“For me a career is a commitment to yourself and what you love,” says Karina Pires. Choosing the path of design has given her the freedom to create and experiment in different areas such as textiles, wallpaper, weaving and painting, she says. Many of Karina’s projects are created under her Sydney-based studio House of Six, which references her childhood in Brazil where she grew up amongst six siblings. After studying visual communication, she worked as a graphic designer for advertising agencies before leaving her birth country to explore the world. In London she met her Australian husband David and after moving to Sydney in 2000 she enrolled at East Sydney Fashion Design Studio to study design and textiles. During this time she was invited to exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum and her debut collection was shown at MAFW in 2006 under the Mercedes Benz Start Up sponsorship program, with her designs featuring handmade lace, patchwork and digitally printed textiles. After working for a few years in the fashion industry she took an apprenticeship with interior stylist Megan Morton and shifted her focus to homewares, wallpaper and textiles.
Which five words best describe you? Curious, loyal, full of ideas, intuitive, free-spirited.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? It is a long story and it goes around the world. I moved to London after finishing my communications degree in Brazil, my motherland. After working there for a few years and travelling the world, I moved to Sydney and I decided that I wanted to work with something that was more “hands-on creative” than advertising, my previous career. I wanted to move onto a career that was more tactile and allowed more creative freedom. So I enrolled into the textile and design course at the East Sydney Fashion Design School and at the time I had no idea how sought-after and demanding the course would be. I had three amazing years of totally focusing on what my hands could do: patterns, prints, sewing, dyeing, draping, embroidering. I experimented a lot and got a few accolades along the way including a textile exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. A few years on and I have created a few limited textiles collections, exhibited some of my work and I have also expanded to wallpapers. My wallpapers are sold online and through Emily Ziz Studio in Paddington.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? That every trade you have learned along the way will come in handy one day, and you must keep trying until you truly find what you love to do. Once your passion becomes your business it’s wonderful, work and joy blend in together. Ah, and always listen, there are many lessons to be learned every day but at the end of the day it is also crucial to follow your instincts.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I actually feel very proud when close friends ask me to create something special for them. I recently created an exclusive hand-painted digital print for a friend to re-decorate her lounge, it looks amazing. Exhibiting some of my textiles at the Powerhouse Museum was major too; I hope I can do more of that with new works.
What’s been your best decision? To follow my instincts and go back to working with my hands. During a recent trip to Brazil I visited my grandparent’s farm and met up with Dona Nina, she is my aunty's mum and she is 92. In the 10 days I stayed there she made this beautiful linen hand towel with the most intricate hand lace work I have ever seen. It amazed me how lucid she was and how much joy she still had to be able to craft something. We had great conversations about all different life experiences and she also cooked delicious nana biscuits for afternoon tea. I took a picture of her so I could remember that moment. I believe that people that work with their hands keep their mind in check, active and also fulfill their heart’s desires. I thought to myself, when I am old I want to be just like her!
Who inspires you? My list goes on and on. Kind people inspire me. Women who multitask working to achieve their dreams while also raising a family; I take my hats off to them, including my mum and my grandmother, who was an amazing woman and embroiderer - she raised 14 children. My kids amuse me every day, my friends. Louise Bourgeois for her textiles, the village women in the North of Brazil for their incredible weaving work, Helen Frankenthaler, Josef Albers, Eva Hesse, Miranda Skoczek for their amazing art, Georgina Brown for her kindness and beautiful sculptures in paper mâché, Ashley Woodson Bailey for her poetic florals, Megan Morton for making craft cool again and Jacqui Fink for her crazy knitting passion.
What are you passionate about? My family, libraries, travelling and learning about different cultures, anything that involves creating with my hands and using colours and textures... Shibori, long Sunday lunches with the family, catching up with friends and Bossa Nova.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Louise Bourgeois - her work is so rich and personal; she is able to tell her story through her every piece of art and textiles. I find it very intriguing and cathartic.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To live more simply in the city, to have a chickens running in the yard and a big veggie patch in our Bondi home after we renovate our house, to find more time for weaving, to find a way to creatively connect and work with the community - this is a project I am working on, to travel the world again with my husband and kids. They are the simple things really but so close to my heart.
What are you reading? To feed the soul: Wabi Sabi for artists, designers, poets and philosophers. To get inspired for our up-coming home renovation: Vincent Van Duysen Complete Works.