Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Artist PlayDate: Meet an Incredibly Talented Artist Whose Exquisite Work and Exceptional Demeanor Will Leave You Wanting to Learn More and More

ANNOUNCEMENT: Please forgive the delay in posting this piece. Due to unforseen circumstances I will be available only sporadically and hope to be emailing next week.

Kelly, creator of Backward Glances, has been an inspiration to me from the first moment I met her. No matter what comment she leaves in a post nor what amazing new piece she creates, I am always fascinated by her. She brings history to life and adds a magical flavor to the present.

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Kelly about her work, her life and the dream of a beaded bike.

Please join me in meeting a magnificent artist!

TST: Where did you grow up?

Kelly: I’m a true Yoopper – UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) born, lived downstate for many years, but am back in the North now and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

TST: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Kelly: Everywhere and everything, but the natural world is probably my biggest inspiration. I’m extremely visual and carry my camera with me literally all the time, taking photos of the oddest things. Often the little details in those offbeat photos provide exactly what I need to give a piece my own personal style. There have been several pieces that I didn’t realize exactly what had influenced my choices of color or style until after the fact, “Shell Games” is a good example – I walk to work every day in the winter through a cedar forest and every color in “Shell Games” is present in that forest and I never realized until I was finished beading.

TST: What's one of your most favorite, inspiring quotes

Kelly: “Tomorrow is another day” - Scarlett O’Hara
It reminds me I don’t have to finish “it” today, I don’t have to perfect “it” today, I don’t have to just accept “it” today - I can finish, perfect, accept when the time is right .

TST: Who is your favorite artist?

Kelly: The anonymous ladies who were so limited in the socially acceptable methods of expressing their creativity, all the Victorian fancywork that is so looked down upon today. When you read diaries, it is so evident how important those little frivolities were to them as a way of beautifying their homes, showing their skills, and gifting to friends and families. Just like today, some ladies were more skilled and possessed a better visual aesthetic than others. Those pieces that have managed to survive are true treasures.

TST: Who inspired you to create growing up - parents, mentor?

Kelly: Unfortunately, I was not encouraged to create as a child – it was considered too frivolous and the practical was the ideal. But the drive was inside me somewhere, waiting to allowed out. I wish I could have been willing to accept that I have to create earlier in my life; I’ve lost so much time.

TST: What is one thing you dream of doing one day?

Kelly: If I ever became independently wealthy (not likely!), I’d love to open an artistic playground, where people could come and experiment with all different types of media and artistic styles, where the emphasis would be on simply creating. I truly believe we all have the potential to be artists; we just need to find our own individual way of expressing our creativity. I don’t feel being an artist has anything to do with gallery shows or sales, or any type of outside acclaim, unless the individual desires those things.

TST: What is one thing you dream of creating one day?

Kelly: I really, really want to cover an entire bicycle in beads, not to sell, just for me to use on special occasions. I recently obtained an old Schwinn cruiser – it has great lines and big fenders, chain guard, etc to provide as a “canvas”. It’s already heavy and if I ever manage to cover it in beads, it will be a real tank!

TST: Do you have a creative ritual - something you do before you sit down to work?

Kelly: Not a ritual exactly, but most of my larger pieces need to live in my head for quite awhile before I can even think about actually making them a reality – some stay there a loooong time before they force themselves out into the real world!

I also usually like to sit in the middle of my work room and pull out all the beads out of storage and start pulling colors, shapes, etc that might work, sometimes I end up going in a very different direction based on a random pairing I notice in the disarray.

TST: What is one thing you are scared of and work to overcome in life?

Kelly: I don’t feel I express myself well verbally, a one on one conversation is very difficult for me, and small talk is excruciatingly hard for me. I’m usually the one in the room watching the action, which I enjoy.

TST: You say your work is "Modern Beadwork Influence by the Past" what attracted you to history and art, specifically beading?

Kelly: History has always fascinated me; like many ladies I was attracted to living history initially because of the clothes – some of us just never outgrow playing dress up! I wanted all the fancy accessories to complement my ensembles and the only way I was going to have them was by making them myself. I’m entirely self taught, never have taken a class or workshop. My first evening bag was a reproduction 1912 bag with 31 colors, not the recommended way to start. It’s spiraled out from there, while I still on occasion make reproductions that are as accurate as currently possible, these days I really enjoy using those vintage techniques in new ways, using my color and design sensibilities. Some designs are just classic, I have a bracelet I made using directions in an 1857 ladies magazine, but no one ever believes me when I tell them that, they insist it must be a present day design. Using vintage instructions can be a challenge, often the only instructions say “any lady can make these design by using the provided image”, it takes much trial and error, as well as searching for appropriate materials. Using and/or reviving traditional techniques helps to keep them alive and preserves them for the future.

