Interview with Fran Aldea of Minka Inhouse

Fran​ ​Aldea​ ​is​ ​the​ ​owner​ ​and​ ​creative​ ​mind​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​wonderful​ ​store​ M​​inka​ ​Inhouse​,​ ​based​ ​in Santiago,​ ​Chile.

I​ ​met​ ​Fran​ ​through​ ​Instagram​ ​about​ ​a​ ​year​ ​ago.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​mindlessly​ ​scrolling​ ​one​ ​day,​ ​as​ ​one does,​ ​and​ ​stumbled​ ​across​ ​her​ ​page.​ ​Instead​ ​of​ ​letting​ ​this​ ​gem​ ​slip​ ​by,​ ​I​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​reach​ ​out and​ ​see​ ​if​ ​she​ ​was​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​chatting.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​a​ ​strong​ ​believer​ ​in​ ​women​ ​supporting​ ​women and​ ​so​ ​I​ ​DM’d​ ​her​ ​and​ ​voila,​ ​we​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​meet.​ ​Luckily​ ​for​ ​me,​ ​Fran​ ​was​ ​in​ ​Brooklyn​ ​at​ ​the time,​ ​taking​ ​ceramic​ ​classes​ ​and​ ​working​ ​remotely​ ​from​ ​Brooklyn.

Our​ ​meeting​ ​was​ ​eye​ ​opening​ ​to​ ​me,​ ​we​ ​talked​ ​about​ ​the​ ​art​ ​world,​ ​about​ ​starting​ ​a​ ​serious career​ ​in​ ​the​ ​arts​ ​and​ ​how​ ​to​ ​go​ ​about​ ​setting​ ​up​ ​a​ ​business.​ ​Fran​ ​was​ ​incredibly​ ​generous​ ​and gave​ ​me​ ​a​ ​nice​ ​insight​ ​into​ ​her​ ​world​ ​-​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​thank​ ​her​ ​enough​ ​for​ ​allowing​ ​me​ ​to​ ​pick​ ​her​ ​brain! As​ ​a​ ​young​ ​woman​ ​beginning​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​the​ ​possibilities​ ​of​ ​starting​ ​my​ ​own​ ​business,​ ​I​ ​have one​ ​million​ ​questions​ ​for​ ​those​ ​who​ ​have​ ​been​ ​successful​ ​in​ ​their​ ​own​ ​right.​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​it​ ​would be​ ​a​ ​nice​ ​idea​ ​to​ ​get​ ​Fran’s​ ​words​ ​down​ ​on​ ​paper​ ​for​ ​others​ ​to​ ​read.​ ​Thank​ ​you​ ​Fran​ ​for​ ​your time​ ​and​ ​inclusivity!

How​ ​did​ ​Minka​ ​Inhouse​ ​start?

I​ ​studied​ ​graphic​ ​design​ ​and​ ​right​ ​after​ ​graduation,​ ​I​ ​started​ ​working​ ​for​ ​different​ ​retail​ ​companies​ ​that​ ​specialize​ ​in home​ ​products.​ ​I​ ​traveled​ ​to​ ​international​ ​design​ ​fairs​ ​in​ ​Hong​ ​Kong,​ ​China​ ​and​ ​Europe.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​part​ ​of​ ​a​ ​big​ ​company, had​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​the​ ​planet,​ ​but​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​that​ ​life​ ​was​ ​not​ ​for​ ​me.​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​be​ ​more​ ​involved​ ​and “hands-on”​ ​with​ ​the​ ​making​ ​of​ ​products​ ​from​ ​start​ ​to​ ​finish.​ ​I​ ​was​ ​also​ ​really​ ​keen​ ​to​ ​know​ ​the​ ​stories​ ​behind​ ​the craftsmen.

On​ ​my​ ​last​ ​trip​ ​to​ ​China,​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​many​ ​of​ ​the​ ​things​ ​we​ ​sent​ ​there​ ​to​ ​produce​ ​could​ ​actually​ ​be​ ​manufactured locally.​ ​Upon​ ​my​ ​return,​ ​I​ ​started​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​suppliers​ ​and​ ​researched​ ​local​ ​techniques​ ​that​ ​could​ ​be​ ​redeveloped​ ​in​ ​a contemporary​ ​way.​ ​I​ ​began​ ​to​ ​source​ ​for​ ​local​ ​raw​ ​materials​ ​that​ ​could​ ​be​ ​used.​ ​Now​ ​I​ ​can​ ​happily​ ​say​ ​that​ ​everyday I​ ​am​ ​learning​ ​something​ ​new​ ​(about​ ​crafting)​ ​and​ ​at​ ​the​ ​same​ ​time,​ ​meet​ ​interesting​ ​people.

