It was literally by accident that jeweller Kath Inglis discovered a passion for working with PVC.
Having moved from Darwin to Adelaide for study in 1997, Inglis was working at the Gray Street Workshop in 2001 when she created what she calls, “a near disaster by etching metals in an acid bath that reacted badly”. After this, the world changed for Inglis, with her focus shifting away from metals to new materials. It was serendipitous that, when visiting her local supermarket, she saw a roll of clear PVC sparkling in the sun and immediately saw the potential of this everyday material.
The sturdy, flexible PVC from Japan has become her trademark. She creates earrings, bangles, necklaces and rings that can be found in Australia and around the world. Her signature piece, first created in 2001, is the Skin Deep bangle. A hugely popular item, a part of its appeal is the finely textured surface, created by using wood carving tools to cut into the plastic, making waves of tiny feathers.
This cutting into the plastic comes from a desire to dive under the surface, to carve into it, pattern it and to transform the ordinary into something that is delicate and mesmerising. While the surface is dyed, the interior remains clear – the cutting process creates crystalline and diamond shapes, which catch the light for glistening and shimmered effects.
For Inglis, the surface is like a skin. She is fascinated by stitching and sutures, using sterling silver wire to cross-stitch and make the joins in her pieces.
In exploring her own Polynesian and Chinese identity she created hand held mirrors, “We have lots of different layers to our identities; some are buried some are on show.” Her recent directions are inspired by a mentorship with renowned artist Catherine Truman, Inglis started to fuse layers of plastic together. This hot fusing was used to create Horizon Neckpiece (2018), recently acquired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. With a base layer of yellow plastic, purple, pink and brown are layered and carved to represent the view and changing light across the hills from her home near Mt Lofty Summit. To look closely into this work is to see sunrays and rocks, stringybarks and blossoms. It is a complex landscape created from the most humble and unassuming of materials made from the hands of a visionary artist.
Kath Inglis is part of the Well Made community and is featured on the platform. Well Made is an initiative of Guildhouse.
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