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The Beautiful and Outrageous Creations of Kamon Lilly [12 Images]

Gourds, emu eggs, cactus -- if it's found in nature and he likes its shape, Kamon Lilly will make an instrument or jewelry out of it.
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“There’s an order of being called Celestial Artisans who are in charge of creating beauty in nature,” says artist Kamon Lilly, who acknowledges that a spiritual entity guides his hand as he creates his one-of-a-kind artwork.

Using what nature gives him, everything from emu eggs and feathers to gourds, cholla cactus, Manzanita wood, coral beans, and seed pods, he hunts for art supplies on all his travels. “The desert is a cornucopia of materials,” says the Southern Arizona artist who creates what he calls “Cosmic Gifts of the Earth.”

From a beginning making art to sell and survive, he has evolved into an artist of slower, subtle, craftsmanship that mixes a palette of textures, colors, shapes, and contrasts, making masterpieces out of nature’s remnants. 

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

“I grew up in nature, in the mountains of Wyoming, 50 miles from the nearest town, with deer and badgers as my playmates. I learned how to appreciate the beauty that surrounded me. I believe I inherited a propensity for art because my mother and grandmother were both artists. I’m grateful to have been blessed with a talent for seeing how to blend gifts of nature into unique creations, each with its own character and blend of beautiful and outrageous forms.” Like the jawbone of a cow that became the basis for a heavenly harp as a magnificent mantelpiece:

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

His workshop at Avalon Organic Gardens & Eco-Village in Tumacacori and a smaller assembly space at Sacred Treasures gallery in Tucson are piled with an assortment of “just-in-case-I-can-use-them” natural items awaiting their opportunity to become a part of his art.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

In a previous life, Lilly was more of a destroyer than a creator. Returning from Viet Nam service as a former paratrooper with PTSD, he made a living with his fists, as a martial arts instructor, until physical afflictions caused by contact with Agent Orange forced a change in lifestyle. That transition didn’t happen overnight.

“I ended up in Hawaii living in a jungle and surviving by making and selling sea shell jewelry and bamboo nose flutes. I began to see even more beauty in nature and a divine pattern in all things -- plants, animals, and myself and my focus became one of creating art that demonstrated both the beauty of nature and the beauty of the Creator’s hand.”

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Lilly has Cherokee heritage, but would never claim that he has a high blood quantum. "I grew up much more Native than white," he recalls. "My mother made moccasins and I never wore anything but moccasins until I started high school." Whille he feels connected to Native spirituality, he does not promote himself as a Native artist or his work as Native art.

He walks a lot in the woods and the desert and picks up raw materials on his trips. “All my supplies are taken from nature, in the wild, off a tree, or grown and dried in my own garden. I’ve been doing this for so long now that I see things I know I can use to create something.”

His art forms are many, all made of natural materials. “I enjoy the act of creating, but don’t have any special favorites. I do a lot of musical instruments, like the nose flutes I learned to make in Hawaii. I do a lot of medicine shields, sculptural pieces, and lots of jewelry, but I can’t paint or even draw a straight line with a ruler. I just follow the natural lines of nature.”

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Lilly walks a path of peace now and finds beauty in all things. “I want people to recognize there is a divine mind behind nature, and humans are a part of it. I’m absolute in my belief that this is a loving universe we live in. Love runs the world -- and helps me to create my artistic works. Each of my pieces has its own character and blend of beautiful -- and outrageous -- forms, and my intent is to bring the presence of a divine plan into the viewer’s reality.”

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.

Photo courtesy Kamon Lilly.