Kitty Calvert breathes new life into beautiful old pieces that evoke memories and stories of times gone-by.
We recently spent a few minutes with Melbourne based Kitty Calvert… here’s what they shared with us.
Please tell us a little about yourself, your processes and practice…
Kitty Calvert assemblage sculptures are a collaboration of treasure hunt and treasure build, between Melbourne based husband and wife Julia Brampton and Phill Calvert.
Phill and Julia are a collaboration. They are a team in life as well. Each brings their individual expertise to the project and each creation. They share the joy and the humour of the work, as well as the desire to make cool new stuff, from cool old stuff and bring life to inanimate objects that might just have easily been sent to land fill.
Please tell us a little about your works, how they evolve, what inspires you to create them
Born from the detritus of a multitude of memories, each assemblage sculpture is created using vintage, upcycled, recycled, lost, found and discovered treasure, evoking cherished memories of childhood and times past.
We invite the viewer to reflect on the potential journey each piece has made to its final resting place inside the Kitty. In today’s world where things are designed with obsolescence in mind, we find there is a hankering for things that last. Sometimes these are things from our past….maybe things we let go of years ago or things that were lost or misplaced as our lives evolved and we “grew”. Those treasured toys and games, those once best friends we couldn’t get to sleep without. A biscuit tin from our mother’s kitchen, a colourful funnel and ice cream scoop or a metal sieve, something that meant dessert was on its way, or that there was something delicious in the oven.
Where did all those things go? Why are they now considered rubbish to be consigned to the tip, the garage or at best the op shop!! Such things of beauty, often so carefully and artfully constructed at a time when things were made to last.
With the sculptures, we have given them a new life. Seeing the pieces recycled, revived and restored, reimagined, reborn and reinvigorated in a way that brings new joy to a new audience.
Often when we discover one treasure, we have no idea how it will combine with the others to create its new persona. It comes together in an almost magical process as one piece “speaks” to another and another until we see the unfolding possibility of the sculpture. It makes us laugh and share stories and sometimes even feel a little sad. Ultimately there is such joy in the process of creating as each assemblage rises from the collection of found and gathered objects and appears in its new form, with a new lease of life, a new personality and a brand new spirit.
No two sculptures are the same, each unique piece speaks to the individual of many things. Our aim is that the sculptures give the viewer fond memories of simpler times and transport them on their own magical journey of memory.
Each piece has been left in its original found state. The patina, paint, dents, scratches, bruises, “bed hair”, and dirt are all part of the history of each piece that comes together to create an original Kitty Calvert assemblage.
We hope our audience gets as much joy out of the sculptures as we have had in creating them, and that they encourage the individual to share their own stories and memories.
Can you please share with us what sort of studio or workspace you currently create in?
We began creating our assemblages in half our garage, it was quite a challenge to be able to see all the pieces and to create in that space, so we began looking for a studio. At that time we had our first ever solo exhibition of our works on at Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park. Due to Covid 19, this became their longest ever solo show as it opened in February 2020 and finally closed (after much opening and closing) in October 2020. During this time a studio space became available and we applied and were fortunate to be accepted. Having the space to lay out our materials and our works has enabled us to grow our practice and make larger assemblages such as a decorative throne and a number of wall pieces.
What are some of the processes and techniques you use?
Firstly there is the treasure hunt, that is one of the most fun parts of what we do. In order to make the initial collection of assemblages we had to collect a reasonable variety of base materials. These came from so many different locations – roadside rubbish, garbage tips, junk shops, op shops, second hand dealers, garage sales, and family and friends garages and clean outs. Sometimes we do not know what something was used for, so it can be fun and a challenge to find out. Nowadays, people bring us things as they clean out, we often turn up to our studio and there is something sitting outside, it may be an old chandelier or a brass trumpet, always some fun treasure to discover.
Our design process may begin in a number of ways, either there is a thought of a particular message we wish to convey, or we may just have one or two really amazing pieces that we wish to create around. I workshop the pieces with one another until they tell the story we wish to convey to the viewer. At that time I confer with Phill as to whether the layout and the construction is feasible. Occasionally we need to modify due to construction methods, as it is important that each sculpture has strength and longevity. Phill uses mostly mechanical fixings and engineering methods to build the finished piece, we rarely use any type of glue.
Please tell us what or who inspires and drives your creative practice.
We are very inspired by street art and clever humour in art. We are inspired and in love with people, who create art that makes you connect with current social issues. And we love the treasure hunt of finding art in unusual places. We particularly enjoy the work of Banksy and of Clet, a French street artist who reimagines street signs. We tend to find more contemporary art appealing, especially where there is humour or poignant social commentary. One of the most wonderful exhibitions we have been to recently was that of Liu Bolin at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. His photographic work where he disappears into the backgrounds is amazing. We are also great admirers of Ai Wei Wei.
Is there a special piece of advice which you cherish and work by?
We were previously involved in an industry that continues to demand more and more packaging and more and more new products, and we found ourselves at odds with these demands as we shopped at our local market with our eco net bags and tried not to buy plastic packaging. This was instrumental to us making changes in our lives and moving our focus towards creating something out of materials that already existed. With the aim of giving beautiful old pieces a new life where they can tell a new story. We see ourselves as rescuers of pieces that may otherwise become trash.
View more of Kitty Calvert’s assemblages here