Kimberly Shrack of Manayunk Calligraphy has a magic pen. Or so it would seem after escaping into her world of art prints, calligraphy kits, DIY wall art kits, mugs, totes, and wedding calligraphy. Her story is one of triumph; inspiring not just to artists, but to those struggling through what life has thrown their way. Read on to learn more, and enjoy the playful tranquility of her work.
1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?
Calligraphy is just a fancy word for fancy handwriting! I use this technique to make word-based illustrations.
2| Why do you make/design things?
There’s nothing quite like creating something totally new. Something that’s never existed before now, something totally unique.
3| What do you love about your job?
Literally everything. I get to do new things, I get to play with pens and ink and paint and paper all day. With weddings and custom work, I get to be a little part of people’s lives.
4| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?
It was something I always wanted – when I was in grade school, I would come dressed in a smock and beret for career day (realistically, I should have come in leggings and a pullover, since that’s what I wear pretty much every day). But as I got older and realized how much things cost, I pretty much resigned myself to the idea it wouldn’t happen. I painted and drew and scripted in my free time, selling pieces every now and then. But then there was an aha moment. A few years ago, I took FMLA from my full-time job in public relations to participate in an intensive treatment program for a mental illness. Sexy, I know. I have lived with obsessive compulsive disorder since I was a kid, and by my mid-twenties it was so severe that I needed to be under constant supervision. I was accepted into a study at Penn and underwent intensive treatment for months. Through a combination of new medication, daily exposure/response prevention therapy and a lot of hard work, I was able to get my shit together (that’s a technical term). For me, every moment without a compulsion is beautiful. And as obsessions quieted and compulsions took up less and less of my time, I began to appreciate minutes and hours and days more than I ever had before. And it was then that I realized I didn’t want to spend those precious minutes and hours and days doing something that didn’t bring me joy. And so I took the leap. Honestly, even during the leanest, scariest times as a working artist – and there have been plenty of lean times! – I have never, ever regretted that decision.
5| Why are you called Manayunk Calligraphy?
Manayunk is the name of the ‘hood I lived in while I was in Philly. It was jam packed with small business owners who all encouraged me to go out on my own – they supported my business before it was an official business. I never ever would have had the guts to quit my job and pursue an art career had I not lived in that place at that time.
6| How do you work, and where?
I work out of a studio in my home in Irvington. When I’m not in the studio, I’m usually at the coffee shop 10 Johnson Avenue – in fact, I’m there right now! Best pistachio muffins ever.
7| Tell us about the White Wall Rebellion!
It’s a partnership between myself and HGTV’s Monica Mangin! Here’s a blog post with more info.
8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?
Banksy, because how kickass is he?
9| It looks like you’re a teacher, too. Tell us about the different ways people can learn calligraphy from you.
There are two ways! The first is an in-person workshop, which I host at Oliver’s Twist in Carmel. Folks can sign up here.
I also teach online courses that you can take at your own pace.
10| What makes a handmade object valuable?
The time, the care and the human contact. I know this sounds new age-y, but when someone makes with joy, little pieces of that person and their joy is transferred into the object. It glows.
11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?
In college, I studied art history. My now-husband, then-boyfriend would help me study for exams with flashcards I’d make with paintings stuck on the front of index cards with notes on the back. Toward the end of my college career, he pulled together a little collection of his own cards featuring works of art that I loved and that he remembered from our study sessions. It’s been a little less than a decade since he made those and they are dogeared and faded – but I still look through them when I need inspiration, a smile or a laugh.
12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.
I use a PC. I know, I know.
13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.
- I have a cat named Piggy.
- I love the Muppets (see above).
- I’m a podcast junkie.
If you need some Manayunk if your life, we have a selection of her work right here in the shop. You can also see the full range of what she has to offer on her website. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for a daily dose of inspiration. Thank you Kimberly!