Artist Profile: Katherine Wheeler

10 06 2009

With her beautiful ‘Ameoboid Teapot‘ in the ‘Melbourne Hollow Ware‘ exhibition (which opens tonight and was recently at Galerie Marzee), I thought it would be great to chat with Melbourne-based maker Katherine (Kate) Wheeler.

photograph used with artist permission; Katherine WheelerAmoeboid Teapot, 2008Fine silver, porcelain, polymer clay, glass, paper, cotton, 170x150x190mm

Amoeboid Teapot, 2008; fine silver, porcelain, polymer clay, glass, paper, cotton, 170x150x190mm

Kate and I started our fine art degree at RMIT together in 2004; though Kate took a year off after our first year, she returned to second year with an amazing experience to her name and has had a great deal of success during her degree and since graduating.

In her blog, Kate describes herself: “Through completing a diploma of visual arts I became interested in sculptural forms and working in metal. I then completed a bachelor of gold and silversmithing at RMIT. I now enjoy making jewellery, holloware and object.

1. You’ve had some wonderful success with your hollow ware and vessels – including inclusion in 2007 ‘Fresh’ at Craft Vic, the RMIT final-year Wolf Wennrich Award for Craft Excellence in Gold and Silversmithing, and inclusion in the Melbourne Hollow Ware exhibition at Galerie Marzee. You also make quite a lot of jewellery, so what type of work would you say you enjoy most making and why?

I enjoy making most the piece I am in the process of making. As for jewellery or hollow ware, I enjoy making both.
My jewellery pieces are mostly oversized, sculptural and reflect the hollow ware pieces. They are made as jewellery so they will have a connection point to the body.
I really like making oversized rings. When worn they can have the appearance and feel of a growth, or being a continuation of the body, living and existing, or co-existing with the person.
I enjoy making hollow ware because it can be large, and perhaps feel like it is less restricting in regards to materials being too delicate or too heavy.

Tin Ring; image by the artist

Tin Ring; image by the artist

2. I’ve noticed the materials of your pieces often include both metal and porcelain – would you say you work mostly in metal or ceramic, or it depends on the piece you’re working on?

I would definitely say that my work is mostly metal. My pieces always start with metal, or with metal in mind. It is so malleable and versatile. Ceramics, (along with paper and polymer clay) are elements that have crept into my work as it has evolved.

Funghi Ring; image by the artist

Funghi Ring; image by the artist

3. What serves as inspiration for your work? (It looks like a significant inspiration for you is nature – with ameoboids, funghi and urchins featuring in your titles.)

The concept of the home, living spaces, domestic objects, and how they relate to the body inspire my work.  Natural forms (sea life) do have a definite influence over the aesthetic of my work.
Genetic engineering and human intervention in nature is also something I think about when making. Often my pieces have an anthropomorphic feel, which I think can contribute to the success of a piece.
The works of Fiona Hall, and prints by Ernst Haeckel have been a huge inspiration to me.

Ooh, Fiona Hall is one of my favourite artists too – her piece in the NGV Ian Potter, ‘Paradisus Terrestris Entitled (1996)‘, was the subject of one of my first-year assignments, and I am still left astounded by it [images can be seen here].

4. White is also a dominant feature of your work – tell me why?

I use white for several reasons.  It gives the appearance of something aged, dried out, skeletal or fossilised.
It camouflages and unifies the different materials, possibly tricking the eye as to what it is seeing, and how it would feel.
White mutes, accentuates marks from making, and gives beauty.

Amoeboid Vessel; image by the artist

Amoeboid Vessel; image by the artist

5. What has been your most exciting / rewarding experience over the last few years?

Though every exhibition opportunity is exciting, the highlight would have to be the Hollow Ware show at Gallerie Marzee. I feel quite honoured to have my work shown overseas and alongside these inspirational and talented artists and mentors.

And not just shown but purchased by Galerie Marzee for their collection (Ameoboid Teapot is the first image above) – congratulations!

6. What do you like most about making?

Everything, from start to finish. I like the growth from a simple drawing or an idea into a three dimensional piece. The evolution and change along the way is very exciting. I often find myself starting multiple works at once to get the flow of the piece while it is fresh, and then add to them and refine them.
The parts of metal working that I do not enjoy (such as sanding and filing and sterling silver) seem to have practically vanished from my practice.  I like making fast, with a cut and paste mentality.
I love that making is challenging, and sometimes feels like it will all fall apart. In the end some of my most successful pieces have been so because of a ‘mistake’ that has led it in a new direction.
I like looking at a piece that is finished, and it no longer resembles at all the standard untouched piece of metal it once was.

Urchin Bangle; image by the artist

Urchin Bangle; image by the artist

7. What is the next step for your work?

There will be more experimenting and making. My work only evolves through making and discovering new avenues and materials along the way. One piece leads to another.
I would love to have a solo exhibition in the next couple of years, and will perhaps create a line of more wearable work.

Mini Teapots; image by the artist

Mini Teapots; image by the artist

I love the way Kate makes – she is relaxed, curious and playful! She is my inspiration for seeing the world, and making, in a more beautiful and free-spirited way.

Many thanks to Kate for being so generous and sharing so much about herself, inspiration and her making process!

See some of her work at the ‘Melbourne Hollow Ware’ exhibition at RMIT School of Art Gallery from 9th – 19th June 2009.

All images used with permission of the artist; all rights belong to the artist.

… previous artist profile: Nicole Polentas



5 responses

12 03 2010
Katherine Wheeler & Abby Seymour ‘Hidden Facets’ @ Hand Held Gallery « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] saw the opening of the exhibition of jewellery by the lovely Katherine Wheeler (see my previous artist profile story, and her blog) and printmaking/drawing by the equally lovely Abby Seymour (tumblr), and pieces […]

13 03 2010
Katherine Wheeler & Abby Seymour ‘Hidden Facets’ – part #2 « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] colour white is dominant (as discussed in Katherine’s artist profile); however shades of shell and body-pink colours emerge, and there is a progression through to a […]

2 07 2011
Congratulations Katherine! « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] congratulations to Katherine Wheeler [see my previous artist profile] for her feature in The Age today: “True to nature’s form“. media image; click on […]

12 09 2011
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[…] been admiring the pieces Katherine Wheeler (artist profile) and Abby Seymour have been making recently under their collaborative label […]

9 03 2013
‘Containment’ @ NGV | Melbourne Jeweller

[…] was looking forward to seeing this exhibition as the lovely Katherine Wheeler [artist profile] was part of it – and I wasn’t disappointed, her collection was […]

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