Meet Jelly Belly Artist Kirsten Cumings
Some people land unique careers or jobs that are just really cool. Kristen Cumings is one of those lucky people. She is a Jelly Belly jelly bean artist. Since there is only one in the country, we were curious, how does one become a Jelly Belly bean artist.
In 1996, they moved to the Bay Area to become freelance orchestral musicians. That worked for awhile but eventually she retired her horn and started painting. Kristen has had an interest in art her whole life, but she never thought it would be something she would do professionally. Then she began entering her work into local shows and galleries.
In 2009, a friend who worked in the marketing department at Jelly Belly, owned an acrylic painting Kristen had done of his daughter. He knew that Jelly Belly was looking for someone new to do “bean art”. Jelly Belly had been commissioning artist since the 1980’s to make art out of their product, but hadn’t had anyone do it for awhile. “He asked me if I wanted to do this and give it a try. So, I did and it was really fun,” she said.
Then it sort of snowballed. “I did another piece for them that year.” Kristen said. She had created a piece from an image of Herman Rowland, head of the Jelly Belly Family. “It was presented to him as a gift for his 50th year anniversary of being a candy maker.”
A professional relationship was born. “The next year, in 2010, I was commissioned to do a whole series of famous reproductions such as Mona Lisa, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Rosie the Riveter.” Kristen’s work quickly grew in popularity. So much so, that Rachael Ray invited her onto her national TV show.
In 2011, Jelly Belly hired Kristen on a more permanent basis. She has been their artist-in-residence for the past four years. “I do several pieces for them a year. And they send me to events to talk to people. It’s a really fun job.”
Usually, Jelly Belly will pick a theme for a series of artwork such as the Masterpieces, or the Endangered Species.
“The theme will be Comic Con this year.” She is participating in a bunch of Comic Con Events. New York City, Chicago in March, Seattle in April, and back to New York City in October.The tour will incorporate her artwork. “I will start creating the art at the event, but they take 100 to 150 hours to complete. After 3 or 4 days, 8 hours per day at Comic Con, I bring the pieces back to the studio and complete them. Each piece are 4’ x 5’ and takes 12,000 Jelly Beans.”
Her artwork is on display at the Jelly Belly Visitor Center in Fairfield. They recently opened a new gallery so that they can display more pieces to the public. They have the reproduction masterpieces upstairs in the gallery, and their endangered species series are displayed in the lower level.
Kristen says on occasion she has had offers to do private Jelly Belly art. “Most people don’t have thousands of dollars lying around for art. However, a woman named Lola, who owned Lola’s Sugar Rush candy store in Colorado commissioned me to due a portrait of herself to hang in the shop for its opening.”
“I also did one for Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph Lauren. She owns a candy shop in New York City, and Jelly Belly commissioned me to do a portrait of her.” Kristen proudly recalls.
Her art is extraordinary. We published a few of them for this article. You can see more of them at her website at www.kristencumings.com. It would be well worth the trip to Fairfield to view the entire gallery in person and admire in full size. The pieces are finished with a protective resin so they are not edible, but they are certainly eye candy.
Masterpiece Series: Girl with the Pearl Earring