BLE NEW EXHIBITOR SPOTLIGHT: Kirsten Burke

The calligraphic artist is looking to expand beyond greetings card at her first BLE show.
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Having hung her artwork from the ceiling of 17 All Bar One bars as an unusual national tour, Kirsten Burke decided to set up her company, Kirsten Burke Contemporary Calligraphy (stand AD18) in 1997.

As an artist, Burke had enjoyed critical acclaim in Britain and the US and her vibrant styles of lettering were constantly in demand for a range of purposes from public artworks through to branding, merchandise and packaging design. 



Kirsten was joined at the helm from day dot by Jill Hembling. Now in its twelfth year, Kirsten Burke has established itself as a leading contemporary calligraphy company in the UK with a team of eight working out of studios in Deptford in South East London.

Jill Hembling, managing director comments: “Kirsten’s calligraphy style was unique and no-one 15 years ago had any idea what ‘calligraphic art’ was, so I decided that we needed to introduce calligraphic artwork into the commercial market.

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Working closely with a greeting card publisher, Portfolio, the firm produced a range of colourful cards called FC2. The range was designed using hand lettering with no pictures.

The cards have been supplied to large retailers such as WH Smiths and Waitrose for the last decade. The firm has also set up a separate wedding stationery company called Mandalay, using Burke’s trademark style, which has won the Best Wedding Stationer Award for four years running.

Hembling says: “The cards were the first of their kind and are now much imitated, but Kirsten’s knowledge of the market and careful slogans mean that they have sold over eight million cards to date and current sales are stronger than ever.”

At BLE, the FC2 property will be available to licence into other categories, primarily stationery, home and giftwares and apparel. Burke’s latest card range, Cats Whiskers, will also be on show. The firm is in negotiations with WHSmith and Waitrose over the new line and it is due to launch nationally at Top Drawer this autumn. 



Also featured on the stand will be two brand new properties - Taffeta - featuring urban calligraphy with on trend glamour and Temperance, using literary quotes on raw surfaces.

On deciding to exhibit at BLE, Hembling says: “Kirsten’s trademark calligraphy style has been a big success on every form of product that it has ever been put on, increasing sales dramatically resulting in long-term commissions for retailers like Sainsburys.

“So, we wanted to be able to show all the movers and shakers within the licensing industry the unique potential of her properties. With the art of calligraphy very much in vogue and the launch of Cats Whiskers nationwide in the autumn, The Brand Licensing Show was the perfect place to showcase her calligraphic artwork.”

Kirsten Burke would specifically like to sign deals within the home and giftware, stationery and apparel categories.

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