Friday, December 12, 2008

SPECIAL FIELD REPORT: Kit Kraft Art Materials

I'm deep into Christmas Elf mode today but I couldn't wait any longer to tell you about my long awaited visit to Kit Kraft, Inc. a remarkable craft and art materials supplies store in Studio City, California.

I had found them online about a year ago when I was looking for a source for (allegedly non-toxic resin) Magic Sculpt to use in armature building. The site was extensive and pretty much indicated that they carried absolutely everything one could ever wish for to build a movie. Reading what they carried, I pictured a vast old space with room upon room of stock on shelves. I thought someone there would say, "The casting material ROOM is this way, just past the clays." I'd been dreaming and panting to get there for so long but it was so hard to arrange the trip.

When I finally walked in on Wednesday I saw this... and was crest fallen.

My first view from the door. I was so disappointed to be able to see all four walls of the place and not even a little second floor!

Surely this small shoebox of a place can't have much of anything?! WRONG!!! In about :30 flat of looking more closely what I found was a mind-blowing kick-ass well-run and thoughtfully curated mega art supply shop.

Every aisle was perfectly organized and fully stocked with huge variety of goods in a wide range of materials. This is only a small sampling of a few. Every wooden shape one could need in perfect bins (I bought the rest of the Christmas parts there!) Every size and shape of scale lumber and plasti-struct, all kinds of leather and plenty of styrofoam on hand. There were aisles filled with just metal stampings, and the best selection of jewelry findings I've ever seen (and I've been everywhere). Can you imagine, there was a box of walnut shells!!! And to make matters more spectacular--I NEEDED walnut shells!!!!! They had me right then.

I noticed a man moving quickly and efficiently to restock a spot high up on a shelf. This guy was on it. Clearly for this store being merely ok was not enough. This store is managed with a high regard for its customer's delight. I'm sure that's why there was a steady stream of customers the whole time I visited. When other art supply stores are run like cold heartless big-chain supermarkets with employees who hate you and hate working there (I guess I was bitter about it and didn't know it) this place is like the artisanal village establishment that warmly cares about what you need.

I was raving about the place to the owner, Mike Sitkin, and asked him if he would order me a larger-sized bag of Ultracal for my large puppets that need molding. He said that he would although he stopped carrying the 100lb sacks as they were too hard to handle. He suggested a building materials place where I could fill up pails that I could carry (for a bit better price than his as well) and besides, he said, he was using the former space in the back room to stock his newest passion, GLITTER!

Mike showing off part of his gorgeously curated selection of fine grain glitter in his stock room. Treat yourself to a creative rush, go visit Kit Kraft and the fine people there for whatever you're into. (They'll even fire your precious metal clay pieces there for $1 a piece!) The store's been thriving since 1946 and let's keep it that way. Hours: 9-6 Monday through Saturday, one block north of Ventura Blvd. East of Laurel Canyon.

I found a lot of great Halfland stuff there. Here you see the wooden ornaments that will embellish the exterior of the cottage and its furniture. They had a large selection of carved wooden items in both human and small scales. I used one of the rectangles as Rana's front door plate. I got the brainwave while at Kit Kraft that Anthropolgie's huge array of vintage style drawer knobs would double for Rana's front door knob. I rushed over there and found too many great choices (above bottom left are just a few I found in their bins and would be perfect. I finally boiled it down two based on correct size and color, one is crystal and the other embossed ceramic.


  1. What a store! I think this is one of those places where you could spend all of the money you don't have and still feel happy about it.

  2. So right, Elva. I'm happy to buy things there. Besides I've always felt that art supplies are a kind of food. Soul food?

    And I splurge on things that give life like that.

    Art supplies

    (in that order)


  3. Wow! What a great read. Reading about Kit Kraft through your eyes seemed like I was reading about an age gone by. Amazing. Being away from home, your blog is the best way for me to catch up on your life. Plus the Twitters, of course!

  4. Anonymous12:01 AM

    Kit Kraft is an amazing place. A little pricey but you can find pretty much EVERYTHING!


  5. Hi Sweetie, Smooches. Thank you for reading me blog.

    You were right, Yuji, I could always buy things here and there at a few dollars less but keeping a great shop like this around is worth the little extra.

    Plus, the mixture of materials, already collected in a single spot, no shipping costs, bla bla, gets the imagination going. You know, that certain alchemical magic that can happen when seeing material you hadn't thought of gives you a new idea? You grab it and go. Priceless.

  6. Hi Shelley! I'm jealous now! hehe

  7. Almost makes me wish I lived in Cal-a-forny-i-a.

  8. Hi Norby!

    Hi Mike! Ain't you got a good supply store in your neck of the woods? It's usually the smaller towns that have better regional selection/service.

    Of course, my big dream is to make a great art supply shop/gallery/workshop somewhere pretty and quiet where I could live upstairs. It would have to be a not-for-profit as too remote an area couldn't support a normal business.

  9. Nothing like That!!!! few little hobby & craft shops, one downtown that specializes in model railroads, a Ben Franklin's that's mostly dollhouse stuff. Then I can travel a ways over to Fairview to Michael's, which has a better selection. Or I can really make a day trip and head to St. Louis for some good art stores. I don't know of any good craft shops over there though. But then, I tend not to even think of the kind of stuff you do.... I think more in terms of making everything from sculpey or epoxy putty. I need to look into the craft findings.

