Friday, November 3, 2017

An Interview with Kate Harvey

Kate Harvey is the designer behind the jewelry shop Grace and Flora. Her pieces are nature-inspired and feature natural objects cast in metal. As someone who is always attracted to and inspired by nature, her work speaks to me and I'm delighted to have Kate here sharing her story with us today.

ab: Hi, Kate, thanks for being here. I was first attracted to your beautiful, nature-inspired jewelry and your lovely photography on Instagram, but when I read a bit about you, I became even more inspired. Although you made jewelry as a teenager, you studied zoology at University and then later went back to train as a counselor and psychotherapist. What drew you to zoology? And then how did you come to counseling as a profession? Being a therapist is just one aspect of your life today. Having different aspects to your life -- jewelry design, counseling, motherhood -- makes you feel whole. Can you expand on this?

kh: It's interesting looking back to that time - I loved biology at school, I was fascinated by the complexity of the life forms we looked at, evolution and the whole phenomenon of life itself, which still amazes me every day.  I was eventually drawn more to animal biology because they had consciousness, interesting behaviour and I found it all so beautiful!

I was always interested in counselling - looking more deeply at human experience and alleviating unnecessary suffering - but it didn't come to fruition until I was almost thirty, it stayed in the back of my mind.  I experienced a bereavement and had some counselling, after which I had my daughter. It was a good time to re-train (after years in various administration and recruitment positions which didn't really suit me!). I wasn't working and I did a part time course.

I love having all these different aspects to my life, yes it makes me feel whole, though there is some juggling!  I love being a Mum and the counselling is hard sometimes but rewarding.  I need the jewellery making just for the fun of it, and to express myself creatively - which includes the photography as well as design elements. I love the physicality of making something.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Something I'm always curious about is how other artists weather creative slumps and down periods. What techniques help you return to joy and creativity after such a slump? Does your background as a counselor come into play when you're dealing with your own emotions and challenges?

kh: Yes like other artists and makers I do have creative slumps.  A lot of my counselling work involves facilitating being with 'what is' rather than trying to change it,  as the change then comes naturally.  The counselling has made me more able to be with difficulty or life not doing what I want! (I meditate too which helps!)  I try and stay inspired by engaging with nature, friends or responding to a request from a potential customer. I guess I try not to pressure myself too much.  There is a psychotherapy concept of the 'fertile void' - a state of mind that is the nothingness when you stop trying to push something or an agenda, the answers appear when they are ready. I do also replicate my designs so I can keep making even if I'm not having any new ideas, and sometimes this itself can bring forth a new idea.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Looking at your jewelry it is clear that you have a strong connection to nature. You've stated that you only make pieces that you truly love and that your jewelry has meaning and symbolism, both for you and for your customers. Do you have a piece that you love more than the others or which has the strongest meaning for you?

kh: Nearly all my pieces are nature inspired, and I have to say I love them all for different reasons, and might give different answers on different days.  I wear the blackberry necklace nearly every day, something about the fruit that holds new life, growth, possibility, and the joy of picking blackberries out walking (and pain if it's mis-judged and still sour....!). It also took much perseverance to finally get it right after two failed attempts and almost giving up.  Lots of people love it too so that's nice. I went on an Instagram meet up in the spring and a woman I hadn't met before said "oh the famous blackberry!" When she saw it! Obviously it isn't famous but I like that it gets noticed.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Can you take us through your creative process from the first spark of an idea to the finished piece of jewelry?

It's a simple process, I find something small and beautiful, some things can be cast outright or I'll have to fortify it because it needs to be 1mm or more deep for a mould to be made to be cast and re-cast. I do this by painting melted wax on the back of a leaf, feather or seed. Alternatively I make a wax model to be cast, such as the bird, daffodil, lily etc. I have hard and soft wax, files, scalpels etc. I don't have investment casting equipment so I send them or take them to Hatton Garden in London to be cast. They make a mould for me too. They come back and I have a lot of filing to do, and solder a ring or rings on for hanging. The heat from the torch turns it black so it sits in warm 'pickle' to remove the dark oxides, then I polish in a machine, or brush for a satin look.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: I'm also always curious about other artists' creative practices and processes. Sketchbooks are of particular interest to me. Do you keep one? If so, can you describe its place in your creative life? If not, are there other creative outlets that you enjoy in addition to your jewelry-making?

kh: When I did a course in lost wax casting at London Jewellery School they taught us to draw a plan of the piece, which I do for some things. I confess I like to do things more spontaneously - playing about - so don't always, which often backfires so might rethink that one.

I go to a painting class most weeks which I love, it does support my creativity hugely, plus I love photography and making pictures for Instagram especially, which has become part of the process and for some reason it is very therapeutic for me.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: You live and work in London. Do you ever find it difficult to maintain a strong connection to nature while living in such a large city? What do you do in order to remain connected?

kh: I live in Twickenham in the suburbs where there are parks everywhere, though it's because I have a dog that I'm out walking in nature each day (with the rumble of lorries, planes and trains in the distance!) I hear woodpeckers, see kingfishers, fish, wild orchids (one design in my head), and magnificent trees every day. I visit Devon and Cornwall a few times a year which I love, especially being near the sea.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

ab: Your studio is in your garden. Can you describe your workspace? What's your favorite aspect of it? What dream aspects would you like to be able to add to your space?

kh: My workspace has everything in it, a jewellers bench, a long table where I assemble and package, lots of apple crates for storage. I have botanical drawings all over the walls and a few plants, the radio is always on, or a podcast.  The natural light is poor so I'd love to add another window, and build better storage and shelving, it is a bit rustic which is sweet but I'd like it to have a more professional feel! It's a good space though and I'm happy in there.

Kate Harvey, Grace and Flora, Jewelry Designers, Nature, Artist Interviews, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

Thank you, Kate, for taking us into your studio and sharing your thoughts with us today!

Dear Reader, you can connect with Kate:


Want to read my other artist interviews? You can catch up here. And find more inspiration from the Sketchbook Conversations series of mini, sketchbook-related interviews, all of which can be accessed here.



*Photos in this post ©Kate Harvey. Used with permission.

7 comments:

  1. Anne,
    Wow, I love Kate's work. Her flowers are amazing.
    Thank you for sharing her work.
    Carla

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    1. Thanks so much Carla, that's so good to hear!
      Kate

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    2. Thanks, Carla. I'm so glad you enjoyed meeting Kate and seeing her beautiful work. I knew you'd like it! :)

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  2. This is a lovely interview. Kate's work is simply beautiful. I'm inspired by how the various aspects of Kate's life have woven together to create her unique style. If I'm ever in London again...xo

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    1. So glad you enjoyed the interview, Karen. There are so many interesting and inspiring people in this world doing wonderful things.

      xo

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  3. A wonderful interview and I love Kate's jewelry. Also love the idea of a "fertile void" - I will have to bring that to mind when I "hit a wall" creatively! Going over to Kate's website right now! Thanks for sharing, Anne!! xo

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    1. Hi, Judy, I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. I love the idea of the "fertile void", too. I struggle so often when I'm feeling uninspired or having trouble creating. It's hard to let those times be, but it's good to remember it's all part of the process.

      xo

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