Reflecting on their recent exhibition at the Newcastle Arts Centre, Artist and Maker Kelsey Lynn Mayo sits down with Jed Buttress (Curator, Artist) to discuss their influences, skills and motivations.
Shown at Newcastle Arts Centre from 19th March – 16th April.
Interviewer(J): Jed Buttress, Curator and Programme Co-ordinator
Interviewee (K): Kelsey Lynn Mayo, Artist and Maker
J: Who has been your biggest influence in your art thus far? Is there someone you particularly admire for crossing over disciplines like yourself?
K: William Morris or James Turrell are my two favourite Artist/Maker that I find to be of great influence towards my work, respectively. The great respect for what William Morris has set up with Morris & C, alongside great political ambitions in his time. I have always been intrigued by his crossovers in many techniques in craft. Which I have taken influence from and I have never stopped from experimentation in different techniques or mediums. I have also delved greatly into combinations’ within craft, particularly the combination of traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine skills. Such as, my embroidery and wood working pieces, with laser cut illustrations based on May and William Morris. James Turelll has influenced me within my practice light/installation practice, he was one of the first artist I saw woking with light in such an abstract way and with such a visual impact. Moving forward I would like to do more large scale neon installation works.
J: Where did you first come up with the idea for your current work?
K: My current work reflects on my current skill sets and ability to easily squeeze in to other ways of working when skills transfer in the making field. I also realised while growing as an artist I had the privilege to have family, bosses and tutors that did not see gender as a weakness in me causing a catalyst for me to experience many craft fields, I can say the same for my disability most times this was not seen as a weakness to hold me back from learning physical making skills. A lot of my work revolves around disability and mental health, I think is important to showcase in the visual arts and craft. My day-to-day making will look different from an abled body artist and I have still have down turns in my physical ability in the arts but this does not mean I can’t either get assistance in the physical or change an idea to suit my needs. Aiding me to make, in a healthy way and not push my body too far. A lot of people think artist need to push themselves past the brink but having a healthy relationship with your body, mind and art is important to have a great outcome in art, particularly large solo shows. My hope is this is convey to the audience and others disabled people trying to work in the arts.
J: How long have you been in the sectors of art, craft and technology? Has your practice always been in these disciplines?
K: I have been in the arts on a more professional capacity since 2017, but I have always been creating since I was young. In my BFA at Alfred University, I was focused in a combination of ceramics, printmaking, painting and glass. Painting use to have a heavier hand in my practice, but these pieces never felt as successful as my cross disciplinary work, which I didn’t start engaging with till my final year on my BFA.
J: A lot of your work ties back to learned traditional craft skills, is it important you learn these skills to an expertise level before using them?
K: For me I would say no, this is a very controversial thing with the craft sector though but if I was to become a master in every method I use I would need 100 more years of life.
J: A lot of your work seems to address different themes/ways off working, how do you balance working with so many different themes? Do you think this is a determinate to your work?
K: My main way of balancing so many things in my practice is having schedules and plans for each piece/theme, which I think can be limiting to some work for investigation and spontaneity, as things need to be worked out early in order to fit or work correctly in a practical way. With themes in work I actually colour code things in my diary and sketch book to have a better visual reminder of what that idea is (i.e. medical theme is blue for the NHS). But to try and maintain experimentation/spontaneity in my work, I tend to do a lot of small material research and small maquette or scaled variations first, beside sketch books. Keeping a sketch is one of the best things a creative can do for their practice, I learned this from one of my tutors, Karen Donellan, during my BFA. I hope implementation of these methods in my practice helps to deter any determent of broadness in my work.
J: What is it that motivates you to create?
K: I am motivated to sustain a practice out of a somewhat selfish reason, to maintain my own mental health in a stable place. If I am not engaging in making then I find myself in a real slump but also engaging to better others mental health is important to me, as well. Hence why I have dipped into teaching and art orginisation over the last few years, mainly at the Newcastle Arts Centre but in the wider north east too. Actually at one point I started on the path of becoming an Art Therapist.
J: Is incorporating technology in your work always important? Do you see moving into the future that all work must incorporate technology?
K: This is an important part of my practice at this point, as it pushes the work into new areas that are not being seen but there is always the worry of work looking to digitally fabricated that is why I prefer to have several layers of manipulation in a piece. Going forward I don’t think every piece needs it but most ways I work naturally lean towards using a piece of technology in some way.
J: Thank you so much for your time! Where can people find you?
Kelsey Lynn Mayo: Rethinking The Craftsperson In A World Submerged In Technology was the second exhibition of the year to be hosted within our gallery space.
This exhibition by Kelsey Lynn Mayo delved into an investigation of how craft, art and technology influence each other. Kelsey, a multidisciplinary artist from New York, has found that their work is influenced by all three sectors and has noticed over their education and practise that there are a plethora of ways of working in the cross section. On this Arts Council England Grant, Kelsey has spent the latter end of 2021 and start of 2022 investigating age-old arts and craft techniques in combination with technology. Through this lens they explore similar themes that appear in their past work, of physical/mental health, gender and family ties to craft and art, all while exploring new combinations of processes in textiles, ceramics, glass and wood working.