Andrea Kay's bird coasters
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Accidental Art by Andrea Kay, Cincinnati

This southwest Ohio artist crafts collages to honor her favorite wonder of nature.

Andrea Kay admits she’s not one to grab a pair of binoculars and head out to bird-watch, but that doesn’t mean the Cincinnati mixed-media artist isn’t mesmerized by the feathered creatures. 

“Birds are truly miraculous creatures that fly and sometimes appear to float, but always know how to land,” she says. “They have a spiritual pull for me.”

Kay infuses that sentiment into every papier-mache sculpture, trivet, greeting card and coat hook she crafts. Although the artist studied pottery and watercolor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, paper ultimately won out as her favorite medium.

“Most people are looking to get rid of paper,” Kay says with a laugh. “But I collect it. I love ripping up old magazines, newspapers and phone books, take what feels right and then see shapes and designs that didn’t exist until I see them.”

Under her painstaking hand, an advertisement featuring a toe encased in a sandal is transformed into a bird’s eye, and the vertical lines in an image of a building become feathers. When each collage is finished, Kay has it photographed to make sure her color palette of greens, purples, yellows, blues and reds harmonizes, then prints it on a variety of materials, including Italian marble and paper.

“People always ask me what kind of bird it is,” she says. “Is this a cardinal or is that a blue jay? And I’ll reply that it’s whatever you want it to be. If there is any resemblance to a specific kind of bird, it’s purely accidental.”

Although the artist explains she spent many years watching birds from her patio, they didn’t become a force in her life until 2009, when her father died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

“My parents always loved birds, and my mother and I decided my dad would come to communicate with us in the form of a bird, particularly a cardinal, which was his favorite,” Kay says. “After his death, birds would show up at the oddest times and in the oddest places.”

As the artist has exhibited her work over the years, she’s found kindred spirits in those who stop by to see it.

“At first, I was surprised that my work affected them in this way,” Kay says. “But as they shared stories about what birds have meant to them or a loved one who they’ve lost, I began to realize that birds remind us to keep the faith during difficult times.”

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