Art, Design, Inspiration, Interviews, Upcycling
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Interview: Jennifer Kelly | Artist and Graphic Designer

Hotel Key Rose rings by Jennifer Kelly

Graphic designer by day/ artist by night, Jennifer Kelly lives and breathes creativity and, it seems, finds it impossible to switch off from being in creative mode. So much so, that she was totally up for the challenge her father set her: to try and turn a bunch of hotel keys he had inadvertently collected from business trips into something else. After a bit of trial and error, a rose – or several – were born,  which then became pieces of jewellery.

Jennifer sent me one of her rings and I have to say you’d have no idea it was once a hotel key! You have to admire someone who’s determined to rid the world of unwanted hotel keys, so come and welcome Jennifer …

Artist Jennifer Kelly

Artist Jennifer Kelly

You say on your website that you’re a ‘creative explorer’. Tell us about this and your background and how have you ended up where you are today?

I’m pretty sure as a kid I must have given Crayloa’s factory workers a run for their money-  colouring books and drawing were a part of everyday life (besides watching Disney movies, of course). Growing up my family and I moved around almost every two years and it seemed the only thing constant in my life was my love for history and drawing. Art was my escape from the unfamiliar and, at times, the only friend I had (but I did end up making friends with plenty of kids from Washington State to North Carolina and South Florida some of whom I still keep in contact with). I carried this love of art and creating through childhood into high school where I was determined to make a career out of this love, besides the dreaded ‘starving artist’ idea.

Throughout high school I won numerous awards for art including a scholarship to North Carolina’s Governor’s School program in art. This nudged me toward my current ‘day job’ as a graphic and web designer. An education at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago (BFA in Visual Communications) prepared me to still think as a fine artist even before touching the computer. Graphic and web design was the perfect career for me to meld the two areas of expertise as one.

Over the years, I have discovered that being creative has no limitations and cannot be confined to one professional title. Thus, I coined the term ‘creative to the heart’. I consider myself a ‘creative explorer’, although my current job title is ‘graphic designer’. I explore all aspects of the creative field including illustration, photography, acrylic painting, mixed media artwork, party planning, handmade jewellery, and even costume design. Today I work at the United States Sports Academy as their web designer doing not only what my title entails but taking photography, writing, and working on marketing plans. In my spare time I work on my fine art and other jewellery.

Hotel Rose by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose by Jennifer Kelly

When and why did you start creating things from hotel keys?

My dad travels about 48 weeks out of the year and about 4 years ago he came home with a stack of hotel keys and said: “Here, do something creative with these.” So after a weekend working in my studio experimenting with different melting processes, I came up with the prototype of my first hotel key rose.

How long did it take you to devise the best way to transform the keys? Explain the creative process.

First I started looking through books for inspiration on what I could create with these small pieces of plastic. I have a large collection of visual reference materials for ancient artwork, encyclopedias, stock art etc and finally came across a book on flowers. I thought why not cut the pieces of plastic and use a lighter to slowly melt the petals?

The first I tried was an orchid, which was a little too boring for my taste. Next I did a lily that I felt was slowly getting there. Finally, I found an image of a rose, and thought, wow, that would be incredible if I could do it. Slowly but surely, I shaped each and every petal and glued them together creating my first hotel key rose. These initial flowers were larger than the current hotel key rings, but I wanted to be able to wear the art. In the beginning I put pin backs on the roses then decided to miniaturize them for rings. These, by far, have gained the most attention. In the future, I would love to use them for a Halloween costume by transforming them into a suit of armour.

Hotel Key Rose Earrings by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose Earrings by Jennifer Kelly

Caring for the environment and upcycling is clearly important to you. Tell us how you try to incorporate these things in other parts of your life/work?

I also enjoy creating mixed media works of art (what some called assemblage). Anything I find interesting on the road that some might see as trash, I will save and use in my pieces of art. I’ve even picked up petrified dragonfly wings from our window frames and included them in my work. Fun pieces of tissue paper from gifts I will take out and save, and even broken parts of an old computer may end up in some of my pieces. I have an old library cart catalogue chest with an entire section full of bits I’ve collected just for my art. Some may call this hoarding, but with a creative mind it’s hard not to look at every little item you find in a parking lot and not think ‘wow, this would look good in a piece of art’. I never throw away anything I think I can use.

I also try not to buy paint if I can help it. I will use what I have until it’s almost gone and buy from the ‘Oops’ paint at our home improvement store for both art and home projects.

One more thing I do is create my own all-purpose cleaner every month. I take the peels from one orange (any citrus works) and put them in a glass container with white vinegar and let it sit for about 1-2 weeks. Then I fill half a spray bottle with the orange infused vinegar, fill the rest with hot water and a pump or two of dish cleaning liquid and voilà, an all-purpose cleaner that smells divine and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It has helped us around the house cut back on Clorox wipes which aren’t animal friendly (we have four dogs) and costs next to nothing (maybe US$2.00 every 3 months). You can pretty much use it on anything.

Hotel Key Rose Earring by Jennifer Kelly

Hotel Key Rose Earring by Jennifer Kelly

What do you like to do in your spare time?

It may sound cliché but I love doing my art – anything creative. Currently I’m working on my Halloween costume which is a huge passion of mine. This year it truly is a work of art. I will send photos soon!

My guilty pleasure is …
Disney movies! I’m honestly a kid at heart. I thought Peter Pan was real when I was six. Oh, and did I mention I love Halloween and Halloween planning?

The best thing about living in the South (of the United States) is …

The weather and fresh seafood. I moved to Daphne, Alabama from Chicago where it would have lows in the negative numbers. I don’t miss that at all. And I love fresh seafood which can be found in abundance along the Gulf Coast!

Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?

About two weeks ago, I found some amazing finger protectors at my local craft store for when I use hot glue. I am very clumsy so when I saw these hot glue finger protectors I couldn’t help but purchase them – who’d have thought?!

Thanks for your time, Jennifer!

You can also find her here.


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