As soon as you step foot into the Foundry, you’ll notice the stunning collection of artwork lining the left hand wall.
The art is like nothing you have ever seen before, as if transporting you to a time or place in your memory — mirroring the sensual elements of an experience.
“When you think of this time or place, you remember the colours, sounds, textures…,” said Kiel Wilson-Ciocci, one half of Kiam Studio, the collaborative artists responsible for the mixed media paintings.
“It’s about trusting in the people who you collaborate with,” he added.
Using these elements, Kiel and his partner in both business and life, Amanda Wilson-Ciocci, bring their styles together to create work that focuses on collaboration, connection, and ultimately, slowing down to appreciate these memories.
Kiel has always been passionate about the arts, and even as a young child he could often be found drawing or sketching. He always wanted to be an artist, but at the time, he didn’t know it was a viable career option.
He met Amanda when they were in grade eight, and the two started dating at just 16-years-old. Amanda also always appreciated art, but her creativity was closeted for many years.
“It’s about trusting in the people who you collaborate with”
After graduating high school, they took off backpacking through Europe, where they fell in love with art, travelling, and each other. Spending time wandering the ancient cities of Rome and Florence they were continually inspired by all the art and history around them.
When they returned home, the two enrolled in art school together at the University of Guelph, where they dabbled in all different kinds of materials and mediums. Despite being in all the same classes, Amanda and Kiel had completely different styles at the time, but they always worked closely together.
They got married at 25, and after art school, moved to Orillia to attend Teachers College. Amanda was pregnant with their first child, so she stayed home while Kiel went to school, and the following year they switched — Kiel stayed home with their son while Amanda went to class.
Kiel started teaching in primary and junior classrooms in both the public and private sectors. He was the father of a young child at the time and was drawn to helping those foundational years.
“I think it was that parallel with what I was doing at home… Making a difference in those younger years,” he said.
In his spare time, he would always return to art.
After creating separately for years but always supporting each other's work, they decided to try completing a collaborative piece. Using layers of acrylic paint, gel mediums, photographs and washes, the final result was a unique painting with two perspectives on one canvas. They had amalgamated their art, so they merged their names as well, and Kiam Studio was born.
“I like the unpredictable nature of it,” said Kiel. “Just creating something and seeing that concrete, finished product is satisfying.”
“I think collaboration in any sense, whether it is art or business or life in general… Collaborating with the right people is always a wonderful experience”
Kiel and Amanda have been collaborating in both business and life ever since. In fact, it’s the collaboration component of Kiam Studio that Kiel is really drawn to. “That sort of spontaneous element of the process is what is always interesting to me,” he said.
They moved back to Guelph after Teachers College and converted part of their property into a home office and studio. Kiel continued to work as a supply teacher and in their spare time, he would bring elements of teaching into his world of art, hosting workshops and events out of their home studio, and selling directly from the space as well. Eventually, he decided to shift out of teaching and into art full-time, but always bringing in those teaching components.
And then an opportunity arose to move into a separate studio.
They called it Art in the Ward, and turned it into a collaborative space where artists of all kinds could come and create together.
“I think collaboration in any sense, whether it is art or business or life in general… Collaborating with the right people is always a wonderful experience,” he said. “I think generally, it always kind of leads to a pretty incredible end product.”
Art consumed Kiel’s heart, but so did travel, so in 2018 they took a break from the studio and travelled back to Italy, this time with three kids in tow. When they returned home, seeking that same sense of adventure more locally, they sold their house and moved north to Collingwood.
They arrived in Collingwood in March of 2019 and started integrating themselves into the local art scene almost immediately. Kiel enjoyed exploring their new environment for inspiration and through Amanda’s other business endeavour, they connected with the entrepreneurial community at the Foundry.
“It’s been an incredible community to get involved with,” said Kiel. “There is sort of a split with Kiam Studio… It’s creative, but there is that entrepreneurial component to it, so it was a great fit with collaboration, community, entrepreneurship.”
Prior to the pandemic, Kiel and Amanda were planning another large family trip, so they pulled their children out of school to be homeschooled and “world-schooled” instead. When Covid hit, they kept their children out of the classroom, and Kiel has been homeschooling them ever since.
He continues to bring art and teaching into his daily life, and in the future would love to incorporate more travel, cooking, and of course collaboration into new business endeavours.