Jessica Kertis Ulrich is the founder and designer of Kertis. Launched in 2012 and based out of a studio in Ridgewood, Queens, the line features handmade goods, such as mixed-media jewelry, leather clutches and bags, and stylish wardrobe essentials.
Ulrich has long been an artist, exploring different creative projects since she was a child. Nowadays, her artistry is focused on producing handmade pieces for her online shop. This includes her popular leather bags, most of which feature hand-painted patterns inspired by nature.
Check out more Espy on Etsy posts here and see below for my interview with Ulrich, as well as some of my favorite pieces available in the shop…
Can you tell us one of your favorite items available in the shop right now and an interesting fact or story behind it?
Hmm…this is harder than I thought! I’d have to say one of my favorite items right now is the Painted Calathea Clutch. I was feeling stuck at first when I was designing my fall/winter collection. I really love the patterned leaves of the Painted Calathea plant, which sparked an idea for a new pattern. Once I got that one down, more ideas came and I was excited to create new goods again.
What type of setting are you most productive in and/or what are your essentials when it’s time to sit down and make stuff?
I work out of a studio space in my apartment and sometimes my work can take over the whole space. I’m most productive and motivated when I take the time to clean and organize my space (which definitely doesn’t happen often enough!). I immediately feel refreshed and on top of things once the leather and fabric scraps are cleared out!
My number one essential (besides my sewing machine, rotary blade, ruler, and other tools I use everyday) is my sketchbook. I make tons of lists and quick sketches, which help keep me on track when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
What do you like most about living and working in New York? In what ways do you think your location has inspired your design?
The best thing about living and working in New York City is the access to the garment district. Visiting my go-to stores, and seeing and feeling fabrics and leather hides in person, is an essential part of how I work. It seems like I always get new ideas every time I pick up supplies.
I also love wandering around different neighborhoods. Observing what people wear or what’s on display in shop windows helps me identify new trends or find themes for new designs.
A lot of your cases and clutches feature leaf patterns and even the Kertis lookbook photos include plants — what are some of your favorite plants?
I love my fiddle leaf fig tree! It’s definitely my favorite plant in my apartment. I finally live in a place that gets tons of light and it just keeps growing and growing. Otherwise, I’ve really been into spiky succulents lately. I also love super delicate ferns, but I’m terrible at keeping them alive. My maidenhair fern has died and come back to life too many times to count.
I love the simplicity of your clothing and hope you do choose to add more to your shop in the future — who are some of your favorite clothing brands/designers and how would you describe your design aesthetic?
Thank you! My design aesthetic has been evolving a lot over the past couple of years or so. I like to create easy, modern clothes that you always want to reach for. Quality is deeply important to me and I really only work with natural fibers. When choosing fabrics, I look for interesting textures or prints. I would love to create more clothing – there are just only so many hours in a day!
I have so many favorites! Rachel Comey, Dusen Dusen, Samantha Pleet, to name just a few. I recently discovered Elizabeth Suzann’s work and I love her minimalist designs.
If you could collaborate with any other designer, artist or company to produce a line of goods — who would you choose to work with and why?
It would be so hard to choose! I’ve been really curious about natural skincare and fragrances lately. I would love to learn more about the botanical ingredients, their benefits, etc. I don’t know exactly how that kind of collaboration would play out, but I think it would be really fun!
What is the most powerful thing you’ve learned about yourself, the business world or design since making Kertis a full-time gig?
I guess I would say it’s to believe in myself and my ideas and to just keep working. It’s really easy to doubt yourself or get discouraged about your progress. It’s important to stay focused and committed, because hard work really does pay off and you never know what opportunities it will lead to.
Check out the Etsy shop here and let me know which products you’re diggin’ the most in the comments.