The People: Christine Shanley

Calligrapher Christine Shanley turns an artistic avocation into a creative career.

By Daniel Patterson

Publish Date: September 4, 2013

Shanley
Christine Shanley (B.F.A. ’93) specializes in “artistic services for gifting.”
Photo: Barry Gutierrez

In a Facebooking, Twittering world, how does a one-woman operation that doesn’t advertise make it?

Christine Shanley (B.F.A. ’93) is the lone full-time employee of Big Kitchen Papers, a Wheat Ridge, Colo., business that specializes in stationery, custom wedding invitations, calligraphy, graphic design and what Shanley describes as “artistic services for gifting.”

In the early 2000s, Shanley transitioned from an art teacher who sold her calligraphy work on the side to a full-time entrepreneur who works from the home she shares with her husband, former MSU Denver art instructor David Clark.

“I’m astute enough with words that I could blog and do some advertising, but I just don’t have the time,” she notes. “If I’m doing that stuff, it means I’m not working. The thing you want to do when you’re an artist is the creative piece.”

Search “Big Kitchen Papers” online and aside from the website, there is scant information available. There is no review on Yelp.com, for example. Shanley advertises almost exclusively via word-of-mouth.

“There are a lot of invitations in the world, but I like a challenge,” she says, pointing to an elegantly embossed, black velvet custom card.

One of Big Kitchen’s current projects is a one-of-a-kind “male wedding shower” invitation that Shanley says is straight out of the “Mad Men” era. Each guest will be hand-delivered a garment bag that contains a cutout resembling a suit jacket. Businessmen in the ’50s and ’60s kept the cutouts, which contain instructions on how to properly pack and care for a sports coat, in their suitcases. Shanley is reproducing the cutouts.

While she strives to make unique pieces for each of her clients, she prides herself on being able to balance family life with the demands of her business.

“I thought I could make a living doing this, and I do,” she says, surveying the converted garage where she now turns her clients’ requests into fine art. “I’m able to make a living, but I’m also able to be a grandma and fit in a life.”