Art jewellery is a sculptural form that pivots around the body, though as an art piece, there is room to communicate other ideas, too. Interview with Bridget Catchpole by Klimt02

Interview  /  CriticalThinking   Artists   BehindTheScenes
Published: 16.11.2023
Art jewellery is a sculptural form that pivots around the body, though as an art piece, there is room to communicate other ideas, too.  Interview with Bridget Catchpole by Klimt02.
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Bridget Catchpole. Neckpiece: Stages of Healing Core Sample 1, 2022. Sterling silver, Pacific Ocean plastic, beauty product packaging, glass, rubber, tinted eco-resin. 9.5 x 0.05 x 46.5 cm. Photo by: Kris Krüg. From series: Stages of Healing. Bridget Catchpole
Neckpiece: Stages of Healing Core Sample 1, 2022
Sterling silver, Pacific Ocean plastic, beauty product packaging, glass, rubber, tinted eco-resin
9.5 x 0.05 x 46.5 cm
Photo by: Kris Krüg
From series: Stages of Healing
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Estimated price: 800 €

In this interview Bridget Catchpole shares her relationship to jewellery design; Unpicking her interest in contemporary jewellery as a form of sculpture on body, this discipline has been a channel of curiosity from her early life into her career today. She shares how her creative passion has given her direction to face and overcome other challenges she has faced.
Tell us about your background. What were your first influences to be creative and become an artist and what has drawn you to contemporary jewellery?
Creativity is my lifeblood — it has been my lifeline supporting me through the best and worst moments of my childhood years. My earliest artistic influences began as a child with family camping across France and Spain during summer holidays. Even though my parents were from England, it was time in Continental Europe visiting galleries, museums, and exploring nature that were an artistic refuge for me. I was allowed a little craft bag that I carried everywhere with me — stuffed to bursting with bits of fabric, yarn, ribbon, and sewing supplies to re-create miniature items like 18th C. wigs and Watteau-pleated dresses for my peg dolls.
By the time I was eight, it was apparent to my father that my penchant for craft was an all-consuming hobby, and so he bought me my first Dremel tool. Immediately I got to work on making tiny hinged doors for my decorated chicken eggs made of found objects around the house. I was so enchanted by my parent's coffee table book, The Art of Carl Fabergé by A. Kenneth Snowman, I spent hours absorbed in its brilliance, painstakingly recreating my own Fabergé-inspired eggs for what felt like a blissful eternity.
My adolescent years were traumatic. At twelve, I broke the silence over years of sexual abuse committed against me by my maternal grandfather, and the fallout from it was catastrophic. My parents were devastated from guilt, extended family broke relations with us, high school bullies targeted me, and it felt as if my own body betrayed me when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Needless to say, my academic studies suffered terribly except one notable class — art metal. 

Bridget Catchpole, Au bonheur des dames series, 2005, rings, ss, semi-precious stones (moonstone, iolite, rose quartz, amethyst), deconstructed plastic flowers. 15grams; 4cm l x 3cm dia. Photo: Anthony McLean.

My first encounter with contemporary jewellery was in the high school's art metal class reference library. This was the education system in the 80s when girls took art metal and boys had metalwork, meaning, female students were not allowed to use any "big" power tools (insert eye roll). But I must have shown metalworking aptitude, as the teacher cut me some slack on using those "big" machines. His library of magazines and books intrigued me, and it was there I found an image of Profile Ornament (1974) by Gijs Bakker. With such great effect and simplicity, it encompassed all the things that inspired me — fashion, architecture, and jewellery.
My parents conceded to the idea of my college training as a jeweller. They rationalized — in their own minds — that my creative talents would be a wonderful pairing with traditional jewellery-making. I think they had visions of a secure life for me, surrounded by shiny precious metals and brilliantly faceted gemstones — alas for them, that wasn't the kind of jeweller I envisioned for myself. So after I completed my diploma in jewellery, I packed off a few provinces away to study art at The Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and then a year later, at Concordia University in Montréal. 
Around 1996, while completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I met Noel Guyomarc'h who reignited my passion for art jewellery. So not long after graduating from Concordia, my girlfriend and I moved into a railcar apartment — in Montréal's historically French-Canadian and Irish working class neighbourhood of St-Henri — and I set up my jeweller's bench in the closet-sized second bedroom of our apartment. There, I used my crème brûlée mini torch (lol) that I surrounded with fire bricks to produce enough heat to solder. It was with this torch I put together my first exhibition series of lockets and timepieces. This series centred around the history and life of my paternal second-great father, watchmaker and jeweller Gustav Horstmann of Bath, England. I substituted found objects, such as baby teeth and buttons, in place of watch mechanisms to historically position the Horstmann women as relegated to marriage and the home — in contrast to the Horstmann men, all of whom apprenticed as horologists.

Bridget Catchpole, Hairy Donut (Touch series), 2006, brooch, repoussage ss, paintbrush bristles, 30grams; 4cm dia. x 5cm d. Photo credit: Anthony McLean 

How important is networking for you in your professional practice and what are your preferred tools for this?
I had to cultivate self-compassion and overcome some social anxiety fears to network in a way that best suited me. My art is my bread and butter, so engagement with others to develop good relationships is paramount to a successful commission. I try to attend a show I'm in to cultivate future possibilities, whether it's for collaboration or new connections. And residencies are opportunities to experience cultural influences and interactions that deepen my art practice in meaningful and insightful ways.
 What are your general thoughts on the contemporary jewellery world, (education, market, development...), where do you see chances and where are dead ends?
 Art jewellery is a sculptural form that pivots around the body, though as an art piece, there is room to communicate other ideas, too. In this sense, there is a fluidity or transformative quality to it that can offer powerful visual narratives that traditional jewellery is not obliged to consider or show. In Canada, I feel hopeful that contemporary jewellery will gain momentum and public recognition. Each province in Canada is quite distinct, so it's vital that all regional levels of government offer grants, awards, and educational support in this artistic field.

Bridget Catchpole, Sweater girl (Curiosities series), 2010, brooch, ss, beauty product packaging, peridot, deconstructed plastic flowers, 40grams; 6cm dia. x 1.5cm d. Photo credit: Anthony McLean.

How has your work changed over the past few years and what are you excited about these days?
My work with post-consumer plastics circumnavigates personal, collective, and environmental trauma and its healing process. At the core of my art practice, I am fundamentally charged by questions surrounding my identity as a survivor, and using garbage is deeply metaphorical for me as a material that represents the power of transformation and healing from harmful actions. I believe this concept extends beyond the personal and enters the collective consciousness when we apply similar questions on a larger scale. I explore this in my recent body of work, Stages of Healing, where I transform plastic garbage into core samples of the Anthropocene Era.