Katie Willis’s life has been one big creative journey. She began creating and selling original prints, when she left highschool and began a degree in Communication Design at Otago Polytech with a focus on graphic design. An elective paper in her second year required her to create a product to sell, and, wanting to do something different than her usual prints, she began to create acrylic jewellery. It was a whim, but now it and Pudunkart, her brand, is her “complete passion”.
Designing each piece is definitely a labour of love. Katie couldn’t estimate how long the creative process takes in total. However, she said that when it comes to literally cutting the material, it’s done in just 30 seconds, depending on the shape. After the earrings are ready, she puts them in cute individually designed packages. Just a quick flick through her website makes it obvious how much care goes into every piece.
The inspiration behind her products is nostalgia. She loves pastel colours and the lollie designs, which reminds her of when she was young and would save up money to buy a dollar mixture. Now, people can buy a pair of lollies from their childhood that they can keep forever. Her personal favourite is this Bubble O’Bill. When she looks at her jewelry she can almost taste them.
Despite how professional and aesthetically pleasing her products and Insta is (@pudunkart), she said that for the most part she is just “winging it”. Posting on social media, especially when experimenting with something new, makes her nervous. She said it can be a struggle to not take criticism personally, as “anything I create is me”.
Which makes it super buzzy when she sees people out and about wearing her products. She said that there is one lady in particular that always wears her stuff. “She must think I’m such a creep, because I always stare at her,” she said. “But I just get so excited. It’s so crazy to me.” During her own graduation parade she stopped to rush over to someone wearing one of her broken earrings to offer to take it and repair it (which she did, the darling). She just wants to “make people happy”.
In future she would love to make Pudunkart full-time, so long as she perfected the balance between business and passion. Although her laser cutter is currently broken (giving her some needed time off in the process, though), once it’s back up and running she wants to look into figuring out how to customise cuttings, so that people who want to make things but don’t have the resources to can just use her stuff. In the meantime she’s busy with her day job as a Junior Designer for OUSA.