Recently we caught up with one of our most prolific print designers, Kami Shantal. Besides contributing to the Polychrome print catalog, she works full time in the fashion industry and paints colorful murals on commission.
Kami's newest passion project has her documenting her fun bike rides around her home base, Brooklyn, and stopping at some pretty cool spots along the way.
Thea: How did you get your start as a professional artist?
Kami: My father was an abstract artist and always had every type of art supply in our house. I started drawing fashions at about 3 years old and sewing by 4. I would come home from school and draw everyday. I knew I wanted to work in fashion and decided to go to FIT. I figured if I was going to pursue a fashion career I should be in NYC. After college I moved back to Boston where I got my first job as a design assistant at Sigrid Olsen. I loved how colorful and print driven this company was. Eventually I found my niche as a CAD artist and the rest is history.
Thea: What is a typical day of work for you?
Kami: Currently, I am a print designer at Aeropostale by day and a street artist by night. I create textile patterns, put them into repeat, and recolor them into many color combinations. I also create coordinating plaids, stripes and embroidery layouts. Four times a year I match colors to our printers and research print and pattern trends.
Thea: What is inspiring to you? What do you do when you feel "blocked" creatively - how do you get unstuck?
Kami: Brooklyn is the most inspiring place! I never felt this way about a place I have lived before. I bike everywhere and I love all the people-watching, museums, pop-up art galleries, and landscaped parks. I never know what I’m going to see, and that’s half the fun. I love to see what people are wearing to the farmers' markets and galleries because everyone here has such personal style. It's the city where people move to from all over the country to show off their creative talents.
Being blocked is the worst! I’ll be honest: it’s really hard sometimes to be motivated. Just the action of starting a project can be a road block. I try to make it less pressure, and set a goal of working for 15 minutes. If that’s all I get done, then great, I’m a little bit further. Sometimes I go way past the 15 minutes and end up spending hours. Wintertime for me is always a hard time as well. I keep a journal of places I want to visit. This can include places someone told me about, or something I heard of on instagram, or a local magazine. It’s been working well - in 2016 I went to 43 new places, and I have a big list for 2017!
Thea: I know you have a couple of creative projects besides the wonderful work you do for Polychrome. Can you tell us about the murals you have been doing?
Kami: I've done a few murals in NY. My first was for Arts Org. They got together several artists (mostly women) to graffiti all the walls of empty warehouse and turn it into a galley. I choose two huge pillars, and it took about 24 hours to paint each one. I had this idea of a yin yang, water/fire inspiration. It was a really great experience because I got to meet and hang out with some really cool and talented people, and do some networking. At the end we also showed at LIC Open Studios in May 2016.
From this project I met the people from Rubulad, an art party venue. Everyone who works there also creates artwork. It's a really amazing space filled with artwork going all the way back from the 1990's when they got their start. Since I have been working there, I have added many new pieces such as a huge dance floor, magical garden door, life size glitter ice skaters and many more. We always have fun themes, decorations, costumes, burlesque, bands, performance art, and puppet shows.
Thea: How did you get started with that work, and how do you get new commissions for murals?
Kami: I was riding my bike all around Brooklyn and admiring all the street art. I thought to myself, I can do that! So every time I saw someone in the middle of painting, I would stop and talk to them to find out how they got their start, and who I had to know or what community I needed to be part of to do my own street art. One time I chatted up a artist named Rubin, who turned out is an international graffiti artist - you can see his work here.
Another time I stopped and talked to Andy Golub. He really liked my bike helmet (I had painted it), and told me about New York Body Painting Day. He asked me if I would like to be one of the artists. I immediately went home and signed up. I had never body painted before, and was a little intimidated, but my model looked amazing. I again networked and met so many talented artists. Unfortunately, a lot of people including me don't get paid. You really have to get your art out there as much as possible. Once you start getting recognized, you can start making some $$.
Thea: Can you also tell us a bit about your other project "Kami Rides BK"?
