Katy Gillam-Hull on her Nordic 'hole-and-corner'
Artist and maker Katy Gillam-Hull talks about a small beach in Norway, finding inspiration in the washed-up fragments, and building jewellery and objects around them…
A ‘hole-and-corner’ is an old English term meaning a secret place: somewhere you go to escape the world, to be inspired, to contemplate and create. Where is your ‘hole-and-corner’?
There is an unassuming little beach on Langøyene island in the Oslo fjord, Norway. It is usually ignored as people head straight to the other side of the island for swimming and camping. Which is understandable as it’s not your normal pretty pebble beach but instead is made up of washed up old bottles, antique ceramic and industrial waste – all of which has been tumbled by the sea, softened and aged. A mysterious place where you just don’t know what you might dig up next.
Can you explain why it is so special to you?
This place was introduced to me whilst studying in Oslo and it is a real treasure, although this island can’t be a regular retreat for me whilst I work in London, the curiosities I have found there inspired my final degree work and have informed my practice for nearly 4 years now. When incorporated into my objects and jewellery these fragments bring their own mysteries and narratives all the way from that little island. I know that every time I am in Norway I will be called back there again.
Is it important to you to have somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of life?
A place away from my usual work is so valuable to me so I can reflect on and process my ideas. As much as I would like Langøyene to be that place every time, a peaceful museum or even a quiet tube carriage in the middle of the day also does the trick.
What do you like to listen to when you’re working?
I always need to listen to something to focus me when working, and what it is, depends on what kind of work I’m doing. Repetitive tasks like hammering or sanding for hours are perfect for podcasts whereas when designing and doing delicate making I need familiar music. People like Laura Marling, Bjork and Lau are essential listening for me.
What elements do you think make a perfect ‘hole-and-corner’?
For me, a ‘hole-and-corner’ must be the kind of place where you are both comfortable enough to relax but also engaged enough that you can be inspired and revived. It offers that perfect balance where you can look back and reflect on things without losing sight of them completely.
Is it private to you or do you let other people visit?
I have actually never visited my little island cove without other people, in fact, I’ve never been without a portable picnic. The joy of this place is the day excursion that it offers. But I do take a little time when there to go off on my own, digging through the sand to find the next curiosity that will catch my imagination.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
One of my favourite teachers once told me ‘Don’t tart your work up’. At the time she was referring to the overly elaborate exhibition display I was enthusiastically building, but it’s gone on to encourage me to respect my work more and trust that it can speak for its self – a valuable lesson I’m still taking in.