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December 6, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 39°F

Life & Culture

Hand-painted pets spark new business for IC student

Junior Kirsten Hamberg, an integrated marketing communications student at Ithaca College, has been an artistic person all her life. Hamberg picked up a hobby of painting during the pandemic, starting with her dog. Before long, she started painting portraits of other people’s animals because of her love of animals.

Hamberg’s Instagram account has amassed over 370 followers with over 100 posts of featured artwork. On her website, customers can purchase ornaments, coasters and keychains as well as other handmade goods from Hamberg’s business, Paw Print Paintings. Her artwork depicts realistic paintings of all different types of pets with a clear focus on the emotions of each animal. Hamberg uses acrylic paint against wood surfaces and canvases. 

Hamberg said she got her start by posting a painting of her dog in a Facebook group and asked if anybody would be interested in having their pet painted. People in the group took notice of her talent, and her business has been expanding ever since.

“From there, I started with low prices, and I just kind of built up a bit of a network and then moved off that platform onto Instagram,” Hamberg said. “And then I was like, I should probably make a website and things progressively evolved.”

Hamburg sells her custom pieces from $20 to $100, depending on the product. 

Hamberg said one of her inspirations for the business was her own love for pets and her own dog, Sadie. This led her to a market of pet lovers to whom she could sell her products. 

“I knew that that’s something that I personally love,” Hamberg said. “And I know that other people love their animals too. You need people to want what you’re making. I was like, I can’t just make random paintings. I need to have a specific market to go to.”

Sophomore Lauren Sieber said she is familiar with Hamberg’s business through the classes they took together. Sieber said that if she had a pet, she would definitely buy Hamberg’s artwork. 

“I know she is a very talented individual who crafts beautiful pieces,” Sieber said. “She captures every little detail that the pet has and makes the piece personal and memorable.”

As a local to the Ithaca area, Hamberg said that living in the area gives her opportunities to showcase her work and get the word out about it. Hamberg displayed during Ithaca Festival in May 2019, a yearly music and arts festival allowing members from the community to showcase their talents.

“Making connections in the Ithaca area has been helpful,” Hamberg said. “But I am working on specifically getting in touch with more students.”

After Hamberg transferred to Ithaca College in Fall 2021 from Tompkins Cortland Community College, she said she took classes in Strategic Communication and Graphic Design for her major. Hamberg said they have helped her business by teaching her the actual basis and rules of marketing that she can use in promoting her artwork.

“I’ve actually implemented a lot of things I’ve learned specifically,” Hamberg said. “When I did a whole revamp of my website, after [my graphic design class], I actually went in and [originally] had my logo in the middle. Like we learned, I put it in the top left because that’s where you’re going to grab attention.” 

One of Hamberg’s customers is Lindsey Allen, a Tompkins Cortland Community College student. Allen praised Hamberg for her ability to accurately portray her chocolate lab’s unique features, rather than painting any dog of the same breed.

“It’s a wooden canvas with a lavender background and a beautiful replication of my dog,” Allen said. “I love how I can look at my painting and not only see a chocolate lab, but I can tell that it’s a painting of my lab. My family also loves the painting.”

During the past summer, Hamberg said she went through a bit of an artistic block and took the summer off. She said it was really beneficial for her to take time off for herself and give herself a break.

“As an artist who’s doing the same sort of thing all the time, it can get mundane,” Hamberg said. “Now I came back and got back into it in the fall. And it’s been way more fun. I think that’s a thing I had to learn to do.”

Allen said Hamberg loves to be creative in her own way and that her small business allows her to do that freely.

“[Her business] allows her to branch out and create what she loves with almost no restrictions because she gets to make the rules,” Allen said. “She’s always growing and getting better as an artist.”

Hamberg said that through her business, she has been able to emotionally connect with people through the artwork she creates as she too has a strong connection to pets. 

“Sometimes people will come to me when they’ve had a pet pass or maybe a loved one had lost a pet,” Hamberg said. “It’s really cool to be able to take someone’s pet that they obviously adore and put it into a painting because there’s just so much personality in every pet. It’s so fun to let that come across on the canvas.”

Matt Minton can be reached at mminton@ithaca.edu