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Check Out Kelly Witmer’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Witmer.

Hi Kelly, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Born in Amish country, PA (Dad’s side were Mennonites), then elementary school by Three Mile Island during its nuclear meltdown (my mom thinks that’s why I couldn’t have kids)(I’ve come to think I was just lucky), high school in Gettysburg, art school in Philadelphia, soon after headed to LA for perpetual sunny days and eventually Joshua Tree for vistas and cheap land. That’s my life so far in one sentence. I’ve never really had a “real” job. I’ve had several small vintage stores, like Pull My Daisy in Silverlake, financed by working in bars like Jumbo’s Clown Room at night and squeezing in making art when I could. I started Airbnb hosting about ten years ago between LA and Joshua Tree, giving me a lot more time to focus on my work. Finally a few years ago, I stopped hosting and started making art full time. I hustle to sell my work through a lot of different outlets online and piece together a living through commissions, royalties, public art projects and direct sales off my website.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
No, it’s been a bumpy ride. In the early days, I would bang my head against the wall submitting to galleries and getting rejected. I agonized over whether to pursue a MFA but decided I didn’t want to live my life in debt. At one point, I seemed to have my foot in the door of a reputable gallery with a studio visit, and it didn’t go well. One comment by the gallery owner stuck with me and was kind of the straw that broke my back after a series of rejections. I stopped painting for years. Looking back, I realize my skin was way too thin, and I gave up when I should have kept pushing harder. Luckily I eventually picked myself up again. I’m thankful that the system has changed so much, and artists no longer have to rely on getting past the gallery gatekeepers to make a living.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I make abstract work in many different mediums, mostly paint, ceramic and glass. Similar forms and colors make appearances in all of them, somehow managing to make watercolors and clay sculptures work together. I’m very interested in process and am always experimenting. This past year I’ve been playing with melting glass in my kiln with ceramics, seeing how far I can push its boundaries. There’s been a lot of broken glass, with some magic in between. Once I figure something out and perfect a method, I get bored repeating it. So then it’s on to the next thing. I like to think that what I lack in consistency I make up for with innovation. Lately, I’ve been adding lighting to my sculptures and learning how to use foam, metal and concrete to go bigger with my abstractions.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
Just ask! I’m always up for discussing collabs or commissions. I add new work fairly regularly to the purchase section of my website:

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