Katherine James West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
I am a contemporary artist and jewellery maker in Leeds. I graduated in 2020 from the Uni of Leeds School of Design. I craft chainmail into lace-like patterns to create wearable works and sculpture which are made to express my ideas around gender. I have exhibited with the Crafts Council and I am an alumni of their 2021 Crafting Business Programme supported by Crafting Europe.
Studio Katherine James seeks to liberate the aesthetic- language of gender identity. Her jewellery and sculpture works are made by crafting metal chainmail into intricate patterns of lace. The worn pieces range between wearable jewellery and more concept-led adornments, all grounded on the notion of a gendered materiality. This is the idea that people can strongly relate to materials, whose temperaments reflect our own characteristics. Furthermore, the spaces in which we see materials applied often communicate the expectations and values of society.
Katherine aims to harness this aesthetic understanding and expand on it through her works of Lace-Armour. Chainmail is protective, hard and aggressive. These are typically seen as masculine traits. Whereas lace is delicate, pretty, seductive and associated with femininity. By crafting the metal properties into lace-form the extreme binary characteristics become enmeshed and inseparable. Katherine’s practice celebrates the ability of the objects she makes to represent our nuanced and fluid identities.
Her fine-art sculptures often present this liberal notion as a screen or filter. Here, the human scale gives new meaning to this craft by both obscuring and adorning the view of the people and environments it is placed in, as well as dictating how space is navigated by separating. This illustrates how societies understanding and attitudes to gender create a filter through which people and events are interpreted. This function is played out in designed spaces of the home, public sculpture and gallery setting.
On a secondary level, gendered roles within craft are also being explored. A direct comparison is drawn between the metallic links of chain mail and the fibre-based links of crochet-lace, revealing the processes are remarkably similar. By individually threading open metal links into a heavy fabric of chainmail, Katherine patiently builds intricate, often improvised patterns. Simplistic binary views are rejected and instead her pieces carefully balance the contrasting qualities that make us.