Monkeying Around With Kimberley Hansler: Huntington Beach's Most Organized Upcycler
From the great rolling lands of Pennsylvania and the shores of New Jersey, artist Kimberley Hansler of 14MONKEYS may have been born an East Coast cat, but since her sweet 16, she's been a California girl all the way—specifically a Huntington Beach babe. Strips of hand-torn pages from books, maps, and glossy magazines lead a trail to her workbench, where soft piles of beloved shelved shirts sit awaiting her able hands. Yet her creative space maintains an expert level of structure, thanks to Hansler's full-time job as a professional organizer.
The eco-crafty dog lover popped into our pop-up shop in late 2014, and one glance at her one-of-a-kind upcycled bags, handmade necklaces, and custom pet portraits paired with her sunny demeanor landed us as partners in shop small crime. We're now featuring her pet portraits in our online marketplace, and she's still "saving the planet, one t-shirt at a time."
We asked Hansler a few questions about her craft to get "the story behind the storefront."
Main & PCH: Sum up your life story in three sentences.
Kimberley Hansler: Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will. Happiness is a choice. Not my circus…not my monkeys.
What led to you being a maker?
I was born into a creative family. Both of my grandmothers were craftswomen. My father was very artistic, and my mother has incredible taste and style. I was making my own Barbie clothes and jewelry from old clothes and found objects at 8. I have always believed in spending wisely, wasting less, and appreciating more. I think it's important to remember that everything we do affects not only our own lives, but shapes the world around us as well.
What makes your goods unique?
I don't know that they are unique. They are simply one-of-a-kind portraits of much-loved companions. They bring joy to the people who commission them.
Where do you currently live, and where are you from?
Born and raised in tiny Yardley, PA, and summered in Sea Girt, NJ, until October of my senior year of high school, when I was 16 and we moved to Southern California. I still thank my mother weekly for the move. I've lived in the same house in downtown HB for over 30 years.
Detail your creative process.
I use upcycled materials in my creations. I am motivated by my day job as an organizer. Creating calm from chaos is very rewarding for me, but the resulting miscellany was troubling. Repurposing cast-offs is blissful for me. My goods are one-of-a-kind, handmade originals. Creativity is all about how many rules you can forget.
What/who inspires you?
I find inspiration simply in the process of creating and breathing life back into once loved materials. By letting go of desired outcomes, I open myself to a world where anything is possible and there are no mistakes.
Why do you love Huntington Beach, aside from the weather and waves?
I love the whole city of Huntington Beach, but I adore downtown HB. It's walkable, bikeable, quirky, and full of a sense of community. Gilligan and I enjoy the dog-friendly atmosphere. There are so many eclectic events year-round: arts, music, cars, surfing, dogs...
Where would you like to see your business in the next few years?
14MONKEYS is not a full time venture. I still enjoy my profession as an organizer. Creating one-of-a-kind art will never become a cookie-cutter commercial enterprise, but I hope to gain a wider audience in the next few years.
What's your motto?
Hey! Don’t throw that away!
Is there anything else you really want readers to know about you, your story, and/or your goods?
I create my collages with magazines, books, and maps. I also have a line of bags, purses, satchels, skirts, and children's toys made with upcycled tee shirts. I am inspired by my clients' imaginations. The sky's the limit.
Kimberley Hansler is a featured maker in the Main & PCH Marketplace. Shop her custom pet portraits.