We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Schirmann and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kelly, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I’m not sure I ever considered an art-centric life to be a career choice, or even something I actively chose to pursue. When I was a kid I told people I wanted to be an artist when I grew up; I was always drawing, singing, writing, sculpting–always getting pleasurably lost in the act of making things. But looking back I think my path represents less of a concrete decision and more of a slow, intuitive drift. Art, to me, was the thing I did in my free time, for its own sake. I knew that artists existed, but I never imagined that they were paid for their work in the same way that doctors and engineers were paid–I thought it was just something they did because they couldn’t help themselves. In hindsight, this probably saved me from having the bubble of my own creativity punctured by ideas of revenue or popularity–I could just follow my own instincts with no regard to what would catch on. The best way I can explain it is that I kept on carving out time for the thing I loved most, which was making things, and that one day I woke up inside a life that was being sustained by this making. I feel very lucky and very grateful to be where I am today, however mystified I am by the slow process of its unfolding.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a poet, a ceramicist, and a musician. Most people who know me know that I work across multiple genres, and that I rely heavily on the ability to move between mediums as a way of keeping art-making (life-living) fresh, exciting, new, and resembling ‘work’ as little as possible. I’ve always worked in multiple mediums, and while I took a lot of pride in being called a Renaissance Woman as a young adult, I began to feel self-conscious at a certain point that the polymath approach represented some deeper lack of focus. I think in a lot of ways our culture prioritizes specialization–choosing one medium and then climbing up the ladder of that medium as high as you can go. For a long time I felt like I would never be a great writer if I wasn’t willing to give up making pottery, or that I would never be a real musician unless I made it my sole focus. But even when I felt the greatest pressure to choose a single path, I found I just couldn’t override the desire I felt to branch out. After a big book project, for example, I’ll have a deep urge to move toward ceramics–to make concrete objects instead of conceptual ones. After a heavy period of solitary pottery production, I might find myself wanting to play music with others. At this point I can’t imagine any other way of being, but it took some time to learn to value this intuition instead of trying to work against it. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people, places, and circumstances helped to deliver me here. Shoutout to Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg for showing me that poetry and music are the same thing. Shoutout to the 2008 recession for throwing me off course enough to have to (get to) re-envision my own life on a deeper level. Shoutout to elimae for publishing my first poem, and Zach Schomburg for hosting me at my first reading, and Kevin Sampsell for putting my first chapbook on the shelves at Powell’s Books, and Janaka Stucky for publishing my first book. Shoutout to Dina No for adopting me into her pottery studio, and to Rachel Corry for being the first person to carry my ceramics in her former Portland store. Shoutout to my parents, extended family, and birthplace of Humboldt County, California, for creating the conditions necessary for me to be able to notice things.

Website: kellyschirmann.com

Instagram: instagram.com/omo________ (and instagram.com/kelly_schirmann)

Image Credits
Jay Fiske, Kelly Schirmann.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.