Maddy Knott is an emerging artist from Vancouver Island, currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria. Knott is a NSCAD alumnus where she studied Fine Arts and minored in Jewellery Design after her graduation from the Visual Arts program at Camosun College. While a student Knott has participated in several gallery exhibitions and won a number of awards. In the future she plans to operate a studio in her hometown while obtaining her MFA.
By working through the disciplines of installation and sculpture Knott is able to articulate concepts to the public. She focuses her jewellery on the notion of being wearable art, often presenting an inherent sculptural quality, which is influenced from her background in Fine Arts. Knott has a fearless material exploration in her work, which is what makes the pieces so unique.
Through underlying themes of relationships, nostalgia, and the nonexistent, my artistic practice considers the corruption of memory. The idea of revisiting the past through episodic memories presents the question: what is real and what has one imagined? Memories become altered over time, becoming ephemeral references to factual recollection of prior events. In turn, a falsified notion of the past is created, which we have come to understand as true through the interpretation of our memories.
My work seeks to explore the non-existent space where memory can reside, questioning how we interpret our memories. My artistic practice investigates how memories become corrupted and changed by the act of continually revisiting these moments from one's life.
Q&A with Maddy Knott
by Sidney Mullis
PVC resin seems to be a main material for constructing your rings. What was your introduction to this material? How is it used in making your rings?
During my undergrad I minored in jewelry design and as a transfer student I had to zip through the program. By the time I got to the final year of my undergrad I had to get creative with materials and techniques. I didn’t have a lot of the tradition techniques associated with the jewelry discipline, such as stone setting and this is what led me alternative materials. Having to adapt was kind of a catalyst into this fearless material investigation that I embrace when I’m making my work.
Your rings are packed with such bold and varied colors, shapes, and textures. What informs these choices? What references are you pulling from? What do you regularly return to as source material?
My childhood is a big part of my work; I see some of the works I make as childlike through the use of playful colours and materials such as glitter. I was pretty lucky growing up and I think that childhood is a place I like to return to. I want the viewer to be able to embrace how odd the works are. Someone once referred to one of the rings as a “Ring Pop on steroids”; I thought that was pretty great.
My source material fluctuates depending on what I’m working on. Currently, I’m pretty infatuated with repeat patterns and symmetry, so I’ve been looking at a lot of wallpaper and symmetry found in nature.
How do you go about titling your work? How do titles function for you?
For me it’s pretty spontaneous, titling is tough I don’t want to put to much pressure on the viewer to be corralled into seeing the work through a certain scope. I try and let it be cheeky and lighthearted, I’m a pretty sarcastic person so I like that to seep out in the work.
Where do you stand in the craft world vs. fine art world debate?
I feel as though in my work I’m engaging both sides a little, which is good. Something magical happens when you blur lines in the art world, it’s nice to make your own rules. I’m happy to make people ponder what jewelry ought to be. It’s always funny when I tell people I’m a sculptor or a jewellery designer, I think they assume a lot of the time that I just sit around carving stone or soldering metal. I like to see people react to the unfamiliar.
In addition to jewelry, you also venture into sculptural and installation-based work. Where do you find your ideas overlapping and where do they remain distinct?
They often overlap in concepts, I’ve been pushing this otherworldly aesthetic into my work and that seems to translate across these disciplines. However, materials often disconnect the three due to the scale and the limitations of some of these materials I work with such as resins.
Moving from installation to sculpture to jewelry, how does the shift in scale function for you? Do you find yourself shifting in a particular order from one to the other?
These disciplines are a little disjointed for me still and I’m focusing on trying to amalgamate them by playing with the scale. I usually work on a few things at once, it’s easy for me to get impatient with a work and it’s nice to move away from it and hop into something else. I rarely have just one project on the go, my studio always looks a little bit like a garage sale is going on.
What is a typical day like for you? Can you describe your working routine? Do you have a daily studio practice?
Most days I wake up early and listen to the news on the radio. One of my old roommates in Halifax always put on the radio in the morning and it was a nice way to get your brain going for the day. Then I head to the studio, send some emails, by now the coffee has kicked in and I usually put on music and just go for it. Usually takes me a few hours of just making before I get into a rhythm of actually creating work that I’m happy with. I try and just start using my hands and making. Things don’t always work out but it usually catapults me slowly into a direction of something of interest.
I wish I could think on paper and draw something before hand, but I’ve found my routine seems to rely on me actually making with my hands by trouble shooting materials. This usually ends in me making a mess, and being covered in glitter, which would probably be the closest thing to describe my daily studio practice.
What are some studio must-haves for you? Music? A closed door? Do you have any bad studio habits that you wish to break?
Floor space, I make a lot of my work while I’m sitting on the ground. Another would be variety in materials, I’m a bit of a hoarder and I like to be able to just start grabbing unexpected materials and seeing how I can manipulate them.
The doors a tough call I like to have it open, but if I’m working on something that I’m not sure of yet I usually shut my door till the work comes to some kind of fruition. It’s dangerous when your experimenting you don’t want people medaling to much in you decision making and interrupting your creative process. I like to know where I’m at with a work before I invite other people’s opinions in.
As for bad habits in the studio lots! Trying to change songs on my laptop with my hands covered in some sort of goo/paint, over caffeinating, listening to the same song over and over again, and misplacing my keys in the chaotic studio mess which leads to not being able to leave until I find them. That’s always a fun treasure hunt after a long day in the studio.
You are currently attending University of Victoria for graduate school. Congrats! What was important to you in choosing a program? Do you have any advice for those looking into attaining their MFA?
University of Victoria is on the Island where I was born, I spent a lot of time living overseas trying to get away from home and in the last few years my art practice has focused a lot on memories and past domestic spaces like my childhood homes. It was important for my research for me to be back here, I wanted to go visit some of the actual places I grew up and let that inform my work. The second big reason for choosing UVic was being able to connect into the arts community that I wanted to be a part of. Victoria is a great place for emerging artists, there are lots of great artist run galleries and a strong arts community that supports each other. It’s a pretty utopic place. I would suggest for people who wish to obtain their MFA to research facilities, faculty, and also investigate opportunities in the arts community in that area. Ask if that’s something you could see yourself being a part of?
Any advice from your past that has stuck with you or helped you in your professional trajectory?
Go with your gut. Oh, and also always carry a phone charger with you.
What is your relationship with social media? Do you have a favorite or least-favorite platform?
People are always asking for my Etsy or Instagram, I try to keep current on Instagram, (maddy.knott) but it’s a bit of a black hole. I feel like it often ends up distracting me from actually making work.
Do you have any news, shows, residencies or projects coming up?
A show in October, which I’m madly scrambling to finish work for! I’ve also been working with a boutique in Australia that wants to carry my jewelry; I will be shipping some rings down that way. Aside from that I’ll be teaching at UVic and focusing on completing the last year of my Masters.
Anything else you would like to share?
Thanks so much for taking the time to Interview me Sidney, I can’t wait to get a hold of issue three and see what some of the other artists are up to.
To find out more about Maddy and her work, check out her website.