Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview with Kate Snyder

by Micah Liesenfeld

Kate Snyder. Arsenic and Old Lace inspired belt buckle.

Imagine yourself as a child 100 years from now discovering in your grandfather's attic an old dusty chest. Rummaging through it, a small item catches your eye: a metal bracelet. You hold it in your hand and notice that each link in the chain resembles the book cover of a different fairy tale. On the inside of each cover is illustrated, in small careful detail, a scene from each story. Who created this and why? To whom was this bracelet given and who wore it?  You wonder all of these things as you try it on.

Fortunately, we don't have to wonder here and now since the artist, Kate Snyder, happens to be showing this very piece in the current exhibit at Art Saint Louis, "Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition." I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her, and she indulged me an interview:

Kate Snyder. Childhood Bracelet. 2011. Enamel, Sterling Silver

Micah: You seem to draw a lot of inspiration from anime and science fiction. If so, where did this love of fantasy/steam-punk come from?
Kate:When you read so many fantasy books, watch science fiction movies and anime (like I do), ideas bounce off you… especially books; because a description of an object or mechanism can only be described through words, readers have the great privilege to be able to create the object in their heads with the skeleton that the author creates. That is one of the reasons I focused my art toward books.

Micah: I saw in a post that you "listen to movies" while making art sometimes. What do you mean by that? Describe this process, if you don't mind…
Kate: Like many artists, I like the background noise. Audio books are my favorite while working, but I will sometimes turn on a movie I have seen before and just listen to the dialogue. It helps at times when I am frustrated with the metal (which happens often. It’s a love/hate relationship). Listening to a story helps me get out of my annoyance. It reminds me that there is more to life than my current project.

Micah: What are some of your favorite films to watch (or listen to?) while you make art?
Kate: I like old films usually: Arsenic & Old Lace (I made a belt buckle in its honor), Harvey, How to Steal a Million, Charade, The Maltese Falcon, or whatever is on Netflix. Audio books: Agatha Christie murder mysteries (I know I have an 80 year old soul).

Micah: The bracelet of fairy tales titled Childhood Bracelet (currently on display at Art Saint Louis in Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition) makes me feel as though I'm entering a fairy tale just by looking at the small enamel paintings (as if one of the pictures will magically suck me in to the story if I look too long!). Do you consider small things to be more magical than big? If so, why?
Kate: I can't say I find small things more magical than others. I just have a high respect for them. It is really hard for me to work on a small scale, I know how difficult it is to achieve, so I keep working at it.
Kate Snyder wearing a metal corset made by one of her classmates

Micah: Do you keep an art journal or sketchbook? If so, how does that fit into the process of your art making?
Kate:  I have many sketchbooks. I always start out drawing designs. Not one, but a lot of the same object at different angles. Since I'm a 3-d artist, after I draw it I cut out a 3-d version of it and put it together using tape. Doing that helps me find if any surface areas or joints will give me more trouble than others before I start cutting the metal.

Micah: Describe one of your favorite materials to work with and why it’s so fun:
Kate: Favorite material...that's tough... ferric chloride is awesome, it is pretty lengthy to explain the process but an example of it on my Childhood Bracelet is the book covers. Ferric chloride helped me keep the titles and lines on the cover of the books while it ate away the metal on the front.

Micah: What do you collect?
Kate: I collect a ton of random stuff: fortune cookie fortunes, the glowy stars kids (and me) put on their ceilings, vintage tea cups and saucers... I used to collect more stuff, but I needed to clean out my closet one day (I had feathers, rocks and weird fabric).

Micah: I saw a ring you made that appeared to be all metal, but also appeared to be laced together with shoe-laces (or laces from an old-fashion corset?). Was that the look you were going for?
Kate: You are talking about my Corset Ring. We had to make a hollow ring for one metal assignment (then trade the ring with someone and they had to make a response piece. The guy who got my ring actually made me a steel corset!!! I shall put a pic of me wearing it here). It is metal, sterling silver and nu-gold wire. The wire was not fun to lace.

Kate Snyder. Corset Ring.

Micah: The ring I just mentioned, as well as a bowl that was made to have stitch marks "like Frankenstein's monster," are such solid objects to require stitching. It makes me laugh to see these sturdy objects appear so vulnerable… then after I laugh I also notice I feel sad. What do you feel about these pieces you create?
Kate: The Stitching Bowl: I was just playing with texture and stuff & I liked that the best. Clay really is not my medium. The solidity of metal brings me comfort. I feel different towards every piece I make. Each was made different, each had different concepts in them and some gave me more trouble than others. I'm always learning a new skill in metal. Some pieces are my babies like my book bracelet and my steam-punk ring (Guillotine Ring) and some I want to chuck out a window due to frustration (my Sci-Fi Ring or Star Fruit Pendent).

Micah: Is there a personality to any of these objects you make? Do you see them as mere jewelry or creatures or both?
Kate: Kind of what is said before: My projects have more of a personality to them when I am making them. They are either ornery monsters if they are giving me more trouble then I expect, or they are sweet because they are going smoothly. That will always stick with them it seems. The ones that were fun to make always are special to me.

Micah: What are you interested in doing next with your art?
Kate: Next I am going to start a series or body of work that effectively goes together. I might stick to book jewelry for a bit.

"Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition" is on view at Art Saint Louis through December 30, 2011. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO 63101 (downtown on Washington between 6th & Broadway). Gallery is free & open to the public Monday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Gallery closed Sundays, holidays (December 24-25, December 31) and between exhibits..


Micah Liesenfeld is an artist and an Art Saint Louis member & volunteer. His portfolio can be found at  Micah’s work is also currently featured in "Art Saint Louis XXVII, the Exhibition" on view at Art Saint Louis through December 30.

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