Katie Watson, jeweller and silversmith, in conversation

Posted by Rae Gellel on

Our latest interview is with Scottish-born silversmith Katie Watson, a Glasgow School of Art graduate, current Bishopsland student and one of the eleven makers featured in Shine 2020, our annual exhibition for upcoming talent. Katie specialises in the ancient techniques of repoussé and chasing, and despite being at an early stage in her career, has collected a number of awards for pieces that recreate the Scottish wilderness in painstaking detail, and has exhibited in Edinburgh, London and the Netherlands.

What first attracted you to a career as a maker, and how did you get started in the industry?

From a young age I’ve always been quite creative, I started off painting and that's where my main focus was. I like to be quite expressive but also kind of paint fine details and that translates back to my work now, with the chasing, so that was a good starting point.

I didn't really know much about jewellery and silversmithing, but when I was choosing a subject to study for university, that's the main one that stood out to me. I didn't really know what to expect, but I’m really glad I went for it. It wasn't until my fourth year when I found out about chasing that I got quite passionate about it and was able to incorporate my painting background into my chasing, so that was quite nice. I’ve been a graduate for two years now.

What can you tell us about the collection you'll be debuting at Shine?

This collection, A Celebration of Nature, involves a certain style of chasing, it's quite different to what I did before for my degree show, which was abstract textures around nature, zoomed-in patterns and details. Whereas with this new collection, I’m being a bit more literal. It involves a lot more intricate detail, and has a storytelling theme going on, with magical, fairy-tale style pieces. I like to get quite intricate and detailed with chasing, and recently I’ve developed a new style, making parts stand out more.

What does being chosen for Shine 2020 mean to you - both on a professional level and a personal level?

Well, it’s a really good opportunity for me as a maker. It allows my work to reach a wider audience and helps me to make new connections, not only in the industry and with fellow makers, but it’s also a chance to meet anyone who’s interested in my work in general. So, it’s an amazing opportunity to do all that, and hopefully with it being online it will reach more people, not just in one specific location but wherever they are in the world. I think it will be really exciting!

What have you learned from the process of planning and creating your collection?

I’ve learned a lot definitely in this past year, but in this specific collection is one of the biggest pieces I’ve made. So, I’ve learned soldering and chasing on a large scale, which has been a great opportunity. As well as that, I’ve learned how to move the metal more to create different forms which has pushed my silversmithing forward and has been really beneficial. I’ve elevated and practiced my chasing, getting more delicate and neatening my lines up, and have generally been looking out for things I can improve on. I’ve pushed myself a lot with this collection.

What do you enjoy most about being a maker - for example, is the joy in the making itself, or in sharing the finished pieces with the world?

It's just the whole process really, from start to finish. I start my process with going on walks among nature and making drawings and sketches of anything I see and taking photos, so that's a really enjoyable part. Then there’s actually getting into the making and seeing your design come to life as well. I think I do enjoy the chasing the most, you can just sit there for hours, it's quite relaxing, like a form of meditation. It’s is time consuming, but I do really enjoy it. Equally enjoyable I guess, is having the finished piece and being able to share that with others – it’s quite a rewarding feeling.

What kind of person do you think will be most attracted to your collection, and to your design style in general - do you have a target audience in mind?

Because all my work is based on nature and the outdoors, anyone who is interested in that, and who has similar interests as me. Part of my work is about creating a feeling that I get from a walk and putting that into a piece, so I hope that if a person likes one of my pieces, it’s because they feel that passion and feel like they’re in the outdoors when they view it. So, bringing it into their home is like bringing the outdoors in – I like that idea. Someone who appreciates craftmanship as well might be drawn to my work, especially chasing and traditional hand skills rather than new technology.

What are you most looking forward to about participating in Shine 2020?

Making new connections, not only with the fellow makers, but also with anyone in the industry or anyone who is interested in my making process and what I do, and getting their feedback. The whole Shine 2020 learning programme as well has been really beneficial, like learning about how to make my website reach more people, writing descriptions for my work and online selling.

What's next - what are your creative and career goals for the next two years?

Well, next September I’ll be going back to Bishopsland for another year as their artist in residence. I’ve already finished one year at Bishopsland and it was amazing, I learned so much, so going back will be about enhancing my skills and building up more work, and I think that will be really good. After Bishopsland, I hope to return to Scotland. I’m from Scotland and that’s where my family are and where a lot of my inspiration is based, so it’d be really nice to build a workshop around Scotland, either setting up my own or finding someone to share with.

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