“Artful Conversations: Liz Kettle” by Catherine Kirsch
Lauren Sinner February 28, 2018
Liz Kettle is a trailblazer, a pathfinder and a doer. I can feel her energy over the phone as we speak candidly about her journey in the fiber arts. From the challenges of mothering three sons, Kettle drew strength to pursue an artist’s life and build connections in her community.
Kettle’s single mother made cultural activities accessible with trips to Washington, DC museums and the Kennedy Center’s free concerts while raising her in Arlington, Virginia. She attended Catholic schools where she was a joiner “not content with one or two friends.” She was an avid reader who was “never bored.” This upbringing informed her journey to the artistic life, as working to support herself was paramount. This meant Kettle’s art was delayed in spite of the fact her close female family members were artistic and she was interested in studying fashion design. The message was “it is too frivolous to pursue art.”
So, in 1982, Kettle earned a business degree in Health Care Administration from Mary Mount College, (now Marymount University) in Arlington, VA. After working for a time in health care, she concluded that attending to details was onerous and unsatisfying.
Recognizing this led Kettle to her first clue that an artistic life was possible. She took a position in retail management, working for Pier One Imports, a Texas-based company specializing in home furnishings and décor. It was “super creative” as she was in charge of every decision related to her store. She fine-tuned the retail experience to meet the expectations of her customers and enjoyed the chance to use her imagination and artistry to meet their needs. Kettle left the position when she started a family.
Kettle and her husband moved to Monument, Colorado in 1992, a small town located at the base of the Rampart Range between Denver and Colorado Springs. The move was quite a change from the East Coast, but it was quiet and peaceful; a good place to raise three energetic boys. Kettle stayed at home and shepherded her children through a school system that was often unresponsive or rigid in its approach to educating exceptionally intelligent learning disabled students. Finally she decided to home school two sons and found even more peace without the stresses of coping with schools.
As a result, Kettle rediscovered the pleasures of sewing, embroidery, and finding time to experiment and play with materials. Having the courage to take her children out of school gave her confidence to explore, take risks and worry less about what others thought. This was a perfect mindset for developing an artistic life.
Eventually Kettle found her way to the Front Range Contemporary Quilters, an organization dedicated to exploring the art quilt. Needless to say, the joiner joined and endeavored to “say more with less” in her collages expressing emotion with color and shape. Currently, Kettle makes daily stitch mediations, the primary commitment to making personal art allowed by her busy schedule.
In July 2016, Kettle continued her commitment to her community when she co-founded, and became director of, Textiles West, a non-profit textile center located at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs. Its mission, as stated by Kettle, “is to provide access to textile education at all levels, to make available equipment and to create a community through textiles.” Tactile, an annual event sponsored by Textiles West, draws families and young adults as well as weavers, ranchers and garment makers to explore and develop an understanding about the place of fibers in our lives.
Consistent with her commitment to bring a more mindful, intuitive approach to living, Kettle leads classes at The Thread Lab: Wonderfil Threaducation Center, where her classes are about the wonder of thread and making all manner of textiles. She also teaches at the Textiles West Innovation Lab (TWIL) at the Manitou Arts Center in Manitou Springs, Colorado. As Kettle explained, this makerspace serves as a central point for all things fiber in her community. It is equipped with floor and table looms, print tables, sewing and knitting machines as well as a dye lab. The mission is to serve everyone interested in sewing, weaving, and dyeing for pleasure and for sustaining a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Liz Kettle’s artistic life was slow to come to light. But through the challenges of educating her exceptional sons, she found strength and conviction. This translated to a belief that the world is overly left-brained and technological and led her back to her original passions. This commitment extends to her SDA role as area representative for Colorado and her recent admission to the Art Cloth Network.