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Meet the Maker: Birds Kept North

Meet Kelly of Birds Kept North!  We’ve gotten the privilege of working with Kelly through Unglued since at least 2013!  You’ll recognize some of her screen printed designs below and even check out Josh Duhamel sportin’ one of her designs and learn about how she designed NDSU’s tartan…

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Hello, my name is Kelly, and I was born and raised in Bismarck, ND. I studied Apparel & Textiles as well as Art in college at NDSU in Fargo. After I graduated in 2013, I got married and moved to Marshall, MN with my husband. Then, after a few years, we had our first baby and moved to where we currently live; Lakeville, MN. I’ve never had a 9-5 job, just summer jobs like concession worker/train driver at the Dakota Zoo, so once I started Birds Kept North I fell in love with the freedom and opportunities it opened me up to. I am able to work from home while raising my daughter. I am also able to enjoy more free time for some of my other favorite hobbies like sewing, oil painting, hiking and thrifting.

Describe your handmade business:

I began Birds Kept North in 2012 as a creative outlet to earn some extra cash when I was in college at NDSU. I mainly design and create silkscreened apparel for the whole family, using a handmade process from start to finish, all done by me in a small bedroom-turned-studio. I also print on canvas banners and seasonally upcycle thrifted sweaters into mittens, stockings and more. My designs are inspired by the Midwest and they have an outdoors, “let’s go on an adventure” feel. Each design starts out as an idea, then becomes a drawing that becomes a painting on a screen that is placed by hand, filled with ink and printed by hand. In the past few years, I began offering my designs as surface designs on fabric, gift wrap, and wallpaper on Spoonflower, which has allowed me to expand my small business and fuel other small businesses.

(photo credit: Everett’s Barber Shop)

What is one of your most favorite items you have made?

I’m really bad at letting go of creations I love, but luckily with printmaking I can print the same design again and again. My favorite print tends to be the latest one I design because it’s new and fresh, but I will always love my original bison print (even Josh Duhamel’s wore it!).

What are your most essential tools?

My own two hands first and foremost are the most essential tools I use. But, I couldn’t do without a paint brush, drawing paper, a sharpie and screen frames.

How has your business evolved over the years since beginning?

I began BKN with hand painted silk scarves as well as hand printed tees, but I no longer paint silk. The tees I offered in the beginning were one-of-a-kind, printed randomly in different colors. I also dabbled in other handmade products along the way; zipper pouches, tea towels, beanies, hand-dyed apparel, and jewelry holders made with upcycled materials. At first, I only sold my products at local art shows and markets, but over the years I have consigned and now offer wholesale. Now, I feel my products are professional and my business image is consistent and authentic.

I believed you designed the NDSU tartan?!  Can you tell us how that came about and how your design process went:

It’s true, I’m proud to say I am the official NDSU tartan designer. They made designing the tartan a competition when I was a junior in college, and I took it seriously. Entries were judged for originality and aesthetic, and representation and interpretation of NDSU’s history and colors. I presented my design along with an essay that took a lot of thought and research. It was voted on by the student body and chosen as the winner.

What is a word that best describes you?


What advice would you have given yourself 5 years ago?

Be proud of what you’ve made and keep going, building a business takes a lot of time and hard work.

Any super random tidbit about yourself?!

I’m kind of a wizard at recreating colors. Like if you showed me a color swatch and gave me a bunch of paint, I could mix up that exact color, easy-peasy.

Website/etsy to keep in touch:

Instagram: @birdskeptnorth

THANK YOU KELLY!!  Be sure to stop by to check out her work of your next Fargo gift and at the links above!


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