Why beads? I just have a thing for taking those tiny little beads, which are complete onto themselves, and assembling them into a new whole

TST: You say you enjoy collaboration - what's your favorite collaborative piece?

Kelly: My custom evening bags are my favorite collaborations – the ladies who request them have a vision of a “dream” bag they’ve always desired. I must ask the right questions to allow me to share that exact vision and interpret it in beads. The first moment they view the finished piece is magical when you get it right – one lady burst into tears, luckily tears of joy not dismay!

TST: What has been your greatest success in life so far?

Kelly: Many people have lifelong dreams; I’ve managed to make one of my dreams come true – living on Mackinac Island. It’s a magical place, but most people already have family or business here, the number of people who move here without those supports in place are exceedingly rare and those who do seldom last very long. We’ve been here 7 years now and intend to remain.

TST: If there was a book written about your life what would the title be?

Kelly: Okay, I really don’t have an answer for this one, but my husband says it should be “Appearances are Deceiving”.

For more of Kelly's fabulous work, please visit her shop Backward Glances or her blog at

Thank you for being such a magical inspiration, Kelly. Please keep dreaming, creating and sharing all the beauty within you.


Jenjen @GottaLoveMom said...

Kelly, such inspiration!
Stopped by to take a peek and I got peaks of talents waiting for me to explore!
I just checked your blog and WOW - your eyes capture the beauty beyong what an ordinary eye can capture!

A historian and an artist! That's really something...a great "harmonious" combination that reflects in the inquisite pieces that you create!

Goodluck on the cruiser! Cruiser and beads - can't wait to see that...

And you already are wealthy with all the talents and love that surround you - can't wait to visit that artistic playground!

Thank you for taking me back in a time of beauty, glamour and precision!

Natasha, as always - thank you for introducing me to fine artists! You have a knack for identifying unique talents and you always seem to bring out the best in people! Keep it up :)

Hope everyone's enjoying their summer...

lisianblue said...


You may feel as tho you got a late start in life as far as creating goes - but I think you are making up for it by creating some beautiful items. Your evening bag is STUNNING and made with size 15 beads!!!! Amazing! I also love the comb - and well everything here! It almost makes me want to forget the glass and go back to those wonderful colorful beads I have collected over the years.
I love the idea of an "artistic playground"!!

Felicia Kramer said...

I have been a Kelly fan for quite awhile now. And of course we share the Michigan connection, although I'm embarrassed to say that I have yet to visit Mackinac Island. Great interview!

Phoenyx Ravenswing said...


Your work is stunning! :-) One of the many reasons I want to take my own biz to the next level, is so I can support artists whose work I covet. You are def. high on that list. :-)

I love the ways you blend history & craft together and how you've found & remained true to your truest heart, no matter what. :-) Yay, you!!! :-D

Bright Blessings & Good Fortune! :-)

Amanda Fall - PersistentGreen said...

Fantastic interview! Two things I have to mention:

Kelly, I'm so sorry you weren't encouraged to be artistic when you were growing up...but how much more precious your art must be to you now, since it was with you all along and never gave up on you. That's so encouraging.

And number two--your idea of opening a creative playspace for artists gave me a huge grin. My mom (Aqua) and I have long dreamed of opening an artists' co-op--a safe and inspiring place to come together to create and play and experiment. Maybe someday we'll all get together and do it! For now, we have TST. :)

Frenzy23 said...

I'm fascinated by this interview.
It's interesting to think about how women expressed themselves when they were so many gorgeous decorations from the Victorian era. They couldn't have much of an opinion so boy did they cover everything with their design ideas :)

I love the artistic playground idea. I wish TST was a real physical place where people could just come and create. We see amazing things here every week, imagine if everyone were able to get together and create!

When you make that beaded bicycle, you'd better post photos :) It sounds amazing.

Mackin-Art said...

Thank you all so much!!! I truly can't express how much your words mean to me, I so seldom encounter people who "get" what I'm trying to accomplish.

And I have to say, we may not have that artistic playground available to us yet in a physical form, but Natasha has gifted us with it in a virtual form through TST and I so appreciate both her work and all the creative energy I receive from all the participants.

Thanks again...and again...