5 Minutes With Sharna Martorella of @Pen_Friend


Originally poster on moustachemag | March 17, 2014

Sharna’s a past deign student of mine, she doing great things, check her out.

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All Images: courtesy of Sharna Martorella

Words by Matt Huxley 

GIFTED with the ability to make words look amazing, Sharna Martorella is the talented scribe and graphic designer behind @Pen_Friend, the Instagram channel that has been making waves in the creative industry recently. I had a chat with Sharna to discuss her time as a teacher at a design school, upcoming plans, and her thoughts on Instagram.

MM: Hi Sharna, thanks so much for letting us have a chat with you.

SM: Thank you!

When did you first realise that you were ridiculously talented at making words look incredible?

I don’t know if I realised any of what you describe exactly! But I knew I could do some nifty things with a pen and paper. Around when I was really young, all my friends would get me to write those infamous nineties scripted Stüssy and Mossimo logos all over their school books, and as we got older I made a lucrative business trading ciggies and lunch money for writing fake notes from my friend’s parents so they could cut class. Haha.

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You were previously working at a prestigious design college as a teacher, what made you decide to go freelance?

Well, what I never realised about teaching is the enormous amount of hard work and stress that go into preparing each lesson (all in your own time) is crazy. I have a LOT more respect for teachers now (Sorry to all my old teachers! Haha). But mostly, I missed working on my own projects too much and wanted to just stay focused on my own creative growth.

Your Instagram (@Pen_Friend) has 16 thousand followers. How does it feel to have amassed such a large following?

Surprised is one way to describe it, and also very grateful that so many people enjoy something I love doing so much. It’s awesome and very inspiring.

You have plans to establish an online store; any word on when that will be available?

In a matter of days! I’ve been living in remote Western Australia and it’s been tough getting it going when there’s no resources near you. But I have partnered up with a great friend in Melbourne and it’s finally happening! I will be releasing fifteen Penfriend prints to start with and then continuously adding more. And a few other cool collectables too…

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How do you decide what you are going to write? I know if that was me I would never be able to think of anything!

I don’t think I’m much of an over sharer so most of it doesn’t necessarily reflect my life in particular. Rather, I prefer words that inspire me and hope they’ll do the same for others. Song lyrics, pop culture references and your general Pinterest quotes are my biggest sources of inspiration. I also have love/ hate relationships with particular letters like ‘W’ and ‘M’ – I hate those. And letters like ‘A’ and ‘F’ – I love! So some words and phrases obviously flow better than others. And the others just get thrown in the bin. Haha.

What’s in the works for you? Do you have any exciting collaborations coming up?

Always! And becoming part of The Ministry Of Talent family has really opened up even more opportunities. I’m so excited. I’m very ambitious and want to do more work with magazines, ad campaigns, bands and larger scale stuff like surfboard sprays and murals. I need to keep setting goals like that so I can stay excited and keep creating.

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What would you say to anyone planning on starting up their own business?

That if I can do it, any idiot can! No, but seriously I have not one ounce of business sense in my body. But I do love what I do and I think that really helps. The rest I am still learning along the way. I take on constructive criticism and try to evolve from the advice I’m given. I also work really hard –  late nights ’til the sun comes up (and I have a two year old daughter so I really pay for it the next day!)

Instagram has been invaluable to you obviously in getting your name and brand out there. Do you think that business should embrace social media?

I often think about that and how lucky I am and others are to have this platform inside this tiny screen that is able to reach out to a multitude of people in so many continents and walks of life. It’s mind boggling. And it’s free!! I am such an advocate for combining business with social media. I’ve seen it work so well with tattoo artists, illustrators, make-up artists, florists etc. It’s maybe the break that a lot of struggling artists have needed.

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Just to indulge my curiosity, who was the most famous person that you have sold a piece of art to?

Oh you know, just the President of the United States and Oprah Winfrey. Okay, not really… But I can dream can’t I?!

Thank you so much for your time, Sharna!

Any time!

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