DESIGNER PROFILE: New designer Kathryn Kelly inspired by architecture
Kathryn says her home base of Philadelphia is a vibrant creative hub for jewellery design.
JO: What is the main inspiration for your jewellery designs?
KK: My years spent as an architect heavily inform my work and often provide conceptual cues, whether formal or theoretical. Among my sources of inspiration are Japanese and Scandinavian architecture, the furniture of Finn Juhl and fashion of Rick Owens. It may seem like a broad range but, in the end, I’m interested in achieving what each of these examples accomplish – simplicity through absence of the unnecessary.
JO: What materials do you use?
KK: I am immensely drawn to natural materials. The ability to see signs of wear, to experience opposing textures and feel them on the skin drew me to porcelain and metal. I throw each piece on the wheel which allows me to tactilely experience the transformation of the material from its initial plastic state to its vitreous final form. I use metal to contain and support the ceramic vessels, to embrace the sensuous forms within a skeletal cage and transform them into wearable pieces.
JO: What first attracted you to jewellery design?
KK: I’m never happier than when I’m working with my hands, particularly on a small scale. I’ve worked as an architect, furniture maker and even had my own stationery company but none of those approached the satisfaction I feel when I’m making jewellery. I’ve always been attracted to jewellery as a unique form of expression so it seemed natural to transition into that craft. I’m drawn to its intimacy of scale, its unique ability to interact with the wearer. I’ve only recently embarked on my explorations, which have been self-guided, but this has quickly become a passion.
JO: What is the jewellery design scene like in Philadelphia and in the United States? In the U.S., what are the most creative hubs right now for independent jewellery designers – New York City, San Francisco…?
KK: Philadelphia has a unique jewellery history. It has the oldest diamond district in America on Jeweller’s Row, a street renowned since the turn of the twentieth century for its dense concentration of retailers, wholesalers and craftsmen. There is also a thriving art scene here. In addition to her impeccably crafted hollow form brooches, Jill Baker Gower combines precious metals with cast forms resembling flesh to create thoroughly modern pieces. Melanie Bilenker, who puts a modern spin on Victorian hairwork, is one of five artists working out of a collective in South Philadelphia. On the consumer end, Bario Neal, a small company that uses fair mined stones and reclaimed precious metals to create its pared-down designs, has a thriving workshop/retail store a block from my house.
I have to admit that since I’m new to the medium, I’m not especially familiar with the work happening beyond the East Coast. However, Hudson New York has an incredible gallery called Ornamentum which shows some of the most beautiful work I’ve seen. From Rebekah Frank’s minimal pieces influenced by Sol Lewitt to the intricate gold and enameled brooches and earrings of Jacquelin Ryan, the work they highlight is wide ranging and thoroughly unique.
JO: What are your future plans in jewellery design?
KK: I’ll be attending Central Saint Martins in the fall and, in addition to exploring the place of ceramics in the worn object, I want to investigate adornment as a way to inhabit space both corporeal and conceptual. Creating wearable artifacts dependent upon the figure, standalone repositories and conceptual objects which orbit the sphere of the body. I hope to be a studio art jeweller, creating unique pieces which can be worn or displayed. I see adornment as a form of art which need not be worn to be valued and hope to make pieces which the user can interface with in the manner of her choosing.