Kristin Llamas of Kristin Llamas Fine Art compares her childhood to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. As the second oldest of nine children and the granddaughter of an artist, Kristin and her three oldest siblings (all girls) excelled at finding entertainment in life’s simple, pre-Netflix pleasures. “My sisters and I spent our days making up games, performing plays, building forts, sewing clothes and constantly creating,” explains the Nashville artist.
In a loud and chaotic house, she found (and still finds) peace in sketching, and she knew at age 7 her life would be centered around art. Kristin recalls telling her mother she would like to be three things as an adult: “A mother like [her], a ‘starving’ artist, and a farmer.” She now has three daughters of her own, an art career and chickens that provide dozens of fresh eggs.
The pandemic lockdowns and subsequent challenges allowed Kristin to find new forms of creativity. She and her daughters spent their days walking the creek near her Tennessee home and collecting earth and minerals to grind into pigments. They even used the yolks from their chickens’ eggs to turn shades of red and gray into handmade egg tempera paint. They also created handmade paper out of recycled and organic materials, pulping excess mail and shipping materials to produce an entirely new collection aptly named “Remnants of Home.” “It is a symbol of making do with what we already have and a celebration of nature’s resilience as well as the beauty of simplicity,” says Kristin.
The artist’s ability to find magic in the monotony was, of course, tested throughout last year. Like Kristin, the artwork she created in that mindset rose above the damage from the Nashville tornadoes last March. One of her most recognizable pieces, “What is Temperance?” (commonly known as “The America Piece”), miraculously survived the tornado that destroyed the home of the person who owned the piece. It was then put on display, along with many of Kristin’s other pieces, at The Studio 208, a loft in downtown Nashville that houses local artists’ work.
When downtown Nashville was bombed on Christmas morning, all of the windows of The Studio 208’s historic building were blown out, throwing much of the art within off the walls and leaving glass and debris in its wake. Although Kristin did lose one precious piece called “What is Honor?”, the rest of her artwork, including “What is Temperance?”, once again survived — a tangible representation of the unwavering strength and resilience that Nashville shows time and time again. “[That piece] has since become a symbol of hope and perseverance in troubled times and was featured in national news and in a recent [local] news feature,” the artist shares.
Kristin’s hope-filled artistry also radiates through her Llama Collection. She began creating this smile-worthy collection of llama artwork (available on SB Shop) in 2015 when she felt a particular sense of division in the country. The collection is a play on her last name, yes. But more than that, the llama represents strength, perseverance, communication, and community. Kristin asks people, ¿Como te llamas? and creates a new llama named after them — each with its own personality and one-of-a-kind sense of wonder. That desire to connect us through something we all have — a name — is important to the artist, who explains that we are all “one herd.”
Kristin partnered with the city of Nashville to display an 11-foot-tall version of one of her all-time favorite llamas, “Ken,” on a WeGo Transit city bus, which provides public transportation throughout Downtown Nashville. And in 2019, Chronicle Books published a book full of Kristin’s llamas called ¿Como te llamas? Everyday Llamas You Might Know. “I love seeing the reaction people have to this collection. The theme behind most of my collections is unity, and this collection touches on that with so much fun,” says Kristin.
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After last year’s turmoil, Kristin inspires us to remain creative and find beauty in simplicity. When asked what she learned through the challenges of 2020, she says, “I know so many feel as I do, full of reservation and cautious hope for 2021. I know we all feel very vulnerable in this world right now, but we are built on community and resilience. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one celebrates, we all celebrate. We are in it together.”
We plan to bring this lesson with us into 2021, and we hope you are inspired to do the same!
To learn more about Kristin and shop her original artwork, visit kllamas.com.
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