Artist Spotlight: Kelsey Garrity-Riley

February 5, 2014

Artist spotlight posts are our very favorite kind of blog posts! We are so excited to introduce you to our brand new Red Cap artist, Kelsey Garrity-Riley. Whimsical and nostalgic with a touch of melancholy, Kelsey's illustrations are refreshingly natural, comforting and the perfect addition to our family collective. We just loved reading about her unique upbringing around Europe, her inspirations and calming workspace. Welcome, Kelsey Garrity-Riley!

Spotlight on Kelsey Garrity-Riley for Red Cap Cards

What was it like growing up in Germany and Belgium? Do you go back often?
I really love where I grew up. In Belgium we lived in Brussels (such a large, crazy city) then when I was ten we moved to a tiny village of 350 people in Germany on the edge of the Black Forest. It was worlds different! I spent all my time there enjoying the freedom of running around outside. I'm really grateful I had the mix of both those experiences. I think, though, that the feeling of not being entirely from either country or the US has resulted in a lot of mixed emotions. Where my parents live now is fifteen minutes from the French border, and we always spent a lot of time in France. I think more than any other country in Europe I feel at home there–I speak French more than German and just prefer the culture. I'm so grateful that I've been able to go back for a month every year around the Holidays. Its so amazing to get to spend that time with my family and be re-inspired by the familiarities of home.

Did you always want to be an artist as a child? Did you draw and create even then?
I always loved creating things, but I don't think I knew that illustration exactly was the path that would best fit my creativity until college. I was constantly drawing when I was younger. I spent a lot of time on more three dimensional creations as well–mainly a little village of mice characters I made out of clay and different small found objects. There was no question I wanted to pursue art in school–but once I got to SCAD I spent a lot of time deliberating between fashion, painting and illustration. It seems like a no-brainer now but it wasn't at the time.

Spotlight on Kelsey Garrity-Riley for Red Cap Cards

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I love objects–things with stories, collecting things, arranging things, discovering things. The natural world is hugely influential. I always go back and draw from memories of experiences and places. I love looking to current interior design and fashion–even if they don't show up directly in my work. I feel very blessed to have family and friends who inspire me creatively. My brother has been staying with us for the past few months while he works on his studio apartment–he does the most amazing woodworking. Lately it has been especially inspiring to spend so much time talking over new projects and creative plans with him and my husband.

Spotlight on Kelsey Garrity-Riley for Red Cap Cards

What is your studio space like?
The studio room that my husband and I share is in our apartment in Savannah, Georgia. Its actually the biggest room in our small house (the landlord is still very confused by that choice). There are vignettes of objects we find especially inspiring all around–lots of found sticks, books and odd treasures. I'm really terrible, though, laying out messes and projects all around the house. I end up working at the dining room table a lot, or spread out on the floor.

We love your work with The Paris Market! Were you hired to create installations exclusively? What is your inspiration for creating there?
I was working there (retail) during my last few years of school, and right around the time I graduated it just so happened that another coworker and I took over doing all of the visual merchandising and display art. I absolutely adore it there! It's been such an unexpected creative education in so many ways, and I love getting to work with such a wonderful close group of people. I always thought my creative dream was to spend all my time alone, working from home. But now I really relish that balance of spending time working on projects with a few other creatives who share the same vision. I think its been especially good for me to get to practice curating objects. Its one thing to be fascinated and enjoy beautiful things, and it's another to view them as a part of a fuller collection, knowing when to add more and when to leave things out. It's a lot of the same basic design principles that apply to art as well, but on a larger scale. As far as inspiration, it's such a small group of close friends. We end up just talking over things that inspire us personally, or cool vintage finds or pieces of history. Ideas end up snowballing naturally, usually over sketchbooks and coffee. Getting to work on a project from the initial idea, to the sketches, to the buying, to the creation and then display is really exciting.

Spotlight on Kelsey Garrity-Riley for Red Cap Cards

What is your most favorite thing about being an artist? What is your least favorite?
My favorite thing? When the desire and the idea inside actually match up with the moment and present themselves on paper. My least favorite part about being an artist, is that it also means being a businesswoman- definitely not my strength- but I'm working on it!

What is your dream job (besides what you are doing now)?
I'm definitely excited about life as an illustrator, but if I had to choose another route I would probably go into antiquing/display/styling full time. And if I could choose a third thing I would love to be a florist/botanist/gardener.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world–where would you go?
So many places! But recently I've been thinking that I'd love to explore Japan if given the chance.

Do you cook, if so–what is your favorite dish to create?
I do really enjoy cooking. Nothing too fancy. We eat a lot of beans and rice- or curry over rice (great on an artists budget and thankfully we really enjoy it). If I could eat Thai food for every meal I would, but no recipe I've tried matches up to curry from our favorite restaurants. I even ordered an assortment of curry pastes on amazon hoping to discover the secret. No luck yet- just a fridge full of crazy tubs of curry.

Your husband, Erik, is also an artist. Do you ever collaborate on work?
We never collaborate on literal pieces, but there isn't a piece, or a day that goes by that we don't talk about where we're at with our work. I'm continually blown away and inspired by the balance of humor and beauty he creates. Selfishly I can't imagine not having his critical eye or his encouragement in my own work and life. I feel so enormously fortunate that creating alongside each other is such a mutually important part of our lives together.

Spotlight on Kelsey Garrity-Riley for Red Cap Cards

What is your most favorite piece you have ever created?
I created six pieces for an Italian Children's Book competition called Teatrio my senior year at SCAD. The theme was “cannonball lady”. I don't think I've ever felt more personally proud of anything I've created. Ironically, even though it got 3rd place in the competition internationally, I was told repeatedly by publishers in the US that the style was too dark and alienating, and to keep it out of my portfolio. I don't regret cheering things up a bit in my work now, but I would like to one day explore working on more pieces that have this color palette and character ambiguity.

Spotlight on Kelsey Garrity-Riley for Red Cap Cards

View Kelsey's designs for Red Cap here, and view more of her work on her website.

Thanks, Kelsey!

Photos courtesy Kelsey Garrity-Riley