Kelly Thiel, branching out into painting from ceramics

Some people know me for my clay and others know me for my paintings. I think I will always work in both mediums. To me, I am simply working to get these narratives out in the world, no matter what medium I am working in. My artwork shifted dramatically in 2009, after the death of my mother and the birth of my firstborn, all in the same year. I became obsessed with each of our personal stories, and the stories of our lives. I didn’t quite have the words to express these feelings; they were trapped inside. I believe that is why my creations require a bit of soul-searching. One needs to see that there is a backstory and possibly have an idea of what is being said. My subjects often have a slight smile or maybe a pensive look; what do you think is going on in her head? It’s part of the narrative, HER narrative.

During that year of major shift in my work, I started including text in my sculptures and my paintings, as a way to lead the viewer, or even include them in part of the story. I kept a journal as a child, and again as an adult, but this time it was an art journal filled with colors and text and faces. The small scale of the journal became stifling; I needed to work larger! And thus my paintings have gotten larger, with more oversized and up-close portraits of my subjects. Both the clay and the paint are so tactile and physical; I love the movement of my arm created when I use a palette knife, and the feel of the clay as I squeeze it into shape. It’s all part of my own narrative; I am telling part of my story every time I touch the paintbrush or the mound of clay.

When I’m not creating my art, I am working at my other project – a coworking space, called The Wilds. We are a hybrid coworking space – we have artist studios, as well as desks areas for computer-based creatives. I co-founded this business with another creative female; we opened in October of 2015. We currently have nearly 30 members and are bursting at the seams! We maintain a full membership and have a waiting list for membership. Between the two businesses, and my beautiful family, I live a full and happy life in the high desert of Oregon. When I am not working, I am hiking with my dog, camping with my family, or snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor. It’s a good life, filled with art, family, love, good coffee and wine, and I couldn’t be happier. After moving to a new town (Bend, Oregon) in 2014, opening my own business and sharing it with the community was an enormous game-changer. I could have worked in my garage, sure, but I would not have met all of these wonderful people! It opened doors and opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to do without this business. Does it interfere with my artwork? Yes, at times, it does. Is it worth it? Completely.
Kelly Thiel
Aug 5, 2017

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