Hello! My name is Kelly Rae Roberts. I like to call myself a Possibilitarian.
I spent my early career as a clinical medical social worker — counseling patients and families through the fights of their lives. It was powerful, important work, but my heart began to grow restless when I was about 30 years old.
I started playing with paint. Everything changed. Painting brought me what I was craving: a new way to experience, translate, share, and be in the world.
An important part of my journey was realizing that I hadn’t abandoned my former social worker self, or the people I’d helped. I was still listening, sharing, healing, navigating messy emotions, making an impact — except I was now using a paintbrush in a studio, instead of a clipboard in a hospital. Same message. New medium.
About three years into my painting journey, I was asked to partner with DEMDACO. It was a perfect match as we share similar missions: to lift the spirit. Much of my art expresses the sort of healing messages I’ve always deeply believed. That we can be brave. That we are meant for the journeys of healing. That our dreams matter. That our stories deeply matter.
I am incredibly thankful for my long standing partnership with DEMDACO (almost nine years!). It’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to bring my art and its message to a broader audience. I am so thankful to their vision, commitment, and way of doing business.
I joined DEMDACO as their Visual Display Manager in 2010. I am challenged with making our three massive showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas enticing, beautiful, and organized. The past seven years have zipped by like a whirlwind. I’m not going to lie – for a guy with an insatiable urge to be inventive and use his design mind & spirit, it’s kind of a dream job. Our showrooms regularly win “Best of Show” & “Best of Floor” awards in the Atlanta and Dallas markets – I’m proud of our team and that accomplishment. It’s one of the key ways I get to help lift the spirits of our customers and showroom guests.
New DEMDACO product lines are shared with me twice yearly. Once that happens, my mind starts to concoct dozens of sometimes kooky, sometimes clever, and many times, simple and lovely visual display concepts. From there, I’m off to sketch set-displays and sales fixtures, and start the hunt for new or salvaged props. Salvaged props are usually the best finds! Next, I build and test display ideas. Just to double-check that what’s in my head isn’t better in theory than concept. As my budget ticks away, it’s time to get inventive and yes, maybe a little scrappy. It’s not uncommon to find my pickup parked next to a construction dumpster in Minneapolis with me bent over the side to see what treasures can be found. Some say nothing inspires creative thought like a deadline and a tight budget — that’s very true with me. I have plucked scads of old hardwood flooring from dumpsters. I’ve wandered into metal scrapyards in search of 50’s fridges, hoping to abscond with their cool, rounded doors. Landscapers have stared at me with confusion as I ask for the tree roots they’ve just pulled from the earth to use as mother-nature’s chandeliers.
The look of our showrooms has certainly evolved from my first year. Back then, many displays were pretty over-the-top! At one point in the Atlanta showroom alone we had: a green VW bus covered in magnets; a big red motorcycle for Santa’s Southern California gift deliveries; a bubble-gum pink riding lawn-mower pulling a train of lawn-flamingos; and a red, white and blue snowmobile stuck on the roof of a house buried in snow. I think that’s more motor equipment than a small-town engine repair shop!
Today, our product offerings have evolved, so our showrooms have also switched gears. Visual displays are a tad less whimsical, and a bit more lifestyle oriented, BUT…no less inventive and inspiring!
It remains my goal each year to fill our showrooms with surprises and inspiration around every corner!
Summer is officially here, so I wanted to share an idea for the garden with you. I’m calling this a garden screen, but it could just as likely be called a garden trellis or garden sculpture. The idea is inexpensive and easy to build. The materials are simple; an hour of your time, a spool of steel wire, steel plumbers pipe and some clay seedling pots.
Frame To build my 7ft. tall by 3ft. wide framework for the screen, I used ½” steel plumbing pipe lengths and joints. Wearing leather work gloves, I assembled all of the pieces together, hand tightening them as I moved along. Once the frame was assembled, I used a of pair of pliers to tightened everything up.
