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Kelly O'Shea, inspired...

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Our latest exhibition, Current, features nine creatives and their works inspired by items in the Museum’s textile collection. In a series of blog interviews we introduce the artists.

How would you describe your work and aesthetic?

Ever-changing! In saying that, there is a continuum of themes accompanied by a strong aesthetic that makes my work look and feel intrinsically mine. Contemporary jewellery can occupy a space between the conceptual platform of craft, art, fashion, and that is definitely where my work dwells. If I had to describe my work and aesthetic I’d say it is a healthy blend of creation and destruction.

What attracted you to contemporary jewellery as a medium?

The most compelling thing about contemporary jewellery as a medium is its direct connection with the body. Contemporary jewellery forgoes many preconceived art conventions, and invites the viewer in by way of participation. They imagine wearing your piece. And when someone does purchase something, the wearer then becomes the artist’s gallery, giving the work a whole new life and audience.

Describe your creative process from conception to completion

I always start with materials first. I play around and experiment; 3D brainstorm. I'll only sketch midway through an idea, when I hit a tricky bit and need to work out how to resolve something technical. Often it's not until after I finish a work that I am able to catch up with myself and understand what it is that I am truly trying to communicate. I think this can be a typical experience for many artists – looking back and having that “ooooohhh, it all links together” moment. At the time of making I do not plan a lot, it's much more instinctual and involves working things out as I go.

What environment do you like to work in?

There is always music on in my studio – but the volume definitely gets turned up when I am working on something 3D. I can work at any time of the day or night, but the environment I require has to be distraction-free, with just the right amount of coffee consumed and a clean work bench with beautiful and inspiring things around.


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Where do you draw your inspiration from and what inspires you most?

I'm not sure how to answer this question, as it is too big! But I guess sociological perspectives on life, human interactions and material resources we choose and the impact that has on our environment... the word diversity springs to mind. Presenting alternative thought systems and representations is my motivation; to tell a story that doesn't always fit into majority thinking, asking questions of ourselves and challenging the way we homogenise thought systems. I am inspired by people coming together and doing something (positive) outside of the norm, and it is that notion that drives the making of my participatory work.

Can you describe a time when you felt inspired and were prompted to create something new?

When I am truly inspired I enter into a state of mania, and feel the need to do a million things at once! At that point I will just start making without worrying too much about the outcome. I can step back later, identify what areas were working or not, and then follow that and see where it leads me. That feeling is good, though a little dangerous. It definitely wouldn't be a sustainable state to reside in for too long!

Do you ever suffer from artist’s block? What do you do to overcome it?

I always have multiple projects on the go at once, so if I ever hit a brick wall in one area, I just move onto something else.


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Why did you choose the particular object from the collection that you did? What drew you to it?

I love the object I chose. I am attracted to the indefinable, and with this piece there are more questions than answers! What initially drew me to it is the marriage of the soft material and the lemon-yellow palette, juxtaposed with the curiosity aroused by the object's function. There is a softness and hardness to it all at the same time. And of course its connection to the Belgian nobility is compelling also.

What do you think is the value of museum collections?

Museums are one of my favourite places. The collections are invaluable! Humans are forgetful creatures and without these artifacts linking us to our past selves, we would probably just repeat the same patterns over again. As an education tool, I believe museum collections remind us to celebrate cultural diversity; difference is beautiful and fascinating rather than something to be scared or intimidated by.

What is your favourite piece of equipment or tool that you couldn’t live without?

I actually don't have one. My brain? My hands...? I’m adaptable to my surroundings, and will just pick up whatever tools or materials are accessible in a place and start making.


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How has your work developed since you began, and where do you see it going in the future?

I attempt these days to edit myself a little more and to try to be less over-ambitious. But perhaps the work I have made for the Current show speaks to the fact that I still have not overcome this tendency.

Check out more details about Current exhibition and programmes here.