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Meet Kelly O’Neill

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly O’Neill.

Hi Kelly, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I was thrusted into my metal sculpture career when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. My Dad has always been a major influence in my life. You would describe him as a “renaissance” man. He was always exploring new creative expressions from photography to candle making. He found his true calling as a potter. I always followed his lead, enjoying the journey and camaraderie. His death started my artistic journey – first making mixed media creations with his pottery and enhancing them with metal stands. I wanted to pursue a new perspective to honor my dad’s art. I believe the expected presentation of a ceramic vessel limited its expression and uniqueness. This led to my exploration of metal form as its own artistic expression.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Any obstacles or challenges are met with enthusiasm. After working in the corporate world for 34 years, I am excited to explore a new career as an artist. So, every bump in the road is an opportunity to learn something new. And with my executive training, I know how to mitigate, negotiate, and communicate through any issues. Problem-solving is a skill set I developed early in life and developed the ability to apply many models in which to keep things moving forward.

Also, I believe that obstacles are opportunities that help you grow as a person, that doesn’t mean I never got mad or frustrated about something. I allow myself to experience that emotion but move on quickly to problem-solving. And as an artist, sometimes having restrictions can result in a new creative process or experience. An example of this is moving my workshop from a Community College with high-end fabrication equipment to working out of my garage. My art changed based on equipment limitations.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I mentioned earlier that I started making stands for my dad’s pottery. He used to purchase plate stands from a catalog, resulting in a very pedestrian way of displaying his original handmade work. So, I enrolled in a welding course at Washtenaw community college. The instructor was very supportive and allowed me to use any metal from the scrap bin. I would bring a box of my dad’s pottery to class and then start creating new ways to express his work by elevating them to one-of-a-kind metal stands created from scrap metal. It was here that I found my love for creating something new from someone’s scrap. This led to exploring thrift shops and scrap yards for items that could be repurposed. My aesthetic was born! I find joy in finding a piece of metal that inspires an idea. I love the idea of asymmetric balance. So, each piece of metal will build upon that idea creating a unique form. I am most proud of the success I have had in just 3 years. I contribute this to my philosophy of saying “Yes” to do something even if I am not knowledgeable about what I’m getting myself into. This pushes me to learn new skills and to try new things. What sets me apart is how I have mixed mediums in my work. Very few artists incorporate clay and metal into a sculpture, I have also started adding glass as an accent too.

What matters most to you?
I’ve talked a lot about me. But I’m also passionate about helping young adults find their way in this world. I graduated college in 1984 – In the midst of a recession. I was the first of my family to get a college degree and there were expectations to establish a career and be successful. So, I took the corporate job and gave up on the dream of doing something creative. 34 years later, I decided it was time for Life 2.0. I wanted to give back to those that were pursuing their passion and to help them with the business and marketing skill set they would need to succeed. During an art fair, my booth was a across from a non-profit, Mint Artists Guild (mintartistsguild.org). I am now on the Board of Directors and helps with marketing and professional seminars.

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1 Comment

  1. Kelly A. O'Neill

    February 23, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you for your support!

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