know your artist | kangarui

Preamble. Lol.

When I first started this blog (still can’t get used to this word) writing on here, I had a vision and I wasn’t quite sure if it would ever come into fruition. See, in life, you can have a dream but if you don’t work, then it will just be an idea stuck your head. And some times, most times, you will have to wait, to grow, to a level where you can make this dream come true. It starts with preparation.

The main aim of my website is to have a space where whoever is reading can leave feeling lighter, or inspired in some way. (And hopefully in the process read every single one of my posts, like and share with their friends and get the word going *grin*). Other than posting lifestyle articles, I really wanted to have a space to share art. Not just my own, but sort of have a database on here about inspiring artists. People who I feel I can look up to, learn from, and in turn spread the word about their wonderful work.

I’d sketch in my notebooks endless times, and keep writing down lists of goals but I’d never really followed through. I had so many excuses, my biggest one being that I didn’t have a camera and I wasn’t great at Photoshop. It all came down to self doubt. With time, I’ve stopped making too many excuses and have just decided to make the most of what I have, which is my phone. And the biggest blessing God has given me, my brain.

I finally have the courage to take small steps towards making this vision coming true, so let’s see where it goes 🙂 I guess I’ll call this series ‘Know your artist’, where I will have a chat with the artist, take a few pictures and share what inspires me, with you all. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do.

The first artist I will feature is Rui of Kangarui. I randomly found her page one of those nights where you can’t fall asleep because you’re craving more out of life. In such moments, I find myself going through beautiful imagery until my eyes get itchy, then I know it’s time to turn in. I scrolled for what seemed like hours until I got to the end of her page. My mind was processing this imagery and thinking, ‘Wow. This is a Kenyan brand. A lady owns it, and she has turned her art into a business’. I could see the passion in her work and so I said to myself, ‘I have to meet her’.

We met this past Sunday at an art x fashion pop up at Art Cafe Westgate, she was kind and humble but in a hurry because her dad was visiting from Japan and so she only had a short while to spare. I promised to take only ten minutes of her time, and at the 10 minute 41 second mark we were done. I’m so grateful for her taking the time to chat, looking forward to our next meeting. Here’s the result of our chat 🙂

My questions are in bold and her responses underneath.


Where are you from?

I am from a lot of places because I grew up in different countries but I consider myself Japanese-Kenyan. I grew up in Kenya, moved to Nakuru first when I was four and lived there for about seven years. Both my parents are Japanese.

Where did you get your formal education from?

I went to a design school in England, where I trained as a graphic designer.

In that case, how did you get into art? Your work looks like water colour and mixed media.

I’m a web designer by profession, which is very digital. I wanted to get away from that, and at the time I was living in a small town in Germany. I wouldn’t call myself a painter, but I would buy different fabrics and experiment with mixed media, stamps, painting and linocuts. I love photography as well so I started playing with collages and thought, ‘Hmm, they work well together’. It was very colourful and all about animals because, I guess, I’d started to miss Kenya. It had been about ten years since I’d left Kenya, and that’s how it all started.

Most souvenir shops have similar pieces and hopefully, I’m bringing something new and fresh. The art scene is really growing in Kenya, and it’s great to have diversity. Kenya is more than just ‘kitenge’ and the stereotypical pieces. I want to produce things that are good quality in a modern style, and made in Kenya!

*Fatma high fives at this point and gets all giddy about girl power and the Kenyan art scene growing*

How long have you been working as an artist?

I wouldn’t call myself an artist because this is something I started two years ago as a hobby on the side but I officially launched this brand March 2016.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like to work out. To be with friends, to travel. I think traveling is the best thing but you need time for that. And I love food, so I eat a lot!

Where do you find inspiration?

My work is all about positive energy. I’m trying to bring out the beauty of Kenya in my art, and express it to not only Kenyans but also people around the world. Spread the good vibes.

*Another giddy, giggly, classic Fatma high-five*

What challenges have you faced?

So many! Every single day. The latest one was packaging of my products.

I think you’ve done a great job.

The challenge is after your product is done and you have to package it for a hundred pieces. You may hire people to help you out, but if you don’t explain properly or if you hire the wrong person you don’t get the right outcome. Sometimes you wish you had three bodies to do everything yourself!

What advice would you give to upcoming artists who want to make a business out of their talents?

Go for it! Just start 🙂

Technical aspects? Do I have to make a financial plan? How do you proceed from the drawing board to a business?

My way was very simple. I had a collection of art work and some American companies liked them, so they carried my products but I would get minimal returns for my work. I had to identify a different market, and so I decided to produce my own work. I went through many manufacturers, and once I found a match they started producing my pieces. I don’t have a financial plan yet, but I’m getting on it. I’m just currently using my savings to run the business. The sales aren’t covering all the costs yet since it’s fairly new, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Life is all about taking risks, right? You can always dream about something but if you don’t take action it’s never going to happen. If it doesn’t work out, at least you won’t regret it for the rest of your life. So just go for it!

*hugs and awws* 🙂

To summarise what I learned from Rui:

  1. Capital. Have some savings to get your business started.
  2. Identify a manufacturer and compare prices.
  3. Get started and don’t look back!

Make sure to support Rui’s work and buy a phone case or get some cute pieces for your home 🙂 Also, feel free to share this post with your friends and help a sister gain some confidence as well *blush*

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