Kb Illustration paints, molds and creates designs with online shop

Kb Illustration paints, molds and creates designs with online shop

Kb Illustration paints, molds and creates designs with online shop
September 27
00:56 2018

A room complete with white walls, plank floors and an abundance of natural light provides UNT alumna Kristen Barnhart with plenty of space for creativity. Here in her Denton studio, bits and pieces of her past creations line the walls and shelves, serving as a timeline of the evolution of her art mediums.

From simple drawings to felt banners, and enamel pins to now clay figures, Barnhart has created them all.

“I’ve always liked making stuff,” Barnhart said. “I would do it as a hobby, but then I had an internship at May Designs in Austin my junior year of college. After I had that internship, I just started making more things and realized I could actually make money off the things that I make.”

During her internship, Barnhart created an enamel pin that said “books are cool,” just for fun.

“[I] put that up on Etsy just to see how that’d sell, not really expecting anything out of it,” Barnhart said. “It was super popular, and a ton of people started buying it.”

From there, her creativity took off and she is now a full-time freelancer with an online shop called KB illustration. With it, she projects her designs onto pins, stickers, felt banners, T-shirts and most recently, clay. Barnhart wants to experiment with as many mediums as she can.

“[Experimenting is] like seeing how my illustrations and drawings transfer from different mediums,” Barnhart said. “I really like that exploration of it. You can tell it’s all my work, [but] it looks so different in clay form, or in felt, on a banner, or on a T-shirt, and it’s just real exciting to be able to explore the different avenues of art.”

Barnhart has only dabbled with clay for about a month a month but has found working with it to be therapeutic.

“I can just sit and watch ‘The Great British Baking Show’ and just play with the clay, and it’s like you’re playing with Play-Doh as a kid again,” Barnhart said. “I think that’s the part I really enjoy. I didn’t start making the clay to sell it. I just started making it because I was curious about working with [it] and to see what I can make. Whenever you’re making things because it’s fun and you enjoy it, that’s when you make the things that are really amazing.”

Communication design senior and Barnhart’s boyfriend Jared Peers helps operate the online shop with her.

When we are together, we’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other, and that includes business-related choices of design and general business practices,” Peers said. “My dad has been a business owner my whole life, and I felt like I could use some of the knowledge he taught me to help Kristen grow her business.”

With Peers’ help, the shop has transitioned from an Etsy store to its own website through the e-commerce platform Shopify.

The shop for me has been not only one of the biggest inspirations for creativity and making, but also it has been such a huge learning experience,” Peers said. “I’m glad the shop began the way it did because it’s been enjoyable to look back and realize how much we’ve grown. Not in a, ‘We made it,’ sort of way, but more of a motivator.”

Both Barnhart and Peers would like to see the shop grow in years to come, whether it remains online or gets its own physical location.

From 2-D to 3-D Kristen Barnhart takes us through her at home studio. Sculptures, paintings, shirts, and felt banners are all made in her living area right here in Denton. Dimmagio Escobedo

“The physical location would also house studios where we could work either on freelance design projects or personal projects,” Peers said. “I think that combination would be an awesome way for people [who] may not know exactly what we do to [become] curious enough to come inside and maybe learn a bit more about what benefits design could offer them. Or, to just have a good laugh and enjoy the KB product.”

Chase Christensen, UNT alum and founder of business PleasedToSkate, has watched the shop evolve from the very beginning.

“Kristen and I had a couple classes together our sophomore year and sat on the quieter side of the room [where] we’d make stupid jokes under our breath and laugh to ourselves,” Christensen said. “Jared and I met in the computer lab, I think. We both skateboarded and played music, so we became friends quickly and eventually started a band together.”

Christensen believes Barnhart and Peers’ ability to collaborate has aided in the shop’s growth.

“It can be hard to work with someone you’re so close to, but they seem to make the perfect team,” Christensen said. “They each have their own styles, and obviously the shop is Kristen’s illustrative style, but they both do a lot to make it all happen.”

The shop now has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram.

“I see it growing very quickly, but it’s always been authentically. I learn a lot about running a small creative business from watching them, honestly,” Christensen said. “Kristen and Jared are really great people. They do really great design, illustration, art. To me, it’s all underlined by how genuine and kind they are as humans.”

When packaging products, short, positive messages, such as, ‘Put a big smile on. You’re alive!’ are often written on the outside envelopes before being sent off.

“I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression in the past and would have pretty bad panic attacks, [so] I think when I write those messages, it’s kinda like reminders to myself to think on the positive side,” Barnhart said. “I know people feel sad, too, and I think we should talk about that more and be OK with feeling [down] and also realizing that things get better. If I can spread some kind of sadness or optimism through the things I make then I want to do that, even if it’s cheesy.”

“I’ve struggled with crippling perfectionism in regards to creativity for a long time [and] I felt like I could never enjoy making because I never could reach in my mind what was my predetermined level of success, [but] Kb Illustration as a brand encompasses everything that isn’t,” Peers said. “Kristen isn’t necessarily designing or making products that she thinks people will buy. She is making for her own fun and sharing a message she feels is important and might help someone. Being involved in that has helped me embrace the process of creation just as much as the end result.”

The Kb products can be found online at kbillustration.co.

Featured Image: In a local Denton home Kristen Barnhart Lets her creativity flow endlessly. Kristen creates works of art in multiple mediums from 2-D drawings to 3-D clay sculptures. Dimmagio Escobedo

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Rebecca Najera

Rebecca Najera

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