One of the greatest joys of my work on TFI and with my line of jewelry is the opportunity to collaborate with and get to know like-minded creative women who are passionate about what they do. Nashville-based artist and interior designer Kelley Estes is one of those women. We found each other through Instagram, and immediately began a rapport. I fell in love with her elegant sculptures and modernist interior design work, she admired my jewelry; we wanted to figure out a way to bring them together in a symbiotic manner. We both aim to approach our work with thoughtfulness and intentionality, value the beauty of craftsmanship and artistry, and design with the purpose of creating timeless investment pieces meant to elevate your every day. Ultimately, we decided on an evening of art and fine jewelry at her home.
I spent a couple of days with Kelley and her family (all artistically gifted) and enjoyed every second. I also had the chance to tour some of her interior projects and wish she would come help me finish mine. I believe this is the beginning of more collaborative projects with Kelley and am hoping she will bring her beautiful work to New York soon. Here, Kelley answers some TFI ?s.
What is your career background and how did you become involved in interior design and become an artist? I have always loved to draw and paint and began professionally showing my work in my late 20’s. Formal studies include the Charles Cecil Studio in Florence, Italy; Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC; William Shultz workshops (master pastelist and oil painter); Art History at Vanderbilt University; mentorship in sculpture with Dr. William Doak. Professional credits include Pastel Society of America and Central South Exhibition, plus numerous private collections. My early career focused on children’s portraits in pastel and oil. More recent projects include a series of 22 works on paper and canvas for American Friends of Chateau de Chantilly (outside Paris, France.)
Sculpture became a natural transition, learning the lost wax process for bronze casting, then transitioning to marble carving.
Interior Design work grew out of a deep interest in architecture and design on my own homes. Over time, and word of mouth, this has grown into large renovation projects including custom designed furniture, a team of excellent craftsmen, and working closely with an architect friend who helps me realize my visions on projects. I usually only take on one or two projects a year so that I still have time for my art.
Is there a symbiotic relationship between the disciplines? Does either influence the other? Yes! There is definitely a fluid relationship between all of the different mediums; particularly between drawing, painting and sculpture. The line in drawing translates to line in space for sculpture, which has been an important relationship. The negative space in sculpture transfers to the negative space (often under appreciated) in interior design. The use and understanding of mass and planes in sculpture has better informed my paintings in pastel and oil by giving them more depth and stability in underlying shapes and mass.
Interior design became just another canvas for me…being able to see visually, to interpret spaces in 3-D, read architectural plans, and carry a vision for the space. Walking into a space and seeing what needs to be moved, removed, reworked, or rethought is invigorating. In all of the disciplines there is a consistent striving for balance between complex ideas and simplification of forms.
What inspires your interiors? I tend to be very visually aware, open, taking in ideas and storing them up. I collect a lot of European design publications for inspiration. I have notebooks of ideas that resonate with me. I am a tactile person, preferring print to digital, yet the digital is now part of where we all find inspiration. Travel has been a big source of new ideas, absorbing different cultures and new ways of seeing things. I avoid design trends, and tend to shy away from ideas or objects that are overused.
When we were building our river house Christian Liaigre had just published his first book on interiors. I was infinitely inspired! It became my “design Bible” for a period in envisioning our get-away on the river.
What inspires your painting or sculpture? I find inspiration in nature, in organic shapes and textures found in natural objects, especially when working with the marble on abstract pieces. After preparing sketches and sculpting a maquette before beginning the work on the actual stone, it then becomes important to follow the natural form. The stone itself often tends to dictate certain planes and shapes, intuiting which direction to take the piece in.
When working on a fairly recent series in painting called “Poetry Series” ( a series of abstract mixed media paintings with the intent of interpreting poetry in a non-literal way) I was originally inspired by a quote from a Russian dancer: “in order to move freely you must be deeply rooted.” I took a year or so to consider how and what I was rooted in, and read a lot of poetry to find those answers, resulting in a series of 7 abstract paintings.
