By: Fatima Butt
People have been using letters and symbols to convey messages since before Gutenberg and the printing press. In very ancient times, men stood in caves to tell stories with pictures. Those pictures became cryptograms became hieroglyphics, which eventually became words. Rika King, a self-taught local artist, picked up her passion for calligraphy in her spare time because she always had a knack for
self-expression. Rika King Design is a design studio and online shop where she creates beautiful watercolor artwork, stationary, branding elements and clothing apparel showcasing her amazing talent with modern calligraphy. However, her passion didn’t always encompass all of those things.
“It all began in middle school when I won an art competition and the trophy was as big as me,” Rika said with a chuckle. As a child, she never thought this would be her profession. Growing up in a Filipino household, school always came first. Rika excelled in academics and she was part of her debate team at E. E. Smith High School. She went on to major in engineering at North Carolina State University and never seriously considered art as a career. But Rika’s artistic style radiates clothing style, very classic, yet colorful. Art exudes from her in every angle.
She grew up in the Philippines and then Fayetteville became home. With her husband being in the military, she mentioned, “you’re always anticipating your next move.” When her husband was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, she met Katie McMaster, who Rika considers her mentor. Katie had the type of personality that made Rika feel empowered. “She pushed me to believe in myself and to seriously consider calligraphy even when I didn’t think much of it,” said Rika. It was the push she needed.
Upon moving back to Fayetteville, she also realized her talents through watercolor. Watercolor is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble medium. On an impulse, she purchased a watercolor set and was extremely disappointed. The quality was not what she was expecting, but she experienced joy in bringing her visions to life anyway. She immediately knew she had found her calling, followed by doing research on a better set of paints.
Social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram facilitate her business, but her most essential advertising method is word of mouth. Brides see her work and inquire about stationary for their weddings. Calligraphy is very time-consuming and it takes Rika ten minutes to finish one card. Imagine writing 200 envelopes. Rita stressed, “Wedding cards are so demanding that I have to refuse clients often due to time constraints.” She systematically sets up her days so she can pour love into these individual crafted pieces and still make time for her family.
Family continuously comes first for Rika. “Being a housewife is my main priority, but calligraphy is very self-fulfilling,” she said. “My creativity comes from a place of love and passion.” This love and support is derived from her husband, who is her number one fan. In fact, the first t-shirt created by Rika was with gold metallic foiled lettering that read “wifey.”
Even with so little time, Rika’s studio is finally coming along. “My workspace is exceedingly vital to me, from my own pieces that hang from the walls to the t-shirt press I recently added,” she expressed. As an artist, Rika said she gets the biggest high by the simple fact someone entrusts her enough to be part of their big moment or day. She finds it genuinely endearing when people email her and ask to help create invitations for the wedding. “It’s a good feeling when people consider me and allow me to be a part of such events. This is exactly why I continue to create.”
When asked how she maintains discipline, she promptly responded with a giggle, “Well, because I have no children!” She continued, “I see other women, who are entrepreneurs, that have kids and not just one but multiple kids and it amazes me how these women are able to pursue their dreams all while having a husband, children and a house to look after.” It keeps Rika driven and extremely grounded. Her passion consumes a lot of time, but luckily it balances her life. She engulfs herself in her artistry and loves that it keeps her busy.
Her biggest challenge has been how to keep things fresh. She once took a watercolor class and realized she paints with her own style and flair. “There is no right or wrong way to do it. Art, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” Rika resolved. Luckily, people who approach her already have a strong love and appreciation for her work. She wants to share this passion through workshops of her own to help fuel creativity and assist up and coming artists to find their own individual styles. Rika puts a lot of thought into these things. After one of her projects, her client was so extremely thankful and told Rika, that as a creative, most people undervalue their work and that she “should never do that.” Rika was very appreciative with that feedback. Clients like this, she said, make it worth all her efforts.
Rika’s inspirations are developed from up and coming artists like Kelly Ventura and Pearlyn Kim. She even took portrait lessons with watercolorist Paul McCormack. Female empowerment is another source of Rika’s motivations. “Girl bosses… the people who are go-getters, especially women who go for what they want and women who build each other up.” Rika also mentioned that she sees herself in beginners who ask her for ideas. She goes the extra mile to help those who inquire about her methods and she even sent art equipment to a fan in the Philippines to get them started. Rika not only wants to use her art as a way to express herself, but as a platform to elevate the artists around her because that gives her ultimate gratification. Her feelings about art are not a zero sum game. She never feels threatened by other artists and hopes that she can inspire others the way they inspire her. Rika summed this up perfectly, “I like that there is room for everybody.”
She will continue to help generate this vision through her future workshops and design ideas and promote creativeness through her ingenuity.