We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Carly Owens. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Carly below.
Carly, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Did you always know you wanted to pursue a creative or artistic career? When did you first know?
The first time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I promptly answered “an artist”. As I got older, societal pressures changed my answer to art teacher, then architect, then pastry chef, then fashion designer and I eventually made my way back to artist. I’ve always been an ambitious person, perhaps too ambitious at times, but having that driving force is what keeps me going. I try not to let the fears of “what if” get in the way of pursuing my goals. I think my time as a student at the College of Design at NCSU really helped drill into my brain that the design process is working through a series of failures in order to achieve success. This is directly applicable to my art practice today, as well as life in general. It’s really about not letting those moments of failure bring you down because there is so much that can be learned from those moments and they’re just a part of the process.
Towards the end of my university experience, a small group of friends and myself in the Art + Design program were very adamant on forging our own paths. So that’s what we did and are still doing. Just figuring things out as we go, but ultimately we get to create, which is so rewarding.
Carly, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I am an artist/ designer based in Boulder. My art practice consists of painting and mixed media (fiber) sculpture, primarily created through hand embroidery. I also create design objects and jewelry inspired by the artworks, also done in embroidery.
I studied Art + Design at North Carolina State University. I mainly focused my studies on fibers but painting/drawing also worked it’s way into my curriculum. While there, I studied abroad at the Royal School of Needlework in the UK. This experience is what really got me into hand embroidery, specifically goldwork. I finished my degree with an internship on the embroidery team for a couture house in New York while also becoming a finalist for the Hand & Lock Prize for embroidery, based in London, UK.
After graduation, I decided to take the plunge and focus on developing my own practice rather than getting a job within the design industry. I started with making embroidered wearables and selling them online. Because of social media, my work took off relatively quickly. I focused solely on jewelry for about two years, but it was about a year ago when I felt like I wanted to really get back into art. I then started incorporating painting and fiber sculpture into my practice. Now, I’m working on really tying these two aspects together, making the art and the design work cohesive.
My biggest highlight in my career thus far was exhibiting my art jewelry in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York back in December 2021. I was included in their contemporary jewelry exhibition, MAD About Jewelry. I also recently exhibited one of my fiber sculptures in a group show at the Bomb Factory Art Foundation in London, and that was pretty exciting as well.
Are there any books, videos or other content that you feel have meaningfully impacted your thinking?
Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton is one of my favorite reads in regards to the art industry. It really provides an inside perspective of how the art world functions. It’s a hidden gem and I’m always suggesting her books to other artists.
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
Continuously creating is really the ultimate goal. Of course there are various other things I’d like to accomplish with my work, but as long as I’m able to bring my ideas into fruition and have the time to do that, then I’m happy. Time is such a precious resource for creatives.