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Designer Profile - Author & Artist Lisa Kettell of Hackettstown, NJ. Interview by contributing editor Gina Smith


Vintage and fairy might not often get used in the same sentence. Nor FBI agent and glitter, mortgage banking and making dolls, rejection and book deal. But pretty much anything about the lovely Lisa Kettell of Hackettstown, NJ is a study in contrasts. 



With the publication of her Altered Art Circus (128 pages, Quarry Books, ISBN-    10-1592534872 ISBN-13: 978-1592534876) looming in early 2009, Lisa has achieved a dream that many of her art friends can only fantasize about.




But before that dream came to fruition, Lisa was busy orchestrating many of her other art dreams, instead of waiting for some fairy godmother to arrive. She’s organized; she’s driven, and like many of us here, she sees the beauty in something old, something cast off, making something new out of something from a childhood memory. (Lisa and the Mushroom, The Faerie Festival, Glenn Rock, PA May 2007)


Lisa did get support early on from her mother and continues to do so. Creating since she could hold a pencil, she says, earned her more praise than scolding, even when she drew big moon faces on the wall in crayon. She painted dolls and made doll clothes, even from young-child kits whose needles were plastic. She threw herself into Girl Scout crafts. She even admits now with a laugh that what she thought were the greatest handmade gifts she could ever present to friends in grade school were possibly actually “horrible.”

      Although she took drawing in high school and also enjoyed collage even then, she says she lost a lot of her creating time and interest after high school. And although she started out as an art major in college, she quickly gave it up for what she perceived would be a faster or better road to income and moved into political science and government, imaging herself becoming an FBI agent.

      From there, a severe accident and the death of her grandmother with whom she was very close prompted her to take art classes to work through the physical and emotional pain. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” she says, not surprisingly.



So while she worked in mortgage banking and real estate for 10 years, she also dove back into her art. Seven years ago she self-published a self-illustrated children’s book, Star and the Milky Way Café. (I first met Lisa when I bought a signed copy from her on ebay a couple years ago!)

      The brightly-colored children’s tale, which she is now giving an update and working on getting professionally-published in hardcover, is a tribute of sorts, via color, to the artist with whom she has been enamored since high school, Mary Engelbreit.

      Lisa had the good fortune to meet her mentor several years ago at a book signing in New York and will once again see Mary this month on Lisa’s own birthday at Silver Bella, a gathering of artists in Omaha, NB organized by Teresa McFayden. Lisa will be a vendor and offer a pay and play at her booth, and Mary Engelbreit is the keynote speaker for the sold-out event.

      After her foray into illustration, Lisa says she “wasn’t satisfied, wasn’t complete” and moved into making art cards and altered books. You can see from her project photos here and on Flickr  and on her blog  and Web site that she favors vintage items such as old dolls, jars, circus memorabilia, old ads and labels, but she gives them all her signature embellishments of glitter, crepe paper, a bit of fantasy and mystery (a la pixies, fairies, gnomes and other imagined creatures), bright colors and a smile. (The Pixie Boutique, ATC and Pocket below)

Art card 

Faerie zine


However, even after branching out some, Lisa says she still didn’t feel like she was being taken seriously. So, in 2005, she created The Faerie Zine, a self-published (and at first self-bound) magazine which celebrated not only the styles Lisa likes best but it also celebrated other artists. Lisa is well-known in Internet and real-life art circles for generously helping other artists to get their work in front of the art community- not only other artists but publishers as well. Today she publishes The Faerie Zine as well as Piddlestix, a magazine devoted to lighter colors, as well as a sort of “cupcake chic” style as she calls it.

      Lisa says with some chagrin that she has learned plenty about the home-publishing as well as self-publishing business. And although her zines are available on Lulu, she is still constantly dreaming up new titles and issues, most of which get their start in her home computer. She also sells not only finished artwork but her generous compilations of enhanced vintage images on Etsy as Moonfaires . She’s on Café Press a and is a member of UHAT: Unique Halloween Art Treasures and The Fairy Society Artist Community Network. Lisa’s own followers make up EFFA: Enchanted Fairy, Fantasy and Altered Artists on Ebay, where she also sells.

