Today we hear from Kelly Kye, a Master's candidate in Design working to launch her new line of "thoughtfully crafted quilts" through Kye + Hardy. Kelly shares her story of finding her medium in quilting, and she explores how she plans to build her career as a creative entrepreneur!
Kelly Kye has an eye for detail, to say the least. From the fabrics she dyes to each hand-stitched motif, her quilts are one-of-a-kind expressions of her expertise in her craft. It's only fitting that the invitations to Kelly's showcase of her work would reflect that same attention to detail and an unabashed love of fabric and thread. She used Spoonflower to print invitations and posters for her upcoming April opening as the guest maker at Ramble Supply Co. in downtown Raleigh, NC. Here, Kelly tells us a bit more about the process of finding her passion, and she shares some insight into where she hopes to take her quilting next!
What made you decide to pursue a Masters in fiber arts?
I received my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree concentrating in Textiles and Surface Design at East Carolina University. From there I worked a few odd jobs in Raleigh and ended up moving to New York City. These experiences all culminated in me realizing that I had a great understanding of stitching as a medium in production. I knew that I wanted to create something that was more personal and take on the responsibility of designer and manufacturer. I did however feel that I needed time, space and instruction to develop my concepts and further my knowledge of the craft. The Art + Design program at NCSU College of Design has been just that place.
How did you choose quilting as your medium?
I made my first quilt as an undergraduate at ECU. When I showed my mom she got so excited that she could help teach me how to quilt. I found myself going back to quilting for years until I really embraced it. I think that having a connection to heritage kept me coming back. Utility and design are such important parts of quilting and I am so happy to have found a medium that uses both.
How long have you been quilting?
I have been quilting for about 12 years.
Is it your full time job?
Currently I am employed as a research assistant through the College of Design as part of a National Science Foundation grant and the College of Engineering at NCSU. I intend on making quilting my full time job as I finish the grant this year. I would like to teach workshops in quilting and other parts of my process as technical classes as well.
Where do you want to take your craft?
I would like to see the products that I make for KYE + HARDY support me as a maker and allow for the possibility of employing others in the area to contribute to the business.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I have really struggled with my choice to pursue such a specific craft. I am so inspired by others in the field of quilting. At times I get completely overwhelmed by the amount of amazing quilts that have already been made and wonder how my contribution is important. In those moments I take a step back and focus on my own personal experience, technical abilities and design sensibility. Quilts are amazing artifacts of planning, time, patience and story. I hope to add to that story and share mine with as many people as possible.
What has been your biggest success?
Well I am going to jump ahead a bit and say that making it through graduate school is my biggest success – I graduate this spring!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Living the dream… No really, I would like for KYE + HARDY to have a studio in North Carolina for production and retail. The brand will promote great design as well as education in the craft and production of textiles. I also see a book – tutorial and project focused.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone pursuing a creative career?
Stay flexible. Your mood, inspiration, environment or even materials may change. Be aware of what is happening in the moment and don’t let those changes hold you back from creating something new.
Who inspires your work?
The work of American painter, Richard Diebenkorn, especially the Ocean Park Series, inspires my current work. The series is focused on explorations of color, light and place. I appreciate the abstracted views that Diebenkorn creates to evoke the mood and architecture of the landscape that he is referencing in the series. A sense of place and home is the concept of my first collection and the landscapes of North Carolina inspire the work that I am creating. One of my largest influences in quilting is what has come out of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Their quilting really captures the beauty of design out of utility and economic circumstances. As far as aspiration of my brand and how I hope to grow that would be Denyse Shmidt and the quilt lines that she has created.
What is your creative soundtrack?
I have to shout out to some of the powerful female voices that inspire me to work hard and be more creative – Angel Olsen, St. Vincent, Cat Power, Sharon Van Etten, Neko Case.
What resources have you found really useful?
Supporting local business is important to our community and myself. Askew Taylor on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh is the best for art supplies and fabric dye. The Gregg Museum of Art and Design in Raleigh is an amazing resource for craft objects including quilts. Quilts are printed beautifully in books, magazines and catalogues but I think that we can all agree that a quilt in real life tells so much more.
I worked at Purl Patchwork before it became Purl Soho in NYC. It was there that I really figured out that there was a huge difference in quality of fabrics. I check in to see what new fabrics they are carrying. Their blog Purl Bee is a wonderful place for inspiration and projects. And obviously Spoonflower for all of my promotional needs!