To help bring 2017 to a close Let’s Talk About Your Cat features three famous internet cats and my friend Laura Kicey of Olive & Rye Cat Art. Laura currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her partner Michael and her three cats Olive, Rye and newest addition Fig. When she isn’t busy being the social media manager for her feline trio, Laura works as a freelance graphic designer, photographer and illustrator. In addition she is also the creative force behind Kittydelphia, an annual cat-themed pop-up shop event in Philly.
How did Olive & Rye Cat Art come about?
It really started to develop not long after I made an Instagram account for Olive and Rye, in October 2014, about two months after we adopted them. I just wanted to post photos of them and not overwhelm friends who followed my other (non-cat) photography work. Their account following took off pretty quickly and by June 2015 we had 10k followers. I was also building my business as a cat portrait artist around their account and meeting clients through other cat accounts on Instagram. It grew over the years and I attended many cat-centric events and met lots of fellow cat enthusiasts as well as people who were also in the “cat biz” who became great friends.
I was meeting people and drawing their cats for fun and other people saw them on Instagram and asked me to draw their cats as well. It was getting a bit overwhelming so I decided to open an Etsy shop to accommodate the requests and it took off. I’ve probably drawn around 350 cats since I started and, though it is a bit hard on my heart sometimes I still find it very special to be able to do memorial portraits. Making something that moves people, especially through a shared love of kitties is pretty awesome. In addition to custom portraits I make other cat art and housewares, apparel, and accessories featuring my art.
Tell us about your cats
Our oldest cat Olive is about 4 to 5 years old. We suspect she was raised by dogs or maybe by possums because she doesn’t know how to be a cat or even meow. Olive is very gentle, rather awkward, a bit nervous and bewildered by everything. She is also extremely lazy except for an hour per day when she is activated, during that time she is a complete maniac, galloping around the house, attacking rugs and waving her paws around dramatically. She doesn’t really like being held but she is very into sitting on laps, in particular my lap, and receiving belly rubs.
Our middle child cat Rye is about 3 and a half years old now. Rye is a tortoiseshell domestic shorthair and the biggest of all our cats at the moment. Of all the cats I have ever had in my life, she is the most “normal” and also is incredibly sweet, chatty, and gentle.
How did your cats come into your life?
I had my first cat, Maggie, for 14 years when she died at age 17 back in 2014. I adopted another cat, Hazel, right after losing Maggie, but sadly Hazel died from cancer six months after we adopted her. It had been a very bad year and while it was extremely difficult, I still wanted to have a cat in my life. We started looking at adoptable cats online and I was hoping to find a cat around 3 to 4 years old. Michael showed me a photo of Olive (then Minnie) on the Philly PAWS site and I was taken, but we saw some others that we thought were cute too. I applied to adopt through PAWS and planned on keeping an open mind.
Olive was estimated at 1 to 2 years old when we met her, she was napping and very calm. Michael had been wandering around looking at other cats when he was literally grabbed by a little tortie from between the bars of her cage, he begged me to take her to the back room so we could meet her. Even though Rye (then Nittnay) was only 6 to 8 months old, she was also pretty calm but still playful. Michael suggested we take both of them and, when they met each other briefly at PAWS Rye was a bit hissy but we decided to take the plunge. They had to be kept apart for several weeks while we treated Olive’s URI and herpes-related eye issues but they couldn’t stop tickling each others paws under the door. When we finally introduced them, they took to each other straight away.
Inspired by the cat centered events I had attended, I decided to make a local event for cat lovers last year and Kittydelphia was born. I invited Philly area cat-stuff makers to be vendors, I also sold my own work and merchandise there. There were also guest celebricats and daily raffles. I named PAWS as the recipient of all donations from the event and they had adoptable cats available throughout the weekend as well as kittens in foster. On the last day of Kittydelphia, I had gone into the back room and saw Michael holding a tiny tortie kitten from the foster litter attending the event. He put her in my arms as I walked by and I was done. As I was holding her, I said, this is a Fig if ever I met one! After some discussion we applied to adopt her, her foster mom had said no one else had been interested in adopting her, and were accepted. We had to wait a few weeks until after her spay to bring her home but she fit in straight away.
Anything else people should know?
I intend to do Kittydelphia again in 2018 and I am really looking forward to growing the concept a bit. I am waiting until 2018 to make any major planning moves on that though! I am always adding things to my Etsy shop, whenever I finish up a new piece of cat art. I am really hoping to complete the alphabet cats series I started in 2017 as well!