This month we introduce emerging artist Kathleen Ashcroft. Kathleen lives in South Devon and runs along the coast path near her house most days. Her keen interest in the built heritage and history on the stretch of coastline near her home played an influential role when it came to her recent Arts degree in 3D Design and Crafts. Lighthouses in particular were the source of inspiration for her stunning geometric jewellery designs made from recycled metals.
Exercise and escapism
The South West Coast Path lies on my doorstep here in South Devon where I live with my partner and our collie dog. I run along it most days and have walked along various sections of it, however my partner completed all 630 miles of it earlier this year, a great achievement. The path is incredibly important to us and provides daily exercise as well as constant interest with its forever changing appearance. I often think of those that have gone before with the path displaying evidence upon its well worn route. It accepts all that we and nature throw at it, constantly obliging, providing escapism for those treading it. Sometimes, it gives up a little and that’s where the important maintenance of it steps in to allow constant access where possible.
This wonderful path around the south west coast provides solitude, and a time to think and escape from busy lives. It provides peace and tranquillity, where the sound of the sea, birdsong and blissful silence accompanies you on your journey. It’s just the perfect place. For me as an artist it also provides constant inspiration. I enjoy the nostalgia of the path, the reminders of life long gone. This could be the lookout towers from the war, old slipways once used by fishermen, even a rusting chunk of metal that provides questions as to what it once was. I also have an interest in lighthouses, the silent guardians of those at sea, some of which can be seen dotted along the south west coast. It is the history and nostalgia of the path that I find myself drawn to.
I have recently completed a three year degree course at Arts University Plymouth in 3D Design Crafts, having turned to education later in life in order to pursue my dream of designing and creating jewellery. I was incredibly fortunate that for my final piece of work I was introduced to the plaques and statues situated upon Plymouth Hoe and was instantly drawn to Smeatons Tower, a former lighthouse and now memorial to John Smeaton, b1724 who was a British civil engineer.
Smeaton’s lighthouse was originally located upon Eddystone rocks, 12 miles off the coast of Plymouth and was completed in 1759 with many Cornish tin miners employed in its construction. Each worker was issued with a medal to prove they were working on the lighthouse. This was arranged by Trinity House alongside the Admiralty at Plymouth to ensure the workers were not press ganged into Naval service whilst involved in its construction. The lighthouse was designed by Smeaton, who based its curving shape on that of an oak tree and developed a pioneering technique of dovetailing granite blocks together to construct it. It remained on site for 120 years and was only replaced by the current Eddystone lighthouse as the rocks it was built upon began to erode. It was removed and rebuilt upon Plymouth Hoe, which is the Smeatons Tower that can be seen today. My final University body of work titled ‘Keepers’, pays homage to Smeaton’s lighthouse and takes inspiration from the construction of it, in particular the shapes of the building blocks used.
A little about me
I am a jewellery designer and maker and create my work from my garden studio in South Devon. Within my work I utilise recycled metals wherever possible, including silver and gold, however I also use brass and copper within my designs. I am interested in and enjoy the beauty of the manipulation of metal to create textures upon it such as reticulation, a process of repeatedly heating metal to raise an uneven quality to its surface.
This understanding of material behaviour provides a physical connectivity throughout the realisation of my designs. As a jeweller I appreciate traditional jewellery making methods, but I am also keen to embrace new technologies such as 3D CAD to enhance the quality of my ideas.
I enjoy the process of exploration and my work is grounded in the research connected to a particular theme. As an emerging designer maker starting out on my creative journey, the coast path will continue to inform my future work in one direction or another.