West Bend’s Joan Kennedy
gives a tour of her downtown West Bend studio during an
event sponsored by the Wisconsin Designer Crafts Council
in this undated photo.
Kennedy was always interested in art and design. She
made her own handbags in high school and she studied it
further in college, but it wasn’t until 12 years ago —
when her own children went away to college — she finally
decided to focus on her current path of using wool to
create wearable items.
Kennedy is a skilled fiber artist and is involved with
every part of the process, a transformation she calls “a
is her fiber of choice. She uses recycled material found
in sweaters and other wool garments to create handbags,
scarves and hats — first dying the wool, turning it to
felt and conjuring up a design. Eventually, she
translates that design into one of her original pieces.
Kennedy is inspired by nature: the rich colors of a
flower, the subtle lines of a leaf or a ripple of water.
The style was a subconscious choice for her. When she
began designing the botanical pieces, she lived in a
house in the woods and her art reflected that.
suddenly dawned on me,” Kennedy said. “I’m just
absorbing the shapes and colors of the environment that
many years she worked out of her home, storing materials
in tubs and dying fabrics in her bathtub.
Kennedy said it became difficult to separate the two
environments. When she was working, she was distracted
by things at home and at the end of the day she couldn’t
leave her work.
she decided to move her work to a studio. Now, she has a
functional location where she has the space for each
task involved and less distraction.
wanted to be able to welcome people into my studio,”
Joan Kennedy’s work is seen on display at her downtown
West Bend studio.
front of her business is set up as a showroom for that
purpose. Although it’s only open for appointments so
that she can focus on her work, she also uses it for her
allows me to continue down a path,” Kennedy said.
added sometimes the process still amazes her, so the
showroom is also a place for her to analyze her designs
and draw more inspiration from them.
Located in downtown West Bend on Main Street, her studio
gives her flexibility when it comes to turning her craft
into business opportunities.
Beginning Nov. 25 through December, for the holiday
season, she is welcoming six other artists to share her
business space downtown, where they will be open to the
public and sell their goods.
Being a downtown business, she also gets a spot at the
West Bend Farmers’ Market. She has four spots coming up
— Aug. 26, Sept. 1, Sept. 30 and Oct. 21.
Since moving out of her home in the woods and into a
studio, her style has not changed, all of her wearable
items are still an expression of the natural world.
seek it out a little more now,” Kennedy said.
visits friends’ yards and community gardens for
stimulation or she spends time at the Museum of
Wisconsin Art just across the river.
year, one of her newer pieces is an idea that came from
a friend’s garden. She had poppies in her yard and
Kennedy created a poppy handbag and scarf.
Kennedy is passionate about her craft and enjoys
participating in art fairs.
Today and Sunday, she is part of an elite selection of
artists in the Morning Glory Art Fair in Milwaukee. For
the fair, 120 artists were selected. The Morning Glory
Fair is on the Marcus Center grounds, 929 N. Water St.,
Milwaukee, and is one of the top-100 fine art fairs in
more on Kennedy, visit her website at
www.joankennedyart.com to see her work and what other
festivals she will be at throughout the year.