Kimberly Wyant: A Life Repurposed through KRaP Art
By Andrea Cruz
Artist Kimberly Wyant went through a lot of crap before she found success with KRaP.
Her innate creative talent was wrought by a childhood marked with secrecy and alcoholism, her father’s and her own. Her parents didn’t understand her creative spirit. The path to artistic freedom took Wyant from boarding school to fashion design school and from go-go dancing on stage to costume design in film and television.
Wyant’s first memory of creating art is coloring on her bed sheets with crayons. Later, she transitioned to coloring on the walls, which frustrated her prim and proper mother to no end. But as she tells it, however, the Lakeland artist’s artistic talents didn’t really start flourishing until the age of 24 – when she quit drinking.
Wyant started drinking when she was just 14.
Very open about her past struggles alcoholism, Wyant, owner of Kimberly’s Recycled Art Projects (KRaP), says it’s all part of who she is.
“It was really hard to go through, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be me,” she says. “And all of it helps me to understand other people in the world. It makes me a better person because I get it. I get what they’re going through. I’ve been there.”
Her compassion is just one of Wyant’s varied qualities. A cheerful person, she’s rarely met a stranger, and her outfits are usually as enthusiastic as her personality. Known for colored streaks in her hair, flowing skirts, a signature hat, the occasional glittery lipstick, and a fair amount of tattoos, she’s often barefoot, always with a smile. Wyant is definitely comfortable with who she is, what she does, and with the path she’s travelled on thus far.
Painted Into a Corner
Wyant, 48, was born in Santa Monica, Calif., to parents of well-to-do means. The family, including her older sister, lived comfortably thanks to her father’s career designing defense weapons for the government. His job required a great deal of secrecy.
“We weren’t even allowed to see his office,” Wyant says. A career of highly guarded secrets bled over into his personal life, however, and Wyant says that her father, who passed away last summer, hid things from the family, such as his own struggles with alcohol.
Although Wyant says she cannot remember much from her childhood, she does remember she always felt loved.
“We had an emotionally dysfunctional family, but we had a good life at the same time. It was a very weird combination. Money can’t buy everything,” she says.
Besides the alcoholism hiding in plain sight, Wyant says much of the dysfunction came from a generation gap. Her parents did not see value in her artistic talents, and instead steered her toward being a secretary.
Ironically, this lack of support was history repeating itself. Wyant’s own mother had wanted to be a lawyer, but her parents discouraged her. She eventually became a stewardess and a homemaker. Wyant reflects on this irony with a sense of acceptance. It’s just how things were back then.
There was also a lot more freedom back in the days Wyant was growing up. Parents didn’t “helicopter” over you, she says, and so her drinking began quite innocently with neighborhood kids in fields and anywhere else they weren’t being watched.
Her anger at the lack of attention from her father was a major catalyst as well. And turning to the bottle was very casual in the beginning. However, it progressed – and not in a good way.
“I never had an off switch with the drinking,” she says. “It always got to the point of blackout when I drank. I was fine to a certain point but because I had no off switch I would just go beyond that point.”
Regardless of her drinking, Wyant continued creating art, much of it splatter, geometric, and abstract.
“I’ll never forget this. I was so excited; I had been up all night,” she says. “I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t doing any drugs and I was super into this art that I was doing. I was in the garage in my parents’ house, and I was so happy with it and I went in to get my dad and show him what I had done.”
“He looked at the art, and he looked at me, and he goes, ‘You got paint all over the floor.’”
Her father’s reaction devastated Wyant. But, she says, that’s how her parents dealt with her talent.
After she and her roommate got kicked out of boarding school – for drinking – Wyant’s parents sent her to fashion design and merchandising school, and she somehow got talked into the marketing path.
“I don’t like that. I’m an artist,” she says. “I’m not numbers, I’m not marketing. I don’t want to do sales.”
Floundering, hurting people she loved, and knowing she was not making good choices, Wyant eventually attempted suicide by slitting her wrists. Fortunately, her survival was a wake up call and that’s when she quit drinking all together. She was 24 years old.
Sobriety and Embracing Her Art
About a year into her sobriety, Wyant found a cool apartment for herself and started painting again.
“There was a post that went up in the center of the room and I started zebra striping that,” she says. Her former boarding school roommate came over, saw the zebra-striped pole, and took Wyant to an art store.
“She bought me a piece of art paper, some pencils, some watercolors, some pastels, and she sat me down and said ‘You need to start, do me a drawing.’”
From that Wyant created a series of faces, and not soon after had her first art show.
In between shows and commissioned work, to support herself, Wyant held a series of jobs, including waitress, bartender, Go-Go Dancer, and costume designer for the other Go-Go dancers at the club.
Securing a casting agent, Wyant figured out whom to talk to, and says she was assertive in letting the right people know what she could do. Eventually, she landed a gig as the snow monster in Power Rangers Storybook Adventures.
“I got to throw boulders at the Power Rangers,” Wyant grins. Her television connections worked in her benefit and Wyant was offered and accepted a job in the creature department doing costumes. It was her very first job in film and television.
Wyant eventually became the department head for Fox Kids Network, which was the turning point for her and her father, who finally admitted that her artistic endeavors could and did pay off. He was proud of her.
