Kelly Vander Kley
Mattawan, Michigan, SHCA Artist Member
I grew up working on farms and now currently operate a small farm of my own. My farming background is important to my art because much of my work is about the human connection with nature or food and the way nature and humans are interdependent. This stems from my extensive experiences with trying to organize earth and the elements to create human comfort. Professionally, I have worked since 1993 in graphic design and layout. I have owned a photography business since 2005. I have been a post-secondary and high school teacher in the areas of graphic art and print media since 2014. On a personal level, I adore working in watercolor, ceramics and glass. I also own several antique printing presses and enjoy printmaking.
My work usually has a message about humans and the eternal struggle we have with the power of nature. Over the years, my delivery and medium have changed as my brain has a constant hunger to consume new methods and techniques. I began with photography and graphics primarily to build a solid income. Oil, watercolor and acrylic painting have always been a part of my life. After my artistic foundation was established, I dove head-first into glass as a medium and learned under world-renowned artists and institutions. I learned glass blowing and kiln fired methods of glass art production. Ceramics followed soon after that as I sought out ways of incorporating glass and clay into work. In around 2016, I began collecting antique printing presses because they fit well alongside my in-use antique tractors, spinning wheels and other centuries-old farmstead equipment. Owning printing equipment necessitated learning to use the machines and that pointed me to my latest artistic obsession of printmaking.
My ongoing theme throughout the years has been the human struggle to control environment or the resistance to nature’s control of us. I do this by using the nature provided elements of fire, earth (clay), and water along with pigmented inks, paints, glazes, and glass.
It is very hard to pick one favorite tool. I love so many! I don’t think I could do without my pottery wheel because when I sit at the wheel, the feeling of molding clay with my hands is meditative.