We got to sit down and chat with Tori Kirihara, a multi-disciplinary visual artist from Seattle, Washington. She shared with us about her experiences as a parent and how her baby has influenced her creative pursuits. Tori opens up about her son Kiyo, her involvement in the art world, and her inspiring nonprofit organization, the Feels Foundation. Here is Tori's journey as an artist and mother.
Tori and her partner made the decision to move back to Seattle when they discovered they were expecting a child. Since then, Tori has embraced the joys and challenges of being a parent. Surprisingly, motherhood has also transformed her art and creative process. Working from home, Tori finds herself inspired by Kiyo's presence, often incorporating baby-related themes into her work. Her social media feeds have become a treasure trove of baby tips and art inspirations, reflecting her evolving interests.
"My son's name is Kiyo Sutherland. He's nine and a half months old now. And it really feels like I just had him not that long ago. It's gone by so fast," Tori reflects. "He is the smartest baby and the most fun to be around. He's just literally like... the best baby ever....I was nervous about being a first-time mom, but Kiyo has just made it so easy for us. He's just always laughing, always smiling. He doesn't really give us a hard time, which has just been the best."
While Kiyo is still too young to actively participate, Tori has found ways to involve him in her creative process. "I can't wait until he's old enough to really start getting interested [in art]," Tori shares. "I have been letting him work on my iPad, to do blank canvases on there. So that's been fun," she reveals. Tori also recalls a heartfelt moment when she turned Kiyo's Valentine's Day artwork on the iPad into a framed piece displayed in their home. It's evident that Tori can't wait for the day when she and Kiyo can share artistic activities together.
But in the meantime, Tori has recognized how becoming a mother has impacted her creative process and changed even the art she creates. "When I am in a creative space, he is around, and he is inspiring a lot of things that I put out now. I feel like a lot of the merch that I've created as of late has been super positive and just about life and things like that. And I think he's a big reason why. “
The Feels Foundation: Empowering Artists and Youth
Tori's nonprofit organization, the Feels Foundation, initially started as an art showcase featuring local artists. Over time, it has blossomed into a thriving platform that supports black and brown artists in the Seattle community. The foundation's flagship event, an annual showcase, combines visual art, live music, and DJs, with proceeds going to local nonprofits. The Feels Foundation now partners with Seattle Public Schools to provide after-school art programs, fostering creativity and empowerment among young students.
The passion for serving youth within the community comes from Tori's business partner, who has previous experience in nonprofit work. Tori shares the same vision and finds fulfillment in creating opportunities for young people to explore their artistic potential. Witnessing the dedication of other artists involved with the foundation and the positive impact they make on the community further fuels their commitment to supporting artists of color.
"Some of the people that we have had helping us out at the organization for years, they're like family now... It's really great to see them take the initiative with these programs that we're... serving the community... it's really turned out into something super cool that we're both pretty proud of for the progress we've made and how many students we've been able to serve through the organization.”
Tori’s journey as a mother and artist shows us the beauty of intertwining creativity with parenthood. Her son Kiyo serves as both a muse and a reminder of the transformative power of art. And in her opinion, having a child has fueled her passion for everything she does in her daily life. “The youth are the people that I want to serve in my community. It's important. So, I can set an example for my son. I think it's done nothing but fuel that energy.”