When you meet Paducah artist Kijsa (pronounced keesa) Housman, there is only one adjective that paints the prose canvas of her dynamic personality: energetic. While such an apt descriptor may be only one of several you could use to describe Kijsa, energy is certainly a trait sustains her compulsive creativity. “It’s almost an inherent part of me. I have to create,” Kijsa explains. “All I’ve ever known is being a professional artist,” she says.
Art, in one form or another, was a significant part of her formative years, which ultimately led her to study visual arts at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Thre she received a BFA and later a Masters degree in Art History. Early in her career, it was the depth of Kijsa’s education that allowed her to create large scale projects, most notably designing sets for PBS and historic theater, in addition to crafting several painting projects for retailers like Michael’s, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts.
“I have a personal mantra that art should be accessible and affordable,” says Kijsa, and it was with this in mind that in 2007 Kijsa decided to extend her local retail operation to an online store simply called “Kijsa” on the wildly popular e-commerce site, Etsy. “I initially thought, ‘No one is going to buy artwork online,’” but lucky for Kijsa she couldn’t have been more wrong. Her Etsy business boomed and her artistic creations were in high demand. One of her most successful endeavors, Verse of the Week (V.O.W.), allowed Kijsa a way to manifest the core values of her Christian faith into art, and she obtained the Registered Federal Trademark on the crafty chalkboards adorned with unique and custom lettering which have been licensed to sell at LifeWay Christian retail stores around the country.
These successes and her continued desire to create has fueled her artistic vision into expanding her business from Lowertown to downtown Paducah. This boundless creative passion will be housed in MAKE, her new studio shop set to open in March at 628 Broadway. “MAKE is creativity central,” Kijsa explains, “and when I’m talking about creating, I’m talking about thinking outside the box.”
MAKE, under leadership from both her and Arts Director, Audrey Marberry, will offer a wide variety of services and experiences for its patrons. People will be able to walk into the studio and “Make a V.O.W.” as well as other projects. In addition to retail items, people will be able to carve their own stamps, paint by numbers, paint old boards original to the historic building, learn to silk screen yoga pants, and that’s just the beginning. “At MAKE, you will come in and literally make your own story,” she explains.
Kijsa learned that the building once housed Paducah’s old Broadway Methodist Church. Kijsa loves the idea that her “Make a V.O.W.” products and services will continue to honor the spirit of the building and those who once worshipped there. “I think the parishioners from the 1880s and 1890s are smiling down.”
In a partnership with Recycle Now, each month MAKE will offer classes to use recycled items to create art and all proceeds from the tuition will go to the organization’s pursuit to raise social consciousness about the importance of recycling. “An underlying theme of my Christian faith is renewing something to make it better,” says Kijsa. “There is so much reward in that—in creating and giving back.”