Artist Spotlight: Kelly Carámbula

Rare Device, September 14, 2018

Balance is something we all struggle with. Between work, family, and other commitments, taking time to ourselves can easily come in last. With two small children, artist Kelly Carámbula is no stranger to navigating motherhood, work, and staying creative. Based in San Francisco, Kelly’s beautiful collage work teeters between the simple and the complex. Her new show, A Year of Color & Form, features work she’s created over the past year that leaves the viewer with a deeper appreciation for looking closer, longer, and from a different perspective. Kelly sat down with Kayla and Giselle to talk about how she balances motherhood, running her own business, and what projects she has in store for the future. 


Kayla: You earned your BFA in graphic design from Western Michigan University. Although your work is not digital these days, I can tell from your use of simplistic forms and clean lines that graphic design has influenced your style. How did you make the transition from digital to traditional media?

Kelly Carámbula: From a young age, I’ve always loved making things with my hands. Growing up, I would paint my mom’s Avon boxes and old furniture she’d pick up at garage sales–plus I sewed and dabbled in other crafts, so I feel like using my hands to make things is part of my DNA. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I realized that I could actually use my love of creating art and make a career out of it via graphic design. So I switched to digital media and worked solely on the computer for over 10 years. 

I slowly began doing less design after having kids until it became too much of a drag–I felt like every time I opened my computer it was only to answer emails. To be honest–I was overwhelmed by life as a mother and I needed a creative outlet that required very little initial effort. Enter collage.

Kayla: What does it mean to you to be creative? How do you stay motivated despite having other obligations and roles you play in your life? For so many creatives, I think it’s hard to carve out time to explore all the ideas we have, and thus, we end up doing nothing at all and becoming discouraged.

KC: To me–especially over the past couple of years–my creativity is a necessity. When I don’t get time to make, to explore ideas, I feel it in my mind and my body. So I’m very intentional with my time and make sure that I carve out time every day to make something or see art or read. It took a lot of work on my end to get to this point where I feel strong enough to say that and stand up for my needs as an artist and mother. But luckily I have a very supportive husband who understands how important this is.

Giselle: How are you juggling your art practice and motherhood?

KC: Sometimes I feel like I’m on top of it and good at both and other days I feel like I’m failing–as a mother, as an artist, and sometimes both. I think that’s called motherhood, ha!

After five years as a mother to a special needs child, I’ve finally realized that it’s ok to ask for help and in fact–pile on as much help as I can possibly get. For so long, I felt like I could do it all on my own and that my daughter needed me (specifically) at every appointment she goes to, but I’m letting go of that mindset and I think it’s good for both of us. Mama doesn’t have to do everything. Mama has interests. Mama’s good at things other than being a mama. After having my second child two and a half years ago and hitting a real low creatively–I realized that this is not how I wanted my girls to see me. Instead, I want them to remember me during their childhood as someone who had fun with them but also had her own interests and life. Since then, I’ve made a real effort to be that person.