Kate Keara Pelen

“Every day, for 365 days, from January 1st to December 31st 2015, I produced one soft hand-made vessel using simple crochet techniques. The project came out of the desire to find a manageable way of sustaining a commitment to my creative output during a period when extensive time in the studio was not going to be possible.”

Spending time each day to really concentrate on something, is so important. For us, it’s art. Even as a professional artist it can be difficult to focus, to train the mind, with life going on around you.

Kate Keara Pelen’s year long project of crochet creations is a testament to everyday creating, working a way around limitations that can sometimes mean creating art isn’t as easy as we’d like it to be.

In addition to her steadfast commitment to creating daily, we are fascinated with the transformation a single item has when grouped together with similar objects, as Kate says…

“The 365 pots strike me as individually modest and easy to overlook but each with their own unique character and as a whole, the collection has a presence greater than the sum of its parts.”

We applaud your tenacity, Kate, and are very proud to have you as our first online gallery artist. More information, and an interview with Kate, after the gallery.

“With a background in painting and drawing, I have a fixation with colour, a love of process and a tendency towards improvisation and abstraction. I began exploring needlework and incorporating craft into my projects as a result of working in response to sacred spaces: drawn to the furniture and furnishings, robes and ritual objects far more than the paintings and sculptures in these environments, I began operating at the fruitful intersection of ‘fine’ art and craft – of the conceptual and the handmade. Fine craft? Thinking through making, letting hands work things out intuitively, bypassing the cerebral critic…”

The work of Tony Cragg during the late 80’s and eary 90’s springs to mind when we take in Kate’s pots, and on a more personal note, visiting craft shops with boxes of buttons full to the brim. We’re rather partial to collecting, here, you see.

We’re very excited to see the physical pots on display at A Common Thread: Coalition of Craft in North London next week. For full details and how to get to see the pots yourself, click here.


Re-Launch in conversation – Kate Keara Pelen
By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 2 June 2015, from the UCL Museums and Collections Website

Can you tell us a little about you as an artist and your current practice?
I’m currently working mostly with needlework, painting and drawing. The works tend towards abstraction, but the colours, textures and forms are derived from the natural world, from the geological to the astronomical.

When were you at the Slade and what was your experience of studying there?
I was on the Fine Art Media (MFA) course between 2007-2009. Gary Woodley, who has made the beautiful bespoke furniture for the new UCL Art Museum, was my personal tutor and helped to keep me grounded during what was quite a tumultuous time for me. I had applied with a few video works, some split-screen and highly edited pieces exploring iconography, meaning and faith but eventually moved in to wood and needlework when I began to make work in direct response to sacred spaces. I became drawn to the furniture and furnishings, robes and ritual objects far more than the paintings and sculptures in sacred environments. The ergonomics and haptic qualities inherent in these more humble things, , rather than the remote and precious nature of the ‘Art’ in such spaces appealed to me.

How did you make a connection with the UCL Art Museum and the Re-Launch exhibition?
I had shown in the first collaborative show, Sequel and produced garments and accessories for characters in reference to a selection of Old Master prints including a ‘happy hat’ for Durer’s Melancholia and a soft, felt crown of thorns for Mellan’s Head of Christ. I also made 3 pieces of soft armour, inspired by a passage in Ephesians ch.6. and Cranach the Elder’s Passion Prints. I completed the set with 3 more pieces for the 2015 Re-launch. They formed part of my Welfare/Warfare collection.

Can you tell us any exciting projects you’re working on at the moment?

I’m nearly halfway through a year long project called #OnePotPerDay. I’m making one soft hand-held vessel every day this year. It is partly a sort of ritual process, and partly it symbolises commitment to my practice, even when I cannot spend a full day or even a few hours in the studio. It’s the very least I can do, and I’m committed to doing it. I’ve just passed the 150 mark. I hope to show the full collection as it reaches its completion in November and December of this year. Then in January, I’ll need to decide what happens to the 365 pots next! I had actually thought they might be very much at home among the casts in the Art Museum for a while…