Kelly Bowell fills her merchandise table with her intricately hand-crafted, music/history inspired denim and apparel at a recent show at The Cellar in Struthers.
The members of Youngstown alternative metal act Relic, who are about to go on stage, gather around Bowell's the table, which includes punk / metal / hardcore-inspired distressed denim, hand-carved leather cuffs, guitar straps and GBNF silk-screened T-shirts.
Bowell, who is president and head of design of Gone But Not Forgotten Denim a and local rock booking agent, also books shows with various local acts such as Relic and Warren's metal act, Dead II Me.
Kelly Bowell, owner of Gone But Not Forgotten, said her GBNF T-shirt line consists of her designs and logo and “graphically perfected” by singer / songwriter Jared Farrell.
This photo shows one of Bowell’s designed leather cuffs.
"I am currently releasing a line of custom leather, hand-tooled guitar straps. I am designing a guitar strap for David Weise, who is the guitarist for the rock band Kill Hannah. The design for Weiss's guitar strap is based on the French children's book, 'Le Petit Prince,'" Bowell said.
Bowell, of Youngstown, also serves customers on a consultant-only basis and alters their denim to their liking. Items might include a print design for jeans, metal appliques or distressed-alterations. Customers can also donate their unwanted jeans or leather to Bowell to be recycled as handcrafted, edgy gems.
"If customers would like a leather cuff, a belt or a guitar/bass strap, I start with a sheet of genuine tooling leather,' she said. "I carve the designs with a swivel knife and then the leather is soaked in fresh water. Carving with the swivel knife is like tattooing a piece of leather. Then I hand-dye and burnish the leather to perfection. Sometimes the leather is painted or distressed."
Pause for the Cause
On April 10, 2011, Kelly Bowell of GBNF Denim, Royal McConahy and Tom Ruby will be organizing the event Pause for the Cause. This event is a cross-country excursion raising awareness for scleroderma and diabetes. Bowell's father died of scleroderma, and her mother and grandmother suffer from diabetes, as well as McConahy's mother. The trip will begin April 10 and go from Ohio to the redwood forest in California. Pause for the Cause will also raise awareness for small business owners and struggling entrepreneurs.
Bowell takes denim alterations to the next level with deconstructive techniques to give jeans a weathered appearance.
"I ran over a customer's jeans with an old Ford F150. One of my customers had their jeans shot with a Mini 30 and a (.22-caliber) rifle. I once collected iron-rich waters from Youngstown and rubbed them into belts, creating a unique distressed option called, 'Rust Belts.' I have ripped tornadoes in jeans and created a hail and rain scene with rivets and stitching. These jeans are a part of my 'Severe Weathered Collection,'" Bowell said.
Bowell's creations include her drawings, carvings and custom artwork as well as her own unique designs.
Roger Lewis, drummer and one of the founding members of Relic, said Bowell's products showcase her unique artistic ability.
"Gone But Not Forgotten jeans are not like the store bought, cookie-cutter jeans. Instead, she includes cool, customized modifications. Her cuffs and denim are inspiring because they make me feel like I Iook and play the part when I perform," Lewis said.
Bowell named her company Gone But Not Forgotten in 2006, in honor of her father, Anthony Bowell, who died in 2005 from scleroderma, an incurable autoimmune disease. Her father had a cherry tattoo with a wing on his arm that included the words, "Gone But Not Forgotten."
Bowell got her start in wardrobe design creating and altering costumes for productions such as "Camelot" and "Alice in Wonderland" at Packard Music Hall in Warren.
"My father's passing unleashed a world of creativity inside me," Bowell said. "My company, GBNF, is how I cope and honor him at the same time.
"I have been an artist since I was a little girl. I used to draw a lot of flowers and cartoons. After every drawing, I would show it to my dad and he would say small things like 'cool, good job' or 'wow.' He was a quiet man, but he spoke through his actions. I drew often with my mother, Lynne Loosemore. My parents were very important role models in my life," Bowell said.
Jessica Marie, Bowell's sister and GBNF model, is inspired by her sister's talent and sees GBNF as being inspired by love, loss, past, present and future.
"Wearing GBNF has allowed me to be able to express myself in so many ways, whether it's on a leather cuff, a belt or on a pair of my favorite jeans. I can't get enough of it. I love the fact that it is truly one-of-a-kind. Each item is an exceptional piece of art," Jessica Marie said.
Jim Sayers, drummer of the band Dead II Me, says that Bowell is a pioneer in the area, bringing back the idea of repurposing vintage clothing.
"It's great to have a hometown designer in this area," Sayers said.
In November, Bowell has plans to launch a webpage, but for now she does her online communication and business through Facebook, MySpace and the online artist merchandise website, Etsy.
In the future, Bowell also plans on expanding GBNF's line, including designing new leather accessories and a GBNF children's clothing line.
"The children's GBNF series will be called the 'Fossil Series,' which will include dinosaur bone imprint T-shirts and carved bracelets," Bowell said.
Sayers said Bowell not only books show for the band but designs its T-shirts, bracelets and armbands.
"Her work is one-of-a-kind and a great tribute to her father," he said.