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Kelly: So My Happy Spirit Can Prevail

I have been blessed with a happy spirit. Sure, everyone has her share of struggles, and I’ve had mine. My parents have had five marriages and divorces between the two of them, my mother attempted suicide and then a year later did take her own life, and I miscarried twins two days after losing her. But I’ve found that even through all that, I’ve remained a pretty happy spirit. I attribute some of it to those very events. The one lesson that has stuck with me through all of that is one that rests squarely on my shoulders: I am the only person responsible for my happiness. Just me. No one else. I believe that happiness is a choice, regardless of your circumstances.

Art Forms Emerge
When I look back over those times in my life, I realize that what kept me focused was art, in whatever form it took at the time. As a kid, I was into any craft I could get my hands on. In addition to being a wonderfully talented seamstress, my Nana was also a ceramics artist and had her own business selling her ceramics for years. She taught me to sew and she taught me to create dozens of whimsical little ceramics pieces. After my parents divorced in 1978, Mom and Nana introduced me to needlepoint. I was 12. From there I discovered cross-stitch and embroidery. And music … still yet another art form. I started playing piano then and play still today, 32 years later. I realize now that through each major event I’ve experienced in my life, another art form emerged. In high school and all through college, I wrote, pouring my experiences into long detailed essays and journal entries to get everything out. Through the power of the written word, I rid myself of any sadness I experienced so that my happy spirit could prevail. I didn’t dwell on why things happened. I accepted them for the lessons they could give me and then released them. After my mother’s death, I recorded a CD, using music as my therapy, which led me to add guitar to my artistic endeavors. To this day, I still very much have an “it is what it is” attitude. Why not just make the best of what it is, whatever “it” happens to be? I believe that life is far too important to be taken too seriously.

A Place to Create Happiness
When my twin girls were born in 2003, my artistic side really started taking center stage. I started creating jewelry, simply because I wanted a mother’s bracelet commemorating my girls’ birth. From there, I got hooked on jewelry design and Happy Shack Designs was born. Since I started my business six years ago, I’ve expanded my art to include my long-lost love of photography, and I’m now delving more and more into mixed-media art. But even before I incorporated my business, I had dreams of having a happy little shack where all sorts of creativity took place … place where people could come together to create art and share stories and make their own happiness … a place where they, too, could discover that happiness is, in fact, a choice. And from that dream, The Purple Cottage was born. I’m now combining my love for art with the experiential education skills I’ve learned in my career as the coordinator of student life and leadership development at a large four-year college here in Florida.

Helping Me Save Myself
This is where I believe art has the power to save. From my own experiences, I’ve learned that art cannot only be an escape, but it can also be the salve that heals and the glue that mends. Through the simple act of creating art, in all its many forms, I believe you can create your own happiness and build your self-confidence. Has art saved me? Honestly, I can’t really say that for sure. What I can say for certain is that art helped me save myself. My wish is to use those lessons to empower others to do the same.

As appeared at Crescendoh for Kelly’s Art Saves guest curator post. To learn more about Kelly Warren, visit or

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kelly, absolutely phenomonal. In a strange way you have articulated something that I have questioned for a long time. I have used writing to “dump” out the bad experiences and for the longest time it COULD NOT be a source of joy. I wonder how my life would have been different if I had come to art before the age of 40 (just two years ago). I experienced -and continue to experience – the healing qualities of this creative experience. BRAVO to you for offering this opprtunity to others.

    June 2, 2010
  2. thanks for sharing, kelly. and yes, writing has been a life long ‘exorcise’ for me, as well as where i found my joy in processing life’s lessons into their own reward.

    June 2, 2010
  3. jen #

    what a wonderful, inspriational, post — I was very touched by this. I especially liked: “art cannot only be an escape, but it can also be the salve that heals and the glue that mends. ” I’ve found that to be profoundly true.

    Kelly, your happy spirit touches so many, in so many ways. Thank you for sharing.

    June 2, 2010
  4. Kristine #

    Thank you so much for this, Kelly. It was exactly what I needed to hear. There’s a reason why you’re as wonderful as you are–your spirit is truly an inspiration.

    June 2, 2010
  5. Sarah #

    I love this message. Thank you.
    Sarah, Dublin

    June 3, 2010
  6. Beautiful piece, Kelly. As you’ve touched on before, happiness is a choice. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to allow tragedy and negativity to swallow us up and change the course of our lives — for the worse. Your story shows that choosing happiness, perhaps against the odds, yields true beauty! This must be an amazing place from which to create art.

    June 3, 2010
  7. thanks all. so sorry i was so late to chime in. i got knocked down by three days worth of severe dizziness wednesday night and just made it back to the land of the walking this afternoon. it was quite an adventure since i was out of town when my attack hit and i couldn’t drive! thankfully i was in tallahassee, my second home, where i had friends to take care of me and get both me and my car back to jacksonville.

    anywho, i enjoyed having the opportunity to share this story on crescendoh. great things going on over there too. happiness definitely is a choice! 🙂

    June 5, 2010
  8. E-J #

    Kelly – I am so moved and inspired by this article. To learn what horrendous grief you have lived through and then to see your beautiful smiling face in the photo is itself a lesson in gratitude, but it is also hugely cheering to read such a philosophical and self-forgiving approach to creativity, and to so many creative endeavours, too! “I believe that life is far too important to be taken too seriously.” You just made my day with that thought. x

    June 29, 2010
  9. thanks E-J!

    June 29, 2010

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