KATHLEEN WHITAKER STUDIO VISIT
You came to jewelry from ceramics, how did one lead to the other and do you feel they have a relationship to each other in how you think about form?
The background in ceramics gave me a vocabulary for designing three-dimensional forms that are both sculptural and functional. A framework for addressing proportion, materials, color, scale... And in many ways the forming of clay -- including plaster casting -- is identical to certain fabrication and casting techniques in metal work.
What's your process in designing your jewelry?
The starting place is often accidental, or rather organic, allowing inspiration to come in all forms. In the case of the development of a recent capsule collection designed in Japan, the starting place was simplifying earring designs to make them "backless" -- that is, designing in a way that dispensed with the need for backings. And one of those designs came from a simple household item that was laying on the sidewalk. In this case, the start was in seeing a natural, unforced gesture in an object that has no obvious relationship to a precious adornment.
Where does your visual language stem from?
While I'd love to aspire to the moniker "artist", my true identity is as a designer and achieving the qualities of good design. An artist dwells wholly in an aesthetic pursuit. But for me, a tension resides in the balance of form AND function. How do you make a beautiful thing function well? How do you make something useable also beautiful? An artist needn't worry about usability. But that is wholly the world a designer occupies. It's the successful equilibrium of these two things in buildings, architecture, furniture, living rooms, a humble teapot -- in an earring -- that holds my attention.
Who would you say your biggest inspiration is?
Anyone whose work shows restraint and plays in the margins, summed up best perhaps in the phrase coined by Dieter Rams: "Good design is as little design as possible." It's a theme that has come up again in interviews I've listened to recently. An early LL Cool J album was credited as having been "Reduced By" Rick Rubin, notorious for his hands-very-off approach to music production. Brian Eno talks about listening back to music he's just recorded and found it sounds so much better played back at half speed. "It has half the energy I put into it and it's so much better." I think inspiration for me consistently comes in seeing work that deals with omission, subtraction, erasures.
How do you start your day in studio?
I'd love to paint a beautiful picture of an artisanal, artful, thoughtful practice. But it's not. It's a standard morning in Los Angeles the year 2019: distractions, interruptions, frustrations, emails, triviality, procrastinations. I.V. drip of coffee. The most enjoyable part of my morning is coming into the office and touching base with the KW team. My chit-chat is the biggest distraction in the office.
Tell us about your approach to designing interiors for the Marfakind project?
Kieley Kimmel and I have worked together off and on over the last five years in different creative endeavors. Our taste and skills are congruent to each other and we are both searchers; looking to be challenged by new projects, new ventures. And it’s always an adventure. Kieley has a great eye for fashion, textiles, objects, jewelry and a great wide network of creatives. She turned to me to help appoint the space, which we did with certain build-outs, furniture, finishes and lighting which resulted in something part salon-part gallery. A beautiful showcase for the exceptional goods on offer.