Thursday 8 October 2015

Craft Conversations with the Pros | Manoli Navarro "Picatua"

Today we go back to Spain, this time to Galicia (North West of Spain) to get to know a bit better one of the best known paper crafters in my native country. Her name Manoli Navarro though she is better known as Manoli Picatua.

Manoli, when and how did you start in the craft industry? 

I started paper crafting when we moved to Galicia in 2004, I started with the digital side, I used to print out the patterned papers to make cards and then scrapbooked digitally.
We had to changed very dramatically when our youngest daughter was born, as she was born prematurely and with a lot of health problems. At the time, I was working in the marketing and advertising world in Spain's capital Madrid. Suddenly I was in a small city in the middle of inland Galicia without being able to work outside the home as I needed to care for my little one. I needed to distract my mind and give an outlet to all the emotions that I experienced and scrapbooking was that outlet. It wasn't till 2005 that I did not make a layout in paper.

Was it full time? Part time?
From 2006 was a full time job.

What type of job did you have at first? Did you started as a creative straight away?
I started selling cards to a group of Germans expats living in Torrevieja (Alicante, Spain). I would send the cards by postal mail and my mum would sell them to them every week.
I soon started to have regular clients, but soon they started to be more demanding and asked for personalised cards. That was the reason I created my blog.
In october 2006 I found the first online Spanish Scrapbooking forum, a forum created by a retail shop in Barcelona. After that, I was asked to do their online shop even if I was 1000km (621 miles) away! As well as teach online workshops and work with their magazine. I was already teaching in Galicia (since 2007) and in 2008 I taught for the first time in Creativa Barcelona (the most stablished paper crafting show in Spain).

How do you describe your job nowadays?
I work in something that I am passionate about, I can see myself working in anything else. It is a hard job because you need to be do many things at once, but I love what I do and I believe in it.

What would you do differently? 
 Its a difficult question, because I always say that the experiences are what help you to get to where you are now and maybe, if I had not gone through all that I have gone through professionally, I would not be who I am in the world of scrapbooking.
Perhaps I would have become independent sooner, by that i mean to become a freelancer and not to be so much dependent of the shops.
Of my projects, I would not make anything different. For me, albums, altered art, layouts have a reason of being, independently of the colour or papers I used. My current style is the evolution of everything that I have been trying in my journey. I don't like too much my colourful phase. 

Out of everything you do and have done, what is your favourite?
Teaching in person. I have taught workshops in all sorts, even online live every week every friday for 3 years. I teach online through PDFs and make tutorials for Design Teams, but what you can feel in a workshop in person its not describable. The nerves because of the worry if you have forgotten something, the faces full of excitement of the students when they take home the made up project, the hugs and their affection... You can't tell that, you have to experience it.
Whats your proudest moment and achievement?
The proudest moment was this year when i was invited to teach at Chocolate Quente XL in Oporto at an international event with four big artists of the crap world like Shimelle or Diane Schultz dueña de Graphic 45, it was an honour to have them as colleagues.
However, if there is something that I can be proud of is of the largest event that happens in Galicia, of which I am the founder and it's already on its 5th edition. It is an event where it doesnt matter whether you are shop, teacher or scrapbooker, that day everyone is sitting down just the same as colleagues. They close their shops so that they can come to the event without any competition or bad atmosphere.

Is it hard to work full/part time in the craft industry? Can you name your major challenges you face?
Yes, its very difficult. I am going to very honest here as we are between friends! 
In Spain there a very few professionals, and by professional I mean people who are registered sole trader and pay their taxes as such. When you offer to teach a workshop at a shop, the shops rarely ask you to be one, so that everyone can teach.
Another problem is the crisis, before shops and teachers fought in the same path, now I suppose due to the fact that shops have had their sales drop, little by little the shops themselves become our competitors because they bring down the prices of workshops to a point where its impossible to compete.
My company is small family business. My husband and I work in the business, as I cant just teach, I am a crafter that sells what I do, specially cards for events. Again, the crisis has made that because of necessity, people that are not professionals sell stuff at ridiculous low prices for weddings and other events, as they don't pay taxes and the client chooses the cheapest.
The other great issue is to be updating daily in social media. If you are creating a project for a Design Team, for an online shop, to teach at a workshop and shows, when do you publicise it? When do you update the blog? When do you answer and engage with your followers?
A small business like mine cant afford a community manager or a social media manager. Because of that you are always trying to balance timing so that you don't take away time with the family, so you end up sacrificing sleep. 
I could go on, but I am going to leave it here... Because after all, it is worth it.

What do you think is more important to make it in this industry: creative talent, hard work or luck?
Hardwork of course. One can have a lot of talent and be very creative, but if you want to survive in this industry you wont do it if you dont put all your efforts and persist. Through all these years, I have seen how other artists have grown because of their creative talent and marketing skills, bit the difficult bit is not to go up but maintaining yourself.

What would you like to see changing in the craft industry?

I would love it if, like the crafters guild, there was a legislation or something that regulated prices and working conditions. That also protected us professionals from plagiarism, professional abuse and intrusiveness. An association of sorts.
In Spain above all else there is a great ignorance of what it is a scrapbooking professional, because of that when you are negotiating prices and workshops there are concepts that not even shops understand, like why it is compulsory to pay a compensation fee for cancelling an event. As a professional, you have done the budget, booked a date and then you find out only three days before hand that the shop cancels the workshop because its not as full as they expected. You as a professional have lost a full day of physical work, but maybe it was a full week of real work preparing kits and the project. The brands, companies and shops forget that you are not only working the day that you have been hired to do the workshop, but meanwhile you have worked a full week that no one is paying directly for.  
This is what i would like to highlight, because when you give a fee for the workshops they need to start to think that you are budgeting for the time they are not seeing.

What is your favourite project type?
Mini albums and cards. 

What is your favourite colour in general? And to make projects with? (Not always the same!) 
I like to start my work with a white background, independently of the paper I am going to use. I love pastel colours, mint, pink and ivory almost always are in my work. However, y favourite colour in my daily life is blue, any variation of it but blue!
Where you go for inspiration?
I go to interior design magazines, I see a table decorated and I see the composition of cards! I only turn on the computer two hours a day, from 6 till 8 in the morning. From that time, I take 30mins to Pinterest to look for combinations of colours above all else. I follow from my blog great cardmaking artists that inspire me greatly. And when all else fails i go to walk by the 
Cañones del Cil in the Ribeira Sacra, very close to my home.

What is next for you?
I have the intention of being more visual in my Youtube channel this season. I am also going to focus more on online teaching although I do think this year I will have to travel much more than last.
I have several working proposals of which i cant talk now that I think they are going to help me internationally. I have two dreams in particular that I have been working in for a few years but for the time being I will only talk about one of them: to become part of the Design Team of Graphic 45, maybe in 2016? The other dream, I would like it to keep it to myself.

Thnak you so much Manoli, I hope those dreams become reality! (Sitges March 2015.)

You can find Manoli online here:

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