You may not have heard of Krink but you would have seen it. Especially, if you were around San Francisco or New York in the mid 90s, where the streets were tagged with a mysterious, silver ink that dripped unlike anything else. This was the brainchild of Craig Costello (back then known as KR) who made Krink out of experimentation rather than any aspirations to start a successful business. As Costello recalls, Krink was created during a time when you had to steal or make your own graffiti paint; a time long before graffiti was referred to as street art. Fast-forward to the present, however, and Krink has not only grown beyond graffiti but also diversified into a successful business, producing various different products in assorted colors. Costello has collaborated with many brilliant brands in the past, but he’s particularly excited about his newest collaboration – a collection of pens and markers with chromed tips, stocked exclusively at Marc Jacobs’ specialty book store, Bookmarc. MilkMade catches up with Costello at his Brooklyn studio on the day of their shoot.
Milk Made: What’s your earliest memory of being interested in art?
Craig Costello: When I was really young there was a book in my house. I don’t remember what it was about so much but it was a book on Henry Miller, the author. It was a visual book, but it was one of the more unusual books I’d seen. It had large drawings, guys playing ping pong with naked chicks, images of sculptures, interior design and paintings. It was so different and colorful and interesting. It was strange. That really is the earliest memory I have of something that was creative and different.
MM: I read that Krink started with you experimenting with different materials to make your own graffiti ink. What even prompted you to do that?
CC: It was a couple of things. I come from a background in graffiti. There wasn’t a consumer culture. To get your paint, you had to steal it or you had to modify things. You made your own markers. You made your own ink. And even if it was just mixing things together, there was a culture of that. I was really after a particular aesthetic, which was ink and marker tags that was really juicy and dripped a lot. And so I just pursued that and found the materials that worked well for me, and then it just grew. Everything happened super organic. I didn’t start with a business plan to make money. I started because I wanted to make a particular kind of mark.
MM: When did this all happen?
CC: This was all in the early mid 90s in San Francisco. I was coming from New York, which was a completely different environment. This was pre Internet. Information was being exchanged via travel and experience rather than Internet research. It was kind of the ‘I came, I lived here’ gene pool expansion and growth. So I incubated this thing that did really well there [in San Francisco] and then I moved back to New York. I met some friends that were opening a store on Orchard St. called Alife. I’d also gotten some press in this book written by Steve Powers on graffiti. It was one of the first books to be published in the U.S on graffiti since the 80s. Anyway I was one of the featured artists and Krink was talked about in there. And my friends at Alife said, ‘you could sell this.’
MM: Were you only making it for yourself at this point?
CC: I was only making it for close friends and myself. They had a shop so they helped me package it. It sold out immediately. I made more and it sold out again, and it just grew. All of downtown got annihilated with Krink and it just became something new. It wasn’t spray paint; it had a certain look and was very specific. And New York being the crossroads that it is, there was so much exposure here that again it just grew and grew.
MM: Did it only resonate with street artists at the time? Or did it have other purposes as well?
CC: In the beginning Krink had its roots in graffiti before street art. But back then, it was kind of just bubbling. As street art became more popular, my brand was growing, and it had a story behind it that people really vibed with.
MM: It’s difficult for me to imagine making such a product. I would think it to be quite a scientific process. How did you go about doing this?
CC: It’s kind of like taking vodka and orange juice and making a nice mixed drink. Yes, now it’s way more scientific but you’ve got to understand that in the beginning, it’s easier to make something for yourself or a couple of friends who are willing to understand the limitations of something because you’re the one that’s making and using it. You’re more patient with it. But when you get into a product for commercial purposes or for the general public, most creative people and artists understand that things have their limitations. Just because you buy this pen doesn’t make you a good artist. You have to understand how this fits into what you want to make. But we’ve had to be more scientific to get everything smoothed out.
MM: What have been some of your favorite collaborations throughout the years?
CC: I always really enjoy any opportunity to paint in a public space where the general public can see the work. I did a project in Sao Paulo where I painted the outside of a museum. It was really cool because it was quite a large building and there was no admission, it was there for everyone to see and was part of daily life. That was really great. I’m definitely looking forward to the Bookmarc stuff, I think it looks really cool. I think they have a really interesting audience.
MM: Tell us a bit about the video you’re making today with Bookmarc.
CC: We’ve collaborated on a collection of various pens and markers that come in different colors so we’re creating a video piece to illustrate the colors, using some stop motion but also showing the drawing process.
MM: How did this collaboration come about? What sort of similarities does Krink and Bookmarc share?
CC: I think we’re both very similar. We’re both New York brands, we’re both downtown. We’re both part of a similar creative culture. There’s a lot of crossover with our brands whether its with artists and designers, or musicians and actors. It all kind of gets mixed in. Bookmarc itself is not really about fashion pieces. It also stocks stationary, so I felt it was a natural step. It all happened organically to bring a product like Krink in which is made locally and again is part of the same creative culture.
Photos by: Philip Patton
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