When I was young I painted with watercolors on road trips, and I learned to sculpt with polymer clay in high school,” recalled Katie Crawford, who celebrated the grand opening of her studio and gallery in Fayetteville this past May. “I also used acrylics. I could always paint but couldn’t draw well, so many years later I taught myself.”
Originally from Williamsburg, Virginia, the artist earned at BA in Anthropology along with a minor in Art History from James Madison University, but soon realized she enjoyed creating art more than she did learning about it.
In college, Crawford turned to photography because she lacked the space to set up her clay supplies. The following year when she moved to a larger room, the artist came up with the concept of combining several of her skills and began creating pieces that merged sculpting clay, photography and collages, building layer upon layer and producing three-dimensional works of art. These pieces were the first she submitted to shows.
“It was one of those eureka moments,” Crawford said, describing her innovative approach to her art, “I’d never seen anyone do anything similar, which is cool.”
Today Crawford enjoys working primarily with watercolor, but continues with her mixed media projects. Specifically, she often uses vintage papers such as letters, music and homework which she collages, then paints over the collages with watercolor, allowing poignant words and phrases to peek through here and there. Crawford’s most recent project involves a series of love letters from the 1950s between an engaged couple who were separated by distance.
“It’s like I’m giving them a new life,” she said, “I love the heart, soul and depth bring to the pieces. People will look, then look again and feel drawn to them. They are tangible representations of human relationships.”
Crawford finds these vintage letters and other papers at estate sales and auctions. She has collected old papers since her childhood, when she worked in her parent’s antique shop. She was raised around old things, and said the sense of age, depth and the texture of the people who have interacted with items speaks to her.
Where subject matter is concerned, Crawford specializes in whimsical, lighthearted animal scenes. She finds her inspiration for these works directly in nature- from picking up turtles in the road to watching birds out her kitchen window.
“The power of art really lies in the viewer’s response to it. When they look at these pieces, people can laugh, and during that moment of whimsy, can gain a second to reflect on the good in their lives.”
Crawford continued, “Artists draw upon our lives as inspiration. I think what makes me unique as an artist are the combinations of experiences I have had that have shaped my world view; my art is simply an extension of the way I see the world.”
When it comes to Crawford’s specific brand of art, it’s not only her inventive combination of media, but also her upbringing that has influenced her approach. Her relationship with the antique shop from a young age caused Crawford to see old objects as more than merely things, but as encompassing minds of their own. Add to this the fact that she traveled a great deal growing up, most notably to Asia several times. The result is an artist who is open minded and passionate about watching objects connect with different people in unique ways. She is fascinated with the way in which art can be full of exploration and history, and the way in which it connects people through the ages.
Before she opened the doors of her own gallery, Crawford worked from home, but now her pieces can be found at her convenient Haymount location. Her shop is just above Lisa’s Framing, owned by long-time friend and collaborator Robin Huske Kelly, who frequently helps local artists like Crawford with art openings as well as framing services.
Because she is a military spouse with the knowledge that moving away is imminent, Crawford made the decision to lease her studio and gallery space rather than to buy it. When asked about taking a leap and opening a business armed with this knowledge, Crawford acknowledged that sometimes you just need to “Go for it!”
Crawford and her husband—along with their two dogs—have lived in Fayetteville since they were stationed at Fort Bragg four years ago. The family is hopeful that they will remain in the area for at least another year, and will return back one day. She regularly exhibits her work at fine art shows and festivals from Charlotte to Northern Virginia.
To check out Katie’s pieces, visit her gallery:
1220 Ft Bragg Road, Suite 200B
Visit her website for a list of upcoming shows at Katiecrawfordart.wordpress.com