Did you know that there is an artist affiliated with the Jeremiah Johnson Trading Post, at 1618 Saybrook Road, a hidden gem in Tylerville? Kristin Haddad, of “Killustrate It” is an artist and pin striper. Her main area of expertise is painting on cars, trucks, and bikes (pinstripes, lettering, gold leaf, and graphics). But, she says, “I love being hired for large painting jobs, such as murals or billboards” and she’s also “proficient in digital design (post cards, flyers, business cards, wedding invitations, and web design).”
Before embarking on this venture, she did some waitressing/bartending, and even worked at a gas station, but she started this business in 2011 because “it was the one thing I have always been truly passionate about.” And that passion shows in her work.
Though most of the time all of the work is done just by her, in the summer when business is busy, she hires an extra employee or two for events to help her with the cash register. Kristin does not have much competition for custom work in this area. She charges “reasonable but not ridiculous” prices, and because the work is all made to order, they are “custom prices for custom pieces.” She told Haddam Now that her plan “is to keep working hard and treating my customers well.” She “lives for the emotions of a speechlessly happy customer. Money is just a sweet bonus.” And she plans to continue “having a blast doing what I’m doing.”
Her joy comes through in her work, which ranges from custom signage for weddings to business signs, custom painted motorcycle helmets to hot rod pin-striping, to custom painted bicycles, and wall murals to t-shirts. Her favorite things to paint, Kristin says, are “monsters and pinup girls.” She elaborated, “Pinups are classically beautiful and endlessly different depending on who I am painting for. It’s the same with monsters. The outcome will always be different. There is nothing like stepping back from one of the two subject matters and being floored by my own painting . . . If the customer is awestruck then I know I’ve done my job very well.”
When asked what her favorite part of the job was, she answered, “driving to a job, everything in between, and driving home!” Kristin, who lives in East Haddam with her husband, obviously enjoys her work immensely. “I love the drive there because I listen to loud music and sing on the car ride. I love going to a garage — I love the smell, and love what’s in them. I love the guys, and sometimes women who work there. I love choosing my color palette. I love the first stroke of the brush to the very last stroke. I love how if it’s a big job at the end of the day I am absolutely filthy from crawling around a garage. Then the drive home I feel like I went into battle and conquered all and that is the greatest feeling ever!”
And someday, she and her husband, Dean Schimetschek, who is co-owner of Jeremiah Johnson Trading Company, would like to open an American History Museum, with a portion of it dedicated to Hot Rod culture and Connecticut Drag Racing nostalgia. When they aren’t working, they are in the process of restoring their historic house in East Haddam that was about to be torn down.
If you would like to check out more of her work, you can see photos on her , and her . You can also follow her on Instagram: @killustrateit.