Interview with: Tanya Mykytiuk of Ptashka

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Ukrainian design

Welcome to my first Interview with post of 2015! I'm super excited to be interviewing a newfound friend and neighbour Tanya Mykytiuk of Ptashka. Tanya lives in my neighbourhood and I met her through my friend Tara Russel of Russel Events and I immediately loved her personality. Tanya is outgoing and she has a love for style that I can relate to. She also runs a pretty cool graphic design business and Etsy shop: PtashkaArts where she specializes in Ukrainian design so I wanted to interview her to get to know her a bit better. And this is perfect timing because Ukrainian New Year celebrations start this week! Here we go!

Tell me about Tanya Mykytiuk. What do you love to do, hate to do, wish you could do?

Love: Spending time with my kids, preferably at the cottage or on a beach somewhere! I caught the travel bug early in life so travelling is something I absolutely love to do, especially with my family. With kids, it’s even more interesting to watch how they experience different cultures and places in their innocent and curious ways. I also love to read, paint, and create… but wish I had more time for leisure activities!

Hate: Doing dishes, ironing, shoveling snow, ugh!

Wish I could: Take a trip every weekend, with no budgetary restraints!

Ukrainian design

How did you get into the graphic design business?

I suppose I was a “graphic-designer-in-denial” for a long time before I took the plunge into my own business. I actually still find it hard to call myself a graphic designer. I feel like what I do is more graphic communications – not just design, but more of a holistic approach to delivering my clients’ needs strategically – with a lot of thought into their message and the best means to communicate it both verbally and graphically.

My professional background started in print production: layout, retouching, pre-press and production coordination. From there, I moved into marketing at a media company and that’s where I really started to spread my design wings. My role incorporated so many different facets of design: logos, marketing communications, branding, presentations, promotional goods, sales materials, copywriting, proposals and website graphics. My hands-on technical and business management experience, combined with my creative side made it easy and fun for me and it worked both right and left sides of my brain simultaneously.

Ukrainian design

Why and when did you start Ptashka?

I started working as an independent graphic communications specialist after my second maternity leave came to an end in 2013. With only one kid, it was still easy to balance a corporate life with his and my family’s needs, but with two kids it was much harder to juggle everyone’s schedules and keep up a 9 to 5 job happily. Working independently gives me the opportunity to balance family priorities, and a chance to continue my professional development. It also opened up a whole new world of small-business ownership to me; an exciting, scary and incredibly gratifying experience! I love a challenge, and I relished the idea of jumping into something new and completely my own.

Then, in December 2013, I started PtashkaArts on Etsy as more of a hobby. I’m Ukrainian-Canadian and have always been involved in Toronto’s Ukrainian community in one way or another. Something that I always wanted to do was bring modern printed design to Ukrainians in Canada and abroad. Things like greeting cards, artwork and printed matter - unique, artisanal quality stationery and gift items. I’ve been an Etsy shopper for many years and love connecting with international artisans and customers. The global reach that Etsy gives me is amazing. Ptashka just celebrated its first “Bird-Day” (ptashka means “bird” in Ukrainian) and it’s been an incredibly successful year in a niche industry. Way beyond my expectations.

How do you balance your business with your family?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure.  I thought my time would be more flexible, but the reality is that I actually have more time restraints and distractions at home than I expected, so I often end up working late at night when everyone is sleeping. It’s the only time there is peace and quiet in the house! I learned quickly that I would need to really discipline myself and set aside dedicated hours during the week where I only focus on business, and ignore the laundry, house-cleaning and cooking.

What is your favourite thing to design/work on?

I’ve been lucky to work with really interesting clients in a variety of industries who come to me with unique needs and ideas. It’s so satisfying to sink my teeth into a project that requires innovative, out-of-the-box thinking; something out of the norm that stretches the average design needs, and sees the project through to fruition.

I have so much fun designing my Ukrainian greeting cards. I even launched a line of Ukrainian Valentine’s Day cards last year, something that has never been done before. It is so much fun to come up with cheeky, quirky, and witty ideas that celebrate our unique Ukrainian-Canadian culture.

What are you passionate about outside of graphic design?

My family: my kids, my husband. They keep me grounded, keep me laughing, keep me motivated. Everything is good when I’m with them. I never thought I’d love being a mom so much, but these two little minions are amazing. Everything they say and do, I love it – even when they’re beating each other up (boys will be boys!)!  I’ve known my husband for more than 25 years and he is absolutely the best friend, dance partner, business consultant, travel buddy, creative collaborator and trouble-seeker I could ever dream of.

Chocolate or chips?

CHIPS! But I’m super picky. They have to be plain, lightly-salted, preferably the ones in “the blue bag.” A chip should taste like a potato, dammit. Not a dill pickle or stinky feet.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Oh boy… now that is a loaded question. I fell in love with Paris the first time I visited, I was only nine and was mesmerized by the architecture, the people, and intense beauty that surrounds you every step you take within the city. Since then, I’ve visited four times, as well as other major European centres. So, anywhere in Europe, I suppose. I could move there in a heartbeat. Europeans have a different approach to everyday living and an intense appreciation for the simple things in life.

I’m yet to visit Ukraine, believe it or not. Once the kids are a bit older and the political turmoil settles down a bit, we’d like to go for an extended visit and really explore our ancestral land. It will be an emotional trip, for sure… and we’ll want to go for a good chunk of time, we have roots all over the country… and it’s a BIG country!

I’d also be equally happy on a secluded, hot, sandy beach somewhere… anywhere!

Thanks so much Tanya, I really enjoyed this interview! For more information about Tanya, visit her website here and her Etsy shop here.

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