When did you set up your business and why?

I am a contemporary London-Irish artist, born with a passion for paint, doodles, animals and nature. This love was intensified by my upbringing in a wee village called Ardamore, in the parish of Ballydavid, one of the most scenic areas of the Dingle Peninsula.

As a child growing up on the rugged Dingle Peninsula, I spent hours happily wandering through fields and streams and playing with the animals on my Granny Mae’s farm.

Watching her milk Daisy the Kerry cow by hand was a very fond memory.

I was always captivated by nature and animals. I would like to think these loves of mine can be found in my paintings. Comical cows on canvas, a cloud of sheep with attitude and doe-eyed donkeys feature, as well as a little pinch of pig that cheekily slipped in under the wire!

Now based in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, I document my painting journey and life in a little Irish cottage in the heart of the countryside with my business partners; my husband Patrick, my little boy Jake and my rescue Scottish deerhound, Philomena. All from my wee Goosebank Art Studio.

I am a painter of the natural world

I have been painting professionally since 2001 and exhibiting my work both nationally and in the US.

I am a painter of the natural world; a full-time artist working in acrylics and mixed media on linen canvas. However, it was during Showcase 2022 that things veered in a new direction.

I was asked by Carroll’s Irish Gifts to develop a limited edition fine art print range for them and, as a result, the “Born Mucky and Wild” collection was born.

Can you explain your process?

My work is steeped in the natural world and using natural pigments is just another step towards a more sustainable art practice.

I use local earth, mineral and organic pigments and natural elements; crushed mother of pearl, sand, zinc and gold leaf.

I have a unique style of photo-realism and my animal-themed works, both original art and prints, are quirky and very popular.

I love to take photos with my phone while I'm out and about walking the fields with my deerhound, Philomena. When I get back to work in the studio, I use these as reference points to create paintings.

Kelly Hood loves to paint farm animals, especially cows.

I love the concept of making moo and ewe selfies, to the extent that I developed two collections called “Born Mucky and Wild”.

The range includes art bags, greeting cards, cushions, tea towels and framed prints.

What is your bestseller?

My limited edition fine art print called “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” which was “inspired” by meeting the neighbour’s three gorgeous “moos”; and then a 20-year love affair developed.

[Jersey cows] are the Brown Thomas of the herd; they exude luxury and class

Jersey cows have become somewhat of a mascot to many people. “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” would like to remind you that they are not your average cow by any stretch of the imagination! They are the Brown Thomas of the herd; they exude luxury and class!

What is it about your business that brings you joy?

My art is created to inspire, bring joy and fun to people who love animals. I am at “home” when “away with the fairies”.

My business brings my heart joy when my customers tell me that my artistic creations make them happy.

It's like a Lotto win when I receive this feedback, this is my reward.

“The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” is Kelly Hood's best-selling piece

What are your hopes for 2023?

Over the decades, I have donated a percentage of artistic income to animal welfare. A portion from my “Born Mucky And Wild” collection is donated to support animal and humanitarian projects.

I work with Amnesty, The Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation and the Irish Wildlife Trust.

I hope that 2023 will enable to me to work with more social enterprises and to share the mission of my studio... art with a heart.

What advice would you give to another startup business?

Starting my own brand has been difficult and challenging. Some days I even wonder why I do what I do.

However, recently winning the prestigious “Best Animal Wall Art Retail Business 2023” from the Irish Enterprise Awards has definitely given me more confidence and belief in the path I’m on.

It is one way to quickly gain funding, recognition and even international buyers. Winning the coveted award is a studio-advancing achievement.

What fills the eye fills the heart

The best advice I could give is to link in with your local enterprise office.

I have received great support from my local business development officer, Louise Fleming. I'm am currently on the owner manager development programme (OMDP) with Blaise Brosnan.

This management development programme is the Local Enterprise Office’s most comprehensive offering to small businesses in Wicklow.

Blaise's programme has facilitated me to stand back from the “fuss” of my day-to-day activity and decide how best to drive my businesses forward and achieve its objectives.

Hard work, long days, a passion for art and animals and support from my family and friends, all are the secret sauce for success.

“An rud a líonas an tsúil líonann sé an croí”: “What fills the eye fills the heart.”

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