Catherine Large EM Student Member Interview

Catherine Large is a visual artist pursuing a Masters of Visual Arts at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Her work was chosen for inclusion in EM's first annual international student exhibition, So Fresh + So Clean.

Objects by Catherine Large or Australia

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How did you first become aware of the negative impacts of mining for materials in the jewellery industry?

Growing up in a country that has built much of its wealth from mining its resources means that you are always aware of the potentially detrimental environmental effects of such actions. I probably became really aware of these impacts about 20 years ago when I began to work seriously on my own practice after relocating to Brisbane.

When did you start making jewellery, and how difficult was it then to begin finding ethically sourcing materials?

I began making jewellery and objects when I commenced my undergraduate degree in 1983. To be honest, my recollection at the time was that makers were not so concerned about these issues. I think I really began to consider these things some years later. And then more so, after some years of travel, upon seeing how materials were mined, harvested and sourced within other cultural contexts.

Economics played a large part in my practice, dating from when I was an undergraduate student. All scrap and lemel was melted down and formed into sheet or wire to be re-used. We are lucky enough now in Australia to have a local supplier of 100% recycled sterling and fine silver.

Broches with Enamel by Catherine LargeWhat do you think sets your jewellery apart from the art being done by other jewellers?

My practice at the moment is entwined with my Masters of Visual Arts candidacy. The focus of my research is the inherited domestic object, its qualities and its values. Primarily, my studio methodology begins with an examination of objects I have inherited from various family members.  I am interested in the idea of “poetic field walking”, a term used to describe archaeological remains by Peter Ackroyd in his book Thames: sacred river. This is an idea that the traces of the past are there for those who have the eyes to see, an idea that pertains directly to my research. I assess these objects for the quality of their surface decoration and shape and how I might adapt these patterns into new forms.

Work that I have made, and work I am currently making for my research project, will also re-tell the story of these inherited objects while using contemporary workmanship and materials to fashion them into inheritable objects in their own right.

I have always been interested in surface texture and pattern, been interested in the wear and tear or the story reflected in the surface of a work. I have been investigating and referencing patterns and shapes of items from other times or other usage conventions and discovering those which successfully translate to new objects.
This method allows these objects to have life beyond the original object and a new life after they are dispersed to a much wider audience as a further generation of inherited objects.

I am sure these are similar themes for many jewellers today – we all draw upon our past, our personal experience and our present.

Pendant by Catherine Large of AustraliaYou use a lot of recycled and reused materials in your artwork.  Tell us if this is set an example to your colleagues and/ or more of a personal expression.

I do not consciously do this to set an example. However, as a lecturer at QCA in the Fine art area, it is good to be able to support your teaching methodologies with your own practice.

I have always had a studio at my home, so looking at re-using, at recycling, at treating any chemicals with the respect they deserve and with keeping my workshop relatively low-tech has always been important, particularly when my children were younger.

What do you love most about your work/profession and what else would you like to share about your career?

Freedom of expression; the fact that I am lucky enough to have the skills I have, partly through the experience of working and studying with some wonderful people.

I enjoy passing on my skills to keen students, and particularly enjoy introducing the magic of jewellery making and metal forming to them.

VISIT SO FRESH + SO CLEAN 2014 EM Student Exhibition