Please​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​about​ ​the​ ​Minka​ ​community!​ ​What​ ​impact​ ​and​ ​importance​ ​do​ ​they​ ​play​ ​in​ ​your​ ​brand​ ​and way​ ​of​ ​making?

My​ ​production​ ​partners​ ​are​ ​essential.​ ​As​ ​I​ ​mentioned​ ​before,​ ​I​ ​studied​ ​graphic​ ​design,​ ​so​ ​everything​ ​I​ ​know about​ ​ceramics​ ​and​ ​textiles​ ​is​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​self-taught​ ​(with​ ​books,​ ​Youtube​ ​videos​ ​and​ ​making-experience). Sometimes​ ​I​ ​have​ ​an​ ​idea​ ​and​ ​then,​ ​thanks​ ​to​ ​their​ ​knowledge,​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​it​ ​is​ ​not​ ​possible​ ​to​ ​make.​ ​I​ ​am constantly​ ​learning​ ​from​ ​them​ ​and​ ​their​ ​feedback​ ​is​ ​fundamental​ ​for​ ​my​ ​design​ ​process.

Currently,​ ​it’s​ ​just​ ​me​ ​in​ ​the​ ​design​ ​and​ ​management​ ​and​ ​I​ ​work​ ​with​ ​José​ ​in​ ​the​ ​ceramic​ ​workshop​ ​and​ ​with Alban,​ ​Mónica​ ​and​ ​Lidia​ ​in​ ​textiles.

Did​ ​you​ ​always​ ​want​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​business​ ​owner​ ​or​ ​was​ ​there​ ​something​ ​that​ ​prompted​ ​you​ ​to​ ​take​ ​the plunge?

My​ ​main​ ​drive​ ​was​ ​my​ ​need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​manage​ ​my​ ​own​ ​time​ ​and​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​new​ ​ways​ ​of​ ​making/creating products.

Were​ ​you​ ​a​ ​business​ ​savvy​ ​person​ ​before​ ​owning​ ​Minka​ ​or​ ​have​ ​you​ ​learnt​ ​on​ ​the​ ​job?

I​ ​had​ ​some​ ​small​ ​knowledge​ ​about​ ​pricing,​ ​marketing​ ​and​ ​advertising.​ ​Then​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​about everything​ ​and​ e​specially​ ​about​ ​paying​ ​taxes,​ ​accounting​ ​and​ ​all​ ​the​ ​small​ ​administration​ ​aspects​ ​of​ ​owning​ ​a business.

What​ ​are​ ​the​ ​key​ ​aspects​ ​to​ ​owning​ ​a​ ​successful​ ​business?

I​ ​think​ ​the​ ​most​ ​important​ ​aspects​ ​of​ ​owning​ ​a​ ​business​ ​are​ ​being​ ​passionate​ ​about​ ​what​ ​you​ ​are​ ​creating.​ ​​ ​If you​ ​don’t​ ​believe​ ​or​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​love​ ​what​ ​you​ ​do​ ​then​ ​it​ ​is​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​very​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​overcome​ ​obstacles​ ​and mistakes​ ​(which​ ​are​ ​many!).​ ​I​ ​also​ ​believe​ ​that​ ​you​ ​have​ ​to​ ​always​ ​stay​ ​positive,​ ​have​ ​a​ ​main​ ​goal​ ​and​ ​go​ ​for​ ​it.

What​ ​are​ ​the​ ​biggest​ ​challenges​ ​of​ ​owning​ ​a​ ​business?

For​ ​me,​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​biggest​ ​challenges​ ​is​ ​having​ ​time​ ​of​ ​no-business​ ​and​ ​no-control​ ​over​ ​production.​ ​Owning​ ​a business​ ​is​ ​more​ ​than​ ​a​ ​job,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​a​ ​lifestyle.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​constantly​ ​thinking​ ​about​ ​lead​ ​times,​ ​new​ ​products, collaborations,​ ​photos​ ​for​ ​social​ ​media,​ ​etc.​ ​Sometimes​ ​it​ ​is​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​have​ ​extra​ ​energy​ ​for​ ​just​ ​hanging​ ​out with​ ​your​ ​partner,​ ​friends​ ​and​ ​family.

What​ ​inspires​ ​you​ ​on​ ​a​ ​day​ ​to​ ​day​ ​basis?

I​ ​am​ ​inspired​ ​by​ ​simple​ ​things:​ ​nature​ ​and​ ​silence.

