Katie Spragg creates intimate, plant-themed pieces that form an “environment” (of one scale or another). Behind each piece there is a story, or a collection of stories, essential to her creative process. The stories are not always evident to the viewer, but Katie regards them as essential to her work.
I spoke with Katie about her work and inspiration. She told me about the importance of stories in her work.
“My work has always been about storytelling. Before, [in my earlier work], there was more of an overtly humorous approach to what I did. I was making tableware that was then produced in Stoke-on-Trent [a major British ceramics center] with different stories about animals doing strange things.
“There was a transition in my work when I got my master’s degree in ceramics and glass at the Royal College of Art,” she continued. “My pieces now all have a story or agenda behind them, but on a more subtle level. The look of the work is much more serene and contemplative.
“My ‘Lambreth Wilds’ piece, for example, is about working with other people and collecting their stories, then distilling those stories into a large scale installation. For the project, I worked with Lambeth Young Carers, a group of young people who have unpaid home-care duties, normally for a family member. I ran a series of workshops and asked people about their memories of wild plants and the stories behind those memories. At the same time I was looking at botanical prints and drawings in the Garden Museum in central London. The ultimate project resulted in a combination of a heritage element and memories of everyday lived experiences. All the plants featured in the piece are plants mentioned in the stories or in the Museum collection, or both. The work, then, involves drawing connections across time through these porcelain plants.
“In this project I used wild plants as a metaphor for communities that surround the Museum. Many wild plants, as well as these communities, are overlooked or forgotten.
“I do other types of work – small pieces available for sale – but “Lambeth Wilds” is the type of project I most enjoy doing. I like working with other people and incorporating their responses into the work, rather than just creating a piece for a singular perspective.”
An earlier project, similar to “Lambeth Wilds” that Katie and I discussed is called “Wildness”. She created this unique “environment” populated with small plants underneath a concrete stairway. She tells me that she’s able to do these types of projects now that she’s found a part-time teaching position at the Royal College of Art. It provides some financial security and gives her blocks of time to pursue in-depth projects which she finds very satisfying.
I like Katie’s work. I like the way she creates intimate environments combining brutal materials such as concrete and rock with delicate porcelain wisps that mimic natural plant forms. I’m struggling to appreciate the storytelling elements of her work. Had I not spoken to her I wouldn’t have known anything about that, and I would still enjoy the visual impact of her work. That’s good enough for me.
Here is a YouTube video interview with Katie about some of her project work (around the 20 min mark).