Pots My screen uses 8 lengths of pots approximately 6 1/2ft. long. I strung the seedling pots onto lengths of steel bailing wire, making sure to arrange them bottom-to-bottom & rim-to-rim to give the screen a sort of midcentury-modern pattern. Finally, I hung each string of pots to the frame by winding the wire around the horizontal pipe.
leather work gloves
spool heavy gauge galvanized-steel bailing wire
240 clay seedling pots (packs of 50 bought online)
½ in. diameter or ¾ in. diameter black steel or galvanized steel pipe & connectors
2 – 7ft. pipes (verticals)
1 – 3ft pipe (horizontal)
4 – 18” pipe (feet to stabilize)
2 – right angle fittings
2 – tee fittings
4 – caps
When not traveling around the country setting our showrooms, I’m most happy spending time in my postage-stamp-sized Minneapolis backyard, planting perennials and evergreens, designing and building a new fence, or laying out a stone patio. It’s a place that lifts the spirits!
As a kid, I was always drawing and loved any type of project that involved making things – craft projects, woodworking, painting, etc. When I was 10, I remember receiving an art kit for Christmas. It was wonderful. The kit had a series of pencils and charcoals, but the best part were the watercolors. Not the hard pans like at school, but real watercolor paint in tubes. I practiced for hours. The movement this medium could take seemed like absolute magic. Looking back, I really don’t think I was particularly good, but I absolutely loved the process of putting paint on paper. And just like a kid who receives a set of golf clubs for Christmas, if you go out and play 18 holes every day, one day you’re just going to be able to golf. And one day along the way I was just able to paint.
Summers growing up were spent camping, fishing, and hiking around Oregon. It was then I developed a real love of the outdoors which continues to this day and is the inspiration of most of my art. I still make an effort to get out as often as possible; whether it be fishing, camping or photography.
Somewhere along the way my wife, Molly, suggested that I paint something other than a fish or fishing scenes. I remembered wondering “What else is there?” Being a master gardener, she suggested painting a hummingbird. It was at this point my career was sent into another direction – nature and wildlife.
About five years ago I was contacted by DEMDACO. They had seen some of my work and were interested in licensing my art. At the time, I was doing about 15 regional art shows a year as well as selling to a few local shops and galleries. I had always hoped of branching out and the possibility of teaming with a company like DEMDACO was very exciting as it provided an opportunity to share my work with people I could never have dreamed of otherwise.
As an artist, I believe one of the most rewarding aspects is the ability to ‘strike a chord’ with someone else, most likely a complete stranger who sees your art and wants to take it home. DEMDACO has a mission to “Lift the Spirit” in the products they develop and sell. For me, this is really what it’s all about – making someone feel good by simply brightening their day. Whether it’s an item for their own home they enjoy every day or a special gift for a friend or relative, ‘Lifting the Spirit’ is a wonderful thing to share. I feel very blessed to be a professional artist, and if my work can brighten someone’s day, it certainly brightens mine as well.
At DEMDACO, we strive to see business primarily as a human interaction, rather than merely a financial one. That is why our mission is lift the spirit. This perspective shapes us, particularly when it comes to community involvement. For us, community involvement is a part of our “why”, not simply something we’ve been able to do.
Like others, we follow the philosophy that, for a company, profit is like air. We need it to breathe, but it’s not the reason we live. Profit allows a company to invest in itself, and in its community.
Community involvement is an important way we measure whether we are lifting spirits. It might be with a financial donation to an organization or a product donation for a fundraising event. It’s also the way our colleagues use their community time off (CTO). Each year, every DEMDACO colleague receives CTO—two paid days off to volunteer at the organization of their choice. It is one of the ways we believe best demonstrates our Lift the Spirit mission. Both the DEMDACO colleague and the organization benefit.
What are some ways you are involved in your community? How are you lifting spirits where you live, work, and play? Please Comment below and start the conversation.