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Meet Kendall Reiss of Kendall Reiss Gallery & Studio in Rhode Island

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kendall Reiss.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
A native of Bristol, Rhode Island, I grew up exploring the rocky shoreline of Narragansett Bay. I attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA where I received a BS in Geology, which provides the visual training and hands-on approach I now apply to my career as an artist and educator. After studying independently at several independent institutions including the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, I returned to school to combine my fascination with the natural world with the study of jewelry. In 2011, I received a MFA in Jewelry + Metalsmithing from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Upon graduating from RISD, I rented part of a shared studio in the AJ Land building on Harris Avenue in Providence, RI. There was an incredibly supportive community of makers in that building, and I was beginning to produce jewelry for retail sale. Knowing I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship, I established the business as a sole proprietor in 2012. By maintaining a studio in Providence I remained closely connected with the RISD alumni community, while having a direct line to the rich history of jewelry production and industry professionals in the Rhode Island area. As the business expanded, the studio moved to several different locations before settling in Bristol, RI in 2014.

Since moving back to Bristol, the business has grown to the point of purchasing a commercial property on Wood Street in January 2017. Kendall Reiss Gallery & Studio officially opened last July 2017 as a contemporary, multifaceted art space. Located in the eclectic Wood Street neighborhood, the business offers a fresh retail gallery showcasing the work of emerging and established artists and designers, as well as studio and classroom space.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Confronting failure is inherently part of the artistic process, as is the necessity for creative problem solving. While things have not always been straightforward, I’ve been able to come up with creative solutions to surmount challenges, and I have been incredibly fortunate to be continually bolstered by my community of friends, colleagues and family throughout difficult times.

When I was ready to pursue loan funding for the purchase of commercial property in Bristol, I faced a lot of challenges. Numerous lending institutions were unwilling to work with me due to my business’s relatively short financial history; however, I was determined to make it work. After being turned away by a dozen or so local banks and credit unions, Bank 5 in Bristol was able to work with me to find a creative solution. By partnering with the South Eastern Economic Development (SEED) Corporation and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Bank 5 helped secure funding for my project. Through mentorship from SEED I was connected to the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center, whose dedicated staff offered enormous help with the business-planning phase of the project. I was able to purchase property at 469 Wood Street and undergo a complete renovation of the building; thanks to help and guidance I received from innumerable individuals throughout the process.

Being an entrepreneur and starting a small business while holding down a full-time teaching job has been an incredibly humbling experience and a test of my time management. Yet, through adversity comes growth. I find that my work as an educator and my work as a business owner are integrally connected. Lessons learned through business are applicable for art students, as they work to discover their own methodologies for sustaining a creative practice.

Kendall Reiss Gallery & Studio – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
In my art practice I focus on two separate yet parallel modes of investigation: the design and fabrication of contemporary jewelry alongside material experiments, which result in sculptural objects and time-based installations. I am dedicated to hand fabricating impeccably crafted pieces in my studio. I work directly with clients on bespoke commissioned works, which often incorporate gemstones and precious metals. In addition to one-of-a-kind pieces, I make limited production jewelry, as well as fine art works. Exhibits include the Greenville Center for Creative Arts, Greenville, SC, Bristol Art Museum, Bristol, RI and Haskell Public Gardens, New Bedford, MA. I am also an independent curator and have worked collaboratively on curatorial projects across New England and on the West Coast. I am a full-time faculty member at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University where I am a Professor of the Practice in the 3D & Sculpture Department, and co-director of the Senior Thesis Program.

Applying an adaptable approach to entrepreneurship has allowed my business to expand and has garnered interest and support from the local community. I am always eager to collaborate, cross-pollinate, and otherwise, get together with my colleagues in the arts and beyond with goals of common good in mind. Fortunately, Bristol boasts a young burgeoning arts community, which I have been fortunate enough to become a part of.

Being the recipient of funding through Rhode Island Commerce Corporation has presented enriching opportunities, such as being invited to meet with RI governor Gina Raimondo on several occasions to speak about my experience in entrepreneurship and the current picture of small business in the state. My involvement with art communities in Rhode Island and Boston means the gallery serves as a dynamic meeting point for local artists to share discourse. It is important to me to help raise awareness around arts in the community – by opening the gallery for free events and programs, and partnering with local non-profits like Art Night Bristol Warren and Coggeshall Farm Museum, I try to integrate the work I do as a community member with my work as an artist and professional.

SURFACE to SUBSTRATE is on view through August 31, 2018 at Kendall Reiss Gallery & Studio. Featuring the work of Alyn Carlson, Tanya Crane and Aprie Gennetian, SURFACE to SUBSTRATE explore the concept of landscape through the lens of three contemporary artists. Works in the exhibition employ a wide variety of media including Carlson’s paintings and drawings inspired by the stark Icelandic landscape, delicate mixed media collages by Gennetian, in combination with Crane’s intricate sgraffito enamel jewelry. The gallery is open by appointment or by serendipity. To schedule a time to visit, please email or call: kendallreiss@gmail.com | (401) 662-7935.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
As an artist, defining success, or more precisely, recognizing one’s own success can be difficult. We are accustomed to being in the mode of insecurity – constantly questioning our motivations, our process, and our output. Ultimately, I have come to believe it is less about success or failure and more about fulfillment. Whether at the jeweler’s bench or in the studios and classrooms at SMFA, my days are full of wonder and real gratitude. I am privileged to work amongst colleagues and collaborators whom I respect. Throughout my artistic practice, my teaching, and my work as a small business owner, the goal is to keep being productive, no matter what that means. To keep working towards good.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 469 Wood Street, Bristol, RI 02809
  • Website: http://www.kendallreiss.com
  • Phone: 401-662-7935
  • Email: kendallreiss@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @kendall..a.reiss
  • Facebook: Kendall Reiss

Image Credit:
Simone Schiess
Kendall Reiss
Simone Schiess

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