Each month, illustrator Leo Greenfield sketches and profiles an Adelaide character who makes this city tick. This month: Kate Sutherland.
Kate Sutherland is a jeweller who uses her skills as an art practice rather than a craft. Sutherland is based in a share-studio at the iconic JamFactory on Morphett Street, and says people shouldn’t be shy when visiting the complex. The jeweller encourages visitors to step beyond the galleries to see the studios and the artists at work.
Across desks throughout Studio 7 were constellations of activity, a microcosm of precious metals and gemstones. Sutherland’s make-and-see experimentation is vital to her mode of practice. Her projects start with geometric drawings: “then I move on to the 3D, taking pieces I’ve made apart and putting them back together again in different ways,” Sutherland says.
The pieces taking shape on Sutherland’s studio bench are organic yet precise silver clusters of triangular metal. “I am interested in clean lines and simplicity”, she says as we look over the equally precious tools of her trade. Of these, an electronic Vernier Caliper is the first to come to her mind. Such a device allows Sutherland to precisely measure her materials and objects as they are assembled and finished. Mathematics is as vital to jewellery as the “shiny stuff”.
Dividers and pliers of different sizes also make up her tool set, as well as a beautiful antique jeweller’s loupe for honing surfaces and stones. Then there is “old mate” anvil, which is well-used and loved. These tools mirror the intricate qualities seen in Sutherland’s pieces that are created for exhibitions as well as in a bespoke fashion, where the artist works directly with a client.
When asked of her favourite materials, gold glimmers at first. The strong but malleable metal “finishes beautifully, you can feel the difference and its density”. Sapphire and spinel are two desirable gemstones Sutherland enjoys working with, as “they have a real fire to them”. Grey spinel particularly captures her imagination, as “it’s winter in a gem stone”.
Artists as varied as Alexander McQueen and René Jules Lalique influence Sutherland, who says “it took me a long time to recover after seeing the McQueen exhibition” at the Victor and Albert Museum in London. But for the jeweller, it is not so much the output of these artists but rather their approach to practice that inspires her. “McQueen did what he wanted; he didn’t let anyone tell him what to do.”
The community atmosphere of the JamFactory also inspires Sutherland’s jewellery. After completing a Bachelor of Visual Art at the University of South Australia, Sutherland took on a three-year jewellery apprenticeship before returning to complete her Masters in Jewellery.
Sutherland was accepted into Jamfactory’s Associate Program while doing her Masters, which gave her the chance to work in a JamFactory studio and learn from its nourishing network of artists. Sutherland stayed on as an artist-tenant and has continued to enjoy and learn from what she describes as a “hands-on approach to sustaining an arts practice”. For Sutherland, working around others enriches her jewellery and studio experience as it allows a solitary practice to thrive in a social and supportive environment.
Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator