Kirsten Burke is a renowned calligrapher, working on vibrant and inventive designs from her company, Kirsten Burke Contemporary Calligraphy. Kirsten established her company with Jill Hembling in 1997 and since then has worked to create a leading calligraphy firm. She was trained as a graphic designer and studied calligraphy at a post graduate level. She has also worked for clients such as The Globe Theatre, The Guardian Newspaper and Waitrose. So we are proud to bring you the Designer Insights of Kirsten Burke.
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1) In your own words describe your unique style and creative aesthetic?
My work differs from most calligraphers, due to my interest in the strength of mark, rather than with studying lettering from the past. I look for energy, rather than accuracy in my letter-forms. I have an understanding of the geometry of lettering, so that I can move that on and create what I call ‘contemporary’ calligraphy.
2) When starting a new project, what is your creative process?
I love beginning a project, my mind fills with ideas and the first thing I to do is narrow them down. I work and think visually, so I start by putting boards together in Pinterest. This also allows me to show my client what I am thinking. It is a great way of checking that the lines I am proposing are what clients want. Then, I start sketching ideas out; big sheets of paper, ink and a quill are needed for this part. I photograph what I have done, and if the client is happy I work up the final piece.
3) Out of the creative people you have worked with, who is it that you respect and admire the most?
I have my business partner Jill with me in the studio, I talk all my ideas through with her, show her my visuals and get her feedback on everything. I love having her there to bat ideas back and forth, I get stuck otherwise. Her feedback sparks new ideas in me and helps me move projects forward.
4) When looking for inspiration is there a particular thing you do to get inspired?
I always find inspiration at an art gallery. When I lived in London my favourite was the Whitechapel Gallery. Now I live in West Sussex, I take a trip to The Pallant Gallery in Chichester. There is always something beautiful and unexpected on show there that catches my imagination. I was there last week and loved Barbara Rae’s prints and the paintings of J.D. Fergusson, I love that kind of bold and confident use of colour.
5) What has brought you to this point in your career? And what is your advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps?
I worked chalking up menu boards for a restaurant chain, saving all my money to launch myself as a calligrapher, by having an exhibition. There are very few professional calligraphers, so I made my way without having anyone to follow. From that show, I got my first client- The Globe Theatre. That was 1997 and I have been working as a calligrapher ever since. So if you have something you want to do for a living, get what you do out there, get people to seeing it and with a little luck you too could be doing what you love as your job.