Kelly Darke holds up two of the fiber art buttons that she makes. She sells the creations at on her website, an etsy shop, and at Live Coal Gallery. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
Kelly Darke is an art therapist by day and a fiber artist by night. The busy Westland resident creates one-of-a-kind wearable and decorative art made with scraps of fabric, yarn, embroidery thread and pieces of metal, including sterling silver.
Darke earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University with a concentration in metal and oil painting, and a Masters of Education in art therapy. “I’ve done fiber art mostly since 2008, but before that, I was doing more metalsmith jewelry making and oil painting,” she says.
One might wonder why the extreme change in mediums? “I had always used different textile techniques with my fiber jewelry, and it just kind of evolved with that because I was weaving and crocheting with metals,” she says. “ I still do some oil painting, just not exclusively.”
As an art therapist, Darke relies on her fiber art skills to aid her in providing therapeutic counseling. She says, “The textile techniques, like crocheting, knitting and weaving, are relaxing and meditative. I do a lot of fiber work, like weaving, with my clients. We have some things where I work. I create a small weaving loom and show them how, and I teach (them) knitting and crocheting, as well.”
Come September, Darke plans to open a private practice at 12886 Farmington in Livonia. She’s already created the website, mindfulartcenter.com, which reads, in part, “Mindful Art Center was designed so that people of all ages and abilities can reach their full potential, maximizing cognitive and emotional development through the use of art.”
Here Darke shares instructions for making one of the fiber brooches she started creating a year ago. “I was trying to make something similar to the wall art, but smaller. I recycle a lot of the fabrics and threads I use. I collect the threads from my (larger) projects, and as I embroider on the fabric, I trap down other fibers and threads to give it more texture,” she explains.
Darke’s fiber art can be found at Live Coal Gallery, Detroit Artists Market, both in Detroit, and River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte. She occasionally sells her work at the Eastern Market’s Sunday Street Market, which is where I met her.
Embroidered Fiber Brooch
Skill Level: Beginner
Estimated Time: 20 minutes
Tools: A button cover kit (available at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores), embroidery needle, pen with disappearing ink, 3-inch embroidery hoop, scissors, sand paper, hot glue gun
A base fabric, embroidery thread, tiny scraps of fabric, loose threads, a pin back, a glue stick
1.Following instructions in button cover kit, trace template onto base fabric using pen with disappearing ink.
2.Place base fabric in embroidery hoop and stitch design, incorporating small pieces of scrap fabric and loose threads as you work.
Once you finish stitching, remove fabric from hoop and cut around outside circle traced from template.
4. Now, follow remaining steps from kit to complete button.
5. Use sand paper to rough up a small section at center back of button.
6. Place a small line of hot glue along sanded area and quickly cover with pin back.
Contact Kelly Darke at (734) 502-7920 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at KellyDarke.com.
Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or email@example.com. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.