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kk's obituary

Downing, Kristi K.

Age 77, of Grand Marais, MN, passed away peacefully on December 5, 2013 in Rochester after a brief but brutal recurrence of cancer.

Kristi was a beloved free spirit who was an artist in the kitchen and in clay.  She nourished and nurtured others with her incomparable hospitality and unconditional love.  She was a teacher and a healer at heart.

Kristi was born August 23, 1936 in Neenah, WI.  She graduated from high school in Eau Claire and followed her mother and brothers to St. Olaf College. She was a stewardess at Northwest Orient Airlines and taught high-school English in Bloomington.  In 1962 she moved to Rochester with her then-husband Lawrence Downing. A year later, they moved to Oronoco and raised their small family on the banks of Lake Shady. In 1980, she went back to school to get her Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  After that she moved to the Twin Cities and worked as a counselor and rehabilitation consultant, and eventually ran her own business.

At age 55, Kristi was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was a turning point in her life. She bought a small, rustic cabin and floated it in to a beachfront lot on HutPoint, her family’s land northeast of Grand Marais on the shores of Lake Superior. She named the cabin KK Sera, reflecting her “what will be will be” philosophy of life. 

At age 62 she retired, sold her Minneapolis condo and moved to her beloved cabin “KK.” She began taking extended winter trips to the homes she built with her brothers on the hillside overlooking Coral Bay, forging a remarkable community of friends and adding to her expansive Sloop Jones clothing collection.  She loved being a part of the island life on St. John.

A few years after she moved north she built an adjacent studio, and KKD Pottery was born—a dream come true after decades of potting.  Kristi was a longtime member of the Crossing Borders Art Tour and participated in her 13th annual event late this fall.  For more than a decade, she taught popular raku pottery courses at North House Folk School in Grand Marais and Grand Marais Art Colony.  She was the subject of numerous TV, radio, magazine and newspaper features.

Kristi was an extraordinary mother and grandmother to daughter Kyia (Kirk Horsted) and their children, Jesper and Elsa; and son Christopher (Teri) and their blended family:  Liz, Sue, Brit, Becca, Austin, Tia, Kylie, Jack and great-grandchildren Amelia, Becker and Eli. She is survived by her three big brothers Oz (Jean), Joel (Louise) and Mark (Donna) Anderson, numerous nieces and nephews and countless friends from Thunder Bay to Coral Bay (USVI).

Memorials should be directed to North House Folk School, where the family plans to establish a KKD mentorship scholarship to encourage and support promising artists. 

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cat thompson
By Cat Thompson
I am so sorry, and sorry that I never met Kristi. Her influence is so obvious; it is clear to me where you, Kyia, learned your tremendous compassion, optimism and creativity. My deepest sympathies to you and your family during this difficult time.
1 person hearted this
Natasha White
By Ray White (Natasha, Willow, Olive, and Felix too)
Lovely tribute to a lovely woman. Kristi's candle is still burning in front of an ever expanding collection of lake rocks, raku pots, and the matched set of clay wineglasses Kristi made for us.
I can't look at the lake or the sky or a cookbook without thinking of her.
And remember to feed the birds!

Ray White
2 people hearted this
Mary Ofjord
By Mary Ofjord
You were well loved kristi - especially by me. I am so going to miss you. I have the wine glass you made that has your hand in the design.
1 person hearted this
Sharon Mitchell
By Sharon Mitchell
Such a lovely bio for an extraordinary spirit and lively wise woman! I shall miss her! She expanded my recipe collection with her constant experimentation with new dishes that I could smell cooking as I approached here homey cabin. Then there were the quiet times of wine and chatter. I'll never forget the challenges we faced in raku firing an enormous clay rainstick in her studio. And then there was that class we planned to teach together but never quite got around to. When I look at the bowls, vases, and wine pinches in my Kristi collection, I will smile and remember someone really special and wish for more days with her.
1 person hearted this
Nancy Daley
By Nancy Daley
Kristi will always be a model to me, in Life lived fully and artfully
1 person hearted this