Jennifer Anne Kelly — The Glass is Way More than Half-Full - theHumm May 2021

Jennifer Anne Kelly — The Glass is Way More than Half-Full - theHumm May 2021

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

Last month our featured artist was Inuk jeweller and sculptor Kaajuk Kablalik, and our April cover featured a stunning glass qajaq in addition to his distinctive jewellery. The two-year qajaq project was the result of a fortuitous series of coincidences facilitated by Mississippi Mills glass artist Jennifer Anne Kelly, whom we first featured in October of 2012. When we learned that Kelly will soon be relocating to Ottawa — the “Big City” — we wanted to celebrate her decades of beautiful and innovative contribution to the Valley arts scene, and understand why she was leaving her beloved home and studio on the shore of the Mississippi River.

Searching for magic. Conjuring with glass. Providing celebrations of nature in sculpture. This is how she describes her artistic journey. But there is an ironic twist to her love of the outdoors.

Now Jennifer has had to become indomitable, invincible and indefatigable. After two years of unremitting pain and fatigue and fear, she persists in conquering the ravages of a medical misdiagnosis. Following a teaching trip to the U.K. two years ago, she returned to her idyllic riverside home near Almonte only to experience an onslaught of mysterious and debilitating health concerns.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

It took two years of intense personal research, unremitting battles with the Canadian medical system, and thousands of dollars to finally receive word in January from a diagnostic lab in Germany that she had Lyme disease. Her Canadian tests had been inaccurate. (Current research suggests that up to 50% of Lyme tests both here and in the U.S. are inaccurate!) As Kelly puts it, “If I hadn’t had resources (e.g., personal research skills and contacts and a supportive husband and enough money to pursue alternative medical opinions), I would still be struggling to understand what was happening to me.” As it is, she now is pursuing drug options from the U.S. because the protocol and the drugs she needs for treating late-stage Lyme disease are not available in Canada. Her medical condition leaves her unable to navigate the multi-level home they love in Mississippi Mills. During Lyme Disease Awareness month, her advice to anyone suffering from undiagnosed chronic pain is that they should insist on Lyme disease testing outside of Canada.

The Magic of Glass Kiln Flow

Jennifer’s relationship with her glass art has only grown stronger throughout this ordeal. Her “search for magic” through this mesmerizing and precariously malleable medium is her salvation. As many other artists testify, being “in the flow” transcends worries, obliterates pain, and feeds the soul. Her art grows increasingly elegant as she pursues her gravity-defying experiments in sculpting nature’s exquisite small gifts. Mushrooms, snails, pinecones, feathers — no detail is too challenging as she pursues her fascination with her chosen medium. Although Lyme disease “makes for a very complicated relationship with our natural environment,” nature remains Kelly’s inspiration and salvation.

This is how she describes it: “The common glass thread through all my work is the contemplation on the human experience in our natural world. Humans have always had a deeply emotional relationship with the world around us. We interpret metaphors in these scenes. We struggle at times to relate and at other times feel a profound interconnectedness with the universe. I create in glass as one would write a poem. It is at once deeply personal and yearning to be shared. When someone views my creation and has a deep connection, I am overjoyed.”

An Unexpected Bonus

In her typically upbeat manner, Jennifer has repurposed the Covid-19 pandemic as a motivator to reinvent the way she teaches glass sculpting. She was always stymied by the architectural constraints that made her country studio/workshop inaccessible to students with special needs. But, as she puts it, “It’s amazing what we can come up with when life hands us challenges.” In typical “can do” Kelly fashion, the forced Covid closure of her workshop led to the development of a glass kit delivery service — you can take the project home and work at your own pace. The kits come with all the glass and tools and the cutting mat and absolutely everything needed for the do-it-yourself-at-home project. She provides basic “how-to” videos augmented by written instructions. When the student completes their composition, Kelly picks it up, fires it in her kiln, and the neophyte glass artist becomes the proud recipient of their first artwork. The take-home kits are a good business response to compensate for not being able to teach, and the improved accessibility is a huge bonus for everyone. Jennifer intends to expand the kits as a permanent offering at her new studio in Ottawa while still servicing the rural areas. You can see some of the impressive results by first-time glass artists at .

Believe it or not, Jennifer has found an upside to the daunting combination of long-term Lyme disease coupled with prolonged Covid pandemic restraints. Her cheerful demeanor and infectious laugh seem at odds with her situation, and her explanation is classic Kelly. She credits the double whammy with having forced her to reevaluate her previous fixation with “how much I could accomplish in a day.” She has shifted her mood and her focus on to more meaningful pursuits, like working with a documentary artist on a “rewilding in glass” proposal…

A Brief Backstory

Jennifer Anne Kelly was born in Ottawa to a journalist father and a mother who was a skilled creator and a nurse. Jen completed her formal education with a degree in literature from Carleton University, and began following in her mother’s creative footsteps as the result of a stained-glass course at the age of 22. After raising two kids and partnering with her husband Patrick in their real estate company (now @kellysuccessrealestate), she gradually grew into fulltime glass sculpting, taking advanced courses at Corning Glass Studio, Pittsburgh Glass School, Urban Glass in New York, and Bullseye Glass Studio in Portland OR. In 2013 she was hired to create glass pieces for Cirque du Soleil and began to pursue her glass creativity as a fulltime occupation. Since leaving Cirque a few years ago, her time has been incredibly well spent in creating stunning and impossibly intricate glass tributes to the natural world with which we are so inextricably entwined. She has also been invited to teach her own techniques in places like Nova Scotia and Bristol, England.

The back of Jennifer Anne Kelly’s Artist’s Trading Card on the next page provides the coordinates that lead to a fuller appreciation of this amazing woman’s artistic talents. She has been accepted as a participant in the now online Toronto Outdoor Art Fair from July 2–11 and is represented in private collections and at several Canadian galleries.

And please be vigilant for tick bites! Your Intrepid Arts Reporter has just been bitten by a Black Legged Deer Tick in her garden…


Jennifer Anne Kelly — The Glass is Way More than Half-Full - theHumm May 2021

By Sally Hansen

Art… and Soul

Last month our featured artist was Inuk jeweller and sculptor Kaajuk Kablalik, and our April cover featured a stunning glass qajaq in addition to his distinctive jewellery. The two-year qajaq project was the result of a fortuitous series of coincidences facilitated by Mississippi Mills glass artist Jennifer Anne Kelly, whom we first featured in October of 2012. When we learned that Kelly will soon be relocating to Ottawa — the “Big City” — we wanted to cele......


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