You are going to fall in love with fiber art with this first collection. Kayli Balin from studio kb is the artist behind it all. She has a unique style of punch needling that makes her art special and one of a kind. She’s constantly experimenting with new techniques to push the boundaries of this medium and make modern art that you have never seen before.
I did an interview with Kayli asking her all about her artistic process and her journey in becoming an artist. Read the interview below to learn more about Kayli and her art. She shares about her sources of inspiration and how she got into fiber art in the first place, and so much more!
Check out the first ever Art Collection here, featuring fiber art from studio kb.
Kayli Balin, studio kb
Where are you from?
I was born in Long Island, New York and then I moved to Towson, Maryland when I was a kid. Towson is where I say I’m from because I grew up there. My family lives abroad in the Philippines now.
Where are you currently located?
I am currently located in Brooklyn, New York and this is where I’m going to be for a long time. I love it here. My area is really diverse, and I just like living in the city – I always have.
How did you become an artist?
Well, the whole story really starts with my major. I majored in Media Arts & Sciences at Wellesley College, same as you Annabel. Traditional studio art classes were always appealing to me as part of my major. I enjoyed those because I felt like learning those different mediums and art practices were important to understand my spatial relationship to the world.
I feel like I’ve always been an artist but I never really embraced it until my senior year of college. That was when I decided: I’m going do what I want, and the way I’m going to speak is through my art.
Especially with COVID happening, I felt an even stronger push to call myself what I am – an artist. I didn’t want to be shy about it anymore, because that’s how I really see myself. Making art is what brings me joy and makes me feel proud of myself, so I felt like it was really important to pursue it fully.
How did you feel in that moment of change when you decided to pursue art and call yourself an artist in a public way?
It was really empowering. It just felt right to me. I had always thought “it would be so fun to be an artist,” and my professors in college inspired me because they did what they felt called to do and what they wanted even if it was off the beaten path.
For me, it felt like a revelation because it felt so right, even though it strayed from the typical definition of success that we learned at Wellesley.
And at first I felt like I was just doing it for myself, and then later when I started sharing my art publicly with other people it felt like a big step to me. It started as “I want to share this,” and it turned into feeling like “this is me, I want to do this.”
What kind of art do you like to make?
I like to make things where I have to use my hands. I’ve always enjoyed sewing, and doing things with string and yarn – like making friendship bracelets and finger knitting when I was a kid. I even did embroidery and had a sewing machine when I was in fifth grade. I’ve always enjoyed doing stuff like that on my own for fun.
Then when I was in school in a very academic studio setting, I brought those likes of mine to my academic work. My thesis for Wellesley is on my website. I have an artist statement that talks about my journey and how I became a fiber artist.
I was a fiber artist before I even knew what fiber art was. It all started when I was a kid. When I did my senior project in college, I finally learned what fiber art is and how much I enjoy it.
Tell me about your process. What is it like making a new piece of art from scratch?
Well, especially now I have a better sense of what kind of materials I need for a project. Like what yarns give a certain look and texture.
Usually, I’ll sketch out a design on paper first, and a lot of planning goes on in my head. I think about how I want to feel looking at a piece and then I work backwards from there. Based on that feeling, I’ll start making it and iterate as I go.
A lot of the time when I do something new and wild, I just try it and go along with it. I experiment a lot. A lot of these pieces I view as experiments. It’s like I’m asking a question to the piece and answering it when I finish it.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I love getting inspiration online – Instagram is actually where I saw punch needlework for the first time, and I was like wow this is so pretty. I loved the finished result.
And so I did my digging that you know I love to do, and I learned about this whole new type of media and saw what different people were doing with it. Then I had so many of my own ideas of what I would do.
As far as aesthetics go, I really love pulling design principles from the last century. I love furniture that’s experimental and I’ve always loved furniture and homewares. Anything that goes in your house is a source of inspiration for me. I love looking at couches that are really pretty but also functional.
Cool vintage things also give me a lot of inspiration. I have a depop store where I sell vintage clothing, and that keeps me inspired too.
When I see something and get a certain feeling, then I like it. I still am someone who is figuring out who I am and I struggle with self perception. I kind of am someone who likes a lot of things and I don’t always know what it looks like on the outside to everyone else, but I’m going with it anyway.
What’s your favorite part of the art making process?
One of my favorite things is walking into a craft store and sourcing materials for different projects. Seeing everything in front of you in an art store is so much fun to me. I love that. It’s where a million ideas come into my brain at once.
Part of it is the visual experience of being in the store and being able to touch and feel how different yarns and strings feel in your hand. Those materials are really important to me in my work.
How did you start working with Garland Collections?
I met the lovely Annabel my sophomore year at Wellesley when you lived down the hall from me. We had art classes together and we ended up being the same major, so I felt like I understood you on a different level because of that.
Then more recently, when Annabel reached out to me about doing a collection together, I was like – this is perfect for me because it’s such an organic way to put myself out there. The fact that I know you is important to me.
Branching out in this way with someone I trust and have known for many years made this feel like the perfect opportunity to do something a little different, and this was exactly what I needed to broaden my network and make the next step with my art.
What was your inspiration with this collection?
My inspiration really came from propagating plants – I have a lot of plant cuttings in my room sitting in water. I’ve been loving decorating the room that I’m in right now exactly how I like it and the way I want. It’s where I work, sleep, and relax, so decorating it the way I want with the things I want to see is really important to me.
The colors I used in this collection are the colors that I like in my own space. They’re fresh to me, they’re clean, and they remind me of nature and the plants that I have in my room.
Something else that inspires me is that I save a lot of scrap fabric and yarn and I keep them all in a glass jar so I can look at them and think of what to do with them all. Having zero waste and sustainable practices with my art is really important to me.
I follow a lot of queer artists and eco friendly artists and people who are into slow fashion and zero waste. I’m very inspired by those people and those practices. I’m always trying to innovate through using what you already have.
What are you most excited about with this collection?
I’m excited to share this collection with an audience that I may never have reached by myself and it’s only with the help of Garland Collections that I have the opportunity to show people this type of work and this type of style. I love the pieces that I made and I’m excited to share them with a new audience.
For me, sharing with people that there is nothing wrong with the term “craft” and bringing crafts to the new age and using them to make modern art is exciting. When I was abroad in London, I wrote a paper for a history class about household economies in Britain and how crafts kept women confined the the household.
So reclaiming the idea of domestic crafts like weaving, quilting, needlework, and making textiles and fiber art something that’s empowering instead kind of became my mission after that. My message with my work is reclaiming domestic crafts and making them modern art. And being empowered through that.
I want people to give crafts and textiles the attention that they deserve. I want my work to make people give that all a second thought. If my work can give people more of an appreciation for handmade items that may have been overlooked or undervalued, I’ll be really happy.
You can also look at more of Kayli’s work on her Instagram @studio__kb. I am so grateful to be working with such a talented artist who I also consider a friend. This style of art was completely new to me before I saw Kayli’s work, and I love every single piece that she made for this collection. They’re so special and have a warm and cozy feeling that they bring to your space.