Wednesday, February 25, 2009

an interview with Kelly Lynn Jones

Kelly Lynn Jones is a painter who not only makes amazing work but also runs a website which sells the work of over 100 artists and collaborators. Until recently Kelly's work has centered around dynamic magical spaces, architectural and inhabited by jumbles of organic and man-made materials which resonate with mystery. 

Kelly's newer work uses organic abstract forms in paint and mixed media to explore concepts of escape and wilderness through a series of visual translations which distill her impression of spaces into what she describes as a "residue" and "an essence" of the original thought.

In this interview she tells me that her work is changing a lot these days, and hopefully soon we can see some of her new work on her website:

Kelly's website, feautures carefully selected affordable work by tons of amazing artists in a variety of tempting formats minicomics, apparel, prints, stationery and then some. In this inyterview she talks about how littlepaperplanes came to be, working with galleries and lends us some insight into her creative process.

Q: When did you start Little Paper planes? and why?
A: I started LPP in December in 2004. At the time there wasnt a huge internet art presence, there wasn't an Etsy and very few blogs. I think Poketo and Tinyshowcase were around but that was about it. So I thought it would be fun to start a site to sell the stuff I was making (zines, silkcreened shirts and bags, etc) and to also sell my friends work. We all had just graduated from art school and needed to make money to help support our art careers.

Q: When you started LPP did you have an inkling that it would grow into the amazing site that it is now?
A: I NEVER imagined it would become what it is today. I am completely grateful it is what it is. I have learned so much and have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. And mostly I love helping out other artists. It feels good when I get to recommend artists to magazines, newspapers, art directors, publishers and of course sending out monthly checks.

Q: How did you find all of the artists that you work with?
A: Well like I said it started off as friends and then friends of friends and now, its a combo of people submitting and me finding someone.

Q: You've had some great solo shows, how did you start working with those galleries?
A: Aw you are sweet. Well that is a tricky one and I am still learning it as I go and its been 7 years since I have been out of undergrad! When I first got out of school I got a website up and just emailed people all the time keeping them updated and eventually I would get noticed even if it was years later. Every gallery is different and approaching a gallery has to be done in a right way since most do not want you to just send images. I think you have to know your work and where you fit in and at what level of showing. I think there are a lot of factors that go into getting a show.

Q: what factors come into play when you cook up a price tag for your pieces?
A: I am horrible at that! I have raised my prices slowly. It isnt good to just raise them super high, since once you are at a price bracket you can never go down.

Q: have you ever been burned by a gallery or shop? i mean they took the art and disappeared without paying you?
A: Sadly yes, but this was years ago when I was still new and eager to show anywhere. I am extremely selective at this point when it comes to showing. Though through the misfortunate experience of having someone take advantage of my naivety, it taught me how to be a good business person and I ALWAYS pay my artists on time and email them right back if they have any concern.

Q: How do you avoid working with sketchy galleries? how can you find out or guess if they have a good record of paying their artists in within a reasonable time frame?
A: I dont think there is a real way of avoiding "sketchy" galleries. Sketchy people exists in all levels of galleries from the store/gallery hybrid to the top of the line galleries. I have heard a handful of stories about galleries who I would have never thought would be bad at paying. With that said, its good to ask around before committing to a show, and if you are signing on with a gallery for representation it would be good to read their contracts and ask a lot of questions. I think there is a lot of trial and error and hopefully all your experiences end up being good ones.

Q: sometimes galleries can be really slow to cook up a paycheck. how long is too long to wait for a check for sold work? how do you tactfully send them a nudge?
A: I usually email at the end of a show asking when they are sending out payment and depending on their answer I decide my next move. If it is up to 3 months I start emailing alot. I think you have to figure out what is the best solution for each situation. It would be a good idea if you dont have gallery representation/art dealer (who would help protect you from galleries from not paying) to send a legal contract with the work stating this work belongs to you and give a time frame on when payment should happen after the show comes down. That might be something you would need to talk to a lawyer about but I think could be very important especially when working with a new gallery. I think artists get screwed over so much and usually do not know much about business or how to protect themselves and are just eager that someone is interested in their work. However with that said, many artists lack any professionalism. So it also starts with the artist treating their art as a business and acting the way anyone in a business would which will help them when dealing with galleries.

Q: what has been the biggest unexpected challenge for you in terms of being an artist?
A: Well I could list all the random things that have happened in these years but I think the biggest challenge is trying to navigate through the world as an artist; finding your place, staying true to a consistent studio practice, keeping yourself engaged in critical thought, just always reminding yourself that you are so lucky to be an artist and view the world through the lens of a creative person, even when money is tight and things get stressful. I wouldn't change my life for a second.

Q: what made you want to go to grad school? how is that experience going?
A: I felt it was time. I had learned how to be out of school for 6 years and I was ready to take my work to the next level. Wow grad school is amazing. I never want to leave. My work has changed so much and I am around so many intelligent, creative people. It is completely stimulating always. I mean just tonight I will be going to a lecture here at school where the co-curator of the Whitney is lecturing! Yay!

Q: you mentioned a little bit of you philosophy on being an artist before, about it being a sort of constant work in progress, can you elaborate on that?
A: For me, I am always in flux. I am always thinking of new concepts and ways to create something. I feel that it is really important to work in your studio as often as possible and experiment. Even when you don't know what to do and are frustrated, I feel that is the time to keep working. Make bad work, make lots of bad work, and then all of a sudden something clicks and you have a moment of clarity. I strive for those moments, they are what drives me to create.

Q: what are your favorite materials to work with? do you work on paper? what kind?
A: Well my work is changing so much but right now I am doing a lot of collage so I would say I love, paper, the newspaper, inks, scissors, glue, string, wood, and photocopies.

Q: any exciting projects coming up?
A: I have a 2 person show coming up in April at Parklife Gallery in San Francisco. I also will be having the second curated LPP show opening in July at Rare Device also here in San Francisco. Other than that, just making stuff everyday.

above is one of Kelly's older pieces

these are 2 of Kelly's newer collages

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