Q&A – maker of the week: Katrina Virgona

‘Good Mourning. Hair today, gone tomorrow.’

There’s a resurgence of interest in fibre and textile practice and it’s timely for businesses and large corporations to invest in this form of material culture to create unique collections while ensuring examples are collected, displayed and preserved for future generations.

The quote above is from Katrina Virgona. She is a jeweller, maker and teacher who finds time to stitch in a ‘Victorian’ yet contemporary manner.

Read on …

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

I‘m an artist passionate about three dimensional textiles and contemporary jewellery. Over the last 20 years, I’ve created various collections of rings, pendants, bangles, earrings, collars, crowns, tiaras, hatpins, handcuffs, medals, charms, chatelaine attachments, pectorals, armlets, amulets, and several small sculptural objects.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

My studio is located in Darlington (Perth Hills). The workshop area is overflowing with fibres, threads, fabrics, curios, shells, rocks, beads, hair, trinkets, books, and imaginings.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

Definitely the needle! It plays a role in all my primary processes including wiring, binding, coiling, felting and stitching. In my latest works, I’ve actually incorporated various needles (upholstery needles, darning needles, long doll needles) as part of the surface embellishment.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

When constructing wearable pieces and jewellery, I often refer to accessories from the Victorian era for inspiration, especially chatelaines, hatpins, and mourning jewellery. The Victorian fetish for hoarding and/or wearing the hair of a loved one resonates so strongly with me that I find it surprising the fashion ever faded! I’m also drawn to the physicality of some items associated with fetishistic, ritualistic and talismanic practices.

Katrina Virgona, Crowning Glory 2020, Hair, fur, wool, wire and needles. Technique: Felted and stitched over wire armatures

Katrina Virgona, Crowning Glory 2020, hair, fur, wool, wire and needles. Technique: Felted and stitched over wire armatures.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

My ongoing fetish for wool, hair, fur, and fingernails is fuelled in part by their simultaneous link to the animate and the inanimate. They’re such potent raw resources with distinctive narratives; each able to exude a sense of the intimate, the universal, the public, the private, the attractive and for some the repulsive. Depending on how they’re handled and reincarnated, these materials extend a reservoir of options for future projects and also serve as a bridge to the past.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

Approaches vary according to the nature of a project. There’s always a lot of research – both physical and cerebral. I have a day job teaching, so I have to work my studio hours around that. Sometimes there are pets (e.g. husband). Sometimes there is music. I always have a stitching project on the go in my backpack or handbag so I can stitch anywhere anytime.

What are you working towards right now?

I’m working on a series of four hair based mini sculptures for an exhibition titled ‘Hanging By a Thread’ displayed at the Holmes à Court Gallery in West Perth (17 Sep – 2 Oct 2020).

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

A dream commission would involve the freedom and finance to mount an exhibition that reflects on the narrative and materiality of mourning jewellery from the early 1900s. I would create intimate sized pieces consisting primarily of hair and they would be displayed together as one overall suite.

[Collected September 2020. This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.]

Read more about Katrina Virgona in our Directory, where you can find further links to follow Katrina online.

Katrina Virgona, portrait

Katrina Virgona 2020