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Olivea Kelly

Olivea Kelly (@opk.studio) has a thing for string. On her Instagram, the 26-year-old creative posts colorful fiber art. She chatted with the Globe about her process, the artists who inspire her, and what it’s like working alongside a cat that loves yarn as much as she does.

Q. How did you get into fiber art?

A. When I left my full-time design job two years ago, I really wanted to maintain a personal creative practice that was outside of my freelance design work, so I started embroidering as a way to do that. That sort of evolved into me finding all these other amazing fiber art mediums and techniques, like punch needle and rug hooking. I really just fell in love with that process and with teaching myself new things outside of my day job. I think I’ve always just been interested in creating physical objects that people can touch and experience, probably because I’m trained to work so digitally and commercially for clients. Being a graphic designer, I’ve learned to really work strategically within other people’s guidelines and expectations, so having this time to have my own personal framework has been really refreshing.

Q. What’s your process of coming up with a design like?

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A. I let the process really inform what the end result looks like, instead of starting with a really concrete plan and going about it really strategically. I find influences and inspiration in a lot of places. I try to broaden that outside of art and design and explore stuff within my own identity to inform the type of work that I make. Right now, I’ve been really into rug making and working really large scale. I think I sort of approach it almost like painting, where I’m just painting with yarn and seeing where that takes me and how that process almost does itself.

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Q. Whose work do you love?

A. I come from a family of artists, and so I draw a lot of my inspiration and my voice from the artists in my own family. I also am really interested in the work of Howardena Pindell and Sheila Hicks. But I think growing up around a lot of artistic, creative people, that’s my number one influence and my number one inspiration.

Q. Could you tell me about the project you put together for Black History Month?

A. [With the Instagram story] featuring black artists, I think that project is really important to me because I am mixed race, and all of the artists in my family are black, and I think my racial identity definitely is something that I want to explore in my art. Also, just amplifying the voices of other artists of color is just a really important ongoing project that I’d like to keep going.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about working with string?

A. I think I am really drawn to fiber art because of the tactile nature of it and how the history of it is really based in storytelling. It demands a lot of patience and meditation, but it also allows for a lot of experimentation and kind of surprise. A lot of things just happen that I don’t expect, and I think I really love that aspect of it.

Q. What’s it like working with your cat in the studio?

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A. I mean, I like to think that she’s my biggest fan, and she really respects it enough that I can keep her close to me while I’m working. I think she loves yarn just as much as I do.


Interview was edited and condensed. Jenni Todd can be reached at jenni.todd@globe.com.