Young at Art
The first time I met Elijah Kell was a few years ago, when we both had work at a gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Elijah is a glass artist, and people were flocking to see and purchase his art, and he clearly loved telling them about it. There was no doubt he was the gallery’s brightest star, and at the time, he was just 14 years old.
Yes, you read that right. By the time Elijah was 14, his work was in the collections of some very discerning glass experts. But as unlikely as that is, his personal story is just as magical. You see, Elijah was born with dyslexia and had difficulty both in school and life in general. He retreated to his safe place, which was art, mainly painting with watercolors.
A family friend, who was an art educator, took young Elijah under her wing and introduced him to the wide world of art and art history. She made glass items that fascinated Elijah. Soon he was begging her to let him try his hand at what was clearly a dangerous hobby for a young boy. Finally at age 10, he made a glass mosaic cross that hangs in his studio to this day.
Elijah was captivated by the way glass reacts to various techniques. He was making kiln formed glass sculptures, adding layers of shapes to create a final sculpture. He started with a series depicting glass mountains and oceans. He equated glass making to playing a game of chess, meaning he had to have the outcome firmly in his mind, and then imagine each step in a backwards progression, so the final product looked like what was in his head.
This was quite masterful for a young boy. However, his parents looked at the impressive amount he was producing and told him he had to find a way to make his hobby sustainable. There was a small art festival in his hometown of Mint Hill, North Carolina, so Elijah packed up 15 of his glass pieces and set up his first sale.
What was most daunting for him was meeting and talking to strangers. His enthusiasm for his glass literally propelled him, and he realized he could actually pitch to adults. The result was he sold all 15 pieces at his first event, and he was just 10 years old.
Today, Elijah is a full-time artist and businessman. His business, Kell Glass, LLC, has two major showrooms — one at Gallery 811 in Charlotte and the other about 30 miles north at Juelerye Artisan Gallery in Mooresville, North Carolina.
He participates in area art organizations and does an amazing number of commissions. As a recent high school graduate, Elijah manages his own business and works part time at the art gallery at Central Piedmont Community College. Since his long-term goal is to have his own gallery, this is a great way to learn the ropes.
While his artistic talent is huge, it is accompanied by an engaging and gentle personality. Elijah is incredibly articulate. He writes a monthly newsletter to his customers and is on Instagram @elijahkellglass.
He credits his parents as his most important advisers and expresses enormous gratitude to everyone who has advanced his career. He partners with the nonprofit, Art for Life, a program that serves pediatric patients in hospitals, donating 100% of the sale from two special glass pieces each month.
You can learn more about Elijah at elijahkellartglass.com. My guess is you will be engaging with a future bright star in the art world!Click here to read more heartbeat artist profiles
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina.