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Chris Knickerbocker

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As a child, I did not live in a traditional family unit. Until the age of three I lived with my grandparents. They didn’t have running water or indoor plumbing, but they provided me with love, encouraged my creativity and fostered my belief in myself as a smart, capable person. We repurposed out of necessity and were often at the local dump looking for what I called “treasures” that we used to create or fix something. My grandmother had the creative eye while my grandfather was the teller of tall tales. I can see now so clearly how that was infused into my creative soul and am so thankful for who they helped me to become.

I have always had an overactive imagination that was coupled with no understanding of the laws of gravity or physics, or maybe even a sense of reality. If I believed in something and focused on it, somehow it happened. So, I made sure to focus on positive things, and despite what others might see as a difficult childhood living in foster homes, I can genuinely say that I had a wonderful childhood. I was blessed with the best friends who remain in my life today. We played in creek beds and ramshackle barns and created stories about whatever we would find. I was the one that wanted to turn everything into a play, along with props, and show them off to others later. At one point I wanted to stage a play at our elementary school and charge admission. I had already created and posted flyers in my fourth-grade classroom inviting everyone to attend. My elementary school principal had to sit me down to say I couldn’t use school property for profit making. Thankfully, he still encouraged my creativity, as long as I wasn’t trying to reserve the auditorium for a production that included dancing horses.

Maybe because my grandparents knew what it meant to “make do with whachu got”, they also thought it was important for women to be self-reliant by getting a good education which would lead to financial security. I began my professional career as a social worker focused on the geriatric community—perhaps due to my reverence for old things and cast-offs—whether they be people or objects. I had not considered myself to be an artist, because I believed artists are those who could paint, draw, sculpt or photograph masterpieces. I still draw stick figures like what I did in Kindergarten, so I did not even consider exploring art as a career.

I created the concept of “Old Souls Home” many years ago while I was daydreaming about what I wanted for my future. Daydreaming is how I have always created something—whether it be a project for my community, how to fit my current favorite piece of architectural salvage into a room, or how to mechanize wings that would move attached to a tall case clock. I wanted to combine a make-believe story of the item I created. All the pieces would be part of a retirement home for things that were thrown away, but “reincarnated” in a new life. I had been doing that for years in my various homes and would often make things for friends. I was employed full time as a college administrator in a job that used a lot of my creative energy and braincells and was making “old souls” to feed my sense of joy. A good friend who loved the décor I created for my house and for others asked me to join her newly opened artisan gallery. She knew I am a competitive person, so she posed the offer like a competition—challenging me to create 30 pieces by a specific date. Thus, Old Souls Home was born complete with official business cards!

“Everything springs forth from the imagination. Everything.” —Abraham Hicks

My first pieces were made from things that caught my eye while I was also selling antiques.  (I can’t do just one thing!) Some of those things just happened to be vintage dolls that I used parts of to create unique characters with their own stories. Other pieces were larger and meant to hang on a wall to evoke a garden flower. Each piece was part of my Old Souls Home—whether it was a character, or an item of décor for wall or garden. I was and continue to be fascinated with birds, angels, puns, and oddities. As my pieces sold, I was challenged to broaden my audience and apply to shows. I was accepted as a vendor at the Country Living Fairs in Rhinebeck, NY, and Columbus OH, and Steampunk World’s Faire where I met artisans who encouraged me to continue and expand, as well as those who bought my pieces. They inspired confidence in me to apply to juried exhibitions and other galleries. Each connection led to another and another including installations in businesses, commissioned pieces, and consulting on community art projects. I was privileged to decorate a room in the Belva Lockwood Inn where an entire wall features my work in the aptly named “Knickerbocker Room”.

Last year I sold my house and bought a beautiful 1850 three story commercial building in the Downtown Historic District in Owego, NY. I had always loved the building and felt it was meant to be—even though the entire idea was so far out of my comfort zone. My husband had passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2017 and I had figured out that I no longer wanted to live in “our” home. After he passed, I took early retirement to pursue my artistic and entrepreneurial vision full-time. I had always dreamed of living in a commercial space that would allow me to live on one floor and work on another. The top two floors had been an Elks Lodge in the early 1900s—complete with a “lodge room” with peek-a-doors and a tin ceiling. Later it became a Masonic Temple and at that time a “secret room” was installed in the floor. The second floor has beautiful intact architecture—and is all open. The entire third floor—including the tin ceiling lodge room—is my workspace. There is enough room to manage what was my husband’s eBay business as I have converted the lodge anterooms for eBay inventory storage. Both floors are quite unique, but those who know me can see my design stamp everywhere.

My second floor living space needs to have a “quieter” design for me—but still be funky.

My third floor is where I let out all my inner child and have turned it into a showcase for my collections and objects, I need to see to use in my assemblage projects. Most say it is a lot to look at, as you must investigate so many spaces to see all the smaller “stories” that I have created. It is most definitely a curated story-telling playground. There is nothing random in how I have organized it. The lodge room is the main space, and it is hard to show it all in the pictures. There is a front stage where the “Grand Poohbahs” were, a lesser backstage and two stages that run along each edge.

“She believed she could, so she did.”—R.S. Grey

I know that this is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. At 62, I now get to play again and get dirty and imagine a world that I create. I’m currently creating several interactive installations for businesses as well as individual clients. I am pursuing my certification as a Women Owned Business and looking for property to start an architectural salvage yard. All because I believe I can, and I should do what gives me and others joy.

As a child, I did not live in a traditional family unit. Until the age of three I lived with my grandparents. They didn’t have running water or indoor plumbing, but they provided me with love, encouraged my creativity and fostered my belief in myself as a smart, capable person. We repurposed out of necessity and were often at the local dump looking for what I called “treasures” that we used to create or fix something. My grandmother had the creative eye while my grandfather was the teller of tall tales. I can see now so clearly how that was infused into my creative soul and am so thankful for who they helped me to become.

I have always had an overactive imagination that was coupled with no understanding of the laws of gravity or physics, or maybe even a sense of reality. If I believed in something and focused on it, somehow it happened. So, I made sure to focus on positive things, and despite what others might see as a difficult childhood living in foster homes, I can genuinely say that I had a wonderful childhood. I was blessed with the best friends who remain in my life today. We played in creek beds and ramshackle barns and created stories about whatever we would find. I was the one that wanted to turn everything into a play, along with props, and show them off to others later. At one point I wanted to stage a play at our elementary school and charge admission. I had already created and posted flyers in my fourth-grade classroom inviting everyone to attend. My elementary school principal had to sit me down to say I couldn’t use school property for profit making. Thankfully, he still encouraged my creativity, as long as I wasn’t trying to reserve the auditorium for a production that included dancing horses.

Maybe because my grandparents knew what it meant to “make do with whachu got”, they also thought it was important for women to be self-reliant by getting a good education which would lead to financial security. I began my professional career as a social worker focused on the geriatric community—perhaps due to my reverence for old things and cast-offs—whether they be people or objects. I had not considered myself to be an artist, because I believed artists are those who could paint, draw, sculpt or photograph masterpieces. I still draw stick figures like what I did in Kindergarten, so I did not even consider exploring art as a career.

I created the concept of “Old Souls Home” many years ago while I was daydreaming about what I wanted for my future. Daydreaming is how I have always created something—whether it be a project for my community, how to fit my current favorite piece of architectural salvage into a room, or how to mechanize wings that would move attached to a tall case clock. I wanted to combine a make-believe story of the item I created. All the pieces would be part of a retirement home for things that were thrown away, but “reincarnated” in a new life. I had been doing that for years in my various homes and would often make things for friends. I was employed full time as a college administrator in a job that used a lot of my creative energy and braincells and was making “old souls” to feed my sense of joy. A good friend who loved the décor I created for my house and for others asked me to join her newly opened artisan gallery. She knew I am a competitive person, so she posed the offer like a competition—challenging me to create 30 pieces by a specific date. Thus, Old Souls Home was born complete with official business cards!

“Everything springs forth from the imagination. Everything.” —Abraham Hicks

My first pieces were made from things that caught my eye while I was also selling antiques.  (I can’t do just one thing!) Some of those things just happened to be vintage dolls that I used parts of to create unique characters with their own stories. Other pieces were larger and meant to hang on a wall to evoke a garden flower. Each piece was part of my Old Souls Home—whether it was a character, or an item of décor for wall or garden. I was and continue to be fascinated with birds, angels, puns, and oddities. As my pieces sold, I was challenged to broaden my audience and apply to shows. I was accepted as a vendor at the Country Living Fairs in Rhinebeck, NY, and Columbus OH, and Steampunk World’s Faire where I met artisans who encouraged me to continue and expand, as well as those who bought my pieces. They inspired confidence in me to apply to juried exhibitions and other galleries. Each connection led to another and another including installations in businesses, commissioned pieces, and consulting on community art projects. I was privileged to decorate a room in the Belva Lockwood Inn where an entire wall features my work in the aptly named “Knickerbocker Room”.

Last year I sold my house and bought a beautiful 1850 three story commercial building in the Downtown Historic District in Owego, NY. I had always loved the building and felt it was meant to be—even though the entire idea was so far out of my comfort zone. My husband had passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2017 and I had figured out that I no longer wanted to live in “our” home. After he passed, I took early retirement to pursue my artistic and entrepreneurial vision full-time. I had always dreamed of living in a commercial space that would allow me to live on one floor and work on another. The top two floors had been an Elks Lodge in the early 1900s—complete with a “lodge room” with peek-a-doors and a tin ceiling. Later it became a Masonic Temple and at that time a “secret room” was installed in the floor. The second floor has beautiful intact architecture—and is all open. The entire third floor—including the tin ceiling lodge room—is my workspace. There is enough room to manage what was my husband’s eBay business as I have converted the lodge anterooms for eBay inventory storage. Both floors are quite unique, but those who know me can see my design stamp everywhere.

My second floor living space needs to have a “quieter” design for me—but still be funky.

My third floor is where I let out all my inner child and have turned it into a showcase for my collections and objects, I need to see to use in my assemblage projects. Most say it is a lot to look at, as you must investigate so many spaces to see all the smaller “stories” that I have created. It is most definitely a curated story-telling playground. There is nothing random in how I have organized it. The lodge room is the main space, and it is hard to show it all in the pictures. There is a front stage where the “Grand Poohbahs” were, a lesser backstage and two stages that run along each edge.

“She believed she could, so she did.”—R.S. Grey

I know that this is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life. At 62, I now get to play again and get dirty and imagine a world that I create. I’m currently creating several interactive installations for businesses as well as individual clients. I am pursuing my certification as a Women Owned Business and looking for property to start an architectural salvage yard. All because I believe I can, and I should do what gives me and others joy.