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Conversations with Kelly Shirey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Shirey. 

Hi Kelly, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
My business started as I navigated my grief journey after the loss of our daughter, Eden Isabella. She was stillborn on August 21, 2017. After her loss, I was looking for something to memorialize her and stumbled upon the idea of newborn footprints turned into a sign. Unfortunately, exactly what I wanted was not available to order. The idea of her tiny little footprints and the chance to run my fingers over them and remember the feel of them was so often on my mind over the next year. I finally presented the idea to my husband and said, “I feel like we could figure out how to make this,” and then went down the black hole that is the internet googling things like “how to cut tiny shapes in wood” or “how to make a wood sign” and finally stumbled upon a video of a scroll saw. I had never even heard of a scroll saw before, but shortly after that, I was gifted one! 

I have since spent countless hours researching this process and found a new passion in woodworking that I never imagined. Before I set out to make her footprint sign, I started with simple shapes and then tried cutting handwriting. I improved those signs and even recreated some children’s art! I was then able to upgrade to a better saw, and with that, I had the confidence to finally try to make her sign. I remember finishing cutting her footprints and just holding them in the palm of my hand feeling that the whole process of getting there was so healing. I knew that I wanted to create items like this for other loss moms which is why I decided to turn this hobby into a business. 

We do signs now for just about anything, not just to memorialize people but to capture all of life’s celebrations! Nursery signs, growth charts, family portraits, wedding signs, logos, anything you can dream up! These signs capture people’s most precious memories, stories, and moments and I couldn’t be more grateful to be able to do this! 

I’ll never fully understand why we had to lose Eden, but it is that journey that led me down this path. A path where I can be home more with my boys but still able to provide for them. Without her, I would not have discovered my love for woodworking and would still be working retail full time. I can see a new path for my life with my family. I find fulfillment, passion, and a sense of purpose in creating these signs. There has been great healing for me in the scroll saw, and I know the art that comes from that saw can bring healing and joy to others. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The road to learning the scroll saw was a rocky one, and there were many, many tears along the way. Again, I never envisioned myself doing any type of woodworking and knew nothing about that area of work. I also found it was difficult to find good information on the process of scroll sawing when I first started, and there is so much to the process! What material to use, what blade to use, proper PPE, and how to guide your material properly through the blade. And that was just to get the shape/writing cut out. After that, it was figuring out the best paint or stain method, how to properly assemble the signs, and make sure they would be durable/high quality. Everything was new, and the phrase “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” sticks in my head. I didn’t even know what questions to ask or where to ask them! 

The world of scroll saw artists has grown immensely since I started, and every day, its online presence is growing. I have found a wonderful community of support through Instagram. My favorite part is that we are all rooting for each other to succeed. “Community over competition” could not be more true. I’m more likely to challenge myself and try more difficult techniques because now, if I run into an issue, I have a whole group of creatives ready to jump in and help! 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I call myself a scroll saw artist, and I create 3d signs out of wood and MDF. The business started as recreating loved ones’ handwriting, children’s art, and newborn footprints but has evolved so much since then. I’ve recently started doing more business logos and nursery signs, which have been so fun. These really give me a chance to grow creatively and challenge myself. I love looking at a logo and imagining how I would “level up” the sign by adding hardwoods or different dimensions; or the chance to take a parent’s concept for a child’s nursery name sign and create a timeless work of art for them! The last large nursery sign I completed was called “heirloom quality,” and I could not have been more flattered by this statement. My husband and I work so hard to bring the highest quality work to our customers, and it was so nice to have someone recognize the quality of the sign as well as the art. 

I am most well known in the scroll saw community for my angel portraits and these signs hold the most special place in my heart. My idea for them was totally original, and I still don’t see others that are able to recreate them the way I do. As I’ve started creating these, I found that the hardest part is drawing my template. They all need to start with a photo because one of the things that makes them so special is that you can actually tell who the people are on the sign. I remember a stranger commenting on a sign once and saying they knew the family when I hadn’t even said who the family was! It was so cool! On top of the people that you have photos of, I do draw in angels, and sometimes we don’t have a photo of them, especially for pregnancy and infant loss. This design process can be sensitive but also healing. How should their child be portrayed in this art? When they meet their baby, do they imagine that child as an infant, or have they grown? What color is their hair? Do they look like any siblings? So many women who have lost a baby want to talk about that child, and this is a really wonderful way to allow them to do just that. One of the greatest things I’ve ever had a recipient of one of these signs say was, “You put my baby back in my arms,”… and while I could never actually do that, it is a beautiful way for a mom to see her entire family in a work of art. 

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
I was one of the lucky businesses not to be greatly affected by Covid-19. However, I am still a part-time pharmacist. As you can imagine, that world was greatly impacted. The level of stress in the healthcare field was like never before but having my art as an outlet greatly helped me through it. 

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1 Comment

  1. Patricia Reese

    September 2, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    Wow,what a beautiful article and person.

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