Kasasagi, upcycled nature inspired sculpture by the talented Kate Kato. Being a huge lover of organic form I was instantly drawn to Kate’s wonderful pieces. She beautifully captures elements from the natural world, showcasing them in carefully selected unwanted objects, inspired by museum style exhibits. We asked Kate to tell us more …
Where are you based?
I am based in a small village in the Herefordshire countryside which is perfect for me as it means my inspiration is literally on my doorstep!
Do you run your business full time?
I run my business part time, I have two very young children (9 months and 3 years) so I try to fit in the creativity around them. If I was working for someone else I would probably still be on maternity leave, but it doesn’t quite work the same when you’re self-employed. The beauty of working as an artist and making what I make means I can arrange my hours around my home life and even include the kids who love to go on ‘research’ trips to the woods!
How long have you been a professional artist?
I have had a few different jobs in the creative industry since graduating in 2006. I studied a BA in Graphic Design at UWE where I specialised in print and book making but my first job was as a photographer. I did this for a number of years and worked as a freelance design/illustrator but I had to travel around a lot and worked ridiculously long hours and this left me feeling a little bit disillusioned with the industry. I went back to university and studied an MSc in Social Work but had my first child soon after so never started working as a social worker, I went back to being creative as I could fit freelance work in easier around being a mum. This is how I started making my sculptures. I wanted to be creative for my own interest now rather than trying to meet other people’s briefs and so started experimenting!
What first inspired you to upcycle found objects to create your art?
We were sorting out our house when I started sculpting as we were trying to create space for a baby and I was getting very annoyed with the amount of stuff we were having to get rid of. It wasn’t completely trashed so a waste and against everything I believe to chuck it on landfill but it wasn’t nice enough that a charity shop would sell it. It just existed without a purpose, so I decided to give it one. As I started experimenting with different objects and materials I noticed more and more how much of our rubbish resembles different parts of nature, like a flies wings or a flowers petals.
Are you self taught?
Although I did attend university I think everyone is more self taught. So much of your learning and the development of your style as an artist comes from trying different things and finding out what you do best and enjoy the most. Even some practical skills are self taught as you find you need to learn something new all the time particularly when using such a broad range of materials.
What do you create?
I create sculptures of plants and insects using recycled materials. I mostly use paper and textiles although where it is appropriate I will also use other materials such as wood and metal. I tend to make sculptures that are life size examples of the real thing although I sometimes make them larger than life size, particularly the bugs which are tiny but so beautiful I want the viewer to be able to see their detail. I display sculptures in a variety of up-cycled displays which are influenced by old curiosity cabinets and museum exhibits.
What methods do you use?
I mostly cut templates from drawings I’ve done and use these to build my sculptures. I will make drawings from real life plants, cutting the plant apart to see all the different details I need to create. I promise I don’t do this with the bugs though! I make drawing from photographs or any insect that sits still for long enough in my garden!
I stitch and embroider the materials to create different textures and patterns to try and make my sculptures as realistic as possible whilst still being able to see what they’re made from. I feel that’s a very important feature of my work, to be able to see the old with the new and what can be made from waste materials.
Which is your most popular creation?
I think my mushrooms are probably my most popular, they seem to get the most comments although I think the insect displays I make come a very close second. Whenever I do craft fairs I always put the insects out in front on a low table as children love to come over and look at them and ask what the different bugs are. I enjoy how interactive my work can be and that it seems to be so accessible to both adults and children.
Can you tell us about the first upcycled piece you created?
I think it was a stag beetle! I really really wanted to make a paper beetle to put on the wall at home and that is where it all began. I had asked my other half to make me a frame for it from an old drawer, but I was waiting rather a long time so gave up and made a frame from a broken book I had instead. It was only half a stag beetle though, rising from the paper. It was probably more of a paper cut than a sculpture. It worked well so I made some more, moving onto butterflies and flowers and started to make them more 3D using larger variety of materials.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I always have a favourite piece and then I finish some more work and I have a new favourite piece! This works well though because it means I can finally let go of some art work enough to sell it. My work is extremely personal, the insects and plants and even some of the materials are all linked to various memories I have and so there is a lot of nostalgia attached to each piece. That can sometimes make it hard to let some pieces go, but it also means I’m very passionate about what I make and I think that passion is what makes a piece of artwork great.
Are you working on any new lines?
Yes! I am always working away on new ideas, and they seem to get bigger and bigger and even more complex! I am about to start making some new sculptures for the various craft shows I’m going to be at this year and I’ve almost finished a new piece for an altered book exhibition I will be exhibiting in in June. I do have a note book of things I would one day like to make, like a whole garden made from recycling, but I think some of these are rather ambitious ideas for now, which is why they’re in a book ready for when I have the time and space to undertake such projects!
Do your undertake commissions?
Yes I do. I have completed quite a few commissions over the last few years and they have all worked out well. I do enjoy the challenge of trying to create something I may not have already considered making.
Why do you think there has been an increase in the upcycling trend?
I think that society is starting to realise that we cannot sustain our current consumer lifestyle and that actually handmade and re purposed items are of a much better quality than brand new mass produced ones. As the saying goes ‘they just don’t make ‘em like they used to’ so people are going back to buying or using second hand things. I also think that in today’s society not everyone can make do and mend like previous generations would but they are happy to buy from those who can which is having a wonderful effect on the independent crafts people and artisans.
Which artists inspire you?
There are many many artists that inspire me for a variety of different reasons and thanks to social media I am able to find new inspiration every day. I think the most inspirational artists for me are the artists that are related to me. My mum has always encouraged my creativity and inspired my imagination through her love of nature, sketching it and collecting it. My mother-in-law who is a potter, has really inspired me to continue working in the art industry. When I first moved to the area she dragged me to the local gallery and insisted I showed them my work, which I did and they took it. Without that and watching her continuously work hard to make her business successful I would not have had the confidence to start selling my work or submit it to exhibitions and galleries.
Do you have any advice/tips for aspiring artists?
I don’t think I have any advice that they wouldn’t have already heard. Just keep doing it and eventually you’ll get there!
Where can your work be seen and purchased?
I have work about to be exhibited in the RBSA Gallery’s Prize Exhibition in Birmingham. The exhibition will be running from the 7th of May until the 13th of June 2015. One of my altered books will also be on display in an exhibition celebrating the signing of the Magna Carta in June, at the Sydney Nolan Trust in Presteinge, Powys.
You can purchase work at the Workhouse Gallery and Cafe in Presteigne, Powys, or from my Etsy store www.etsy.com/uk/shop/kasasagi
I will also be at The Big Art Show on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of July which is taking place in Shrewsbury and you will be able to see and purchase my work there.
For more information you can visit my website www.kasasagidesign.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/kasasagi.design and Pinterest www.Pinterest.com/kasasagidesign.