   Boat set

Fortunate enough to delve into art full-time in 2004, Lisa has developed a strong following for her cheery, vintage-meets-glitter style, teaching at the famous and fabulous Tinsel Trading in New York City, at the Newark Museum, Summit Visual Arts Center, Michael’s, CHA: Craft and Hobby Association of America this winter in Anaheim, the recent Handmade Faire in Medford, NJ, for the ZNE VariaZioNE Convenzione in 2009 and this December for The Red Door Project in Los Angeles. (The Fairytale Boat Class, A picture of all the boats my students made during my workshop at Tinsel Trading, May 2008)

Prom bracelet 

(Vintage Prom Bracelet, Sept. 2008, A charm bracelet using vintage findings)

      Her classes have entailed crowns, magic wands, captured jar fairies, magical boats, doll theatres and much more. On her private Flickr group, The Faerie Zine, Lisa sponsors artist collaborations such as original one-of-a-kind handmade fat books with themes such as birds, dollhouses, circus, Halloween, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz and more. Her group is known as a friendly place for artists from around the world to share pictures of their art, ask questions, self-promote and receive non-judgmental support. It boasts 1,700+ by-invitation-only members. Amazing.

(Captured Wedding Jar Fairies, June 2007)

    Lisa describes her style as “vintage meets color.” She favors themes like opera, the stage, the circus, dolls, imaginary characters and often uses the motif of theatre curtains in her work.

      Besides starting a collaborative Web site for her art friends, called Artists’ World on Blogspot, she is also in the process of expanding another site, Spellbinders’ Curiosities, where artists can share techniques, atypical projects and inspirations (giraffe as a ballerina, anyone?), recycled art projects and art calls.

Snow queen 

(Snow Queen ATC's, For Snow Queen Swap on The Faerie Zine, Winter 2008)

      But in typical Lisa style, not content to rest on all the art she was producing and the art friends she has made, Lisa set her own bar higher: publication instead of self-publication. She attended the Book Fair in New York City last year where she was able to meet published authors and artists, editors, publishers and licensing companies.

       “This venue changed my life,” she says. Not only did it introduce her to her publisher with Quayside/Quarry but it also helped her get marketing ideas and learn how to pitch a proposal to a publisher.

      After some prior rejections of which she says, “Sometimes we need those turn-downs to self-evaluate. Don’t wallow in your sorrow because there may be an even bigger market. Sometimes it’s not always you; it’s being in the right place at the right time and who you know.” It’s a familiar refrain which she can personally confirm.

      Serendipitously, Lisa’s book contract arrived on her birthday in 2007. “Finally, someone believes in me,” is what she said was her first thought. The book has also paved the way for her to do other things. Lisa is working on her own project and product line, which includes her own handmade glitter as well as art products and rubber stamps. It’s clear this dichotomy of a woman won’t be resting anytime soon, even when she can see her name in print on the shelves of major bookstores.


(Marie Doll Box, for Marie Antoinette themed Box Swap Spring 2008)


(Charlotte Lyons, Lisa Kettell and Terri Ventura, Tinsel Trading, NYC, March 2008)

Featurebutton_06 - Contributing Editor Gina Smith aka Lilly*s of London*ish, started making jewelry about six years ago and has since tied this in with a love of vintage finds, Blythe, crochet and altered art in her etsy shop. Growing up in an antiquing family gives her a background and appreciation for all things vintage, especially dinnerware, jewelry and Americana advertising prints and products

{All contributed content Gina Smith © Lilly*s of London*ish}



Love Lisas work! I bought a hat for my daughter from her at Handmade Faire in NJ


Awesome article about an awesome artist. Way to go, Lisa!


What a great article and a lot of inspiration!

Lisa Kettell

This article is amazing, It gave me tears of joy to read! Thank You for everything!
Magic and Joy!

Cyndi Neumann

This is a beautiful pictorial and interview from Gina(herself, an awesome artist also) with Lisa. I have been a member of The Fairy Zine since it started on eBay and enjoy watching Lisa grow into many charming artsy projects and her storys are amazing.

Thanks for sharing this fabulous site with us. I will become a subscriber and enjoy all your fun projects here.

smiles, cyndi/frstyfrolk

Ann-Denise Anderson

Love the Article! Bravo Lisa! Well written Gina!Snaps to you both!

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