The journey of “what do I want to do with my life” is a challenge for many people.
For local artist Kim O’Brien she found her passion in fibre and fabrics.
Nearly nine years ago, she moved from Windsor, Ontario with her ex-husband.
“I wanted to live anywhere else,” she said with a laugh. “We sort of moved on a whim. We’d heard about this really great town, and he’d always wanted to live in the mountains, so we left.”
O’Brien wasn’t an artist when she arrived in Nelson. She hadn’t found felting.
“I have no training or sort of art schooling but I’ve always been creative,” she said. “Felting was just what I fell in love with. I found my calling.”
Despite her best efforts to attend college and persue business type courses, she ended up dropping out.
Her parents paid for her to take an aptitude test and after receiving the lowest possible score in business she officially withdrew from college.
“With always the intention if I ever found a career that needed schooling I would go back to school, and then I became a waitress,” she said. “I made a lot of money and was good at and 15 years later am still sort of a waitress.”
O’Brien has worked at the Vienna Cafe and the former Redfish Grill in Nelson.
She had never officially been a full time artist. Often over the past six years, O’Brien would take time off and pour herself into her art.
“My sister and her family live on Haida Gwaii, and I sent out this email looking for cheap accommodation so that I could just focus on my art,” she said. “And my sister’s friends who are tree planters bought this shack in the woods and they offered it to me for free.”
It was during this time that The Redfish Grill burned and when O’Brien returned she was without a job.
“I had made and sold a whole bunch of art on Haida Gwaii that I didn’t have to work so I found a cabin the Slocan Valley and decided to do the art thing for the winter,” she said.
O’Brien creates three dimensional fibre art which include various characters that she creates and mounts in a frame.
Former Nelson artist Tara Davis began selling O’Brien’s art and the two shared a studio space.
When Davis moved to Winnipeg last fall, O’Brien stepped up to continue the management of the local store.
“We became really good friends,” said O’Brien. “Knock on wood, my waitressing days are over, but I’ve said that before. It’s really been in the past two years that I’ve been selling bigger pieces of work and I’m having difficulty keeping up.”
O’Brien recently had a show at Oso Negro which sold out completely and she also stocks both the Winnipeg and Nelson Tara Davis Studio stores with her work.
“My parents are hilarious. They love me a lot . I think they worry, but they’re actually quite shocked that I’m making some money doing this. I think part of them is really excited and part of them is confused that people are buying this. I think they predict that people will realize that it’s me and I’m a fake and I didn’t go to art school.”
O’Brien will have work displayed at the Frog Peak Cafe in Crescent Valley starting on April 2.