Taking Notes is an ongoing series, powered by 7115 Paper Goods, where we highlight entrepreneurs we admire and learn about how they stay productive.
The decision to leave behind a job, that you spent almost two decades working towards, to start something of your own is not an easy one, but it is worthwhile. Just ask Kat Hammill, the multidisciplinary designer and Creative Director behind Night Space—an artisanal line of home fragrances based out of the Hudson Valley. Kat, who has over two decades of creative design and production experience in the art, home, and fashion industries, vividly recalls the moment she knew it was time to quit her job and start something of her own. At the time she was a Design Director of Decorative Accessories for West Elm. It was a job that was creatively stimulating and fulfilling, but after years of juggling a demanding work schedule and the responsibilities of being a single mother, the fire in her started to dim. And it was while sitting in a meeting, burnt out and feeling disconnected with her work that Kat could no longer ignore the voice in the back of her mind that yearned for a creative business she could call her own. Since taking the risk, Kat has gone on to launch two successful businesses. In 2015, she co-founded the charming Atlanta brick-and-mortar retailer and 7115 stockist, River Mint Finery, with fellow creative, Cindy Joffe. Then a couple of years later Kat dived into her next project and co-founded Night Space with her life-long friend, Danielle Armstrong. Kat chats with us about how she stays productive and inspired while running her own business.
Interview by Shirley Cai // Images courtesy of Kat Hammill and Night Space
You define Night Space as ‘A ritual, big or small, private or communal, inside or outside, day or night, intersecting with color, scent, and space.’ Do you have a favorite work day ritual?
I start my day very early, and I use that time when the house is still quiet to prepare my work space everyday. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but I can’t dive into work if things are unorganized and all over the place. I am currently working out of my home studio so the energy and flow needs to be balanced or I can’t focus.
Can you share with us your journey to get to where you are now?
I remember when I graduated from Parsons in NYC, and I had professors tell me I really needed to pick a focus, an area of design to concentrate on and I never could. I have always been a “multidisciplinary” designer, getting the most satisfaction working on a variety of design projects from print to product. I co-founded a boutique design studio 20 years ago called Goodesign, and that is really where it all began. I loved working for myself, and working on full scale projects encompassing the whole process. Things evolved, the company changed and grew and I did that for almost 15 years. Then creatively I needed to work on a bigger scale. I wanted to learn more about production and how things are made and I started my position as Design Director of Decorative Accessories at West Elm. It was amazing working for a brand that was at the forefront of artisan made goods, and ethically sourced products. I learned so much. The people were so inspiring, but after a few years I started to get burnt out. Juggling work travel, a demanding schedule and being a single mom, suddenly wasn’t so glamorous. I was tired, worn out, and longing for something that I could invest in creatively while having a better work / life balance. I mean, isn’t that what we all strive for? It’s just the question of: how do we actually get there?
Do you remember the moment you decided to commit yourself to starting Night Space? If you could go back in time to that moment and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
Yes, I remember the moment well. I was absolutely terrified and excited, completely overwhelmed. I was still working at West Elm and I was in the middle of a big concept meeting. I just remember looking around and not feeling connected to what I was designing anymore. I knew then it was time to be on my own, creating something I was really passionate about that would hopefully evolve and grow. I would say, "Congratulations." I don’t think it’s easy to transition into that head space when you have a great job and security, and it’s certainly not easy to start something, anything. It’s a big leap, but [I'm] so happy I did it.
The vessels for Night Space candles are stunning and such a unique design. What was the motivation behind this design?
The inspiration actually came from old tobacco jars. As early as the 1700’s ceramic containers were handmade by artisans to hold the precious herb which at the time was dispensed like a medicinal compound and was of high value. They often resembled apothecary jars and tea canisters, very decorative, I have a set that was given to me of my grandmother’s. I have always loved them, and their interesting lids, but always wished they were more minimal and modern. So I decided to take the concept and design my own version inspired by color and scent and when held, still felt very special.
Where do you search for inspiration? And how do you jot down ideas for new scents to explore or new products to create?
I think it really comes when I travel. Either near or far, just newness really. I am much more visual and very sensitive to space, so when we are concepting new scents I definitely have to connect it with a place, a time, or moment. Scent is a such a sensory experience, it has to be experiential. I am the most inspired when I can step outside my everyday, or typical level of comfort and am pushed to see things differently or experience something new.
You are a Creative Director, Entrepreneur, Designer and a Mother. How do you stay on top of all your daily tasks and to-do lists?
I have no idea! I think some of it has to do with being a single working parent, you become a master multi-tasker. And, I ask for help. I work with amazing women, and I am lucky enough to have an incredible support system. I delegate when I can and we all jump in until the work is done.