Kerri Kokias is a stay-at-home mom, children’s book author, and artist living in Seattle, Washington. Her wall hangings feature modern application of traditional fiber crafts such as embroidery, cross stitch, and weaving. Her work is characterized by a bold use of geometric pattern, color, texture, and nontraditional materials.
Carrie: When did you first realize you were an artist?
I don’t really think of myself as an artist. I think of myself as a creator, as in a person who creates things. Sometimes I seem myself as a person who creates art… which is the very definition of an artist. So, to answer your question, NOW, right now is when I first realized I was an artist. Thank you!
Carrie: How did you discover your unique medium of embroidery on wood?
I spent several years feeling guilty for not taking advantage of a laser cutter I was fortunate enough to have access to. At the same time I was experimenting with ways to modernize traditional fiber crafts. One day it just clicked that I could further develop my work by using the laser cutter to prepare nontraditional materials to embroider and weave into.
Carrie: Please take us through your creative process: from idea to final artwork?
I start out by experimenting with patterns on graph paper. Once I’m happy with a design I recreate it in Adobe Illustrator, mark where my holes need to be, and laser cut my designs into birch panels. Then the fun begins!
I usually begin with an idea of what I want the finished piece to look like, but I sometimes lose track of my intention and let my materials dictate what happens next. I can easily spend 30-40 hours cross-stitching the thousands of little x’s in my 12 inch pieces. My weavings move a little faster, but are more costly to produce because I have expensive taste in yarn. I love to use hand dyed and spun cotton and wools and rarely purchase the same skein twice.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
My designated workspace looks like a hot mess. There are tangled mountains of cotton and wool, yarns and threads. I usually just grab my supplies and work in my living room. And true to the stereotypes you may have about cross stitchers, I’m likely sitting in front of the fireplace watching for my bluejay friends to come to the window so I can throw them peanuts.
Carrie: What advice would you give to your “just starting out” artist self?
Keep nurturing your creative self even if you’re not paying the bills with your art. You create because you NEED to create. You don’t need anyone else to recognize or validate your creativity to make it worthwhile.
Carrie: How do you navigate times of feeling stuck?
I don’t put pressure on myself to create. I’m not making a living as an artist so for me it’s all about play. If I’m not feeling inspired I don’t try to force it. I jump around between projects a lot and work on whatever I’m feeling drawn to at the moment. If I’m stuck in one medium, a lot of times working in another medium will inspire the breakthrough I needed for the first medium.
Carrie: How does your life experience and emotional state feed into your art?
I started stitching as a way to balance my writing life. The publishing industry is slow moving and quite dependent on things being seen by the right person at the right time. I needed a creative endeavor where I had full control over seeing my vision reach the stage of finished product.
I also needed something that I created just because it felt good and that I didn’t put in the world to be judged. I quickly learned that the slow and repetitive process of creating these pieces was meditative and really helped feed my writing. Instead of staring at a blank screen, or endlessly fussing over revisions, I can stitch or weave and reflect on my story until the words start to come.
Carrie: What do you hope viewers take from your artwork?
The biggest compliment I get at shows is, “Huh… I’ve never seen anything like this before.” It may or may not be intended as a compliment but I always take it as one!
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I’m an Instagram addict. It’s so exciting to see all the amazing things being created around the world.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by color, material, pattern, texture, and words. I can spend hours looking at various types of surface and textile design and fiber art. When I fall asleep at night I often have words and colors popping up and pairing in my head, forming random phrases and palettes.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is that flow you get into when you’re engaged in original work. It can be in the arts, but it can also be in business, or parenting, or just moving through everyday life.
Creativity is using thought and intention in an innovative way. It may be in making something physical, solving a problem, presenting information, anything in that brain space where you can feel your synapses firing and lose track of time.
Be Creatively Courageous: I know I’ve created in the past seeking validation from others. Reflect today: have you ever created for validation? What happens when YOU begin to validate your work? Share a strategy you’ve used or plan to try to help you lose that concern of “validation.”
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