Thursday, March 04, 2010

Kelli Nina Perkins Day at JaneVille

I mentioned recently that I'd gotten Kelli Nina Perkins' book Stitch Alchemy and was getting lots of inspiration and techniques. So just for fun, this month will be Kelly Nina Perkins month in JaneVille.
Jane: What is your story, how did you become an artist?
Kelli: Being creative is part of the human condition and I've always dabbled in small art adventures like soap making, painted furniture, Russian style egg decorating… the list goes on. I would say that creating has always been a complement to my life, but it became a focus when I saw my first altered book about ten years ago. There was a convergence of everything I loved; books, ephemera, art. I may have stopped breathing. In any case, I did hear angels singing and that caused me to go immediately home and set up a card table with some basic crafting supplies. I began feverishly creating and haven't stopped since.

Jane: I just love your stitch paper! It is soo fun with never ending possibilities. Would you say stitch paper is your favorite medium?
Kelli: Every medium is my favorite, which is why I'm such an art chameleon. But stitch paper exemplifies my favorite principle: serendipity. I try to let the result surprise me. Throw a bunch of unrelated things together on a magical canvas and you're bound to be awed. It's the combination of voices all straining to be heard which interests me. I love it!

Jane: What inspires you? Your imagery is bright happy and home based. Lots of food and cooking and sewing references. Would you say that’s where you get most of your inspiration?
Kelli: I am drawn to iconic images of the home and especially the kitchen. That's where my childhood memories are. Some utilitarian objects, like spoons, thread and buttons, are more than the sum of their parts. They exemplify the everyday sacred. As for the baking references...pie, cupcakes, doughnuts. Does that need an explanation? Delicious! I'm hung up on cookbooks right now.

Jane: I love your drawing style. Do you draw in a journal or sketchbook regularly?Kelli: The only thing regular about my drawing is that I regularly abandon my sketchbooks. I'm sure they are all living together on the isle of unloved journals. However, I don't leave home without at least one good pen; Pitt, Rapidograph, Uniball, it doesn't matter as long as I have something with nice black waterproof ink. I'm working on building a repertoire of images that come naturally to me, which is why you see a relatively confined catalog of things I draw over and over. I am a huge fan of Danny Gregory, your mentor. His books and blog have pushed me to break through my fear of bad drawing. I still do lots of bad drawing, I'm just not afraid of it.
Jane: I see that you’re involved with some swaps. Tell us about them and why you participate.
Kelli: As I note in the dedication of Stitch Alchemy, wherever you can find kindred souls for learning, experimenting and trading the work of your hands, I encourage you to connect with this great circle of artists. It's an amazing source of inspiration. My mailbox has hosted an exciting carnival of treasures from many different countries and all over the U.S. You can't buy this kind of love in the store!

Jane: I’m a big fan of Spoonflower too, and I see you’ve made some dolls. Tell us about them.
Kelli: Spoonflower is one of the most exciting things to happen in the textile world. It allows everyone to be a designer. In fact, I'm working on some new fabrics now based on drawings and paintings I've done. My cat and bird dolls were a first attempt at a soft doll form. It seemed natural to make cats holding birds and birds holding cats, to show that they can be friends. I made the images fairly simple so I could bead and embroider them like crazy. 

Jane: I know you work full time as a librarian and you have a family! Do you have set studio hours? How do in the world do you manage to make as much art as you do?
Kelli: Most people miss opportunities during the day--all those little pockets of time that slip through our fingers. I keep a project bag with me at all times, so I craft during my lunch hour at work, while at the doctor's office, when we're watching a movie. We opted not to have television at our house, so each evening my family does creative things instead of getting fixated on a screen. When I'm writing or working on a big project, I do "schedule" myself for studio time so I can justify saying "no" to other requests.

Jane: What is it that motivates you to keep making art? (aside from creating art for classes or books)
Kelli: I think it's curiosity--the same force that caused me to become a librarian. I wonder what would happen if I put two ideas together or two unrelated materials or tried a new technique together with the one I'm currently using. There is a wonderment that I have never outgrown and don't intend to. They say that curious people live longer. That means more time for evil art experiments, muah ha ha.

Jane: What's your teaching philosophy?
Kelli: My philosophy comes from my background as a librarian. First, knowledge is power, so I'll share everything I know. Don't get me started if you're only a little interested. I'm like a runaway train. Secondly, have fun and let serendipity do the work. If you know exactly how it's going to turn out, you're doing something wrong. Open yourself to the mystery.

Jane: What are you working on right now?
Kelli: I believe in intense, promiscuous art making. As a promiscuous artist, I engage in multiple crafts at the same time. Lately, I've been abusing vintage book pages by drawing, painting and stitching on them.


  1. I love all the stuff she said, especially "promiscuous art making" and "don't get me started if you're only a little bit interested". Woo-hoo!! What a fun lady!

  2. Jane, this was a GREAT interview! Great questions and insightful answers. Please do more!

  3. just look at kellys thread collection- so artfully arranged....everything she does is inspiring. thank you for the great read.

  4. Jane, I agree with everyone above! I loved the interview and hope you do more. Kelli is a very funny lady. She could do stand-up! Her comments are so pithy, little gems. Thanks for the great post today.

  5. Every time I visit your blog, I know it's gonna be fun and inspiring! Great interview!

  6. This was a brilliant read with beautiful colourful photos and great links! Thanks : )

  7. great interview! I love Kelli, she's so colorful!

  8. Jane, thanks for this interview! Great questions and inspiring answers.

  9. Great interview Jane.

    Kelli's work is a delight to the eyes.


  10. I loved Kelli before this interview. I love her even more now. My first Kelli inspiration was her paper beads and her stitch art. Now I'm looking forward to embellishing thread spools. I have quite a collection!
    Great interview, Jane. A new calling?

  11. What a great interview! I love Kelli's bright, quirky artwork. Especially those doughnuts. Great sense of humor. I'd love to take a class with her.

    Another book for my wishlist.

  12. i'm inspired! thanks Jane and Kelli!

  13. Great interview Jane! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kelli's book stitch alchemy. You are both such an inspiration!

  14. Great Job, I love the book, I just got mine too. What a great book for techniques! Thanks Jane and Kelly


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