In fact, Wyant says after she gave up drinking, and went through rehab, she and her father grew and healed together. His support for her and her art grew and he eventually became one of her biggest cheerleaders.
A concrete sculpting job at Universal Studios brought Wyant to Florida, where she met her future husband, Bryan. Together, she and Bryan travelled, taking jobs where they could, including working on the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, and Mardi Gras World in New Orleans. They even laid pipes at Kennedy Space Center. Eventually, Wyant became pregnant with their son and they settled in Lakeland.
While wayfarers, Wyant and her husband didn’t have much, so they made do with what they could find – often rescuing other people’s discards. Using her artistic vision, Wyant repaired, painted, and often repurposed items into something entirely different than their original, intended purpose.
Stopping for a time in San Antonio, they checked out Wimberley, Texas, a nearby artisan community. Wyant’s husband bought her a booth in an artisan market, and they filled it with her upcycled treasures. And it was her husband who came up with the pause-causing business name of “KRaP.”
“He said crap. You need to call it crap — Kimberly’s Recycled Art Projects. Crap with a k,” she says. At the time, they laughed about it but decided to go with it. She says she has no regrets, and loves every time someone gets a kick out of it, too.
Andrea Mills, owner of Massage by Andrea, says creativity is Wyant’s forte. Not only does Mills offer Wyant’s pieces for sale in the spa, but the artist’s murals add a special ambiance to the place. Mills’ favorite is a lotus flower, and adds that her spa clients are in awe of Wyant’s talent.
“They enjoy seeing these unique pieces of recycled art projects that she creates. They get a kick every time we tell them the name of her business is KRaP,” she says.
In addition to paintings, furniture, sculptures, and wind chimes, much of the other functional art Wyant creates is jewelry. Her supplies often include fused glass, ceramic, and beads. But she is best known for her bottle cap earrings and pendants, and more recently, for her bicycle-inspired, wearable art.
Beth Geohagan of BeFly Bike Tours says she wanted to encourage kids’ creativity with bicycle parts as part of her tours, and put out a call on Facebook for an artist that could make it happen. She says the respondents overwhelmingly recommended one person: Kimberly Wyant.
Geohagan met up with Wyant at her studio and they assembled little packets with chain and bottle caps.
“So the kids were able to make key chains and bracelets,” Geohagan says, “and that’s how she started what she calls the ‘Off the Chain’ collection.”
“There is a piece of bike chain incorporated to almost everything that she does now,” Geohagan says laughing.
The Art of Being Happy
Selling at the downtown Lakeland market each Saturday, Wyant gained momentum and soon found the need for a separate space for her artistic endeavors. Her husband suggested she rent the unused part of the barbershop next to their home.
Together they created an art gallery and a studio workspace for Wyant, who loves being so close to home for the sake of her 13-year-old son, Logan.
Like many artists, Wyant often loses track of time while creating art. She cites many late nights in her studio when, before she realizes, it’s 3 a.m.
“I’ve gotten so into it, taking things apart, it’s to a point where I literally have to force myself to stop,” she says. “It’s a rush.”
Inspiration pops up randomly, and Wyant says she is easily distracted. While working on a piece, a new idea might come to her and she’ll stop what she’s doing, quickly laying out the parts for the inspired project, and then return to finish her original project. Her art makes her happy, and she hopes it makes others happy, too.
“I think that I can bring happiness to people, and I want to do that,” she says. “It’s very egotistical to think that I could do something to make other people happy because people have to make themselves happy, but if I could do or be something that brings joy to people around me, whether it’s because they’re laughing at me or laughing with me, or having a new experience because they’ve never met anyone like me… whatever emotional experience I’m giving people, I like giving them that.”
Geohagan sees Wyant as a magician artist. Having asked Wyant to paint her BeFly Bikes logo on a painting, she was surprised when Wyant called her the same day to say it was finished. And it was affixed with special bicycle-related parts.
“Not only can she do (art) beyond what you’re expecting, but she adorns it with special things and she does it almost instantaneously,” Geohagan says. “I had never seen anybody produce amazing artwork as fast as she does. She meets every deadline, and on top of it she takes care of her family and all of her animals. She is a powerful woman.”
Geohagan says Wyant’s art is like her personality: Bright, happy, colorful, and honest.
“It’s like looking at your best friend,” Geohagan says.
Wyant’s husband likens her to a butterfly, and she feels a connection to the winged creature in that overtime she, too, has emerged and transformed her life into a thing of beauty.
Mills describes Wyant as a free spirit woman, who loves openly, treats everyone the same, and cares with every being of her body. She believes that Wyant’s life struggles have encouraged her to thrive with passion and determination to be the loving, caring artist that she is now.
Wyant’s gallery, located at 2619 S. Lincoln Ave. in Lakeland, also features the art of other local artisans, including Holly Johnson with Mudhutpottery Pottery; Connie Buyens of Melt My Heart Studios (fused glass, large plates, stained glass and recycled glass art); Wayne Wiggins with hand-turned wood bowls, vases and pens. Sallie Henry with hand-sculpted fairies, paintings, murals and faux finishes.
In addition to her gallery, Wyant’s pieces can be found locally in her booth each Saturday in downtown Lakeland, as well as two other Lakeland businesses: Bent’s Cycling and Massage by Andrea.
For more info visit call 863-860-1711.