I am also inspired by travel, museums, art history books, art galleries when visiting other cities.
My children are a particular source of inspiration and bouncing ideas off of, as they are all artistic as well.
Three words that describe your work:
Sculpture: sensual, pure
Painting: soulful, expressive
Interiors: considered, edited, original
Three words that describe you: It is impossible for me to narrow this down to just three! Creative, passionate, curious, athletic, outdoorsy, adventurous, sensitive, emotional, determined, thoughtful, perfectionist, introspective
Writer/book that opened up a new world: In my 20’s I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. It opened an interest in art histories, art biographies, the Renaissance, Michelangelo, and most importantly a love for Florence, Italy. There are more historically correct accounts of Michelangelo, but the imagery in this book of how they moved the large block of marble for the David from the quarry all the way to Florence has always stuck with me. The imagery and passion portrayed here profoundly moved me.
Artists that inspire me: There are many and they have rotated through different mediums at different stages. For pastel: Berthe Morisot and Degas. For oil: Joaquin Sorolla, Anders Zorn, Mary Cassatt. For abstracts: Cy Twombly, Richard Diebenkorn, Franz Kline. In sculpture, Henry Moore is really at the top of my list, followed by Camille Claudel, Rodin, Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth and Beverly Pepper.
A Fall perfect evening is…After a day of hiking, a cozy fire, a hearty meal and a good book.
A table is never set without: Fresh flowers, candles, pretty dinnerware, and most importantly good conversation.
Favorite Flower: Too many to name but a steady regular in my home are fragrant white Casa Blanca lilies.
Role Models: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Goodall, Isak Dinesen , Beverly Pepper. All of these women were breaking down barriers, forging ahead with their work as they navigated a man’s world.
My mom is also an inspiration, displaying strength of character and perseverance as she battles stage 4 cancer.
Five things that make a perfect room: 1) Great architecture: Form and details that are correct for the room. 2) Great lighting: natural and ambient. 3) Great Art! Adds interest and elevates any room. As Hubert de Givenchy once said when speaking of art and beautiful objects, “they enhance the human condition” 4) Beautiful, comfortable furniture. Less pieces of finer quality is a good rule of thumb. Buy the best you can afford. 5) An edited curation of personal objects of interest: books that inspire and fresh flowers are a must. Great rooms are personal, fluid and open to change; never static or “done.”
Fall Wish List:
1) A pair of official British Green racing gloves to wear when driving my British green MBG with my dad. 2) A Saint Laurent Houndstooth menswear style wool blazer to wear with riding boots. 3) Jennifer Alfano XL Mariner Link bracelet in rose gold. 4) The Row Margaux 15 in black.
Recently purchased for Fall:
1) An orange Hermès lightweight puffer jacket. I have never worn the color orange before but it really adds a special Autumn touch to all the tans, beiges, and browns I wear in fall. 2) Jennifer Alfano classic pearl earrings and also the everyday links. An unexpected gift for no reason from my husband! The best kind of surprise! 3) Tod’s chunky boots. I looked far and wide for the perfect pair of everyday black boots, with some sort of style but most importantly very comfortable. These were the winning pair! A slightly elevated heel, rubber sole, chunky enough to be cool but not TOO chunky as to be out of style next season. 4) Casasola double-faced wool and cashmere blend camel coat. Casasola is a small luxury Italian label that is an investment but certainly worth it. I discovered it at Just One Eye in LA. The belt disappears in the back, which is very flattering on. 5) A special limited edition Louis Poulsen table lamp in rose glass and brass. It adds such a nice feminine touch to my bedroom.
A piece I already own but am looking forward to wearing again as days turn cooler: Burberry Trench coat modeled after Henry Moore’s sculpting smock. I love wearing this and thinking of him sculpting at his studio in the English countryside.
You can tell a lot about a woman by.…Her confidence as reflected in her openness and honesty…the way she moves through the world.
Follow Kelley: Instagram.