We had the good fortune of connecting with Gillian Kennedy Wright and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gillian, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind my success is my creativity and approach to the portrayal of subjects in my fiber art. I bring to the “fabric canvas table”, bright bold colors, as well as stark black and white patterned forms. My work is fueled by my ancestral past of multicultural “Afrocaribbean” history, now transplanted in North America. I am tenacious and work on my art as if it is my life source, I feel that I am compelled to design, create and produce art on a daily basis. I have a twofold brand, my fine art and my whimsical art. My fine art carries a higher price point and my whimsical functional art which has a more “affordable” price tag. You might ask why? Art is for everyone and should be made accessible for everyone to enjoy. Success is not to be taken lightly, working consistently eventually yields amazing results. I try to regularly participate in exhibitions, and have become a fan of social media. Instagram is my favorite, it fuels a daily accountability track record for my work. It allows me to portray a fresh cutting edge view of my daily inspirations and work, without the restraints of laboriously changing my website on a daily basis. Using social media expands my view and exposure to the world. I love the idea that I can engage in conversations about my art with collectors all over the world at any time of the day which is what I call an enriching “real time” creative experience.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My fiber art focuses on portraiture, patterns and flora. I enjoy taking simple forms, patterns and colors creating and melding them with different textures; semiprecious brooches and stones; earrings; necklaces, natural found objects, recycled and upcycled materials; along with a collection of fabric and fibers from around the world; to create bold stunning art forms. Recently I started exploring Adinkra symbols and explored their meanings, and have started an ever growing Abstract Adinkra Black and White series. Adinkra is a unified visual symbol/language system of the Akan people of Ghana and West Africa. It communicates letters of their alphabet, words, numbers, phrases and expressions. While I start by honoring/portraying the original symbols, I now dare to abstract them in my art. Some of my ancestors would have come from this region but I have been displaced in another region of the world therefore the symbols now take on a “new” meaning in my life. Today I see myself as a Jamaican born Canadian, American my roots are Afrocaribbean in origin, my life’s mantra is focused around Jamaica’s motto “Out of Many One People” and I am also influenced by Japanese Art and the Art Deco movement. Like many artists I have had numerous challenges, the main one is to earn a daily living practicing my art. In 2005 I decided to do my Masters in Landscape Architecture, which in reality in hind sight I should have studied garden design, which is one of my passions. Because of various reasons I switched my degree to Sports and Recreation Management. Wow, what a switch! After graduating, I worked for a city for eleven and a half years creating and programming their seniors and active adult programs on a part time basis. This left limited time to work on my art. On September 19, 2019, I decided it was time to push away from their table, and move on to work full time at my life’s passion…my art. Since then my work and exposure have grown by leaps and bounds. I still enjoy teaching Mah Jongg but have soooo much time to do the thing I love the most ART. Most importantly, I have learnt that you have to be your own boss; your own person; you cannot build someone else’s empire, and expect to be remunerated and achieve your life’s dream on their time. My life is my brand, both my fine art and my whimsical art portray who I really am, and how I want to bring laughter and joy into everyone’s life. Life is colorful why not live and enjoy it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them to Jamaica the country of my birth. My friend would be taken on a discover Jamaica journey. First we would hit Kingston the capital city of Jamaica. We would stop at Port Royal an old buccaneer town for some curried lobster and escovitch fish with bammy and or festival, to be washed down with an ice cold Red Stripe Beer or fresh coconut water and finish off with a slice of potato pudding for dessert. We would drive along one of the world’s largest natural harbors, of course on the “wrong” side of the road to downtown Kingston, We would head to the National Gallery of Jamaica to explore Jamaica’s Art History collection. Then dare to stop at Coronation Market to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables and speak to the local higglers. Along the way we would checkout the awesome old English architecture boasting its world famous fretwork. We would maybe go to Devon House for dinner at an old plantation house chock full of art gift shops and restaurants and stop for an ice cream treat at ISCREAM, yup, ice cream to die for. Wow, soooo many places to see. On the following days we would stop at the Bob Marley Museum and visit Tuff Gong Recording Studio, circle around and see New Kingston. Day two would either visit Silver Hill or Strawberry Fields Guest House for breakfast, which would consist of ackee and saltfish (Jamaica’s national dish) fried ripe plantains, calaloo and fried dumplings, paired with freshly brewed world famous Blue Mountain Coffee while basking in the foot hills of the majestic Blue Mountain Range which peaks at over 7, 000 ft. The next stop would be an eco hiking tour to Hollywell and refresh yourself in a chilling mountain stream. The next day is the typical touristy trip through Fern Gully to Ocho Rios for jerk chicken and pork, see and climb Dunns River Falls, stay and enjoy San Souci Hotel and Spa and a sunset horseback ride on Prospect Farms in St. Mary, and rafting on the White River one of Ocho Rios’, eight rivers. The next day we would head to Montego Bay to visit the Green Grotto Caves, Rose Hall Great House and tour the city for shopping and National Gallery West Gallery. The following day we would head further west to visit one of my favorite places Negril, and swim in Bloody Bay a seven mile stretch of white sand beach, dine at Rick’s Cafe on a sunset catamaran cruise. The following day we would head back east and we could stop in the cane fields and see authentic chattal houses and check out Savannah La Mar a sea side township. While on our journey we would stop at numerous historic buildings and churches along the way. The following day we would head to Portland the home of Boston Jerk Chicken and Pork where food is cooked on a fire pit to be eaten with roast yam and washed down with fresh guava juice and served in a rustic roadside restaurant. Other sightseeing stops are Neville Coward’s Firefly residence where on a clear day Cuba’s coast line can be seen. Other must stop designations are Blue Hole a “bottomless” lagoon, Trident Castle, and we would rest for the night at Fern Hill Resort which overlooks the Caribbean Sea. The following day would be filled with driving through The Junction which is a wild curvy road with plunging precipices, exciting samples of fresh fruit such as mangoes, oranges, sweet and sour sap, guava, avocados, apple bananas to name a few sold by street side vendors along the way. Before heading down the hill to Kingston, Castleton Botanical Gardens would be a welcome stop on a full day’s journey. Wow, the next day would be sleep all you want better known as I am tired so it’s a rest day. The other destinations would be the various galleries dotted throughout Kingston, the University of the West Indies Campus as well as my old stomping grounds Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts which is housed at a Cultural campus along with schools for music, dance and drama.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Many people have encouraged me throughout my life and art career. At the risk of sounding cliché, my 95 year old mother is my forever mentor. She always has wise, encouraging, creative words to share everyday with me. As a child, she as well as my father always encouraged my creative energy. They were the ones who championed my choice to attend art school, while all my other friends attended traditional universities. They insisted that I should pursue my passion. The most recent influence occurred a couple years ago when I attended the “DBA” Doing Business as an Art Program offered by Art Serve in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, there I met a fellow artist Marilyn Walter. The DBA brought a new, more practical business perspective to my art world, which was not taught in art school. I learnt to focus and do my art with a business survival mind set. Yessss, copyrighting and trademarking my whimsical character names, a business plan, social media, advertising, marketing, accounting procedures you name it they taught on it. The DBA just plain and straight pointed out the fact that if I wanted to be a full time artist, I needed to run my art as a creative business and I had to take it to the next ultimate level. Needless to say Marilyn and I, have since teamed up and exhibited together and collaborated on interactive art installations. We have become honest artistic sounding boards for each other.
Linkedin: Gillian Kennedy Wright
Facebook: @kennedywrightdesigns and @gilliankennedywright