KKDW | Austin Artist

Photographed by: Katie Jameson | Interview of: Kelly DeWitt of KKDW

How did you get started?

Starting KKDW was one of those things that’s a perfectly unhelpful mix of “I know exactly what I want” and “I have no idea how to make that happen.” It’s really just happenstance that the first few approaches I took panned out to pave the way for a viable fabrication business. Before I was even referring to KKDW as… KKDW… I started building small projects for friends. That allowed me to have a laissez-faire approach to the tools and engineering behind my work, and it really let me learn what I was doing without pressure. From there, I took on larger projects for friends, then larger projects for strangers. And now what started as a hobby has grown into a full-service fabrication studio and furniture shop.

Since KKDW’s inception about four years ago, the company has morphed its way through many phases. Its current phase is my favorite yet: my husband along with one of our best friends keeps the shop humming with me. It’s funny to think back on how I used to work alone out of carports or the living room in rental houses while holding down a full-time “job” job, and now I work in my dream workshop on my own land, and my two best buddies and I travel around installing projects. And it feels like we’re only just getting started.

What influences you? / Where do you get your inspiration?

My home is full of books that I turn to regularly—vintage books on homesteading, or cabin building, or flower arranging, or Shaker furniture, or whatever else we’ve hoarded over the years. Those always spark new ideas or support a fresh approach for old ones. 

When the day allows, there’s nothing better than stepping away from the shop to go for a drive. The hills and the colors and the old architecture around here give me a nice rejuvenating separation. If there’s no time for a drive, I’ll take a little hike around the property with my dogs. Beyond day-to-day indulgences, it’s hard to beat a real road trip. The open road gives my mind the freedom to daydream, and from that big sludge of thoughts, typically at least one fledgling idea emerges. And especially recently, I’ve been drawing tons of inspiration from my own needs. For example, our Wreath Rings emerged because I needed a sturdy and reusable wreath form to use in styling.

How do you balance your personal time + work? / How do you create separation?

Ha, no clue. The past year has been its own brand of a super-blob of work that oozes into every crevice of my life.

Our house is nestled in a slice of Central Texas’s hill country, and on the same property we’ve built the workshop and the floral studio; I can hit them all with a football from my front door. Not only is separating work and life an inherently messy web, but what happens when there is no physical separation between the two? Too many nights my head has finally hit the pillow after a long day, and I see the shining lights I forgot to turn off in the workshop staring down at me. I don’t know what the solution is, but maybe a true work/life balance is a privilege you get after you’ve paid your dues. I don’t think it’s possible to grant yourself any kind of balance without working those 20-hr days for months on end; owning a small business is like that, otherwise everyone would do it. As long as I can take steps to weight the scale in the right direction, I can’t be too hard on myself.

What keeps you motivated?/ why do you love doing this?

Amid the chaos of work, there are very real moments when I catch myself skipping to the workshop or studio. My job makes me happy. When I’m in the middle of a project, I’m thinking about the next project—the next furniture design or floral installation or how I want to style a product photo. At any given time, if you could see into my brain, it’s like a million paper airplanes floating around. I pluck one out and open it up and try to focus on that idea for a little while until it’s time for the next one.

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years? / What’s next for your brand?

A few of my dreams down the road are to grow our workshop program even more and extend it to other cities and states, and eventually start a free program for kids that serves as a sort of pre-vocational school since “shop class” is not an option for so many students. 

I’d love to continue working on larger-scale fabrication projects around the country and world. And along those lines, figure out a way to spend summers working in a climate that’s not 100° (if anyone out there wants us to build out their new bar in Alaska, holler!). I’d also like to see the floral styling aspect of my business, KKDW Ranchito, going strong. Other than that, probably a million other fantasies and ideas that keep me going.