Featured Designing Mom Karen Kimmel of Kimmel Kids

by Cat on December 5, 2011

I love how today’s Designing Mom, Karen Kimmel of Kimmel Kids answered the question of balancing her life with an “are you kidding me…balancing it all is the biggest challenge in my life!” Hope all of you are nodding vehemently at that like I am. And yet she is a creative force, an installation artist, designer, founder of  Art  of Exchange and co-hosts an annual crafting community retreat at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs…

Tell us about yourself! Who you are, what excites you, and what keeps you going in your life?

I’m a work in progress. I love making and designing objects, ideas and/or concepts. I thrive working collaboratively yet quiet time in my studio (which I never get, by the way) is one of my favorite things. Being in and raising a family is an unbelievable gift and challenge, which provides endless inspiration and sleepless nights. Presently and possibly forever I am working on how to live simply, manage needs/wants and make things I want to look at and be a part of.

Growing up, were you always a creative person? What inspired you to create stencils with organic and natural shapes?

Who knows? Growing up, I was alone a lot! When I wasn’t watching the Brady Bunch, I made things, all kinds of things. I obsessed over intricately patterned drawings that I turned into art books and played endless hours of make believe at the ocean’s edge. All those hours outside must have compounded in my brain somewhere, because to this day, nature still mystifies and inspires me. It is endless shapes inform my artwork and stencils, and when I am in a rut nothing can shift my mood like a walk in the mountains or a swim in the ocean.

How did you launch Kimmel Kids? What was the process like for you, creating a line geared for children?

The Kimmel Kids products came as a natural outgrowth of an Art of Exchange workshop I did at Creative Growth, an art center for individuals with physical and mental disabilities in Oakland, CA. For the workshop I created a selection of nature inspired wooden stencils to help initiate a dialogue about line and shape. They proved to be a successful way to begin a creative discourse and provided a visual starting place into abstract mark making. This formula was so successful at Creative Growth, that I began hosting Art of Exchange Workshops at schools and museums for children. I was so inspired by the way the children manipulated the stencils to make their own artwork – I sensed I was onto something!  Making things with my kids was an opportunity for all of us to be together doing something we enjoy. I starting thinking about doing this with other families, and that is how Crafting Community was born.

How did crafting community events come into being? What was it like partnering up with Ace Hotel to do a creative event for kids?

The Kimmel Kids line of creative products and educational tools was one offshoot of the Art of Exchange and the other was Crafting Community.

Crafting Community is a family weekend retreat at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs that I started with the help of another mom-owned business, Kid Concierge. I originally conceived the weekend as an intimate getaway to encourage family togetherness and to create art through the reuse and repurpose of natural materials in workshops led by other artists, but as it grew and took shape it became clear something more was at work. There was call from my greater community to reconnect with themselves and their families, and a need for more authentic handmade experiences.  Crafting Community came about at a rather special moment in our culture where there was a recalibration and reconsideration for how we relate to all this stuff. The Ace sets such a wonderful background for this event and their attention to design, use of natural materials and love of farm fresh foods it the perfect fit for the weekend.

Is it a challenge balancing creative time, being a mother and working on different projects? How do you do it all?

Are you kidding me, balancing it all is the biggest challenge in my life and I always feel like something/someone is getting the raw end of the deal. I am starting to understand that it isn’t about having it all or doing it all, it is about enjoying what you have. Work and success are very seductive, but my love of my family always keeps me in check.

Can you tell me a bit about your future projects?

The studio is very busy right now with an exciting range of projects.  We’ve been doing a lot of brand innovation and creative consulting for companies like Nike, Splendid and Ella Moss, in addition to building our own Kimmel Kids product line.  On the Crafting Community side of things, we’re in the early planning stages of our next family weekend event in April at the Ace Hotel, look out this one is going to be crazy fun! For the holidays, we created a collection of dream catchers and designed a custom swing for Ella Moss’s holiday window at their new flagship store in Newport, CA. We are also designing some beautiful mobiles for Rebecca Taylor’s new stores in LA and Fashion Island. On the fine art side, we are gearing up to do an interactive Wall Works project with the Santa Monica Museum of Art this spring. We are also finishing up a large interior design project, this little endeavor pushed me a bit outside my comfort zone, but sometimes it is good to be uncomfortable. I like projects that keep me on my toes!

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