Photography by Zoe D Photography
Painting on a $3,000 handbag might sound like a crazy idea, but artist Kris Cromier Ammon made an entire career of it.
“I originally started this company to be a calligraphy brand and I studied under a master calligrapher in Highland Park,” Ammon says.
Soon after starting her stationary business, a friend requested Ammon to paint an illustration on one of her designer handbags. She studied how to start paint- ing on the risky canvas and her business took off.
Three years later, KCA Designs commissions hand painted designs and sells one-of-a-kind jewelry for high-end clients.
Ammon comes from a luxury goods background. After receiving a marketing degree from SMU, she worked in business analytics. The self-taught illustrator found her new business combined luxury marketing, sales and her craving for creativity.
“I went from a dual screen in Excel writing macros to painting on bags all day so it’s quite a change, but I love it.”
Career in fashion: I worked at Neiman Marcus corporate for many years. I ran its email program and did business analytics. I’ve always been around fashion luxury and high-end, whether it’s beauty or travel. I really like that space, so it was a natural evolution for me to tie all of that together.
Painting luxury goods: I really enjoyed doing it and just kept working to get better at it. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re painting on a canvas like that, especially super high-end bags. I did a lot of research, practicing in the background and quickly that took off. I’ve just expanded that over the years and added in the vintage pre-owned component to it as well.
Personal inspiration: When I was able to travel more, that’s where I would find a lot of ideas. Now, it’s a little trickier. When I am watching movies, reading a book or going through magazines, I’m always looking. Something will catch my eye, so I’m snapping photos or sending myself email notes and reminders to look at things. I’m always just aware of my surroundings.
Routine for creative block: I am very routine-oriented. I like to get up and make my list to have a certain order for my day. If I am in a weird space where I’m not feeling the painting piece, I never force that. I learned early on when you do, it shows in your work. You have to be in the right headspace for it and create an environment for yourself where you feel good. If I wake up and I don’t feel that great, I tend to use those hours to do shipping, market- ing and project management.
Craziest commission: I’m excited to explore this a little more with this client, he’s a really great client. He’s asked me if I would paint on his very high-end watch dial so we’re working through design ideas with him on that. Sometimes I’ll get really off-the-wall things, people want me to paint objects in their home. I usually just have to assess if it’s something that is in my wheelhouse and be honest with people from the beginning if I’m a good fit.
Favorite design: I really love skulls. I’m not a super girly girl, so I’m not usually one to put florals all over my own stuff. I love it, but just not for me. I have a signature skull design that I do and that is my most popular. I always make them slightly different. I never want it to be like a stencil that every single person gets the exact same.
Claim to fame: Two years ago, I was working with a local Dallas brand on painting denim jackets. They had me do some for the Kardashian kids, Stormi and True.
Advice to women starting businesses: In my tight circle, so many of my friends are small business owners, and I love having that support system. It’s really great to bounce ideas off them. Obviously, no one is doing the exact same thing as me, but it’s just a great way to get ideas and support.
Third place besides her studio and home: I am usually at my boyfriend’s house, which is my home away from home. We quarantined together. I brought everything over there, and I worked with him for months which was super fun. We had been dating for like a month and a half when quarantine hit. We were one of those couples that had to make a decision, are we going do this or not? So, let’s just go for it. Live dangerously.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.