Kami: This is my favorite thing to talk about! It combines all my talents and skills into a 10 minute web show. As I've mentioned above, I love to bike ride! People I would meet always loved my cycling stories. They would always say the same thing to me:"I want to bike ride, but I don't know where to go". The light bulb in my head went off! I had a vision of making a show with bike routes, food, and music. Kind of a travel/ food show combined with an old-school MTV videos. I bought a GoPro and spend every free moment, weather permitting, filming my bike rides. I then learned to edit and create animated maps showing details of each bike route. I test my bike routes several time to give people the most scenic and safest routes. My show is not for hard core spandex cyclist, it's for people that want to have a leisurely bike ride and appreciate the beautiful parks, waterfront, piers, art installations, people watching, and my favorite part - the FOOD! Check it out on my website: kamiridesbk.com or on YouTube.
Thea: What has been your favorite bike ride so far since you have started this project?
Kami: That’s a tough one! I usually love the one I’m currently working on. But If I had to choose I would say Coney Island because I love rollercoasters, I filmed the Cyclone and Thunderbolt at Luna Park. Bushwick Graffiti tour is my other favorite because I showcase all the Brooklyn street art. The really cool thing about this particular episode is that most the art has changed into new art since I filmed it. The original artwork is gone, but it is immortalized in my show.
Thea: Do you have any larger goals for KRB in the next year or so?
Kami: I have eight episodes completed on YouTube, and another nine planned for 2017. After that I have a few more ideas. It's crazy to think New York has so many great bike rides. My next huge hurdle is promoting my show. I've been so focussed on creating, but marketing is a whole other talent in itself. My dream is to have enough followers to fund me, so I can make my show all over the country, if not even the world. Cape Cod, Seattle, San francisco, Austin, Sao Paulo, Amsterdam just to name a few.
Thea: How do you think these two creative outlets inform your work as a print pattern designer?
Kami: I think it really helps with print designing because I don't like to design too much in a fashion vacuum. Trends might not even have started as fashion, but if I think outside of the box, they evolve into new and exciting ideas. What couldn't be done in prints 15 years ago, like photo real prints, is now a reality.
Thea: Do you find living in Brooklyn also inspires you?
Kami: Brooklyn has so many great fashions! I saw a lady at a Rubulad art party the other day that took a bunch of gloves and sewed them all together and made a scarf. I think I’m going to steal that idea. I also met some really cool people who do psychedelic projections called “The Sperm Whale”. They take their crazy visuals and make them into photo real prints people can wear. The key to looking like you live in Brooklyn is the print mixing. The more, the better - printed pants with printed hoodie and topped off with a printed hat is the look. Thrift stores are really happening as well; I think because it's the best way to look really eclectic. I also think Brooklyners are very conscience of how fashion is detrimental to the environment, and thrifting is an alternative to throw away fashion. Men’s fashions are the most exciting and newest trends I see walking around town. From beards, mustaches, floral beards, and hats to all kinds of period clothes, I think it's probably hard to for most men to rock these looks in other cities.
Thea: If you could not be an artist for some reason, what other profession would you have chosen ?
Kami: Hopefully that would never happen, hahahaha! I would be a chef. I love to go to farmers' markets, up and coming restaurants and bakeries, food blogs, and watching food shows. Food is like creating art that I can eat. I would like to open a farm to table food truck where I could meet new people and get their feedback. Nothing makes me happier when I cook something with love and they love what I cooked.
Thea: If you had to pick 3 print trends to watch for in 2018, what would they be?
Kami: 1) I’m really loving the Asian/ kimono/cherry blossom/dragon prints.
2) Photo prints are killing it these days, I've seen realistic pizza to pac man prints that are so unique.
3) Cat Ear Hats! Gotta love the support to BE WOMAN and EQUIL! The cat hat is adorable and makes a serious statement for justice!
Thank you so much, Kami, for taking the time to talk to us; it's always great to get a glimpse of what makes our designers tick!
Want to keep up with Kami's adventures? Follow her on the social links below:
facebook | instagram | email
.... and take a look through some of the terrific prints Kami has in our collection , left to right from top:
Scream for Ice Cream | Sweet Tooth | Glam Rock | Queen Anne's Camo | Candy Jar | Stellar Phrasing | Leaf Veins | Snakes | Bejeweled
* All images credited to Kami Shantal