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Hatch’19 Case Study 6: Kathleen Smith

As the Hatch’19 exhibition at NCCD enters its final week, we continue our dialogues with Design-Nation members, finding out where and what they studied and how it has shaped their curent practice. Today we talked to Kathleen Smith, who uses her skills in metalwork and other processes for public art pieces that explore stories. Along with project partner (and fellow DN member) Laura Mabbutt, Kathleen also runs “Making Up Your Street” involving everyone in community art.

Design-Nation: Where did you study and what course did you take?

Kathleen Smith: I did my foundation course at Lincoln and then did various courses at night class in Life Drawing and Silversmithing at Newark College. From there I self-taught myself and also attended day classes in Lampwork, but I felt I still needed to do a degree and push myself to widen my outlook. I then completed a degree in Jewellery and Object at Lincoln University, followed by a MA in Design.

DN: Are you still working in the discipline or material that you studied?

KS: I have taken the many things I learnt on my degree and used them in a different way. I am not making jewellery any more, but have transferred these skills into making small objects for public art trails. I’ve used my Photoshop knowledge for the Wild in Art sculpture trails. CAD design including 3D printing has been very useful in community projects including the small object trails. I am still using the same skills and materials, but I am using them in a way that connects with more people through public and community craft.

DN: If you didn’t work the way you do now, what other discipline or material would you like to work with?

KS: I co-founded the ‘Making Up Your Street’ project with Laura Mabbutt and I am trying to fill gaps in my making knowledge. I am currently learning more about ceramics and have been working on gaining woodworking skills.

DN: Do you think your time at university shaped you as a person?

KS: I was a mature student when I finally managed to do my degree. I had been trying to do an art degree for so long but life and circumstances got in the way earlier. So I was very focused on doing as well as I could on the degree. I was so determined to learn as much as I could and make the most of every moment. It didn’t really shape me as a person, but made me more confident in my professional practice as an artist and maker.

DN: What is your strongest memory from your time at art school or university?

KS: Realising that I could learn how to use technology, which really shocked me. I learnt how to use Photoshop, CAD (Rhino), how to laser-cut and 3D print. And I am someone who struggled using a computer before the course.

DN: How do you think creative education has changed since you were a student? Are you optimistic about creative education in the UK or do you have concerns about the future for those wanting to study arts subjects?

KS: I think that creative education now is more business focused, and teaches you how to photograph your work, how to run a business and how to market yourself. It’s not just about being a skilled artist. I am dismayed how the arts are being removed from the curriculum. Even the course I studied at university was shut down, and what I learnt on that course was essential in making my living today.

DN: Knowing what you know now, what three pieces of advice would you give your student self?

KS: Apply for everything, as you might just get it. Don’t feel down through rejection: pick yourself up and try again. Learn as much as you can in as many different skills as possible, as you never know when you may need that skill.

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Liz Cooper


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