Catherine Large’s Strange Objects

Catherine Large’s Strange Objects

The works of jewellery and small object artist, Catherine Large, are riddled with intriguing and meaningful stories of past lives that capture your attention; there’s something about the recognisable forms apparent in Catherine’s work that make you want to know more. As you ponder her Strange Things collection you can’t help but read what each small object has been crafted from. And when you do it becomes apparent just how beautifully nostalgic Catherine’s work is; from lorikeet feathers found in her Sydney garden to rusted bottle tops printed with Russian symbols, the Strange Things collection seems to play homage to some of Catherine’s  most precious memories.

Driven by her experience of the nature of objects, Catherine often uses items that hold personal value to an individual, but, for whatever reason, have been discarded or passed on by its original owner.  By using such objects in her work she transforms the object, giving it a second life, an act that is both environmentally and conceptually aware. This practice becomes a contemplative process for Catherine, one in which she considers and reimagines our relationship with and connection to objects.

You can experience Catherine’s work in her Strange Objects exhibition, which features works created as part of her Master’s research, at artisan until 9 April 2016. Strange Objects launches our new Spall Object Space (SOS), presented in partnership with Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art (QCA). SOS will feature a program of exhibitions that showcase QCA’s best small object works from students, staff and alumni.

We recently spoke to Catherine to discuss the inspirations and processes behind her creative practice.


How long have you worked with jewellery and small object sculpture and what drew you to work with these mediums?

I’ve worked with jewellery and objects since 1983 when I commenced my undergraduate studies at RMIT. As a child, I always enjoyed working with my hands, cooking, gardening, sewing and ‘helping’ my father in his workshop, as well as studying art at school, so it seemed a natural progression. In some ways I was lucky that my somewhat uninformed decision to work in metal has turned out to be a lifelong passion. 

 

(L): Catherine Large, Green landscape, 2015. Sterling silver, fine silver, vitreous enamel, black beading silk. (R): Catherine Large, Grey landscape. Sterling silver, fine silver, vitreous enamel. Photo by Visuall.

(L): Catherine Large, Green landscape (pendant), 2015. Sterling silver, fine silver, vitreous enamel, black beading silk. (R): Catherine Large, Grey landscape (pendant), Sterling silver, fine silver, vitreous enamel. Photo by Visuall.

 

You work with predominantly recycled and reused materials. Why is using recycled and reused materials important to you?

Consideration of the environment, particularly the impact of mining is one of the reasons I prefer to use recycled materials.  I have always liked the idea of re-using resources and materials I already have. This is partly due to lessons of frugality learnt as a child and as an artist, as well as drawing on the rich array of objects collected by my family, many of which have no obvious use or application in 2016, but are valued for their inherent qualities and the stories attached to them.

 

Catherine Large, Vessel, 2015. Sterling silver, pure silver and re-purposed glass bottle neck. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, Vessel, 2015. Sterling silver, pure silver and re-purposed glass bottle neck. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

As you mention, you often use objects that have a story or ‘former life’ as materials to create your works. How and why do you select these objects?

I have always been interested in the wear and tear or the story reflected in the surface of a work. I investigate and reference patterns and shapes of items from another time or usage convention, discovering those which successfully translate to new objects. This method allows these objects to have life beyond the original object, and they are dispersed to a much wider audience as a further generation of inherited objects.

As a maker, I draw on my past, personal experience, and the present, and often once I have collected or chosen an object to work with, it sits with others on my bench for some time amongst unrelated objects and partially completed work until the disparate elements suggest a solution or direction.

 

Catherine Large, 6 Spoons, 2015. Sterling silver. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, 6 Spoons, 2015. Sterling silver. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

Why do you think jewellery is a useful medium for reimagining these objects?

Jewellery is a useful medium for reimagining these objects because many of them by their nature are of a small or wearable scale. They also work as wall pieces, such as in the Strange Things collection, with the addition of a sterling silver element allowing them to come out of a box or drawer, and to be displayed and appreciated by the enquiring mind.

The body can work as a roving art gallery when a piece is worn, with the capacity to showcase a piece of jewellery to a much wider audience. A conversation can readily begin about the story behind the art work.

 

Can you tell us the stories behind some of the objects that you’ve used in your works featured in Strange Objects?

