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TWE FUN STUFF: Artist Kathy Ross Mixes Media With Wonder And Whimsy

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Artist Kathy Ross Mixed Media Artist/Photo from Kathy to TWE

Artist Kathy Ross with “Tin Head” sculpture/Photo: Marvin Carlson

By Pamela Burke/October 15, 2014

Every once in a while a piece of art like the one above will stop me in my tracks.  We at TWE are art lovers, and, as you might have guessed, are particularly fond of whimsical pieces that make you chuckle and wonder. One such artist caught our eye at the Sausalito Art Festival this year.

“Ideas come from the river. Ideas come from other ideas. Here’s how it works: a) Get an idea. b) Water it.”  Kathy Ross

Kathy Ross calls herself a mixed media sculptor. To get an idea of just how mixed her media is, think cereal boxes, wooden coasters, tons of maps, cookie tins, broken jewelry, zippers, noodles from the swimming pool and mountains of found objects.

We just had to find out how Kathy comes up with these indescribably delightful pieces… 

EYE:  How do you keep track of all your ingredients?

KATHY:  Its not like when you work in clay and your studio has 300 pounds of it, a rolling pin, and a kiln. I have a complex of boxes vaguely sorted into this and that and many stations throughout my house to work different processes. I go through about 50 pounds of hot glue a year.

Video shot by Ann Coppel

EYE: Does this art make you happy? It does me.

KATHY:  Art makes me happy and is the best area in my life, the area in which I treat myself with the most kindness, forgiveness and big-mindedness.

Sometimes when I wake up a bit sad in the morning, I take myself in hand and say, “Oh, if only I could live in the woods and just make art all day.” Then I say,  “Wait a minute! That’s what I do.”

Kathy Ross tea table mixed media

“Tea Table” by Kathy Ross/Photo: Lynn Thompson

EYE: Where do you get your inspiration?

KATHY: Sometimes there does seem to be an outer space component but really ideas come from noticing, combining and  recombining elements from our own lives and experience.

It seems to me I am always watching a river of ideas flowing past. It’s endless. The river has got the whole world in it and all I ever saw of it.

“Newspapers and music. Trucks. Trains. Faux pas. Love. Hate. Anti war posters. Zippers. Buttons. Globes. All the art I’ve ever seen or done or thought of. Art by famous dead people. The Burghers of Calais. David. Childhood goes by…”

My Mum reading Jane Austin. My Siamese cat. Bubble wrap. Cookie tins. Pizza. Bicycles. Whole landscapes. Space aliens. Autopsies. Stars. Moon. Air. Ice. Everything goes by. Like fish in a river. And I can see how things slide past each other, roll over each other. Float by and return later. Oceans inside eggshells. Rattlesnakes with baby doll eyes.

Ideas come from the river. Ideas come from other ideas. Here’s how it works: a) Get an idea. b) Water it.

Kathy Ross/Reader sculpture mixed media

“The Reader” by Kathy Ross

EYE: Do you like dolls and toys? I see a lot of them in your work.

KATHY:  I always like dolls and toys and have lots of them, some of which I work into my sculptures, some of which share window sills with spiders.

My bread and butter business for years was a wholesale doll pin business, which I’m grateful for, but it got a little gruelling.

It freed me up to cast bronze in the art part of my life though. I like the configuration of maps, tin and linocut.

EYE: These pieces look intricate. How long do they take you to sculpt?

KATHY: I don’t really keep track of time. I sort of aim for producing fifty dollars of inventory an hour (so as to have some hope of making 15-25).

Sometimes I get there but a lot of the time I don’t. I really sort of look at my books at the end of the year and say to myself, well, I guess that worked out this year.

 

"Junk Collector" by Kathy Ross/Photo: P. Burke

“Junk Collector” by Kathy Ross/Photo: P. Burke

EYE: You like to explore found objects. What is their attraction?

KATHY:  Sometimes I think that all art is found object art. Nobody is inventing atoms and molecules to work with. All we’re doing is rearranging them.

My favorite objects, however, are globes, maps, cooky tins, buttons, clothing labels, zippers, mini stuff and cloth.

EYE: I bought your Junk Collector piece as I am what might be called an “incurable collector.” Please tell me how it came to be.

KATHY:  This is so much fun to make. If you notice, I use a lot of zippers to give it some larger areas of background color. I like to use clothing labels. I’ve been known to take them off the clothes of customers at an art fair and add them to the junk collector right then.

I’ve also been known to snip off some toy and hand it to a kid that really loves it, if it doesn’t denude the collector too much. Sometimes I make them standing on the backs of horses. Sometimes all the junk is collected in pockets.

Ad Nauseum is a companion piece—a figure vomits junk (Did you ever see so many ads it makes you want to throw up?). Really, this junk collector theme speaks to my love of thrift stores.

EYE: You are a person after my own heart. What is your favorite piece?

KATHY:  The No Worries horse. I also like the Bird horse.

Kthy Ross "No Worries" horse/mixed media

“No Worries” by Kathy Ross

EYE: What are you working on for the future? What is inspiring you these days?

KATHY:  I’m working on a tin coat, a lot of jewelled horses and elephants and many reading figures. Another project of mine is a graphic novel (or perhaps just a pile of drawings) about a small planet. This may be more like an illustrated kids’ book for adults, too. Its illustrations are in linocut.

EYE: I look forward to seeing it…it sounds like it will be something to behold. Keep up your wonderful work! Let me know if you need any more beads and bottle caps. Be sure to check out more of Kathy’s unique sculpture here.

Detail of "Junk Collector" hat/Photo: P. Burke

Detail of “Junk Collector” hat/Photo: P. Burke

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