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A Collection

Katie Schwab


From the Archive

For Art Licks Issue 13 (2013), artist Katie Schwab presented A Collection. We look back at the work, and interview Katie on the references and ideas that influenced her.

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Holly Willats (Art Licks): Your contribution to Art Licks titled A Collection, presents a series of photographs depicting patterned ceramic pieces alongside patterned food-based works. Can you explain the relationship between the ceramics and food-based pieces, and where this sat within your practice at the time?

Katie Schwab: In 2013, I had a studio at LimaZulu in Manor House and was attending a weekly ceramics class at City and Islington College in Finsbury Park. I spent much of the year experimenting with techniques of press- moulding, hand-building and sgraffito. I also undertook a maiolica (tin-glazed earthenware) workshop with ceramicist Daphne Carnegy and, subsequently, much of the work made that term incorporated a blue and white palette.

These ceramics were early experiments with functionality, and I imagined that they would be used for big dinners like the ones we had in the warehouse. These meals, made for large groups, often included lentils and pulses, in one form or another.

I was thinking about the works as an homage to these communal spaces of gathering and eating. While the images in Art Licks are printed in monochrome, the original ceramics are blue and white and the food works were orange, yellow and brown: very 1970s. 

AL: What is the significance of the different patterns and their repetitions?

KS: I collect textiles, mostly from the inter and postwar period, that have had past lives as table cloths, curtains, cushions and napkins. The patterns on these works are visual quotes from these domestic textiles and their embroidered, printed and stitched designs. The majority of these fabrics are anonymously designed and, as my work has developed, I have become interested in exploring fabrics and their makers in greater depth.

AL: I'm drawn in by the titles: both of the ceramic pieces take on women's names (Irene; Nisha), whilst the food works are names of cities (Barcelona; Paris). Where do these titles come from?

KS: I imagined the ceramics as characters around a table and went through a period of naming works after friends and family. These pieces were part of a larger body of ceramics that were created for an exhibition at Breese Little later that year, where the ceramics sat together on a table. This plate was named after a friend and the vase was named after my mum.

Around that time I was researching Esperanto and thinking about ideas of a utopian universal language. I had recently made a work from shredded newspaper called Guardian, Citizen, Country, World and the city titles were likely connected to this reflection on our positions within global systems. Looking back, I can see these interests developing in abstraction, craft practices and social spaces.

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AL: Did/Do the food-based works exist beyond the photographs?

KS: These works were constructed on boards in the studio, but I got worried about insects so they ended up in the bin.

While I haven’t returned to using food as such in my work, I still cook a lot at home, and have continued to explore the material and social space of the kitchen across different projects. 

Katie Schwab lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions and projects include A Working Building, The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth (2019); This Interesting and Wonderful Factory, Clore Sky Studio Commission, Tate St Ives, St Ives (2018); Atrium Commissions, mima, Middlesbrough (2017); Making the Bed, Laying the Table, Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Glasgow (2016) and Together in a Room, Collective, Edinburgh (2016). 

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