Carlow sculptor brings family farm materials to life

Sculptor Katie Watchorn has got designs on farming. She is based on her family’s 98ac dairy farm in rural Co. Carlow, which is run by her parents.

“Occasionally I get roped in too,” she said. “I grew up close to the farm and, in 2013, we moved onto it.

“When I was making my portfolio for entrance into art college, my portfolio teacher encouraged me to find inspiration in the yard; fields and animals and ideas I began developing back then still preoccupy me now.

“I have been continuously returning to details of farming life for the past eight years,” she explained.

Farming life

“During my four years at NCAD, I would regularly make trips home to find and make work – and, since finishing college in 2014, I have relocated my studio to an empty shed on the farm which my dad and I renovated in the following year,” said the sculptor.

Now I am immersed in this environment, it has allowed my practice to grow significantly. My work has always held a fascination with the relationship between farmer and animal, the life cycle of a dairy cow, and the nuances of a working farm.

“I have just finished a significant body of work which was supported by the Arts Council and Wexford County Council, which resulted in two solo shows – one in January in Wexford Arts Centre.

Materials

“I work in mixed media, using a combination of more traditional arts materials, industrial materials and substances typically found on the farm.

This include things like: wax; concrete; steel; durability aggregates; zinc; wool; rubber; and in the past year I have started to work with beef fat also.

“My work is quite slow to take shape, and often only fully comes together when I am showing it in a gallery or exhibition space. Up until that point it is usually just a collection of different items and some thoughts.”

Katie explained that there is a lot of preparatory research, reading and photography which happens before any physical work is actually begun.

She enjoys the tranquility of Augharue, Bilbao. “I like the space – I grew up living outside of a town or city, so this is what feels most natural. All my work comes from this place, and it’s great at the moment to be able to sustain a practice in rural Ireland.

I thought I would have stopped finding anything of interest here a long time ago – but that hasn’t happened yet.

Exhibition

Her current focus is on making work for exhibition. “Because it is sculpture and installation, it really only has its life in the gallery and is a bit non-commodifiable really. That may change, but at the moment that’s what it is.

“I’ve been funded through the Arts Council the past year which has allowed me to make work. But I also self-fund, and that’s the nature of it I guess,” said Katie.

“For the moment I’ll continue making work at home. There are still plenty of projects I would like to work on, and being based here means the benefit of having significant space to make and exhibit work outside of a major city,” the Co. Carlow sculptor said.

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