Charlotte-born artist Kristin Dills makes her mark through partnerships with Pottery Barn, Louis Vuitton and more.
by Caroline Portillo
It’s hard to pinpoint a signature work of art by Kristin Dills.
Is it the watercolor painting of a bow tie-clad giraffe sold by the thousands through Pottery Barn Kids and Minted? Or the Charlotte skyline custom painted on a Louis Vuitton trunk case? Is it a breathtaking floral arrangement of cascading orchids, tulips and lush greenery at a high-end wedding? Or the neon florals on the home-office walls of one of the city’s top event planners?
Dills, 38, loves that the breadth of her work defies categorization. For her, art is more about losing (and finding) herself in the creative process, not sticking to a single medium or fitting her finished works in a prescribed box.
“It’s very therapeutic for me,” Dills says. “I’ve always struggled with anxiety throughout my life. I’m able to sit quietly and create something out of nothing that I know someone will love and appreciate. And I do it in a calm state.”
A Charlotte native, Dills graduated from UNC Greensboro with a fine arts degree and started her professional career on the visual merchandising team that helped open Neiman Marcus at SouthPark Mall in 2006. There, she helped design the store’s iconic windows and was later tapped to create stunning floral arrangements for the store and its many extravagant events.
Flowers were one of Dills’ first loves. As a child, she had a penchant for playing in flower beds and emerging drenched in pollen. “My mom used to call me ‘Miss Bumble,’ like a little bumblebee,” she says.
So it was no surprise when Dills parlayed her florals for Neiman Marcus into a full-time role as the lead designer at a top local florist, where she spent nine years crafting unforgettable arrangements — “living art,” Dills says — for some of the city’s biggest weddings and events.
All the while, she would come home, pad over the drop cloths in her home art studio, and turn to a blank canvas and her paints to unwind.
About six years ago, when she was pregnant with her son, Edison, Dills decided to paint a few pieces for his nursery that were youthful but elevated, for a child but not childish. Enter: a series of zoo animals clad in chic bow ties.
Soon after, she saw an email from Minted, an online marketplace of independent artists and designers, calling artists to submit work for a new children’s collection with Pottery Barn Kids. We’ll see what happens, Dills thought, as she submitted what she’d dubbed her “Dapper Animals.”
There were more than 7,900 entries for the Minted and Pottery Barn Kids collaboration, and only 30 were selected, according to Dills. Her Dapper Zebra and Dapper Giraffe were two of them.
“I was out of my mind,” Dills says, laughing. “I was so excited.”
Prints of Dills’ paintings appeared in the Pottery Barn Kids catalogs and were featured prominently on the Minted site. Dills says the retailers sold thousands of them for nurseries across the globe, from Texas to Singapore. The artist even extended the series through her personal website, kristindills.com.
After the success of her Dapper Animals, Dills began posting more of her art on social media and participating in live painting gigs at her old stomping ground, Neiman Marcus. She was painting perfume bottles at the celebration for Aerin Lauder’s new fragrance line when the manager of the Louis Vuitton store at SouthPark spotted her and reached out to see if she’d be interested in doing live painting for some of their special in-store events for VIP clients.
Months later, she took a skills test to join a rarefied group of official Louis Vuitton artisan painters — Dills says she is now just one of 13 people across the nation with that distinction.
But if you can’t spring for a $30,000 Louis Vuitton case personalized with one of Dills’ custom designs, that’s OK. Consider commissioning a beloved pet portrait or peruse the “Zero Gravity” abstract series on her website.
Or you could do like event planner extraordinaire Ivy Robinson and tap Dills to paint giant neon flowers with metallic elements on the black walls of your chic home office. Because Miss Bumble —and all of her creative pursuits — is here to stay. SP