By Britni Rachal
Portrait by Weston Carls
Artwork by Amanda Witucki
Artist Eye View:
An artist with a focus on using paper as a medium, Amanda Witucki is also the founder of The Secret Prezzie Project, a social experiment/kindness project that launched in 2014. She is also known for combining precision and repetition with color throughout her unique pieces.
Inspiring hope and connections are an important part of the Secret Prezzie Project. Can you elaborate on that?
“The goal of the Secret Prezzie Project is to inspire a feeling of magic, wonder and love. Imagine you’re walking down the street and you’re stopped in your tracks by an impeccably wrapped gift with a tag that’s labeled ‘Hey, stranger, this present is for you!’ Surely this can’t be? A FREE wonderfully curated and beautiful gift for you? Oh, but it is, stranger.
We live in a world where nice things don’t happen ‘just because’ and I’d like to change that. This project combines my love of wrapping gifts, supporting local artists and a hint of vandalism (I sprinkle handmade confetti around each gift once it’s dropped). Each present contains goodies from local artists, and each box is hidden in plain sight in front of a mural. Not only does this project help re-instill our faith in humanity by offering a no-strings-attached gift from a stranger, but it also connects the people of Austin to its thriving community of creators.”
What inspired you to create such an uplifting artistic product?
“This project has changed throughout the years. In its original form, the prezzies were themed and contained new and gently used items from my home. It was a way for me to rid my closets of my rarely used craft supplies and other things, but also spared these items from going to a landfill. I handmade labels for each of the items, and put personal details in the gifts. As time went on and I transitioned into making art full-time, I decided to fill the prezzies with goods from local makers and artists to help spread the word about fellow small businesses. Highly thoughtful marketing, if you will.”
What are some of your favorite products that have been featured in the Secret Prezzie?
“I have had many of my favorite Austin artists donate to the Secret Prezzie Project — Molly Knobloch’s abstract paintings, Maridad Studio’s playful watercolor pieces and Kathy Phantastic illustrations are some of my favorites.”
What sparked the idea and passion around paper paintings and canvas sculptures?
“I’ve been working in the realm of papercraft for a long time, but it took many years to come to this iteration of what I now make. I had been existing in the weddings and events world for a while, creating larger installations and backdrops, and I struggled to make ends meet. A fellow artist friend recommended I create my paper modules smaller and attach them to canvas, then it could be sold as permanent art instead of temporary installations, bringing me from the event industry into the fine art industry. That is the shortest way I’ve ever told that story, but I will say I’m forever grateful to that friend for her suggestion.”
People are encouraged to participate in the movement and post in different cities across the country. What is one of the most impactful stories you’ve seen?
“I’ve taken prezzies with me when I’m on vacation to try and spread the movement outside the city, but so far no one has contacted us or told us about any prezzies outside of Austin. My hope is for this project to gain momentum and spread to other cities.”
We noticed the artwork can be really large and used in some festive ways! What are some of your favorite creations?
“I love how impactful a large installation can be, so most of my favorite pieces of work are the installations. Last year for the Austin Studio Tour, I made an installation that was inspired by different pasta shapes: lasagna, farfalle and spaghetti. I love creating playful pieces. My all-time favorite was an installation for my very first art show last year. I folded over 400 large origami shapes to create a giant, elegant hanging piece. I’m currently working on a project that involves over 25 artists who have been given total creative freedom to adorn a house on the eastside before it gets demolished later on this year. I have a feeling this one will be another favorite.”