We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Kay and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kelly, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
It’s a decision I continue to make every single day: to keep working. Even when I want to quit.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Vibrant color and rich, layered texture are foundational to my style, and the best way to achieve both is using oil pastels. But I don’t draw with them – I pre-mix the colors I want and then use clay shaping rubber-tipped tools and “paint” with the oil pastel pigment. I also enjoy building color up from dark to light and then scraping away layers with a palette knife, an X-acto or my grandmother’s old letter opener to achieve interesting texture and color depth. It’s unique and I love working with my favorite medium in that funky way.

After graduating with a graphic design degree, I was doing free lance on the side and quickly realized what types of jobs lit me up most: any that required I create original artwork to achieve the client’s desired outcome. I slowly started to develop a personal style and my passion for original art grew, as did enjoying the effect a beautiful piece has on happy clients and customers. Creating my own line of products was an outflow of meeting the paper industry demand for 25-50 new pieces every six months in a wholesale market setting. It wasn’t easy, and became near impossible as we added children to our family. My desire to be an at-home mom and run a company has been by far the hardest challenge. I fail at something every day. But I also get to have my kids under my roof and an outlet for creative energy. It is a mixed blessing that requires daily staring my weaknesses in the face and choosing to go on.

Beauty, in it’s purest form, is a gift to this world. The privilege of contributing something beautiful in my own way using the talent I was given is a joy I can hardly bear to grasp. I hope my brand and products reflects a modicum of true beauty in this world and add goodness and cheer to those that consume them.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Fort Worth has it all, except consistently great weather (sorry, TX, love you anyway). When I go on vacation, my goals are to relax and connect with those around me and to eat & drink well. With that in mind, here are my Fort Worth favorites:

Day 1 & 2: South Main
Try Summer Moon Coffee, wood-fired and never acidic with gluten free pastries and a no-hurry vibe. Then walk and shop Winton and Waits and browse other cool specialty shops in the area. For conversation over a wine flight, The Holly, a natural-only collection of wines around the world. Or slip into The Amber Room, the speakeasy attached to Wishbone & Flynt. Dinner: Tinie’s – and do not leave unless you’ve tasted the ceviche, aguachile de snapper or the tenderloin tacos.

Day 3 & 4: Clearfork
Malai Kitchen for brunch: try the Banh Mi French Toast or what my husband says is the greatest Benedict he’s ever had, the Thai Eggs Benedict. Get fresh squeezed grapefruit juice or the Jalapeño Basil Margarita. There’s almost nothing but shopping in Clearfork, so go nuts, or take a midday break at Milk and Honey spa. If you’re super active, run or bike the Trinity Trail and then eat outside at Press Cafe. Try Fixe Southern House for dinner: get the homemade biscuits and then literally anything else on the menu. Fixe delivers those biscuits so keep that in mind if you like to sleep in and need a late morning hotel breakfast.

Day 5 & 6: West 7th / the Bricks
My favorite brunch in this area is Righteous Foods for a cappuccino and a menu full of whole-food options. Digest & stroll through The Modern Art Museum where there’s always something interesting to see and the age old question, “is this really art?” can be voraciously discussed. Hit up Restore & Revive for a pedicure, manicure or yoga class. Eddie V’s has an excellent char for dinner, or head further up into the neighborhood and try Piola Italian restaurant & garden, especially on a nice weather evening.

Day 7: Magnolia Avenue
Sleep in. Then begin with Ellerbe for lunch, no contest. Always order soup, no matter the season or ingredients and get a burger with fries. Walk right out and shop the cool specialty spots along the adjacent stretch. Then stop into Fort Worth Locals for a commemorative T-shirt so you always remember your fabulous trip. I have many fond memories of happy hour and bites at Grand Cru with the hubby, and/or we recently tried The Beast for dinner and I loved the Proceed With Caution cocktail. For a lighter dinner, try pizza at Cane Rosso or sushi at Shinjuku Station.

Don’t leave Fort Worth without eating at The Wicked Butcher; order the smoked old fashioned and try virtually anything on the inventive yet approachable menu. Do stop by the stockyards if you never have – it’s unique and a great spot for people watching. Enjoy the kindness and chivalry of this town where men open and hold doors for ladies. Enjoy good manners and great service throughout the city. Jeans and cowboy hats are welcome virtually everywhere, so pick one up on your way in town and try out your own “west begins” persona.

You’ll love it here!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband Quinn has been a quiet force and a strong support these last 15 years. He has played software engineer and carpenter: building my first website as well as our first booth for our first market in Dallas 2008 (for which we won best booth design!). For our National Stationery Show years, he built a shipping crate that could both hold 500 pounds and break down for use in the booth or hidden behind the booth walls for quicker packing up. He has worked all night with me to make a deadline and supported me in the early years bringing me meals. In the early years of children, he was super dad on some evenings and weekends so I could work. These days he’s the sounding board and steady rock of emotional support. Thank you just can’t cover it. You’re the best one, Q. Love you!

Website: kellykay.com

Instagram: @kellykaypaper

Image Credits
Kat Phillips, Kelly Kay, Grace Mitchell and Javier Rodriguez

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