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 glasskits.ca .
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…
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......
Tickets PleaseKeeps on Humming! - theHumm May 2021
Rob and Kris Riendeau (publishers of theHumm), along with Ann Hawthorne (former owner of Tickets Please), are delighted to announce that Tickets Please — the Ottawa Valley’s favourite local ticketing platform — will emerge from the pandemic ready to promote the heck out of our soon-to-be-vibrant arts and entertainment scene!
After successfully running the Perth-based business for the past ten years, Ann decided that she was ready to step back. When Rob and Kris approached her about t......
Local Libraries are Flourishing! - theHumm May 2021
By — Karen DeLuca is the CEO / Head Librarian at the Arnprior Library
A new international study on the impact of public libraries speaks to the current state of libraries in our region: we are flourishing!
Longstanding library card holders are getting their books, DVDs and magazines via curbside service in record numbers. Many residents are discovering, or re-discovering, the depth of resources available in their communities — whether digital or tangible.
Partnerships are key components of this success. Sometimes it’s the local service clubs that offer fin......
As you walk away from the farmers’ market with your canvas bags filled with fresh local produce, plants, organic meats and assorted other delicious goodies, you just can’t help feeling good. Supporting small-scale market farms means voting with your dollars for the option that is easier on the planet than large, mono-crop industrial farms. Having to plan the trip to the market means planning meals, which is a great way to reduce both wasted food and extra trips to the grocery store. Growers at the......
The Great Veggie Grow-Off is an annual challenge between the nine communities of Lanark County and Smiths Falls to engage more citizens in growing healthy local food to donate to area Food Banks. The challenge starts each year on May 1st — “workers day” — to pay homage to the farmers in our community who grow food to feed us. Produce can be grown at home or in community garden beds, and local farmers and gardeners can “Grow a Row” as well! The Grow-Off ends with a final weigh-in on Thanksgiving Satu......
During the pandemic, an unprecedented amount of crafting has occurred. From the first lockdown in March 2020, uncertainty, anxiety, and a whole lot more time at home has inspired many of us to turn to crafting as a soothing balm for our minds.
The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum wants to see the textile projects that you completed in 2020 or are working on in 2021. “Though it’s been a while since we’ve seen you, we know that you’re making loads of things at home,” says Melanie Gird......
Close to Home - theHumm May 2021
From May 12 to June 18, Sivarulrasa Gallery (34 Mill St, Almonte) is pleased to present Close to Home, a duo exhibition of new works by Toronto-based artist Gizem Candan and Montreal-based artist Jihane Mossalim. The exhibition can be viewed virtually until the current lockdown is lifted after May 19, at which time the gallery will open their doors again to in-person viewing.
Born in Istanbul, Turkey, and now based in Toronto, Gizem Candan’s work is inspired by her surr......
Protecting Our Pollinators CNL Youth Group for Climate Action Devises an Inspiring Community Project - theHumm May 2021
By Chandler Swain
As our Ottawa Valley spring moves into high gear, May is the month for us to enthusiastically embrace our short, sweet growing season. When the pandemic began changing our world last year, we started realizing what was most essential, and found it around our homes and throughout our communities. All activities related to being out in nature took off wildly!
My first awakening to how widespread this trend was came when I couldn’t find so much as a package of lettuce seed to star......
By Sarah Kerr
Lockdown has been an interesting experiment (that’s the nice way of saying it) for our family who travelled a lot pre-pandemic. Our kids collected a patchwork of stamps on their passports in their short lives — being toted along for work and leisure. But with that luxury screeching to a halt over 14 months ago, we’ve channelled this creative energy into our own backyard. Like many of our neighbours, our homesteading game is now strong — the kids are collecting eggs each morning and checking th......
One Magic Summer The Academy for Musical Theatre’s Safe & Interactive Summer Camp Experience - theHumm May 2021
Heidi Stepanek is a professional and experienced musician, stage director and drama educator who has built a career out of her love of working with children, and her passion for musical theatre. 24 years ago she founded the Perth Academy of Musical Theatre (PAMT), which has since transitioned into The Academy for Musical Theatre musictheatre.ca and now operates in both Perth and Ottawa. This summer, The Academy is offering a creati......
Become a Better Bystander in One Hour iHollaback.org Offers Free “Bystander Intervention” Anti-Harassment Training - theHumm May 2021
By — Kris Riendeau
Have you ever found yourself witnessing some kind of harassment in public, but not knowing how — or even if — you should respond? Have you been the target of harassment and wondered why no one ca......
May 26 - Jul 2 Exhibition: Gayle Kells' Rooted in Time
Jun 18 - 27 Art in the Garden
Jun 19 - Jul 4 Abstract & Landscape art show
Jul 3 - 4 Almonte Celtfest - Virtual Edition
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