How​ ​important​ ​are​ ​traditional​ ​designs​ ​to​ ​you?​ ​Do​ ​you​ ​pull​ ​from​ ​traditional​ ​prints​ ​and​ ​ceramic​ ​designs or​ ​are​ ​you​ ​more​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​contemporary​ ​ideas?

I​ ​am​ ​constantly​ ​impressed​ ​and​ ​inspired​ ​by​ ​ancient​ ​crafts,​ ​history​ ​and​ ​technique.​ ​For​ ​me,​ ​any​ ​contemporary idea​ ​starts​ ​from​ ​something​ ​traditional.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​look​ ​back,​ ​for​ ​example​ ​at​ ​pre-hispanic​ ​textiles,​ ​you​ ​will​ ​find patterns​ ​and​ ​color​ ​pallets​ ​that​ ​look​ ​very​ ​XXI​ ​century.​ ​Or​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Qing​ ​dynasty​ ​there​ ​are​ ​porcelain​ ​vases​ ​with glazes​ ​and​ ​shapes​ ​so​ ​modern​ ​and​ ​clean​ ​that​ ​they​ ​look​ ​like​ ​something​ ​that​ ​was​ ​created​ ​last​ ​week.

I​ ​am​ ​always​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​hearing​ ​about​ ​art​ ​practices​ ​in​ ​different​ ​cities.​ ​New​ ​York​ ​to​ ​me​ ​feels​ ​incredibly intense​ ​and​ ​often​ ​times​ ​a​ ​little​ ​stifling​ ​when​ ​it​ ​comes​ ​to​ ​making​ ​”art.”​ ​Can​ ​you​ ​briefly​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​about similarities​ ​and​ ​differences​ ​to​ ​art​ ​making​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York​ ​vs​ ​Chile?​ ​Cultural​ ​differences?

One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​main​ ​differences​ ​is​ ​that​ ​in​ ​New​ ​York​ ​you​ ​have​ ​everything​ ​available​ ​and​ ​made-easy.​ ​You​ ​can​ ​order through​ ​Amazon​ ​your​ ​clay,​ ​glazes,​ ​brushes,​ ​sponges,​ ​packaging,​ ​yarns,​ ​etc.​ ​The​ ​offer​ ​is​ ​overwhelming.​ ​So many​ ​different​ ​alternatives​ ​without​ ​getting​ ​out​ ​of​ ​your​ ​workplace.​ ​Also,​ ​my​ ​impression​ ​is​ ​that​ ​everyone​ ​there​ ​is absolutely​ ​professional​ ​and​ ​there​ ​is​ ​this​ ​status-quo​ ​or​ ​collective​ ​awareness​ ​that​ ​your​ ​work​ ​has​ ​to​ ​be exceptional​ ​24/7.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​awesome​ ​because​ ​you​ ​feel​ ​that​ ​everyone​ ​is​ ​paddling​ ​to​ ​greatness.​ In​ ​Chile​ ​it​ ​is​ ​very difficult​ ​to​ ​find​ ​good​ ​raw​ ​material,​ ​suppliers​ ​and​ ​production​ ​partners.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​are​ ​lucky​ ​and​ ​find​ ​a​ ​shop,​ ​then​ ​it closes.​ ​Despite​ ​this,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​many​ ​small​ ​crafts​ ​businesses​ ​that​ ​make​ ​shoes,​ ​bags​ ​and​ ​clothes​ ​of​ ​the​ ​highest quality.​ ​This​ ​can​ ​be​ ​similar​ ​to​ ​New​ ​York​ ​because​ ​it​ ​means​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​true​ ​interest​ ​for​ ​handmade​ ​products​ ​and people​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​pay​ ​for​ ​them.

What​ ​advice​ ​would​ ​you​ ​give​ ​to​ ​someone​ ​who​ ​is​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​starting​ ​a​ ​business?

Have​ ​a​ ​main​ ​goal,​ ​don’t​ ​let​ ​obstacles​ ​and​ ​mistakes​ ​be​ ​a​ ​deterrent,​ ​work​ ​with​ ​and​ ​for​ ​your​ ​networks.​​ ​​Also,​ ​don’t​ ​wait to​ ​have​ ​every​ ​detail​ ​of​ ​your​ ​idea/business​ ​plan​ ​100%​ ​perfect​ ​and​ ​solved.​ ​Perfection​ ​may​ ​stop​ ​you​ ​from​ ​ever​ ​starting​.

All photos courtesy of Minka Inhouse.

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