Spotted: Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi sporting a pair of bright yellow kicks credited to the Bee Kingdom Collective. Now, I know you must be thinking that the Bee Kingdom Collective must be a shoe design company. Surprisingly enough, the Bee Kingdom has absolutely nothing to do with shoes. So who are they? To ease your guessing process, let's start with a couple of facts.
For starters, the Bee Kingdom Collective consists of a group of four bearded guys. An indie band, perhaps?
Another fact: the Bee Kingdom has recently garnered the attention of international celebrities for their work.
A fashion line?
To spare you from re-living the feeling of frustration commonly associated with too many consecutive Roll Up the Rim failures, I will give you only one more clue: their shared house and "work space" can get rather heated at times.
The Bee Kingdom Glass Art Collective is actually a group of artists that specializes in producing a wide range of creative pieces through the art of glass blowing. Originally founded in 2004 by Phillip Bandura, Ryan Marsh Fairweather and Tim Belliveau, the collective welcomed a recent addition to the group: Kai Georg Scholefield.
Kai's latest exhibit, entitled "Final Fantasy II," will be running at an Inglewood gallery for the next month. Although Kai has only been part of the Bee Kingdom since April, their history dates back to when they all graduated together from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2005.
"While our art is in creating glass sculptures, our mandate is really to grow community," says Kai. Much like bees, the Bee Kingdom work together in a communal effort to accomplish their objectives. As their studio is an extension of their living space, the members have learned just not to harmoniously work together, but to live together as well.
Expanding on the communal aspect of the Bee Kingdom, the guys do not just share workspace, but also create pieces in collaboration. "We all have our own individual practices and styles, but we also come together to make these collaborative pieces called 'beacons' . . . where there are four different layers of different glass stacked on each other," Kai explains.
With their latest collaboration line, titled "Mythopoet," the group's whimsical nature is highlighted with bright patterns and imaginative shapes such as miniature trees.
"It's kind of funny, because as you live and work with the same people, your ideas start to have sex with each other. Like one day, I might be drawing up some idea and I'll look at Ryan's work and [he's] already done it!" laughs Kai.
Much like any mating ritual, new creations can inevitably result from artistic collaboration.
"The process is quite organic in a way because a bunch of new ideas are coming through . . . but that also drives the market [competition] because there is always something new. Really, we're just a bunch of young boys who are competing with each other to get our art out."
As Kai puts it, the stark reality is that an artist must be able to sell work in order to make a living.Â Fortunately for the Bee Kingdom, their ability to combine their talents together has made them formidable players on the international glass platform.
To name a couple of their recent accomplishments, the Bee Kingdom was featured as part of Avenue magazine's Top 40 Under 40 and were also presented with the Lieutenant Governor's Alberta Emerging Artist Award in 2010. In addition to receiving these two high honors, after successfully showcasing their work in Berlin, they have decided to open up a new studio there.
So, the question still remains: why has Mayor Nenshi been wearing their shoes?
"We call ourselves the 'Bee Kingdom' and wear yellow shoes so people can tell who we are. We've recently gained the attention of the mayor and we wanted to make him an 'honorary bee,' so now he's been walking around Calgary with our shoes."
Not too shabby for a "bunch of young boys."
Needless to say, the Bee Kingdom Glass Art Collective is one group of busy bees that show no sign of slowing down their forays into the artistic stylings of glass.
Although they might leave their Calgary hive for a European one, who knows? You just might see the mayor of Berlin wearing a pair of yellow shoes one day.