Dream Weaving with Catherine Costanza of Catherine Rising

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(photos by Amy Moore of Amy Moore Photography)

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

My name is Catherine Costanza. I grew up in Vermont in a small house on Lake Champlain. I studied Painting at Pratt Institute in NYC. I lived and worked in Brooklyn until I moved to Rochester about three years ago. 

I practice yoga regularly. I love hiking, camping, the beach, and drinking wine with my girlfriends. I love vintage shopping and collect pottery, and hippie dresses from the 60’s and 70’s. I live in Rochester with my boyfriend, Matt and our dog, Sunny. 

I am a designer and my line is called Catherine Rising. It’s a small collection of home goods which I design and produce in my studio in The Hungerford Building. I also do freelance design, development and production.  

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What are your our passions? What makes you tick?

I find inspiration through traveling, research and exploring. I love bringing my experiences and feelings to life and sharing them with others.

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(Lettering by Jill TaftofTiny Ruby Designs)

How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?  

I graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 2008 (read financial crisis). I looked for studio shares, took an internship at a gallery, and made a list of residencies and graduate programs to apply for, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I spent a couple of years bouncing around Brooklyn, smoking pot and getting fired from various high end retail stores. Mostly, I was putting off breaking up with painting. I had spent so much time studying to be a painter, and deciding to leave it made me feel like a failure.

I scheduled a meeting with a career advisor back at Pratt, who told me  to “take the path of least resistance” and it was like a light went on.  

There was this jewelry designer that I really admired in Brooklyn, so I wrote her this really dorky fan mail and she took me on as an intern. I interned for her for about 2 years (while bartending nights) and she eventually hired me.  

I started doing studio work, running errands, and worked my way up to helping her with design, sales, and trade shows. I loved working for her- even before I was getting paid. Every day was something new- and she taught me so much.  More than anything it was so amazing to spend every day in that world.  I loved what I was doing, so work was fulfilling and inspiring.  It was a really wonderful time.  

A few years in, I started making some wall hangings and dream catchers to sell under her line. A buyer from a big retailer saw them at a friend’s store and reached out to me. I had to register as a business in order to work with that big company, and Catherine Rising was born.  

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What is your biggest regret?

My biggest regret is not asking for more help in the beginning. I never planned on starting my own business so I never took a business class in college. I had no idea how to use excel, or file my taxes, I struggled with writing emails to my buyers, sticking up for myself when working with giant companies, you name it.

For a long time I had this pride/ overachiever/ only child thing where I felt like I needed to be perfect and do it all myself. Design was easy for me, and production deadlines were demanding so all of the other stuff was put on the back- burner.  When I was finally forced to do it, I would have a total melt down and my business would suffer. Now I’m constantly asking for help and advice from actual business people.  It’s so helpful and so fulfilling to learn and to see personal growth on that end. I really wish I had done it sooner.

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?

Put in the work! Work longer and harder than you think you have to. I mentioned earlier that I interned full time for a few years before I was on the pay roll. I did it because I was obsessed with it. I bartended at night and took every side job I could get to make it work. I didn’t second guess the work I was doing or the sacrifices I was making, it was the foundation for my growth.

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What is your favorite part of what you do?  

The creative process. I love gathering inspiration and materials and bouncing ideas off of my buyers and clients. The excitement gains momentum as the wheels start turning. And then when the product or project is finished and I can stand back and look at it, it’s a really beautiful feeling.

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Name a few of your favorite local creatives.

Erica Bradbury, the designer I worked for in New York.  She owns Species by the Thousands in Brooklyn.  She’s an innovative designer and she knows what’s cool.  

Also, I love meeting and collaborating with women in Rochester too.  I’m all about ‘shine theory.”  If you haven’t hear of it, read Ann Friedman’s piece for New York Magazine. It’s hard out there, we all have to stick together.

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