Monday, November 14, 2011

Kathleen Nowak Tucci: A wonderful innovative artist.

If you have the latest issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine, you have seen the wonderful front cover piece made by this incredible artist, Kathleen Nowak Tucci. 

I remember the first time I saw her work, it was magical to see how she was able to transform recycled rubber bicycle and motorcycle inner tubes into amazing pieces of wearable art. I had the pleasure to interview Kathleen to introduce her and her work to our blog followers. 

How did you started creating your work and where?

I knew that I was an artist even as a little girl, but I was also good at Math and Science so I attended college and majored in Computer Science and minored in Biology.  My schedule never allowed time for any college level art classes however I always had some kind of art project that I would work on in my limited free time.

For the rubber jewelry, I initially began using industrial rubber products such as o-rings to construct jewelry.  Then I got an idea that needed thin rubber, the only rubber products that I could find were too thick.  I ended up going to a bicycle shop and asked them for the old inner tubes off the bicycles that they repaired.  My initial idea was a flop and the tubes sat in my studio for months.  I hated to throw them away so one day I just started to “play” with the rubber.  I soon realized that it was a great medium to work with, flexible, easy to cut and to manipulate.  One of the best things about the rubber from the inner tubes is that it is so lightweight.  I can make large, dramatic pieces with little weight.  

What inspires you?
Most anything visual is an inspiration to me.  I have been inspired by architecture, paintings, sculpture, nature and other artists.  There is nothing more fun for me than to visit a museum or art gallery and be inspired by the great talents of other artists both past and present.  Somehow all the visual information stews in my brain and then comes out reconfigured in my own original creations.  I am fortunate to always have ideas and only wish that there were more time to make everything. 

Why do you use recycled materials?
I really just stumbled upon making work in recycled materials.  I freely admit that it was the properties of the material of the recycled rubber that first drew me to create architectural jewelry in rubber.  As my designs progressed and I began to acquire cohesion of vision, the Gulf Coast was hammered with the Gulf Oil Spill.  I was struck by the devastation of the event, its numbing anguish and our own human interaction with Nature, for good or ill.  I began to see the relevance of my work as an Eco-artist and Eco-designer and am now proud to call myself an eco-designer.  

How did you know about metal clay and why did you started including it in your work?

I have worked in many mediums including, ceramic clay, polymer clay, silversmithing,  and most painting mediums.  Since I have always read art books and magazines, I must have learned about it though one of those resources.  The editor of MCAM Jeannette Froese LeBlanc and I meet at an Architectural Ceramics Class by Peter King held in Pensacola FL, in the Spring of 2001.  We talk to each other about this new medium and how interesting it seemed.  By that fall we signed up to take a class together in silver metal clay.  Because we had both had previous experience in ceramic clay, working metal clay was very intuitive for both of us and we realized that it was an amazing medium.  Though we live a great distance from each other, every time we were able to visit, it seemed that we always made some time to work in metal clay together.  So eleven years after our first taste of metal clay, Jeannette owns MCAM and I combined the metal clay with my rubber jewelry and am on the cover of the magazine!  It still amazes me and I am so proud of Jeannette!

Do you have any advice to a new beginner? 

My advice to a beginner would be to start off working in one of the base metal clays.  Take a class with an experienced teacher to skip over all the trial and much error of working in a new medium.  Also don’t expect a masterpiece the first time you work in any medium.  Even those of us that have much experience, have many pieces and designs that are not brilliant. 
That being said, metal clay is a medium that even a beginner can create some really outstanding work.
To advance in metal clay, learn other metal working techniques such as riveting, sawing, soldering, etc.

Can you share with us what has been one of the best moments in your career and why?

Wow, I have had so many amazing things happen in my career.  I have been an artist for almost 30 years now and it seems publicity has always come my way.  The first time I saw my work in a gallery was exciting as was my first feature in a newspaper. 
Having my rubber jewelry, on the cover, of the controversial ‘Oil Spill Issue” , Vogue Italia. August 2010, certainly has to rank as a very exciting moment in my career.  Vogue Italia is considered by many as the top fashion magazine in the world.  The photography was by Steven Meisel a top international photographer.  Being the first Eco-artist on the cover of a major fashion magazine is still pretty surreal.

A very close second is getting to see the MCAM cover, that my work is featured on, for the first time at the Smithsonian Craft2Wear Show.  What an exciting day!

Can you talk to us about your experience doing the Smithsonian Show ?

The Smithsonian Craft Show, is a beautifully run show put on  by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.  It is definitely the big league!  I was one of 120 artists juried in out of 1300+ entries.  Because I normally do not do retail shows, it was really a tremendous amount of work to get ready for the show, set up for the show and to be at the booth for five days.  I still don’t know if I have fully recovered.  My favorite part of the show was getting to see all the other amazing art and to be able to meet and talk to other artists that I have admired “from afar”.  It really is the best of the best and it was very exciting to be a part of it.

I was one of forty artists invited to show at the October Smithsonian Craft2Wear Show.  All artists have previously been juried into the Smithsonian Show and it was quite an honor to receive the invitation.  This show was much shorter, three days, and it felt much more manageable.  Once again, I had so much fun seeing people interact with my work and because it was a smaller show, I was able  interact with other artists and their work.
One more exciting thing that happened at the show was that I was the only artist asked to speak at the lecture that was given during the show.  So many exciting adventures!

I want to thank Kathleen for taking her time to give me this interview and to be so generous to share her story with all of us.

To see more of her amazing work click on the following links:

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