Many of the objects I have used in Strange Objects are items that may well be overlooked or ignored because of their lack of obvious use or intention. This is probably what I find most appealing about them, and I enjoy thinking about how to celebrate the form or the story of the find and its history. For example, the mother-of pearl fan piece in my work Time Passing was destined for the tip, along with the rest of the belongings left in a house that was being cleared for sale in Sydney in 1992. I used much of the fan in earlier works, but had one or two remnant pieces that were ideal for this work. The Sheffield steel knife blades in Shall We Eat were purchased as blades without handles in the 1990s and again, some were used and the others sat until the right idea came along. The pieces in Strange Things are disparate yet become part of a cohesive collection, the first coming into my possession in 1982—the black and white earring, purchased in Israel in 1982 by my oldest friend, and given to me on her return (work 4 in Strange things 7 as pictured below). Other items were collected while travelling, such as the badges and Fanta cap from Moscow in 1989 (work 1 in Strange things 3 as pictured below). This was the period of ‘Glasnost’ in the USSR with President Gorbachev in power, and while things were just beginning to relax, the shops were empty and the only place to buy anything was the Beriozka ‘hard currency’ stores. Other items tell stories about my extended family and places we have lived and travelled.

 

 

Catherine Large, Time passing (pendant), 2014. Sterling silver, mother-of-pearl fan piece and waxed linen thread. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, Time passing (pendant), 2014. Sterling silver, mother-of-pearl fan piece and waxed linen thread. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

Catherine Large, Shall we wat? 2013. Sterling silver knives with re-used Sheffield steel dinner and fruit knife blades. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, Shall we eat?, 2013. Sterling silver knives with re-used Sheffield steel dinner and fruit knife blades. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

Catherine Large, Strange things 7, 2013-15. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, Strange things 7, 2013-15. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

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Catherine Large, Strange things 3, 2013-15. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

You’re a Lecturer in Jewellery and Small Objects and Convenor of 1st Year in Jewellery and Small Objects at QCA. What is the most rewarding part of your position there?

I enjoy passing on my skills to keen students, and particularly enjoy introducing the magic of jewellery making and metal forming to them.  I am fortunate to have the skills I have, and sharing my  knowledge means that  the experience I have had of working and studying with some wonderful people is conveyed to a new generation of makers, who will interpret and utilise this knowledge in their own way.

 

Catherine Large, If the Shoe Fits (pendant) 2015. Re-purposed sterling silver shoe horn handle (hallmarked Birmingham 1907), bronze grave ornament, 18 carat gold, waxed linen thread. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, If the Shoe Fits (pendant), 2015. Re-purposed sterling silver shoe horn handle (hallmarked Birmingham 1907), bronze grave ornament, 18 carat gold, waxed linen thread. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

How does your role at QCA relate to your own practice?

Working with students means you are constantly reflecting on the way you work, and what informs your practice. When someone is new to the discipline, they can view things quite differently, so you are always open to new approaches and ways of working. Talking through ideas in a class can sometimes lead to the ‘aha’ moment for a project that has been simmering away in the back of your mind. Constantly reading about the jewellery and small objects discipline and viewing work in Brisbane, nationally and internationally is stimulating, and always feeds into your practice in some way.

 

Catherine Large, Images of my mother, 2013. Sterling silver brooch with 18ct gold and vitreous enamel. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

Catherine Large, Images of my mother, 2013. Sterling silver brooch with 18ct gold and vitreous enamel. Photo by Michelle Bowden.

 

Where can we keep up-to-date with your latest work?

As new works are documented, they can be viewed through my website: www.catherinelarge.com.

I am also showing new works in a group exhibition, Worn & Weathered presented by the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Queensland (JMGQ) in the Webb Gallery at QCA. This will run from July 5-25 July 2016.


A number of Catherine’s works from her Strange Objects exhibition are for sale. Plus we have a range of her works for sale in our retail store. Email our Retail Manager, Caitlin, at mart@artisan.org.au or call us on (07) 3215 0808 for more information.

See Strange Objects until April 9!

Feature image: Catherine Large, Strange Things Collection 2013-2015 Photographer Michelle Bowden.

 

 

 

 


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