. I had always dreamt about running my own business, so I read it as a sign to finally start something myself. When I first started my business it was completely different from what I do now, and it wasn’t successful at all. I was trying to do something similar to what I had been doing in my previous job, but it quickly became clear that it wasn’t going to work.
At the same time I had an Instagram account where I shared wooden pieces I was making just for fun. I didn’t think anyone would really be interested in them. What surprised me was that these hand-painted decorations sparked much more interest than the original business ever had. When I sold the first few ones, and then one of the clients came for more, I decided to go with it! And here I am – me and my wildlife-inspired home decorations.
Blue Toucan has changed a lot since those first few pieces. I’ve found my own style and developed my skills. I’ve learned a lot about working with wood and a little bit about running a business too. But I’m still a newbie!
The best thing is that I’ve found something I really love doing and I’m always excited about what I will make tomorrow. I’ve also met so many lovely makers along my way and I’m very happy to be a part of this amazing community.
Do you come from a creative background?
I have loved art since I was a child. I used to go to art classes when I was little and was always trying new things. My family members got handmade gifts from me every birthday and Christmas! Then, when I was 12, I got into an art school in Poland learning fine arts. I studied there for six years and gained a diploma in metalwork. After that I went to the university where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture. But although I come from a creative background and had jobs in the creative sector, I had never actually worked as a designer-maker before the Blue Toucan.
Where do you create? What does your studio space look like?
I haven’t got a real studio yet. I’ve got part of a garage, which is my “dirty” wood workshop. This is where I cut out the animal and bird shapes from a chunky pine wood and sand them. (The rest of the garage is for my boyfriend’s makes because he is a very crafty person too.) I’ve also got a desk and some space in our spare room, which is where I do the painting. This is the where I spend most of my time during a day. I take pictures and pack orders in the living room – so you’ll find my makes everywhere in the house! I hope one day I will get a real studio – maybe a little studio shed in a garden?
Where do you seek inspiration for new pieces?
I’m not really sure how it happens. Sometimes my clients ask me to design a particular animal or bird for them, but I also love to spend time in nature, travelling and camping in the wild, and often spot animals I would like to make, and add them to my notebook. I have a long list of pieces I would like to make when the time is right.
Can you talk us through your creative/making process?
The decision to make something new is mostly made during my daily forest walk. Walking in a calm place is a great way for me to clear my head and then I can imagine how the new design will look, and sketch it when I get home. Drawing is a pretty long process for me as I have to find a right shape – one that captures the animal but isn’t too difficult to cut using my tools. At this stage I also plan out how I will paint it, although it rarely turns out exactly like my initial idea.
The next step is to make a cardboard stencil, so I can use it again. I know some people print out their stencils, stick them to the wood and then cut, but I just don’t like to waste paper. Instead I draw the lines around my cardboard stencil, then cut it out using a scroll saw. I used to be scared of doing the sawing, so my boyfriend helped me a lot, but now I really enjoy that part of the process – much more so than sanding, which is the next thing that needs doing.
After that the most exciting part comes: painting! This is the longest part of the process but the most satisfying. When creating a new design it can take me hours and hours to finish, as I often change my mind about the colours or patterns. Sometimes I finish it and then decide that I want to remake it because I’m not totally happy with the result. I’m sure that’s a familiar feeling for most makers. The final part is varnishing to protect the paint.
That’s how the magic happens.
What’s your most popular product?
My most popular item is my puffin wall hanging. I’ve got quite a few puffins in my range, in different colours and sizes. Puffins are such lovely birds, and I personally love them, so I’m not surprised.
What’s your top tip to makers wanting to start a creative business?
I would say, watch others to find inspiration, learn from them, but never copy. Finding something that makes you different is the best way to be noticed. When you find it, follow that path and don’t give up!
What does craft mean to you?
Pretty much everything! It’s my biggest passion but it’s my job now too. It makes me happy every day. It has also helped build my self confidence. I grew up surrounded by extremely talented people and thought, there is no space for all of us to make art for a living. I was sure I wouldn’t be the one who could turn it into business. But there was enough space for me and I can see now that there is room for all of us.
Get 15% off Blue Toucan before 24 October 2021 with discount ‘HAPPY15’
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is Ceramic Botanist Louise Condon. Louise works with the seasons to create tactile ceramics that capture the beauty, structure and form of plants at particular points in their life.