Every now and then, we all come across an artist whose work speaks to us. Somehow, as soon as you look at it, there’s an instant appeal and connection. For me, Dick Kelly is one of those artists, so it’s a real privilege to be able to profile him this month for our “Behind the Art” series.

“I was born in the early 40’s and grew up in Detroit.  I was a city kid in a quieter, safer, less paranoid time.  I went places on the streetcar and rode my bike down to fish in the Detroit River and watch the freighters go by.  The only real outdoors experiences I had was going places with the Boy Scouts.  I did some hunting and fishing with my dad and grand-dad, but never got very good at it and went mostly just to be outdoors. We didn’t have much money, so I stayed near home and worked my way through Wayne State U., the local city college.”

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Although he didn’t get into woodturning until later in life, Dick has always been artistic. “I started in High school  --  I could always draw a little, but was never much for real, concept-oriented  “Art with a capital A”.  Art classes weren’t offered in my school anyway.  I was a small un-athletic guy, so my dad, a tool and die designer, gave me drawing projects to keep me busy after school.  He brought home blueprints of things he was working on and had me use them to make three-dimensional perspective drawings of the objects.  In hindsight, that’s what I do now.  Go back and forth between a plan and a three dimensional object, “engineering” it along the way.”

“The next part came when I un-intentionally ended up with a degree in advertising design.  I was the oldest in my family and was nominated to achieve the middle class goal of having a kid go to college.  My parents would have been better served to wait for my smarter younger brother.  I had a difficult time.  Fortunately there was a niche degree, Bachelor of Fine Arts that substituted art studio classes for the language requirement to count for a degree.  Advertising was a “hot” field back then so I learned about advertising design in that curriculum.  Where to find images, how to do layouts and all the “tricks of the trade” of how to do a design.  I still say that I’m not really an “artist,” but I can run you up a pretty good design for a shower curtain in an afternoon.”

Dick worked in advertising and held a number of jobs over the next 5 years before deciding to try a different direction altogether. “I was as restless in my jobs back then as I've become later in life with my crafts, always wanting to move on and try different things that I might like better.  I decided that I needed to get back to school to do what I wanted and moved to Arizona to attend Arizona State.  I ran out of money there and needed a job, so I got to be an apprentice jeweler based on a metalsmithing course I took as an elective as an undergrad at Wayne State.  That led to a succession of commercial metalsmithing jobs for the next ten years during the heyday of southwestern contemporary jewelry from the seventies into the 80’s.  I also had my own craft business making sterling silver-handled embroidery scissors and needlecases during that time. When the southwestern jewelry fad and the needlepoint fad both ran out of steam in the early ‘80s, I got an un-interesting day job and kept my mind and hands busy with crafts at night."

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Thursday the 21st. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.