Interview with Kaori Mitsushima of Cats I Know
Thank you to Kaori Mitsushima of Cats I Know for letting me interview her for our blog. Kaori has a 2013 Cat Calendar. Kaori was featured in the video below, which tells of her experience with cats. I also ask her a number of questions below.
When I was kid, a close friend of my family had a cat named Sam, who I adored. He was a big, fluffy, white and gray cat. I think he was a cross between a Himalayan and a Siamese. I think my interest started there. But I didn’t get my own cat until I was twenty-five. I was living in Prague and on June 6th, 2005, our beloved cat Pon Pon joined our life. A friend of a friend had some kittens, so I took a tram to a suburb of Prague and rang the buzzer of a Ukrainian lady’s house. She didn’t speak English so I just said “kočka” into the intercom, which means “cat” in Czech. She said something back, let me in, and invited me in, where another woman held up two kittens, with their bellies facing me. I liked the marks on Pon Pon’s stomach and chose her, but truthfully I wanted them both.
Please describe your creative process.
My creative process is pretty random. On some days, I sit down at my desk, in my studio, and just doodle over and over until a clear image pops up. Or sometimes the idea comes first, and then I work it out on paper. When I collaborate with others, such as an ebook I did with the poet Dorothea Lasky, I started by reading all of her poems many times to let them sink in. Only after this did I start to illustrate. I enjoy all of these processes but my favorite one is when my hands just automatically make something. When I don’t think, the images usually come out as mixed media, for example collages or simple ink drawings. Last year, I assembled some of those works and made a zine called “Question Marks.”
Do you sell your work in a local store in your area?
I do. For example, in my community, we have an indoor market, where I sell my work on the weekends. But most of my work sells on Etsy, Little Paper Planes, and stores in New York City, such as Desert Island.
Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
I have never featured a Ragdoll cat but I’m sure I will in the future. I love all cats and Ragdolls are especially beautiful.
Are you a one wo/man show?
In some way yes. I make, sell, and distribute my work. But my husband is a big supporter and my cats are my healers and inspiration.
Do you have a blog?
Yes. It is catsiknow.com
Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don’t care for it?
Yes, I make cat portraits, which are all custom made. I work hard, in the pre-production stage, to make sure all my customers are satisfied with my drafts, before I complete a cat portrait. But if they don’t care for it, they can return it since I want everyone to be satisfied. Thankfully, so far this hasn’t happened.
I love my collection of illustrations called “Cats I Know.” These drawings were directly inspired by Pon Pon and a white cat named Araise, who joined our family in 2007, when we moved to America. Then one year ago, I moved to a farm house, where we inherited another white cat, named Sula. She is an indoor-outdoor cat who loves to hunt mice, but she is also very personable. Because Sula is the first wild cat that I got to know, she inspired an illustration: “Sula by Night.” In the illustration, Sula is heading out into the forest, at night, with a lantern, looking for mice.
What inspired your 2013 CATS I KNOW Wall Calendar?
In the past, I had made zines, buttons, a tote bag, and custom cat portraits, but calendars, in general, seemed like something that everyone might like, since it’s a very useful item. The more I thought about it, each image just came to me, like the cats were just waiting to come to life.