Tuesday, 21 May 2024
Katija Bušlje Katija Bušlje Mark Thomas

INTERVIEW - Artisanal Elegance: Katija Bušlje Redefines Souvenir Culture in Dubrovnik with REGO Ceramics

Written by  Mar 10, 2024

Dubrovnik has long been hailed as a source of inspiration, captivating countless artists, poets, and writers throughout the ages. Yet, while the city's allure may spark creativity, it takes a special blend of skill and dedication to turn inspiration into artistry. Enter Katija Bušlje, the talented proprietor behind REGO Ceramics, who embodies this unique combination. Katija's journey began with a deep dive into sculpture during her university years in Zagreb, where she honed her craft.

Following her studies, she returned to her beloved Dubrovnik and established her venture, specializing in meticulously crafted handmade ceramics since 2020. Stepping into Katija's workshop is akin to entering a vibrant hub of creativity, brimming with her exquisite creations. Her unwavering passion for her craft is palpable, mirrored only by her profound affection for her hometown. In a market saturated with ordinary souvenirs, Katija's work shines brightly as a beacon of artistic excellence.

Artisanal Elegance Katija Bušlje Redefines Souvenir Culture in Dubrovnik with REGO Ceramics 8

Photo - Supplied

How difficult was it for you to start your business, bearing in mind that you began when a global pandemic hit?

Even without the pandemic it was challenging. It was a battle, but I continued to create my art and was determined to make it work. At the early stages I was trying to figure out what my clients liked and what they were buying, you could call it early market research. I then developed my products around that feedback. I must say that still today it is hard to work in the art industry. Thankfully, I survived those early years and now hope to get stronger.

All the products that you sell are designed and created by yourself. But creating is one thing, how do you actually sell your sculptures?

We I sell them through a number of channels. I have my own dedicated webpage as well as selling through social media. And then I get orders from various institutions and also sell them through a few selected souvenir shops in Dubrovnik. I do sell quite a few things online although one huge problem are the shipping costs.

Artisanal Elegance Katija Bušlje Redefines Souvenir Culture in Dubrovnik with REGO Ceramics 2

Photo - Mark Thomas 

With the plethora of souvenirs, of varying quality, in Dubrovnik, how difficult is it to rise above the crowd?

My sculptures are only on sale in souvenir shops in Dubrovnik that sell original and authentic souvenirs. Of course, it isn’t easy competing against all the mass produced items but I believe that quality will always stand out from the crowd.

Talk me through the whole process of creating one of your sculptures, for example your St. Blaise statue

So the first thing I was point out is that the whole process is pretty long. I have had people call me and ask me if a product can be ready for tomorrow. It really doesn’t work that way. On average it will take my between two and three weeks to complete a sculpture. I am lucky in that I have a big kiln, but on the flip side it isn’t feasible to fire-up the kiln for a small amount of objects. So firstly I designed the St. Blaise statue and made a prototype in paper. Then I took the clay and pressed it with a special press, I then cut the shape that I wanted and moulded it. I then created and cut the small image of the Old City of Dubrovnik and attached it to the body of St. Blaise.

Artisanal Elegance Katija Bušlje Redefines Souvenir Culture in Dubrovnik with REGO Ceramics 3

 

Iconic St. Blaise Statues - Photo Mark Thomas 

Next starts the drying process, and depends of many factors, but roughly two to three days. Then if I am adding colour I do so at this time before the actual firing. I fire it in the kiln, for the first time, at 1,000°c. Of course, I can’t open the kiln until it cools down, which takes around two to three days. After this first “bake” I wash the sculpture and clean off the dust and then I glaze it. And then back in the kiln for a second time, again at 1,000°c, and again a few days to cool down. And then the statue is ready, unless I add gold paint to it, and then it needs to be in the kiln for a third time. Meaning that from the idea to the final product we are looking at around three weeks.

And apart from the actual design and creation you actually hand paint all the objects yourself?

Yes, everything you see here is all hand painted by me. As I said it takes a lot of time and patience. I have also started with some jewellery, mainly earrings and these seem to be very popular, especially with tourists to the city. I guess they are easy to carry home. I am also seeing that the fridge magnets I create are going well.

Artisanal Elegance Katija Bušlje Redefines Souvenir Culture in Dubrovnik with REGO Ceramics 7

Photo - Mark Thomas 

So started your business in 2020, what have you experienced over that time? Do you think that people are slowing recognising the importance of homemade products?

Yes, I would say that more and more people recognise homemade products and I see that they tend to discover an object that they find interesting. Some people like the larger bowls and some the intricate earrings. However, I would probably say that the St. Blaise statue is still the most popular. Of course business is better than the first pioneering years. But probably the whole process is similar to me creating products, you have to be patient and work step-by-step.

Where do you see yourself and your business in five years’ time?

That’s a good question, I don’t really plan that far in advance. I would like to develop some new techniques to work with clay. And of course I hope that my business improves, but again slowly and surely.

Artisanal Elegance Katija Bušlje Redefines Souvenir Culture in Dubrovnik with REGO Ceramics 4

Photo - Mark Thomas 

Where do you get your inspirations to create these beautiful pieces from?

Funnily enough I get a lot of my inspiration from actually making something, I guess you could say practical inspiration. In any job when you do something then you realise the problems and how you can solve them. Of course, living in such a beautiful city helps a lot, just taking a stroll through the Old City I find myself full of ideas.

You can follow Katija’s work and indeed purchase your own masterpiece from REGO Ceramics by visiting their website or following their social media:

www.regokeramika.com

Instagram link : @rego_keramika

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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