Kate Hamilton: “I think we are each part of a big sea of ideas.”

Kate HamiltonWhen did you first know you were an artist who wanted to teach art?
My big fascination is with clothes and why we wear what we wear. I see clothes as structures, signals, conceptual objects, and metaphors. I have explored this subject from a lot of different angles: costume, design and art. 

Teaching: I love the minds of children and I was very excited to teach costume to teenagers, beginning in the late 1990s and then soon also taught sculpture to college students at Parsons. I think sharing information and/or approaches is important, and sharing can happen in many ways. Teaching is a great way. 

When did I know I was an artist? Well, that idea just slipped up and caught me by surprise!  Not that long ago. 

Favorite medium(s) you use to make – and teach – art.
I love to make patterns and to sew, and I often work with paper, not fabric. I use the sewing machine like a hammer or saw. It is a tool for construction. Additionally, I like to push myself to try to make familiar shapes with unfamiliar materials. I want to see what is possible.  

Talk about your teaching philosophy and how you work with students. Who was your most influential mentor and why?
I want students to explore and discover on their own. I want them to experiment. They need to learn enough craft to have the confidence to create their own way. I usually begin by showing students a few construction methods but I want them to engage with materials and let the material help them find their way. 

My most important art mentor is an artist named Benigna Chilla. I studied with her in college where she taught me to seriously play with, to interact with, materials, to see what they showed me. 

What are you teaching now? Do you teach at other places besides at D.R.A.W. workshops?
I’m teaching middle schoolers at The D.R.A.W.. I am also working in my studio on my own sculptures and prints and developing a new operatic/art project with Valerie Arias in Zurich.  

How has teaching enhanced/inspired your work as an artist? What do you like best about being involved with The D.R.A.W.?
My students teach me! Their humor and excitement at the moment of discovery are very exciting to me. Their ideas, struggles and successes show me their individuality and encourage me to dig further into my own work when I am not sure of my next step. I am so impressed by their brave creativity! In truth, I think we are each part of a big sea of ideas. As they bring their ideas out, I am encouraged to let mine emerge also. 

Do you show/sell your art in galleries?
A lot of my work is very large (room-sized!) and interactive. I have created many installations of these big pieces in commercial galleries locally; in Brooklyn and New Jersey, and in college galleries nationwide. Currently, I have a big piece installed at the Albany International Airport. In a non-art context, I have been collaborating on creative opera productions in Zurich for the last 12 years. My work there involves both costume and set design and is beginning to blend into an art context.

Kate Hamiton