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

Artist Profile: Nicole Polentas

13 05 2009

With some of her work currently showing in the ‘Paper Text‘ exhibition at Studio 20/17 (Sydney, until 30th May), I thought it would be great to chat with Melbourne-based maker Nicole Polentas.

Nicole Polentas; Exile: The Blackest Night necklace 2008; silver, gold, copper, plastic, epoxy, image, glass powder, paint, pearls; 420 x 180 x 60 mm

Exile: The Blackest Night, necklace 2008-2009; silver, gold, copper, plastic, epoxy, image, glass powder, paint, pearls

What have you been up to since we graduated from our RMIT undergraduate degree (at the end of 2006)?

Since I graduated from the undergraduate degree I decided to return to study and undertook an MFA (Masters in Fine Art) by coursework. I wanted to develop a process that I could use as a way of making objects that would become part of my identity as a maker. During the MFA I was trying to push the boundaries of what a jewellery object can be and what meanings it can project. I was experimenting with traditional and non-traditional processes and materials.
I exhibited at Galerie Marzee in the international graduate show in the Netherlands (in 2007) and also at Talente in Munich (in 2008). I was also commissioned by Kraft to make a gold commemorative jar for Vegemite (in 2008). I was also awarded the first prize for the Diana Morgan gold and silversmithing alumni and postgraduate show (in 2008). I recently returned from a trip to The Netherlands which I was involved in and helped manage the group show “Jewellery Topos” at Galerie Marzee. I am currently undertaking a research degree at RMIT.

Wow! See the below links for more details and images:

I have found some more information and images of other work Nicole has also exhibited:

Oil Bowl

Oil Bowl, 2008

Where are you currently exhibiting? Any upcoming shows?

I am currently exhibiting in ‘Paper Text‘ at Studio 20/17 in Sydney.
And I will be in the upcoming show at BUDA.

  • ‘Paper Text’ runs at Studio 20/17 until 30th May 2009.
  • The BUDA show isContemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Exhibition‘ and is showing 6th – 21st June 2009.
Nicole Polentas; Untitled (bracelet); 2006; Sterling silver, plastic, copper and image; Photography by Jeremy Dillon

When Water Spills Over (bracelet); 2006; Sterling silver, plastic, copper and image; Photography by Jeremy Dillon

What has been your most exciting / rewarding experience over the last two years?

The trip to Galerie Marzee to see my work in Europe; and when I was awarded an Australian postgraduate scholarship to continue studies for the next 2 years.

4. What is the next step for your work?

As I am undertaking my MA I am researching the ways that jewellery objects can provide a sense of place through the exploration of collective memory, within my cultural background. I am traveling to Crete to research and experience the landscape and aim to engage in a social enquiry into cultural memory, to gain first hand resources that will inform my jewellery objects.


My Black Night, 2008

It has been wonderful to see the vision Nicole is now expressing as it has developed from her first steps in that direction during our degree – her work is beautiful and always impeccably made. Her investigation into a sense of place, and identity through place, is one I connect with strongly; and it heartens me to see her hard work and talent is being recognised both locally and internationally.

All  images used with permission of the artist.