Holly Kimola is new to art, as she didn’t grow up practicing a variety of mediums, but that hasn’t stopped her from diving in wholeheartedly. The Fernie-based artist has two main loves: lamp making and leatherwork, diversifying her portfolio.
“My first love was making lamps. I called myself Grinding Lights and I make all of my lamps out of recycled vintage parts that I find around and mostly out of meat grinders and colanders,” said Kimola.
Kimola started experimenting with leatherwork after moving to Fernie in 2011. She was familiar with its multiple uses, as she grew up using it as much as possible.
“I’ve been a horse person all of my life, always using leather. And then moving to Fernie and just trying to find my bearings in town, I spent a lot of time hanging out with an old cowboy named Brian Ironmonger,” she said. “he has Brian’s Saddle Shop in between here and Cranbrook, so I spent several hours a week just hanging out at his shop and listening to his stories and sort of watching him work with leather. He would sort of show me a little bit here and there or give me a piece of leather and some tools and send me off to the corner so I could try and figure it all out.”
Now, Kimola orders bulk hides from Tandy’s, a retail chain specializing in leatherwork supplies. She makes a variety of goods, including key chains, wallets, belts and backpacks. However, her most popular item sold in the summer was drink cozies that attached to bicycles.
“I think I spent last winter learning how to make belts, got faster at that, and then started bigger and better things. It’s amazing what you can do with leather, whether you are making belts or stamping. You can just do the most beautiful art work stamped right into leather. It’s so versatile,” she said.
When it comes to designing or creating something, Kimola often takes the trial by error approach and learns along the way.
“I see things and I just want to figure out how to make it. I see lamps or I see pieces and I think, ‘I’m going to learn how to make a lamp’,” she said. “And now with the leather, whether it’s belts or special requests from people, which are awesome, I just try and figure out how to make it. That is part of the appeal is just staring at the leather and the idea that the person sent me and just trying to figure out how it all goes together and make it beautiful and functional at the same time.”
Kimola recently acquired a vintage sewing machine that used to be intended for fixing canvas sails on boats. She hopes to use it to expand her portfolio and make bags out of leather and canvas. “I like making art that is functional,” she said.
Kimola has been a part of the Fernie Arts Co-op for two years, which she enjoys as it gives her a community of artists to work with.
“I love how artistic this community is and I love how many different mediums people have,” she said. “I love the smell, I love the floor, I love how supportive all of the artists are and it’s such a tight community. After two years, it’s definitely a little art family.”
Her next show will be at a local holiday craft fair, hosted by Sarah Pike, a potter. Pike has invited five other artists to her show, in which she turns her house into a makeshift gallery. Kimola’s work can also been seen at the Arts Co-op.