Craig Anczelowitz is a New Yorker who has been living in Thailand for the past 8 years. I met Craig when I was taking a fantastic course in papermaking at the Awagami papermill, which is owned by his wife’s lovely family. Craig is an artisan with an insatiable curiosity about the world. He works as a home décor designer and a fine artist creating mixed media assemblages. As a former buyer for a leading stationery retailer in the US, Craig is also incredibly knowledgeable about paper, and he helps develop and market Awagami’s amazing Japanese papers.
1. How are you leading a life doing what you love?
I’m keeping my creative fires stoked with an equal balance of commercial and fine art outlets, all in the inspirational city I love, Bangkok.
2. What did you do before this?
3. What was you a-ha moment that pushed you to change and realise your passion in life?
I always had a creative passion but graduating with a printmaking degree it was difficult to earn a living as a full time artist. The “aha” moment came while working at NYC’s famed paper store Kate’s Paperie. I realized that my print and paper knowledge could actually be applied towards an array of commercial yet creative paper goods.
4. How did you make it happen?
I just kept pushing, doing everything and anything the Kate’s Paperie management asked of me. Eventually through this hard work (and getting the courage to ask) I was given a chance to create a signature paper collection for them. This led to visits abroad, developing relationships with manufacturers and visiting overseas tradeshows.
5. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Finding the right companies to work with here in Thailand has been challenging as companies here desperately want Western creative talent, but don’t want to make contracts or pay a competitive salary. I had quite a few companies disappoint me before finally finding the right ones to partner with.
6. What mistake has taught you the most?
Trusting people just because they have a pleasant personality, kind smile and large company. Thai people in general are truly lovely but sometimes they don’t always work with the ‘professional’ business acumen we are accustomed to in the West. The lesson? Always have a contract.
7. Who is your role model and why?
My role models are artists who have never put their immense creative talent above their sense of compassion and concern for others…George Harrison, Frank Zappa and Isamu Noguchi to name just three.
8.What is the best advice you have received?
Always do more than you are asked (and then some) and never be satisfied with your first draft/prototype – there is always room for improvement.
9. What is it you love about life in Thailand?
The outstanding temples, thoughtful people, spicy flavours and the always amazing, neverending visual stimuli…There is creative inspiration virtually around every corner here.
10. What is the big dream for your business?
Well, as an artist, I would love to just have the ability to consistently exhibit my works and collaborate with other artists whom I admire. As a designer, I would like to see my new wood décor line, “arbor day” steadily evolve to grow into a recognized and well-respected brand.
All images courtesy of Craig Anczelowitz. Find out more about Craig on his website.
[This interview first appeared on Do What You Love on October 31 2012]