Birds Kept North was founded in North Dakota in 2012 as a creative outlet for Kelly Korver while she was still going to NDSU for Apparel and Textiles. She designed and created silk screened shirts and hand painted silk scarves that were inspired by North Dakota and the colors of nature. Birds Kept North’s product line grew to include apparel for all ages and upcycled wool sweater creations. Now Kelly runs Birds Kept North full time, still designing and creating all products by herself in her home in Lakeville, MN. Her handmade product line can be found on Etsy as well as a fabric surface design line on Spoonflower.
See Kelly's work at the upcoming Homespun Craft + Gift Show at the Veterans Park Pavilion in Richfield, MN on August 25, 2018 from 2pm-7pm. This is an event for all ages that will showcase the work of more than 40 local makers, plus live music, a local food truck, kids activities, and more! More details about the show here!
What did your path to creating your business, Birds Kept North, look like? Would you say that you always wanted to be an artist/maker?
I think I was born an artist. I remember coloring and drawing when I was little and always being encouraged to be creative and think outside the box. As long as I can remember, I had a passion for making things, especially sewing and painting. I followed this passion into college at NDSU with a major in Apparel & Textiles and a Minor in Art. While in college, I began Birds Kept North as an outlet for my creativity and as a fun way to spend my time. After college I took BKN on full time, and now it's been almost 6 years since its beginning.
Much of your work features animals or natural elements. How would you describe the connection between your art and the natural world?
I love being outdoors, exploring the beauty this world has to offer. There is something about the energy in all the plants and landscapes and animals that intrigues me. I think part of it was growing up on the edge of town surrounded by the open sky. The other part is how much I enjoy sharing something like going hiking with someone and being able to connect through what you are surrounded by, so I try to bring that to my designs.
The illustrative designs on your t-shirts and banners have a hand-drawn feel. What is your process/what mediums do you use for these products?
I practice a simple, hands-on process of screen printing. It all begins with a drawing that I paint by hand onto a screen. This painting blocks off sections of the screen and creates a stencil. Each stencil is then placed by hand and printed by pulling water-based fabric ink across it with a squeegee. I really enjoy this process as it feels very authentic, like each design has a story it's telling.
Do you like to leave space for experimentation and play in your work? Or would you say you tend to approach your art with an intention or plan that rarely changes along the way?
I love to experiment with new ideas for products all the time. Previously, I've had a line of zipper pouches, hand-painted silk scarves, and resin bangles, but those were short lived. I wish I had all the time in the world to experiment and play, but I'm a work from home mom and my family time comes first.
Do you find that achieving a balance between being an artist and a business owner is one that comes easily to you? Do you enjoy wearing all the hats that are required of you on a daily basis?
It's a very difficult balance to achieve, and I don't think I've achieved it yet. I would really rather spend my day painting and sewing whatever I'd like to my hearts content, but that's not realistic. It's like, I have to create something that not only I enjoy, but other people can relate to as well. It has to make them feel connected, or make them smile, but it's hard to know what designs do that before you spend all the time and energy creating them. I do enjoy most parts of having my own business, like setting my own hours, but things like customer service and keeping up with social media is hard work.
Do you find it important to support local businesses, artists, and makers?
It's very important to support other's creativity and ideas, especially the local community's. It's a great way to directly support one another's families.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
I like to think my business will be a long lasting contributor to the makers movement. I want others to know that it's possible to make a living for yourself doing something you love. It's possible to work from home and raise your own kids. I feel like my designs tell a story that is bigger than just me. It is the story of living in the Midwest, going camping and hiking and sharing memories with friends. It's the story of togetherness and adventure. My designs help people connect, and I think that is larger than myself.