Inspired by folk art, poetry, and kindness, Kristen Balouch grew from illustrating children’s books, to writing her own children’s books. She now designs fabrics with the creations, patterns and characters from her books. She began drawing at a young age and follows her intuition to determine what to make next.
How did you find yourself on the path to writing children’s stories and designing fabric?
I started illustrating children’s books while I was in art school at Pratt Institute. I loved illustrating books but writing them was always so intimidating.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
Over the years I developed prompts and exercises to create a structure around writing that was more intuitive for a visual person like me. I developed these into a series of online courses for illustrators to focus on writing, illustrating, and promoting children’s books.
My books always have a lot of pattern in them. I tend to fill all the space with patterns, so it seemed a natural next step to also design fabric. I created a few collections for Birch Fabrics and then decided to design fabric with more of a connection to my picture books, Boom! Along came Little House Cottons.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
When I was little I drew a lot. I remember one day being frustrated and not liking my drawing. I crumpled it up and threw it at my mom, who was probably trying to be encouraging. The next memory I have is hanging my drawing of a bear in the kitchen and liking it. When I hung that drawing of the bear in the kitchen I felt a sense of satisfaction. There may have been a couple years between those two memories, but somehow I decided to work through my frustration and keep drawing.
Actually, that is how my process works even now. I create something and sometimes I like it. Most often it’s not quite there and I keep reworking it until I like it. Sometimes it can be emotionally exhausting when you bounce back and forth between frustration and satisfaction.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
I don’t set up skill building tasks or anything like that. My intuition guides me in what to make next. I think doing the same thing over and over again makes you get better.
What inspires you? Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
I’m inspired by folk art, poetry, and kindness. I like to think of a world where we all fit together —a place where we all belong. What would a mushroom and a bunny look like in that world? I like to add those details to my illustrations.
How do you manage your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or work only when inspired?
I work in marathons, taking a couple days to immerse myself in a project. I block everything out and work 16-18 hour days to stay in the mindset of that project. It’s sort of great when you can work uninterrupted until a project is finished. But sometimes the dishes can pile up!
Do you visualize your finished work before you start it?
Most of the time I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come out that way in the end. It’s always a journey.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Yes, my picture book, If You are the Dreamer. I had an idea about unconditional love. If you are something, what can I be to support you? I was gardening and thought, “If you are the seed, I am the sun.” I came up with combinations for weeks. Then I started to pair the combinations into rhyming couplets. “If you are the pilot, I am the plane. If you are the gardener, I am the rain.” I also thought about the illustrations in the couplets so that the subjects were interesting to illustrate.
Do you have great bursts of creativity or does your creativity flow continuously?
I think it’s continuous, but that doesn’t mean I always make the time for it to express itself. I do the projects that keep coming back to me instead of following every creative spark.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
Bill Traylor. I love the simplicity and narrative quality of his work.
Are there any other creative channels you use to express your creativity?
I like to cook, garden and renovate spaces.
How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
I don’t really. I like to work, so I mostly do that.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I think creativity is human nature, but it just needs time and space to express itself.
Tell us about your blog and/or website.
www.kristenbalouch.com: You can see my books and design work and children’s book classes.
www.littlehousecottons.com: You can see my fabric designs for Little House Cottons. I hope it encourages you to make something.
Interview posted January 2023
Browse through more inspiring interviews on Create Whimsy.