Kathryn Yeats

Follow my HS3 journey here

About Kathryn Yeats


When I work I usually start by looking and collecting images.  These images were collected on my daily travels.  There are particular qualities which draw me to buildings and sites – they are always places which were constructed and inhabited by people, I am fascinated by ordinary things, particularly when they haven’t been well maintained and there is a record of their existence on their surface, of their use, and also of their disuse as they are slowly collapsing back into their environment.

These are some of the works I made for the Handshake exhibition in Sydney.  When I was making the work for this exhibition I was particularly interested in domestic spaces and architecture.

The materials which interest me are materials which are fragile and transient, which are prone to warping and cracking, rusting, staining, peeling, scratching, being worn away.  These materials hold particular value for me, they are warm and alive, their narratives impressed into their surfaces.  Most of my work is made from timber and textiles, surfaces painted, joined with metal screws, steel parts rusting into the structures.

It is important to me to spend time crafting my jewellery.  I like the meditative quality of preparing all of the pieces of timber, of building up structures, joining them together, of stitching.  I like to make things with my hands, not to rush things.

I do collect found objects – linen with stains and holes, pieces of timber from houses, pieces of ceramics washed up on the beach – as much as I enjoy holding and collecting these things, I don’t use them in my jewellery, my concern is with the impression that something might be found, but my work is always made from new materials, or clean recycled materials.  The stories I imagine not the ones which existed in the objects before.

These works are from the Handshake exhibition at Avid last year.

When I was making these works I was more concerned with objects than architecture, like this school desk, its markings are very intentional, lots of people’s stories cover its surface, overlapping each other.

These works are about pencil cases and boxes, things which people touch every day, objects which are used, familiar.  I like string.

After I have built my constructions I often spend time layering different colours of paint, sometimes I add paper, records of different times, different people and different tastes.  Time is important to me, I often imagine it would be nice to have years to make work, to bury things outside, or leave them hanging on the fence for years, but generally I have deadlines which are months or weeks away.  So I scratch the surface with rough sand paper and files, I use water and chemicals on my work, I leave it in the oven on a low heat until parts rust, until the work settles into itself, loses its shiny veneer, the paint peels, the timber blackens with ferrotannates.  These processes are not completely predictable, and I enjoy not knowing how a piece will turn out until it’s finished.

I am interested in the structures which hold things together, how structures are made, the backs of things.  The framing timbers in houses, the backs of picture frames.

I have been experimenting with burning things, the melting of brass into puddles, setting fire to timber, introducing catastrophe, leaving the structure, but creating surfaces which tell stories and leave their stories on things they rub up against.

These are some of the pieces from the Exhibition at Pah Homestead.

Most of my jewellery is very abstract, borrowing fragments from places and objects, and when I started making the works for the exhibition at Par Homestead I wanted to play around with telling some more figurative stories.  These pieces include some small line drawings, some are scratched into the surface like the school desk drawings, or this piece of graffiti on a wall.

The small scale of jewellery invites intimacy with the work, peering into miniature worlds.

Making the small drawings is a pleasurable process, but I’m not entirely comfortable with their very figurative nature.

I have really enjoyed the challenge of making works for the three handshake exhibitions last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what direction my new body of work takes over HS3.