Wednesday, November 15, 2017
When creating, artists use their tools as mediums to explore and exploit their masterpieces, but what happens when artists lack the appropriate tools to be creative? New York City’s own, artist and business owner Craig Costello—also known as KR—founded Krink, a company that surfaced in the 1990s as a response to the lack of appropriate tools and ink for graffiti artists.
Graffiti artists in New York were all about mobility—subway cars traveling through the city with their signatures sprayed on them, then, turning to walls, tunnels, and objects as their canvases. KR explains that during the 80s graffiti was "an attitude," and that the culture revolved around DIY materials. Paint was stolen, markers were made, and unconventional tools were used due to the lack of economic resources, making the "sharing and stealing [of tools] necessary for the creative process." Artists also were faced with the challenge of messy homemade markers, and homemade inks that faded under the sun. KR explained that "Pilot-brand silver paint markers became the tool of the trade, yet in many ways couldn’t meet this new generation of artists' very specific needs."
In the early 90s, KR moved to San Francisco, California to study its booming graffiti scene and experimented with various tools and mediums on the streets. Water bottles, white-out pens, shoe polish markers, were re-purposed for the sake of “looking to your environment and finding your tools." Eventually, he got to making his own ink, which would lead to him to share it with the community of artists around him, and Krink was born.
KR marketed Krink through his own bold typographic style in silver, making it visible in the city for whoever passed any door, wall, or mailbox. Alife, an art supply store, asked KR to bottle up Krink to be sold, turning his “creative project’’ into a business plan that myriad artists took to, elevating Krink’s reputation.
In an interview for Vice Magazine in 2012, KR discussed the interest of business owners in public art, in which they collaborated with artists from around the globe to do walls in their communities. Tiffany Tanaka, founder of the Honolulu-based gallery Loft in Space, discussed the importance of KR’s contribution to the artist community in Hawaii, how she perceived art as a motor for social change, and its impact on Hawaii’s economy, as KR had helped to expand the artistic community at a time when there was a lack of art galleries and exhibitions.
KR transitioned from a struggling artist in New York City to the face behind a brand that aims to improve artistry, maintain affordability, "pay fair wages, and support local economy." His scrappy attitude and holistic thinking has worked for him; he has been sought for major arts and business collaborations with Marc Jacobs, Nike, Casio, Absolut Vodka, Modernica Furniture, and many more. He is a prime example of someone who has bridged the gap between the interests of artists and the success of a business. Through his consideration and understanding of the best ways to create useful and affordable tools to make art, he has built a thriving business, drawn the attention of other business owners, and enhanced artists and local communities.