District of She Magazine

Caroline Robe

Blasfemme Designs

How did you get started?

I started Blasfemme in August 2015. It was a tough time in my life. I had just broken up with someone I was engaged to. She was moving out of our home, I was unemployed, I was living off of credit cards as we untangled our lives, I had no idea what I was going to do. We had rented a detached house together because we both wanted to work creatively from home so I had a lot of space to figure out my next move in. I had a large studio upstairs and a basement waiting for cleaning and transformation. I got the idea that I would carve some spoons--- people seemed to be interested in them and I was interested in them too as a practical art. I carved the spoons, started doing some other woodworking, and eventually built out a woodshop in the basement, doing craft shows and selling online. I can’t overemphasize how much I have gained from this venture in the short eight months since--- a community, a strange passion, a growing set of skills, the ability to sustainably plan for my future.

What influences you and where does your inspiration come from?

My home, my previous dwellings, and my own lived experience are highest among my influences. Finding my style and direction has been intrinsically tied to finding myself and creating space (physical and social) to live in after the major upheavals that occurred at the same time I started my work. I live and work in a beautiful brownstone from the 1880s and its white walls, old oak floors, striking light from ten foot windows, and exposed ancient plaster and brick are my style guide. As I continue to act on and live in this home I find more and more reason to be interested in these certain colors and textures. More broadly I am inspired by the culture of vernacular architecture and design. I am lucky to live on the South Side of Chicago and have traveled in strange and rural places all over the country and the world. I grew up in rural Maine. I find beauty and power in the spaces, objects, and buildings that regular people create for themselves to use in their everyday lives. I’m not into mass manufacture and soulless design. I’m about the lived experience. I channel that through my work and hopefully make space for it in other peoples lives as well.

How do you maintain work life balance? 

Because I do work at home and my own life is so tied to my work I don’t have work/life balance in the traditional sense at all. My general schedule is fairly relaxed compared to a lot of small business owners I know. I work at a bar two nights a week and the rest of the time I am in my studio, four or five days a week. When I am working in my studio I keep a slow and steady schedule. I am always  to make it more steady. It is hard to not get distracted by the possibility of cleaning, napping, gardening, just hanging around the house.

What has been your biggest hurdle with your brand?

Distraction, in general, is my biggest hurdle as an artist and business person. There are so many wonderful ideas and opportunities out there. I feel very free and that is nice but I can never decide what I am most interested in. On top of that I have all these values, ideals, goals, etc, and some of them can be quite conflicting! I believe to be successful as an artist and a person you have to have quite a clear set of values, and I’m still getting there. I’ve always been overly pluralistic. I always have to remind myself to refocus on just a few ideas, just a few goals.

How do you stay motivated? 

Of course in order to focus you have to have some sort of motivation. My motivation is building an ethical and happy life for myself and for my community. I like to feel healthy in body and mind, engaged in my community, and responsible with my work. The more I hone my vision, the better I share it, the more opportunities I have to feel that way. Sometimes my inner nihilism gets in the way. When I get off track I look around, see this world, and remember who I want to be in it. And then I make some nicer spoons, or do some other small thing to move forward. I try to remember that everything I do-- even the routine challenges like constantly tidying my workbench or always paying invoices on time-- are seeds planted, the fruit being future opportunities to be a good human and a good maker.

 

Where do you see your brand going in the next five years?

My ultimate goal is to be able to design and build all the aspects of good living, from a spoon to a lamp to a home itself, and have a receptive audience that I am able to serve well. I want my work to be financially accessible for lots of people and still support me well. That’s why I’m so focused on building a direct audience and being ever more clever with my sourcing and processes. I want to buy a home in my neighborhood to expand my studio space and garden. I want to travel more again and take more advantage of my empowering and flexible schedule as a self employed person. I want to do more community work and more high concept and gallery work too. I think Blasfemme has a long and fine future. I am setting the groundwork for an expanded creative brand and career. In five years I will be 31 and honestly I feel quite excited thinking about it. If I can keep up my current trajectory I will be in a place I know I will feel proud of, even if nothing happens especially fast. I have a lot of hope for the future of my work.


Caroline Robe

Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist, designer, and builder.

Design work HERE

Art and Write HERE