Meet MakerMail: Karen of Ink and Dirt Designs


Go behind the screens to meet the hands and hearts of MakerMail, our cooperative service that connects makers directly with supporters of handmade like you! Last week we got to know Jen of Pikelet Workshop and today we’re spending time with the lovely Karen of Ink and Dirt Designs.

If you love her creations and want to sample them for yourself visit her shop or support the Maker Movement this holiday season and purchase MakerMail – Karen is one of the marvelous makers who made this exclusive gifting edition possible. Final signups close November 17th! 

Karen of Ink & Dirt Designs

Tell us a bit about yourself & how you got started with your craft or business!

My name is Karen, I am a creative soul, wife and mother of two wonderful kids. I am also the dreamer behind Ink and Dirt Designs.

You know that childhood desire to draw, paint and create? Well that just never went away for me and it has been a constant in my life. My part time job through out high school and college was in a very lovely garden center so I was always surrounded by landscape designers and home décor. That was a surprisingly great creative outlet but then I had to get a grown up corporate job, so I sought out to learn anything creative that I could in my spare time, such as carpentry, welding, illustrator and even attained my certificate in landscape design a few years ago “just for fun” which seems a little ridiculous I suppose but that’s me. In the end it was Illustrator and landscaping that stuck with me the most. For the longest time if I wasn’t at my day job working as an Analyst, I was creating cards, invitations and doing small landscape jobs for friends and family.

So from ink, to a pile of dirt, that is where Ink and Dirt Designs was born.

Karen of Ink & Dirt Designs

Have you always wanted to run your own creative business, or was it a slow realization?

The dream of running my own creative business was forever in my mind but it took a long time to find the courage to take the first steps to make it happen. Correction…it took a long time to convince myself that I could do it and then the courage to do it.

Tell us about your products – how have they evolved & your product line grown since you first got started?

What I enjoyed most about making cards and invitations early on was listening to the excitement and the details that people would share about their event. People wanted to share their stories, wanted to make connections and wanted to make things personal. I then started making cards for showers and weddings using only words, makings them truly personal/custom while using my natural tendency (or obsession some would say) towards structure, order and simplicity as the visual inspiration. They were so well received and I felt great knowing that I created a piece that truly touched their hearts and told their stories. As things progressed I found my groove, moved away from cards and moved towards making prints. Today my anniversary and birthday prints are some of my most popular pieces. In my shop, some of my prints are completely custom but many are not, regardless, my goal in creating every print is to capture the special moments in life, the celebrations, the milestones, even those moments where someone might need some extra encouragement and turn them into visually impactful art using words.

Karen of Ink & Dirt Designs

Take us behind your screen – what does a typical day really look like for you as a maker? 

My morning starts with being am a mom, dressing, feeding and transporting kids to school. After that the next bit of the morning is spent taking care of some of glamorous family tasks like cleaning, laundry and groceries. If there are no family tasks then it’s time for emails, social media and popping into the forums. After that I settle in to print/pack orders, work on new prints, sketch out ideas, paper cutting, product photos and doing anything that requires my studio or the tools within it. Then before I know it I realize I haven’t eaten lunch and it’s already time to get the kids! Once again I am a mom again until they are in bed. In the evenings I hang out with the hubs who is also my supportive business manager, grab my sketch book and doodle for fun, do some book keeping if needed and generally do anything that only requires my laptop, the couch and perhaps some wine. Friday nights and weekends I try to not do anything business related (unless I have customs orders to complete) and just enjoy spending time with the family.

Karen of Ink & Dirt Designs

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?

I wish I knew there was a place like OMHG! It can be surprisingly difficult to find mentors, creative people or a creative community locally, especially when you are a painful introvert who has a “non creative” day job! Things changed after I found OMHG because I found resources, inspiration and encouragement at my fingertips. It was a safe place to get out of my shell, shed some fear and buck up to do the same in face-to-face environments, which I do now with much more confidence.

Karen of Ink & Dirt Designs

What bit of advice would you give makers just starting out on their creative journey?

Do the numbers, do the research, educate yourself, make a plan and set some goals. Be aware that administration work will become a huge part of your world but there are a lot of tools out there that can help manage that. Understand that there will be some ups, some downs, some sacrifices, scary moments, failures and a lot of hard work. Once you do all that, tuck any fear or self-doubt away into the back of your mind, take a deep breath and go for it. I am certainly glad I did because despite of the ups and downs….I feel like a silly schoolgirl, excited and happy every time I walk into my studio and that is pretty cool.

Everybody defines being a maker differently, what does it mean to you? 

Being a maker to me means that you are a person who does what they need to do to fulfill that undeniable and deep-rooted need to create and share. That’s it.

Karen of Ink & Dirt Designs

Why are you a part of MakerMail and the OMHG community? Do you think it is important to create a ‘movement of moments’ by connecting buyers directly with makers?

I am part of OMHG because of the supportive and creatively rich community it virtually houses. I am also a part of it because of exciting collaborative projects like Community Art Prints and MakerMail. I do believe creating a ‘movement of moments’ is important because we live in a world where so much is massed produced and impersonal. Knowing who made a product, how they make a product and why they make it offers a connection that you can’t get otherwise. It makes it so much more personal and adds value to the maker, for the buyer and the recipient.

MakerMail Letter Mail

Aside from MakerMail where can people find you & your products?

You can find Ink and Dirt Designs in the following places and I love connecting with people so please stop by and say hi!

21st Annual York Region Craft & Gift Show

This juried show donates all proceeds from exhibitor fees to United Way York Region in support of York Region agencies such as Blue Door Shelters, CHATS, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Community Living Agencies, Pathways, York Centre for Children, Youth and Families, 360° Kids and Yellow Brick House to name a few.
York Region Administration Centre 17250 Yonge St Newmarket, ON
November 20th 9:30am – 6:00pm

Markham Arts Council’s Holiday Artisan Show and Sale 
A juried Holiday Show in the newly refurbished Stiver Mill in the heart of Unionville featuring one-of-a-kind and handcrafted gift ideas from local artists. Event coincides with the Olde Tyme Christmas Candlelight Parade and Festivities.
Stivers Mill Farmers Market 7 Station Ln Unionville, ON
December 5th 4pm – 10pm
December 6th 10am – 6pm


Thank you for being awesome and such an important part of our community Karen! We hope you’ll support Ink and Dirt Designs and the OMHG community of makers by signing up for MakerMail before November 17th and making your own movement of moments.