a little about Courtney Kemp...

Born: Howell, New Jersey

Current Location: Portland, Oregon

Education: MFA in Interdisciplinary 3D (Metals/Sculpture) from the University of Oregon

How did you come into jewelry?

By happenstance, I was pushed into a metals course at Colorado State University because it was the only class that would fit with my schedule. Luckily, Haley Bates was (and still is) the head of the department and was the most unbelievable professor. She made me excited about a field that I never thought I would go into, and really helped frame the way that I research ideas and devise new bodies of work. I was definitely not one of those instantly skilled metalsmiths, so the stubborn challenge of working in the medium kept me pushing me forward. Apparently, I’m more stubborn than I thought....

Where do you gather inspiration?

I strongly believe in reading fiction as a source of inspiration for my work, so I get through a book every couple of weeks. It was a struggle at first to force myself to consider it part of my research practice rather than just a distraction, but it really has been an unmatched source of inspiration in terms of those brand new “A-ha!” ideas. I’m also, of course, really interested in the history of architecture and domestic objects. I rummage through salvage shops constantly and I’ve interned at museums to gain access to their domestic object collections. I’ve found when I decide on an object or a space to base a body of work on, I try to get a story about it from as many angles as I can.

Does creativity run in your family? Is it supported?

Absolutely. My mom is unbelievably skilled in just about every creative field you can imagine. Her mother was a painter who travelled the world for her practice and her father was a concert pianist, so being creative is in her blood. My dad is a tried-and-true maker who can build, cast, or fabricate, anything you can possibly imagine. I think all that time in his shop as a kid is the reason for my excitement with materials and construction. He’s been a surfboard maker, boat builder, woodworker, and a constant house/barn/shop fixer-upper. I’m very thankful to have such a supportive family that is excited about the same things I’m excited about. Of course, all of that naturally comes with a grain of salt: you get the “I can tell you didn’t make that as well as you should have” looks at your shows, or those phone calls about how you should consider moving to Colorado to learn large-scale bronze casting. Even creative parents are still, well, parents.

Jobs before you got into jewelry?

That’s a tough question. Since I was raised in a family of makers, I think technically before I made jewelry I just made other things. In terms of what I do concurrently to making jewelry, it’s a pretty long list! Recently, I’ve managed an art gallery and an interior design firm, I’ve taught preschool, I’ve been a nanny, and, of course, I’ve spent my fair share of time in the service industry.

Volunteer organizations you are crazy about?

Portland has a fantastically thriving art scene so I spend quite a bit of time with local art organizations here. I’ve been involved with Disjecta Contemporary Art Center for years and I find them to have a really inspirational mission. As a non-profit art space (and an amazingly cavernous and gorgeous space, at that!) they do a huge amount of service for national and international artists, as well as curators. I also love All Rise in Seattle, which uses public art installations and performances to encourage the public to engage personally with a vacant block of the city. Creative organizations that support conversation between artists and the public make me really excited to be a maker. 

Do you do other types of art, besides jewelry?

I do. I would consider myself primarily a sculpture-based artist rather than a jeweler. I see my jewelry and sculpture as closely related to one another though: they both utilize the materials and architectural inklings of the home and attempt to draw out narratives or fictions, just by using different visual tools. The largeness of my sculptural work and the close, smallness of the jewelry format really allow me to span the gamut of interaction with a viewer’s body. I really like being able to float in both of those worlds a bit. 

Do you have any ideas or concepts for your next body of work?

My last two bodies of work used ceramic tile and I found myself intrigued with it as a material. My next body of work might expand on that material a bit, using the angles and curves from suburban pools and bathrooms to build a body of work.