Was there a defining moment when in your life when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Kristi Abbott: If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I talk with a funny accent. I was born in Australia to an Aussie mum and a Minnesotan dad. I spent my early Christmases traveling to Lake Johanna to visit my dad’s family and build snowmen and roast marshmallows by the fire. They were magic memories! My schooling and early career took place in Australia, however, and I originally went into the corporate world, working in the family training and development business. This wasn’t for me, though, and after a decade I pulled the plug and quit my job, sold my house and most of my belongings, and moved to Minnesota with my dog to pursue my dream of being an artist. Minnesota was a lot cheaper than Sydney, and I needed a change of scenery. I loved rediscovering the Twin Cities as an adult.
My work is definitely influenced by my time in both Australia and America, with references to nature and popular culture a focus in many of my series.
As a five-year-old I wanted to be an artist, and after nine years now living in the U.S. I look back and realize how lucky I’ve been to pursue my dream career and turn it into a great, rewarding and creative living.
How have you developed your career since coming to Minnesota?
I had no artistic career before I moved to Minnesota, so it really is the birth place of my art! The biggest growth spurts occurred after showing my work to the public, first during the St. Paul Art Crawls and then during juried art fairs across the Mid-west. It was during these occasions that I received feedback from people about my work, what they were vibing on, the subject matters they enjoyed, and even size and price points. Every opportunity I got I would put new ideas and concepts out to my audience to help guide and develop my work. It’s been a wonderful process and, due to this, I’ve developed some amazing relationships with my collectors who feel like they’ve been part of my journey.
What motivates you to create?
My work is unique due to the technique and materials I use to create it, as well as the imagery I embed in my works. My technique has become very technical throughout the years, with many of my artworks taking months to create. Each piece is created in layers of hand cut papers, with some artworks containing over 4,000 pieces. I thrive to create pieces of art that bring together color, pattern and texture in ways that excite and intrigue the viewer. I also love story telling and want to create a rich tapestry of visual interest in each piece, whether it be about a person, a place or a theme. I am motivated by life, art, music, fashion and Hollywood, and want to create artwork that brings those elements to life in a way that connects and delights the viewer!
How is your art important to society?
Art is a very personal thing, and it can offer us many things – a sense of beauty, a connection to an image or a scene, tell a story about a place or a person, provide a sense of status, complete a room, become an heirloom, be an investment, or potentially be all these things. Through my artwork I aim to evoke emotion, create a connection between the viewer and the subject matter, tell a story, bring joy when viewed, and (for my higher priced items) be a good financial investment. When creating each artwork, I pay attention to ensuring that the finished product will be archival and remain in great condition for many generations. I think my art is important as it reflects the times we live in, and the people we are influenced and inspired by. It brings beauty to a sometimes trying and difficult world.
Tell me your thoughts on art collecting and to cultivate a collector base?
I love collecting the work of other artists, and thrill in the knowledge that people are collecting my work! As I mentioned above, art is very personal, and when art speaks to you, it is a very special is a very special experience. To have that art in your home where it makes you feel good is a wonderful thing. I try to cultivate my collectors by sharing my life and process with them, inviting them into my studio to see where and how I work, sending regular newsletters, hosting events and exhibitions, and, more recently, running workshops where people can learn the basics of my technique.
You do a lot of series. Explain the idea behind that.
I love to work in series as it allows me to delve deep into themes and explore a host of topics all at once. With my Icon series, I loving adding new portraits over the years as requests come in or various people have a significant impact on the world. With my God’s Creatures series, I loved how it kept me focused over the 91 days of creation, and I was able to hone my skills each day as I worked on the animal portraits. With each day I got better as I learned the intricacies of the papers, and how to create fur and feathers. I wouldn’t have made the artworks I created at the end of the series at the beginning. The process of the daily practice made them possible.
What’s your next series or your dream project?
I have so many ideas it is hard to pick one! I really want to create large artworks for my Mythical Creatures series. I started to work on it last year, but was unable to proceed with it as I didn’t have the time to give it the energy and focus it needed. I can visualize a large, almost life size, dragon created from thousands of pieces of exotic papers, glistening and shimmering so that it looks like it is alive. How fun would that be!
Do you ever have creative blocks, and how do you overcome them ?
Sometimes I find myself stuck, or tired, and I know I am best not to try to create those days. Instead I take some time out to clean my studio or go for long walks with my dogs. I find clearing my head and being out in nature really helps.
Who are some artists you admire, follow, or have been inspiration?
I am part of an amazing collective of female artists who are called the Creative Badasses. Each of those ladies inspires me, and we offer each other a fantastic support system that really helps inspire, encourage and challenge each other. Apart from that I find myself admiring the work of artists that are challenging the status quo, creating work in non-traditional ways, or raising important messages in their work.
Where do you see your art in 10 years?
I have no idea, but I’m really excited to see!
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