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Designer Talks: Katherine De Sousa

The foundation of Katherine De Sousa's work is a love of material and the emotional importance of a person's environment. The multi-talented independent product designer is well known for her crystal designs but has also dabbled in home furnishings, tableware, giftware and housewares. Her passion for the medium has transformed into designs for world renowned crystal companies like Val St. Lambert, Baccarat, Steuben Glass and Hoya, to name a few.

Do you have a greatest career moment? If so, what was it?

I feel so lucky to have had an interesting career with the variety of both long-term clients and individual client projects.

What is the basis of your design strategy?

The primary objective in my design work is creating designs uniquely suited to each specific client. Rather than designing with a single individual style, I analyze the company's position in the marketplace, its manufacturing criteria, and synthesize this information into a creative design approach.

How would you define your personal design aesthetic?

My own aesthetic preference is 20th century modern and minimalist. I think one needs to have the patina and balance of the old to offset the rigor of the new.

What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?

The marketplace has changed so much, and the ability to visualize and produce a design idea has changed also. Young designers are taking design into their own hands, funding (Kickstarter), making (3D printing) and selling (online) the ideas they feel passionately about. It has created a fusion of individual inspiration, craft and concept. Bravo keep going.

Design is so situational. It is a process of problem solving, and unless you are solving the same problem over and over, the criteria change.

What do you use on your table?

Not surprisingly, I use things I designed. Though it must be said, I have a LOT of accessories, some from diverse sources like Terrafirma Ceramics, Cornwall Bridge Pottery, Ikea, and Target.

What is the favorite gift you ever received and what was the occasion?

The greatest gifts I have received are health, independence, family and friends. As a designer of giftware, I believe it is important to imbue objects with a spirit, which will hopefully enhance the life of the recipient. By that, I don't mean having a saying engraved on the object, rather that the object has an attitude that will be meaningful to the person who receives it.

Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest mentor or design inspiration?

John Miller and the Miller family; a couple of years after leaving Waterford, John and his family started an association with the Rogaska Crystal Factory. At that time I was introduced to him as a possible designer for his new company. It was 1984 and John said to me "I want something different, not traditional, lighter, I will know it when I see it". Working for him was like having your most astute editor and critic right there. A great gift for a designer.

Do you have any rules regarding design?

I don't think I have rules, because design is so situational. It is a process of problem solving, and unless you are solving the same problem over and over, the criteria change.

How many Forty One Madison Tabletop and Gift shows have you attended?

How many have there been? I think I have missed maybe 5 since Mikasa opened its first showroom in Forty One Madison.