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KS Name Painting
What’s in a Name? Magically changing words into a work of art
By Maggie Knight - See Mentor Profile
Queen Victoria Market is full of surprises – a busy village of artisans, collectors and food retailers all housed over the grand heritage site on the northern edge of the CBD. There is always something new to find, whether a great Turkish borek or the latest iPhone accessory.
To stand in front of KS Name Painting, located in K Shed, you understand why stallholder Ki Soo Lee attracts crowds gathering to watch as he magically changes the letters of your name into a miniature work of art. Ki makes images flow - for boys there are eagles, tigers and dragons and girls like the beautiful flowers, dolphins and peacocks. It takes place in a few minutes to turn Charlotte or Jack into something special - and framing is a quick speed optional extra!
The Korean born artist arrived in Australia over twenty years ago and had been a student of a master artist of calligraphy and of landscape painting. He began demonstrating his impressive painting skills in shopping centres, and then was invited to open as a QVM trader seven years ago. While his was a successful business, like so many he has had to cope with shutdowns over two years.
With his mop of orange hair sometimes topped with a jauntily positioned cap or one of a collection of headbands, Ki Soo Lee is a natural performer, wielding his long-handled brush over paper with speed to make colourful works using Korean style letters, each with its own miniature scene. The little works of art can hang on the wall or be framed and propped up on a desk.
SBMS Mentor Maggie Knight with Ki Soo Lee
Post-pandemic, QVM has continued its pledge to help traders put their best foot forward and also protect the precinct and its future with its history, unique offers and authenticity. For instance, QVM management has a Co-Op Marketing Program for eligible businesses to freshen up stalls or swap to sustainable packaging, and since 2018has commissioned Small Business Mentoring Service Inc. to provide stall owners with professional mentoring support.
SBMS recently visited Ki Soo Lee for a general review and an offer to work on aspects of his marketing. While the product was terrific, presentation and signage on the stall was not cohesive and needed upgrading. Ki liked neon lights which attracted the eye of passers-by but needed coordinating. He agreed that a dedicated Facebook page be set up immediately. Other plans included updating Ki’s information on the QVM website and putting a Google Business Profile listing in place.
Madalen Ross, QVM Trader Connect Program Manager matched mentor Maggie Knight to assist Ki in developing his business along with graphic design interns Jasmine Ordasi and Jonan Lay to create a logo and signage, together with final year RMIT digital marketing student Linh Thuy Nguyen. For them it was a great chance to work with a live business.
Maggie’s experience has come after many years as a feature journalist and publicist. In the UK with her family, she was the founder of a large contemporary art gallery which enabled her to support and promote a large range of artists, craftspeople and small businesses. This made her particularly attuned to the needs of creative people like Ki.
Over a three-month period, Maggie worked with the students to do an audit of the stall visuals, including signage, point of sale and product placement, and to develop a social media plan for Ki to have an effective tool in encouraging people to visit the stall.
Maggie says that interns Jonan and Jasmine spent several hours talking to Ki about his own ideas and his techniques. They photographed the existing set-up to develop a plan along with Linh, who began with a detailed marketing survey to create an online presence for him. She interviewed Ki and researched the subject of Korean art before creating a Facebook page and building a collection of photographic and literary content along with some short videos to post on social media. Throughout, Linh worked closely with the other two for stylistic continuity and they were busy developing what the team and the mentor considered essential for branding the business – a strong logo.
“Ki’s focus is an ability to quickly complete a painting using his knowledge of very ornate lettering. He was much less concerned with the surroundings, but in the market, there are many competing businesses, and he needed some guidance on presentation, and extending his reach to have an online presence,” said Maggie.
The team had noticed that client Ki was particularly keen on neon lighting, and he was delighted that once a strong graphic design had been decided it was used immediately as an illuminated sign on the stall.
For Ki the work by the team has given him confidence to streamline the business – “My English is quite limited, so having others solve issues such as giving me a business email and talking to Google to establish a locational presence has been valuable” he says.
“I am ambitious for KS Name Painting and the progress made over twelve weeks has allowed me to start planning for the year ahead as tourists begin to return to the market. The videos made for social media may be also useful for demonstrating my skills to people walking by. It might attract more customers to stop and look! I’m told it’s entertaining to watch me making my names – so soon I want to join the Night Market where there are all sorts of attractions”.
Students had to be prepared for problems as they progressed the project within a relatively brief period. Linh’s efforts to book some Facebook advertising to boost the page had to be postponed when Ki was a victim of scamming. It was managed by setting up for the trader to activate later and devising a forward planner for Ki to use when he began uploading posts himself. While not all proposals were taken up immediately by Ki, streamlining the stall has added structure to the site so that his paintings have a better background to increase sales potential. He is aiming now to be accepted to have a place at QVM’s increasingly popular series of Night Markets.
The Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS) is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors. Website: www.sbms.org.au
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