  10. Oh, I see. Yes, you know I think I love making detailed little props and things, with extra thrills from re-purpose-ing something to save time, because it's what I do best.

    I'm doing everything else just to get to the outrageous delights of props and finishing clothing, hair, etc.


    I think you're best thing is cinematography, lighting, direction, content.

  11. Talk about a dream come true! I wish we had something like that up here! Truly amazing!

  12. (^places like that die off unless there's enough hobbycrafters to pay the brick and mortar bills.. or at the very least the taxes on the building if owned by the store owner.

    (6 cherish it and become close friends: maybe offer to store some of your work (made with stuff from their shop)there as a "look what can be made with our materials!" point of purchase display?

    (^ never hurts to ask.
    (^ok it MIGHT hurt a little if they say no thank you.

    (^ but serriously: there is something magical about finding clues about halfland in progress just hanging on a wall in some small shop.

  13. That looks awesomeness. We need one of those down here... anyone... anyone...

    PS. Really mean, I mean really!


  14. Well add a store to my list for my next visit to LA.
    That place seems incredible, probably never find another like it.

  15. aHHHHhhh.

    The mighty Kit Kraft!

    I used to go there once or twice a month in my middle years of GLD.

    Me and shel would eat across the street on our Hot date Thursday lunch....then run over there after we ate to raid the loot.

    There is a place on victory called motion picture effects...that sells the hundred pound bags very inexpensively.


  16. Hi Ulla, Rich, and Mark, yep, a shop like this should be within an hour of everyone if I ran the world. Or maybe every artist would upstairs from a shop like this, whether they wanted to or not. I'd run a tough world.

    Prosser! That is so truly flattering that you'd say anyone would care about Halfland's making. That's a honor to have the project thought of that way. Thank you. Hopefully, God willing, one day when it's finished, the whole set(s) and a bunch of progress items, like the reference image boards, etc. will be in a gallery space people can come check out. It really is different seeing sets and props in person as you know. I love it.

    It emphasizes the magic of stop motion to see the inanimate objects that are brought to life in the films.

    Justin! That is some seriously fun Hot Date Night action you guys were rocking over there! Woo!

    Thank you for the Motion Picture Effect Ultracal tip, checking that out pronto!

  17. Got it, the place Justin mentions is here:

    It's called:

    Motion Picture FX
    123 S. Victory Blvd.
    Burbank, CA 91502

    818 563-2366

    Looks like a another great resource!

  18. I am not the one who you call Norby, I am of far greater status. ;)

  19. Sorry, Nofby. I have a really difficult time with swapping letters when they're positioned around a lower case 'b'. It's a case of "b" blindness.

    N O F B Y got it.

  20. lol, people call me norby alot, and sometimes nobby.

  21. Shelley, that looks like an amazing store! Wish we had something like that here.

    I have to tell you though -- your "today's cool find" items have been haunting me for the past couple days! It's odd, I find the War Dog extremely ugly, yet it makes more of an impression on me than the soft, wind-blown creatures. There's something about the ugliness (leaving aside that which it's designed to do -- but simply looking at it on an aesthetic level) that really bothers me, and disturbs me, and since you're talking about art and beauty, I find the ugliness a little more startling and interesting than the beauty of the other art piece. Maybe it's the idea that they're presented as invincible intelligence, while the Jansen piece is so fragile and vulnerable... Somehow this invincibility is much more disturbing.

    It might also be the noise that the War Dog makes -- if those wind creatures made that noise, they might be a tad more creepy :)

    Interesting ideas and clips tho, thanks for sharing them.

  22. Hi, Stephanie. yes, it's a provocative question, isn't it? The value of disturbance. You raise an interesting point. There must be a valid purpose to the creation of ugliness/negativity equal to an expression of beauty.

    I believe destruction is only the flipside of creation, both being creative processes in a way.

    But still, I'm struggling to discern whether the value/benefit of negative creation, such as the ridiculous noisebot, or war, or [insert regulation horror here] is. Does negative creation offer anything worthwhile? Is being disturbed assistful in any way? How?

    I'd love your thoughts on that.

  23. I love me some Kit Kraft...

  24. Wow. I love your blog. It is so inspiring and wonderful to see the care and detail you have in creating your puppets and sets. I feel like I had stumbled upon your site a long time back(because the elf on your christmas card looks familiar.. did you ever make paper puppets from an elf like that in the past? I feel like I saw it on a site like design sponge or apartment therapy). Kit Kraft seems like the exact type of store I have been looking for. Being out in Thousand Oaks, I have a hard time finding great stores like that. Everything out here is overpriced and the same. Great work, I only hope my film can be as detailed and beautiful as yours is shaping up to be!
    Huzzah for another female stop motion animator in Los Angeles area :)
    -Vanessa Soberanis

  25. Welcome to Halfland, Vanessa. Yes, I did make 2007's hand-made Christmas card with the elf as a paper twirling puppet, good recall on your part.

    I highly recommend a visit to Kit Kraft, it's awesome, just let it creep up on you.

    Best of luck in your creations...

  26. Every post on this entire site is a treasure.
    I've got to stop reading or I'll be on a plane to LA before I know it.

  27. Welcome here, Dear Karima! Don't tempt me with your threats of coming down to LA. Because I could keep you busy here for a year!


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