I was first introduced to Imamaker’s work on the streets of Williamsburg and around the Lower East Side. I would normally find her work as part of a cluster of pastes-ups by the “Girl Gang”. A collective consisting of Imamaker, HISS, Miishab, and JCORP; an informal gang of artists with very different styles and characters who often put on art shows and go pasting around NYC together. I’ve always been attracted to the raw quality of Imamaker’s drawings, and her constant year-round Halloween themes of witches, spiders and scary reptiles.
Imamaker: So how do you usually start on of these collaborations? Do we hand it off to each other, or work on it at the same time?
City Kitty: Every piece and interaction is different so we can do whatever you feel comfortable with. We can make two pieces, and hand them back and forth? I can roll out a big piece of paper on the ground, or on the table, and switch sides?
IMA: Sometimes when I collaborate with people I get anxious. I just want to make sure it turns out good.
CK: Don’t stress it. You’re a talented person and we both draw strange things. I’m sure it will be fine.
IMA: I mainly draw with markers, Is that OK? I always have markers with me because I’m drawing all the time. I actually draw before I go to work.
CK: Oh really? I’m always fascinated by other artist’s practices and rituals. It takes a lot of time to create a unique style and you seem to have carved out a nice niche for yourself. Do you always draw in the morning? It’s hard for me to get into a piece that early.
IMA: Yeah. I go to a coffee shop near my work and draw every morning. I need to make some of my own work before I create for someone else. I feel it’s something I need to do everyday. I tend to be too tired after work, so I need to make sure I fit it in.
CK: Do you want some coffee since you came straight from work?
CK: I completely understand your need to draw everyday. I feel it’s a part of my life that most people understand. Every day I come home, I have to paint. Thankfully, I have very understanding partner, who is also a great sculptor, so she understands my obsession.
IMA: I think obsession is a good word for it. I get upset when the trains mess with my schedule in the morning, and I don’t get time to draw. The coffee shop near my work gets packed in the morning, so I need to make sure I’m there on time to get my spot. I think most of my art friends understand my obsession, but I recently had a conversation with a non-artist, who was asking me if this was going to be my career, and if I was just going to make art my whole life. Which I feel is a really rude question; I’m not going to give up my dream of making art! I understand I need to have a job, because selling your work is not easy, and I need to make a living as well, but you can do both.
CK: How much space are you taking up at this coffee shop? I’m envisioning you setting up a whole operation in the corner to paint!
IMA: I don’t take up much space; I’m just a creature of habit. It’s a tiny shop, and I want to make sure I get my spot. There used to be a woman who would sit next to me most mornings and draw as well. We never said anything to each other, until one day she confessed to me that it was her last day in NYC, and that she really liked my drawings.
CK: That’s great! Where did your drawing style come from? It has a very raw and unique look to it.
IMA: I feel like it has changed a lot over the years, but I’ve always loved Halloween. I actually remember my first art project as a kid.
IMA: Yeah! I remember using scratch board and making an image of a pumpkin. Lately I’ve been drawing a lot of creatures, and thinking about Halloween. I also draw a lot of reptiles. I think it has to do with their textures and patterns. I went to school for textile design, so I am attracted to animals with different patterns. I think it’s also because I want a pet!
CK: So you're drawing the pets you want? Because this giant spider you’re currently drawing would be pretty huge and creepy pet!
IMA: I don’t think I really want to see them in real life. By the way, I like what you're doing with these eyeballs! I think we need more eyeballs. Well, maybe I will make them spiders. I think the coffee is helping! Yeah spiders, they're cute! Don’t you have a pet?
CK: Yeah, we have a tortoise named Tony. He’s passed out somewhere around here, I’m sure he will come out at some point. What do you do for your job?
IMA: I make cut glass mosaics for a company. We put custom mosaics on furniture, cabinets, etc.
CK: Interesting. Have you ever made any of your work into a mosaic?
IMA: I would like to, but I don’t really have the space to cut glass. But I think it would be really cool. We make a lot of patterns, so I think it could be really nice. But it's also very time consuming. It's so much easier to come home and draw.
CK: I feel for many of my friends that are sculptors, who need separate studios as it's much more of a process to create a piece. Do you make work out of other materials, or just drawing and painting?
IMA: I’ve been making pieces out of recycled materials; mainly plastic shopping bags. I cut and fuse them together with an iron. I’ve been making some of my creatures this way, with just plastic bags and a little bit of marker. I also made myself a cape for Halloween using this same process! But I save these types of projects for the weekend because they take a lot of time and space, and since my room is my studio, I need more time for a bigger project.
IMA: Do you usually paint your pieces?
CK: It depends, but usually if I’m making a large-scale piece I draw it out, spray a base coat of spray paint, go in with colored pencil and finish it off with acrylic paint. Everyone finds their own formula.
IMA: When I make a drawing that I’m going to paste up, I start by laying a lot of color and patterns down on the paper, usually using acrylic paint. Then I start outlining a character to see what type of creature is emerging from the pattern. I generally start with the eyes and see where that leads me.
CK: At what point did you start to put your work on the street?
IMA: I started when I moved here for college in 2011. It started with just stickers. I was drawing these one-eyed Mickey Mouse characters on postal stickers. As I put more stickers up, I started to notice more paste-ups on the street, so I decided I was going to go out by myself one night. I made a handful of photocopied drawings and some wheat paste, and headed out to Williamsburg. I really didn’t even think about getting caught or people being around but I really liked it.
CK: So how did you meet the rest of the of “Girl Gang”?
IMA: After making stickers for a while, I wanted to meet some other street artists, so I put some stickers in a sticker show at Con Artist and did a few meet ups with the sticker social club to start getting out there. HISS was the first one to reach out to me, to put some artwork in a show she was curating. I met Miishab through HISS, and we all went out pasting one night. I think I met JCORP through an art show as well. Really it was all through the street art community.
CK: I feel really lucky to have found a community like this in the art world. When I was in art school, I tried to collaborate with other artists. As a musician it felt natural to me, but it was too foreign a concept to many artists. But many artists in the street art community are open, to which has helped me learn and grow from the others. I really appreciate the opportunity to sit down with you and talk while work on this collaboration.
You can keep up with Imamaker's adventures on IG by following her @imamaker