This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Inspirations: Kathi Roussel
During the last couple months as I've contemplated new ideas and new directions, I've been trying to pay attention to the work that makes me pause to look and to ponder. I've been watching myself as if from a short distance to see what it tells me about what I value in my own life and how I can spend this next year even more engaged in pursuits that matter. Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of my time on Etsy and I began to realize one of my patterns. I found that when I needed a bit of sustenance and something to take me to a different place, one of stillness and meditation, I would visit 5gardenias, the vintage shop of Kathi Roussel. About the same time it dawned on me that one of my other favorite shops filled with elegant handcrafted jewelry beautifully photographed, Kathi Roussel was run by the very same person. I wanted to know more about her and how she had come to have two successful shops with amazing pieces, photographed and presented in ways that took them way beyond the ordinary. The idea for this monthly series was born. I sent Kathi a list of questions I was curious about and present her heartfelt and humorous responses here, interspersed with a few of my favorites from both of her shops. I think you will be inspired too!
* As things change frequently, I'm just including links to the shop where these pieces originally resided.
Can you talk about your background and a bit about the history of your artistic pursuits? I had the good fortune of spending about 5-6 years attending two wonderful art schools once I left high school. The experiences were enriching and eyeopening. I had grown up in a small town with very little cultural exposure-- so for me the experience was life changing and really shaped the person that I am today. I have never stopped making art related work since those early days of study. The mediums have changed, but my devotion to work and love for creating is constant.
What people and events have influenced you to become a maker as well as a collector? My art school experiences filled me with a strong sense of possibility and a deep appreciation for the arts. I had some wonderful teachers along the way, many of them talented artists in their own right, so I felt a sense of certainty that following a path of art making was a viable option. As far as collecting goes-- I think that got started because my family owned and operated several stores-- the last of which was a combination furniture and gift store situated in a renovated victorian farmhouse, with a barn out back for selling antiques. I used to go to auctions and bid on items for the business when I was living in Boston going to school. My boyfriend at the time was an antiques enthusiast and we would go hunting for treasures on weekends at local flea markets and thrift shops in and around Boston. It was then that I began my first small collection-- antique and vintage toasters! I've since moved on --mostly to smaller items that are more intimate and easy to maintain and store.
I'm struck by the qualities embodied in still life paintings....How do you go about presenting the objects in your vintage shop, 5gardenias?
I remember when I first opened my etsy shop and added my vintage items-- I was clueless. I had no idea how best to present anything. Gradually over time I began to get a sense of the Etsy aesthetic. I noticed that my favorite shops used natural light and more casual settings for their items. I finally found the right spot in my home, near a bank of large windows facing north that offered the best natural light source, especially during our long grey and often dark Buffalo winters. I was happy just to get some decent photos. As with most things one does for awhile there is a slow evolution and discovery process of what works and what doesn't. I began to get more comfortable with the camera, so I could direct my attention more to the objects themselves--to try and figure out the best way to capture and express their beauty or quirkiness. I find myself now trying to get to some simple and straightforward essence that the object offers. Each object has it's own personality. The shape, the color, the period in which it was made--whether it was hand or machine made-- all these things tell a story, and I find myself wanting to reveal something charming or compelling about the object to the viewer. It's somewhat intangible but when I make photos I love, I know I've hit it. Sometimes the background makes the difference, or sometimes the distance the object sits from the camera says something about it, sometimes it's the old crinkled paper I've put underneath, or the old box it stands on.... I have an arsenal of props that I often use. The most important thing of all to me is how the light is hitting the piece or the area around the object. This is just as true if not even more important with the macro shots I take of my jewelry work. Photography is after all about light. I'm not a technical photographer--but I think I'm an observant one. You mentioned the sense of objects "suspended in time". Yes!! That has always been my goal. To create a still life. Something serene and quiet. Sometimes joyful, or playful. Sometimes a bit melancholy. Sometimes stoic. The object seems to direct me.
Does the marketplace influence the work that you make or collect? At times it does. There are times when I make a point of finding certain kinds of antique and vintage pieces directly related to various holidays during the year, or seasons. I tend to gravitate toward older pieces from the turn of the century or earlier, but I love pieces from every decade--from primitive and rustic, to fine, to modern-- to over the top kitsch. I think I developed my love for kitsch in art school--thanks to my boyfriend's 50s poodle figurine collection. As far as my jewelry work goes--I try to stay on my own path as much as possible. Of course I'm constantly looking and seeing what's new and what trends are taking shape. If I can work some aspect of current trend into pieces here and there it can be fun and add some freshness to the work.
Any particular current influences? Well I just noticed that Edwardian is starting to come into fashion. I happen to love that time period and so for me offering some antique pieces from that era is exciting-- and even my jewelry work is sometimes influenced by Victorian and Edwardian work --albeit twisted toward a minimalist modern version- for instance the piece in my jewelry shop titled "Sleep" is influenced by lover's eye Victorian jewelry--Victorian lockets that contained hand painted portraits of woman's eyes. I love the intimacy of those early pieces. They are wonderfully romantic. And I love the lockets that hold the hair of a beloved family member. My shadow box pieces are definitely a nod to that period-- and to Victorian mourning jewelry which was always black. I love the secrecy of lockets and boxes and all things that contain and hold keepsakes. I've also got some more modern minimalist geometric pieces in my jewelry shop. People are feeling the pyramid power all over the place on Etsy-- I guess I do too!
If you could have a small gathering of anyone from history for dinner and conversation....who would you invite? Well that's a tough one-- good thing I have a very long dining table--this will be fun!! I'd have to have Gandhi --he would be seated at the head of the table--he has so many poignant things to tell us. Then I would invite Jane Goodall and Dian Fossy-- both amazingly courageous and admirable woman. I think I'd enjoy hearing what artist Kiki Smith might have to tell us about her work and influences-- along with Andrew Goldsworthy. I'd invite Dick Cheney and then not serve him any dinner and not allow him to speak--just make him listen to the conversation going on... and Woody Allen for comic relief....and his favorite director Ingmar Bergman for the weightier view of things... oh and Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, so we could get mythical and speak about the unconscious ( meanwhile hoping Cheney is listening and learning and feeling sheepish and like a mere mortal by now...) and a few of my favorite painters, Georgio Morandi, Philip Guston, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. Then I'd have Mary Magdalene and Jesus stop by for coffee and desert if they are able to make an appearance.... that could shake things up a bit.. at least spur on an interesting debate. or not.
I am an artist living and working in southeastern South Dakota on the banks of the Missouri River. My work combines painting, drawing, embroidery and collage on
Check out my other blog, an online journal at http://www.missouribendstudio.blogspot.com.
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Thanks for looking!