You know that tingle you get when you see extraordinary work? That’s what I had the moment I laid eyes on Ali Kay’s artistry at an IDAL convention in 2011. Since then, she’s become even more well-known for not only the fun, über-creative way she approaches her decorative painting projects and fine art commissions, but also the inspired way she uses the artistic products she comes across. She founded her studio, Positive Space, when she was 19 and after graduating with a fine art degree from the University of Milwaukee Wisconsin, she spent time in Italy immersing herself in art history. Her work benefited immensely from the exposure and she now focuses on mural painting, fine art and both decorative finishes & plasters. I interviewed her while her studio was based in Texas and because of her recent move to Chattanooga, TN, I wanted to catch up with her again and chat about her fab new design digs.
Ali has applied her creative painting touches to many of the common areas in her new studio digs. She stenciled the double doors of the lobby with the Herringbone Pattern Stencil from Royal Design Studio.
You’ve recently acquired a new space! Would love to hear more…
In Houston, I had a studio in my home. When my husband and I decided to move, I knew that I wanted to rent studio space. I found Chattanooga WorkSpace while doing some research online. This building, once a nursing home in the middle of downtown, sat vacant for a period of time. It has been amazing to see the building evolve. I was one of the first artists to move in and the building is now home to 35 separate artist studios. Each month we host open studio night and we invite the public to come through and see our latest work. This has been a tremendous opportunity for me to promote my business in my new city. I also really enjoy working side by side with other creatives. We bounce ideas off of each other and sometimes collaborate on projects.
In another common area, Ali created a faux stenciled rug featuring the Chez Ali Moroccan stencil from Royal Design Studio.
What caused your move and what challenges did that create?
Towards the end of 2012, my husband’s company offered him a new position at their plant in Chattanooga. It was not an easy choice for the two of us to make. We had moved to Houston only a few years prior and my business was doing very well but we decided to make the move. Relocating my business two times from 2010 to 2013 definitely presented challenges, but it has also forced me to be continually growing as an artist and as an entrepreneur. I have never gotten to the point where, I’m just comfortable and I think that might have been a good thing. I’m constantly seeking new opportunities, contacts, and outlets for my work.
How did you go about designing your studio?
When I moved into my studio, the first order of business was to create some storage. Luckily I have a handy husband who helped me wall off a section of my space and create a closet with shelves. The next thing I knew that I was going to need was a large smooth wall to create canvas murals on. Most of the walls in my building are concrete block. We had to frame up a wall with drywall so that I could have a smooth surface to paint on. Creating murals on canvas that can be shipped out and installed has become a big part of my business. It allows me to continue to work with clients who are out-of-state. Another thing I needed was a large work table. My husband and I built this ourselves and we put it on casters so I can push it out of the way if I need the floor space. I feel like my studio is still a work in progress. I had to make it functional first and now I’m hoping to have some time to make it more inspiring.
What kind of artwork is created at your studio?
Every kind. You can probably tell from looking at my portfolio that I do not have one specific style that I limit myself to. I do whatever my clients ask for, within reason. I am a 2-D artist though so it’s mostly paintings and drawings.
A wall stenciled with the Florentine Damask stencil from Royal Design Studio provides a pretty patterned backdrop for some of Ali’s canvas work.
What do you think are studio “must haves”?
For me it’s organization. I cannot work in a messy environment. I know that sounds crazy coming from a right-brained artist. Lighting is another big thing. I have some great windows in my studio.
Any tips for organizing tools and organizing creative time?
I really like how my workbench and peg board turned out. The workbench is made from some old kitchen cabinets that I found on Craigslist. I painted them and added the chalk board door fronts so I could keep track of where things would go. I made the work surface on top out of 3/4” MDF board. I added the pegboard for my tools. To dress it up a bit, I added the decorative molding around the outside of it. I like having all my tools right there where I can see them. As far as organizing creative time, that can be difficult. I usually have several things going at once but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Now that my studio is located outside of my home, I do much better at staying on task. When your studio is in your house, it’s very easy to get distracted by other chores that need attention.
Tell me more about your workshops that you are now offering and how those came about.
Teaching really is something rather new for me but I am enjoying it. I taught at the International Decorative Artists League Convention this past year and it was very rewarding. I guess that was really what started it all. I offered my first class at my own studio in Chattanooga in December. There is a large gallery space at my studio that all of the artists share. I was able to rent in out for the class and that allowed us to have plenty of space. Right now I will be teaching at The Faux Retreat along with Diane Corso April 23-27th of this year as well as planning more workshops in my studio.
Many thanks to the effervescent Ali Kay for taking the time to “sit” with me and I hope you’ve taking a peek at her colorfully creative studio-Positive Space. You can always check her website, Positive Space, to keep up-to-date with her works and classes. Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on Ali’s unique canvas work and an equally colorful stencil tutorial right here on Paint + Pattern!