Kathryn Wardill on ‘Adversity’
We recently spoke to Kathryn Wardill about her exhibition, ‘Adversity’…
‘Bouquet – Flowers Fail (18 rings)’ Sterling silver, oxidised sterling silver and glass
Tell us about your upcoming exhibition.
The show is called Adversity, and it’s to do with the last six months of my life and the personal challenges I’ve faced. I’ve had a lot going on in my world. Before anything had happened I’d committed and was looking forward to having this solo exhibition at e.g.etal. So when tough times come along, the question is, “What are you going to do about it…what’s going to happen?”
I decided pretty early on that I definitely wanted to fulfil my commitment. But I also needed to work through all this other stuff that was going on in my life. I wasn’t sure how to deal with it all. In the end I became resolved to make work about what I was going through…once I had that resolve it became easier. What I’ve been making is what I’ve been thinking and feeling about other things in my life. Whenever I’ve got three hours to sandpaper something I’ve also got a lot to think about at the same time…
For the first group of rings in this collection I’ve worked with metal and glass and I feel that’s a strong part of my work and a big part of my identity…there are very personal layers to this work behind what the viewer immediately sees, and these hidden meanings are important.
‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ Oxidised sterling silver
‘Rough Seas’ Oxidised sterling silver
Was the process of making these rings meditative? Repetitive sand papering for three hours…is that a cathartic thing in some ways?
Definitely. On good days or bad days you maintain a level of self-reflection, wondering what to do with yourself. That leads to the workshop: making, and having something to work towards. So you feel like you’ve got a purpose and you’re being productive. But, in a way, it’s also a good form of distraction.
Do you think if you didn’t have this exhibition that you still would have made jewellery during this time?
No. I squirmed my way through at some points. I would go into the studio and I would feel knackered. I cleaned the studio and then I cleaned it again. And for a while I didn’t do anything. And I kept thinking that I had five months to go and that I could leave it. That never really changed and then the guilt really began to set in. I could’ve easily made the decision not to have this exhibition—I did know that. But in a situation like mine, the big question is about what choices you are going to make. I knew what I wanted but it was a matter of finding a way to get myself there…I was definitely sitting there sandpapering for three hours and thinking, “Yeah, all good, just going to sandpaper now…this is alright.”
So is this body of work a part of the healing process?
I think so. For me, it’s also definitely about keeping my hand in making, I think. But if I didn’t have that direction or drive, then I don’t know…the interesting thing about this collection is that I think I have a skill set, which is much higher, bigger, better. But I don’t think it’s on display here. I really wrestled with that. I was constantly thinking, I’m having this show, I really want to show people how clever I am, what I can do, how great I am, how strong I am…but I guess the narrative is much more present and I’m more connected to these pieces; the togetherness between myself and these objects. They certainly reflect things that I was thinking and feeling, and that I’ve since worked through.
‘Toy – Around and Around – Damage with Every Movement’ Oxidised sterling silver, recycled 18ct yellow gold wedding ring
‘Tried to Put a Stick in My Wheels’ Oxidised sterling silver, brass wheels
Do you think this has moved your work in a new direction?
I’m not sure. It will be interesting to see whether, as I become more confident, I move back towards more design-oriented objects…which are beautiful and tactile and lovely, but they don’t necessarily have a story, or an underlying narrative. I’ve never really been about stories in my work, it’s always been more focused on the design and the technical expertise of the work. Also I guess my gymnastic has always been about glass as a material and metal as a material. I have skillsets in both but it’s the marriage of the two that interests me: getting things to work together and getting the design and these wearable, fragile materials to work with the body…
How do you feel now about letting these pieces go?
I’m actually OK with it all. I’ve come to recognise a lot of them as chapters: been there, done that, moving on.